If you could give only five pieces of breastfeeding advice to a new mother, what would you say? Here’s what I’d tell her.
I make lots of milk. I won’t hesitate to admit I’m satisfied with this fate. That said, it is a little harder to explain how my overly zealous breasts have also caused several of my main nursing challenges.
After a third official run-in with mastitis since giving birth seven months ago (fifth time between two babies), please hear me when I say… sometimes this blessing feels a bit like a curse in disguise.
Is circumcision the ‘Voldemort’ in a conversation about early breastfeeding difficulties? Though it’s a studied certainty that infant circumcision can have ruinous effects upon breastfeeding, it seems only the rare or high-profile breastfeeding expert dares to mention this risk by name, much less maintain an official protocol for assistance if challenges arise.
Breast pads? Ha. What a joke.
I hate wearing bras, but in public they’re my only hope for a solid enough barrier between my trigger-happy nipples and my shirt. I don’t know why I bother because I still get soaked. Maybe it just makes me feel proactive?
I don’t stand with my arms tightly crossed in public because I’m a haughty snob. It’s just because I’ve got to muzzle the mammaries somehow, and pressure works well. More subtle and civilized than cupping them with my hands, anyway.
I don’t wear thick tops in the Texas summer heat because I want to live in a microwave. Milk leaking? Can’t disrobe? Layers, friend.
This is the story of my second child’s birth. My first son MaiTai was born three and a half years ago in a hospital. (I’ll share details of that tale in a future post).
***BEFORE YOU READ: Again, this is a birth story. If you’re not accustomed to reading real birth stories, are uncomfortable with images of birth-related nudity, or have a very particular definition of what’s TMI, you might consider skipping this post.***
Instead of cutting Julep’s umbilical cord we held a sacred severance ceremony, an ancient ritual that involves using flame to slowly burn the cord.
It was a beautiful and peaceful few minutes dedicated to Julep’s final step in the separation from his uterine life.
**All photos in this post credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.**
Julep latched for the first time twenty-four minutes after he was born on April 28th. I remember the feeling was… beautiful. It felt right.
Memories of MaiTai’s first latch attempts in the hospital three and a half years ago came flooding back. Was I really doing this again? How lucky am I! And what work we have ahead of us…
Other details of the moment are all a blur now. I nursed this bright-eyed, alert baby on and off during my time on the bed right after birthing him in a pool several feet away.
*All photos credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.*
I wrote a post a while back about wondering whether 3.5 year old MaiTai would tandem nurse with his baby brother, Julep. MaiTai was still nursing regularly then, and it wasn’t until my eighth month of pregnancy that he stopped altogether (minus a few ‘test tries’ to see if the milk had changed its taste yet).
Between then and now, he’d accumulated a host of new bigger-kid needs and the long-standing breastfeeding one got booted to the back of his priority list.
This weekend, I joined with advocates from across the nation to Chalk The Walk with our favorite peaceful parenting messages.
As always, this is a family-friendly event and all ages are welcome to participate. Perfect for us — especially this time with a 1.5-day-old baby and a 3.5-year-old kiddo in tow!
A variety of peaceful parenting topics were on display: Informed birth choice, breastfeeding, nighttime parenting (no CIO), cloth diapering, babywearing, gentle ‘discipline’, genital autonomy…
It’s pretty sucky when you’re up to your armpits in swollen milk machinery, none of your clothes fit, and your boobs suddenly feel like they might actually burst open as if they, too, overindulged in too much Easter feasting the day prior (ugh, when will they start making nursing bras out of stretchy pants?).
I had oversupply, and would wake up many mornings for months so engorged that I could see my milk ducts rippling through the taut skin, totally horror flick style. The problem was exacerbated during my four months -long pumping stint, which tricked my body into scrambling to provide for MaiTai’s nonexistent twin, or so it felt convinced. And so, every day it made sure my milk-makers were stretched out to wazoo. It defied the laws of physics, really.
Alright. It’s time I write about this.
About being tired of breastfeeding.
So tired I was hating it. So tired… and no longer looking forward to it. How could all of me feel like “I love him and I love this” and “I don’t want this to stop yet,” but at the same time all of me worried about feelings of “I hate this.”
I wanted to feel normal again; I wanted to feel my breasts cry of milk instead of pain.
- Can You Supplement with Cow, Goat, Soy or Nut-Derived Milk?
- Homemade Formula
- Formula Supplementing Help
**Also read Part One (Why Isn’t Every Baby Breastfed?), Part Two (Cow-Made, Man-Made, or Mother-Made?), and Part Three (Making a Baby-Friendly Culture Amid formula Marketing) of this series.**
One of THE most important things to remember for those who are struggling to meet the recommendations for mama milk exclusivity: Breastfeeding does NOT have to be ‘all or nothing.’ If you cannot breastfeed but can express some breast milk, some is better than none for as long as you can. If you’re a full-time working mom who cannot nurse on the breast very often, it will help to breastfeed when you can, even if it’s only at night to put your baby to sleep, or only on the weekend to mostly dry-nurse, or something in between.
Everyone wonders. Many are convinced.
Around the time of milk regulation when the breasts feel like they’ve turned into empty pita pockets seemingly overnight, the world shudders with populations of postpartum nursing women who cry in atonement for whatever sin caused their sudden lactational failure.
But are you sure you REALLY have low supply?