Breastfeeding 101: My Experience. Hello friends and welcome to my first post on a short series that I’m starting called “Breastfeeding 101.” I feel like I’ve learned so much with breastfeeding, nursing, pumping and such that I want to share. Trust me, no one told me the ins and outs and I wish I knew more to set myself up for success.
There is such little information/resources out there about breastfeeding. It also feels like you have to pay a million dollars to get any information about something that is supposed to be so “natural”. Everyone tells you to breastfeed but does anyone actually show/teach you?
I was hospitalized 6 days before giving birth. My hospital has a fantastic lactation consultant there so I got to meet her and ask ALL of the questions I had. She also fit me for the flanges (the part of the pump that your nipples go in). FYI: most pumps come with size 25 and 28 flanges (I am a 23). Those were way too big for my nipples. If your flanges don’t fit properly it can lead to low milk output, mastitis and other things. Once she had my size she went ahead and put the order in for me to my insurance company.
I knew I wanted to breastfeed and figured I would do it immediately after giving birth. That was not my experience since Cora was born premature. She was taken to the NICU while I recovered from birth. The following day the hospital provided me with a Medela pump and my nurses encouraged me to begin pumping to help my milk come in. I pumped for 20 minutes every 3 hours. That pump was so easy to use and powerful.
The first couple of pump sessions in the beginning nothing came out. By the second day, colostrum started to come out. With each pump session more and more colostrum came out in which I collected into a syringe for Cora to eat. By the third day my milk came in…no one prepares you for that.
My milk came in so strong that I thought something was wrong. I gave birth on a Wednesday and woke up that Friday to the most uncomfortable pressure on my chest and in my boobs. I just figured I needed to pump. At the lactation consultant’s advice I was still pumping every 3 hours but suddenly it didn’t seem like enough. After being uncomfortable for most of the day I finally asked my nurse what was wrong.
My nurse came and checked me and I told her to look at my left armpit too because it was severely inflamed. The nurse was stunned and grabbed another nurse who was also knew a lot about lactation. Apparently when my milk came in it also went into the milk ducts that you have in your armpit. Not everyone has this issue but if there’s extra breast tissue in your armpit, it’s possible there’ll be milk ducts too. I didn’t know that was a thing or possible but unfortunately the only way to relieve the pain and pressure was to self express and pump.
The nurses gave me multiple hot compresses to place on my boobs and then I had to massage out the area in my armpit. It seemed my milk ducts were clogged….ouch. The next day I went to the NICU and my initial lactation consultant was there. I immediately told her my problem. She took a look, was in shock and then said, “Do you mind if I milk you?” Haha I thought it was pretty hilarious but of course I said yes.
I held a hot compress on my boobs while she massaged out the clog in my armpit. We collected the milk that came out into a container to give to Cora because we do not waste breast milk! Once that was a little more under control the lactation consultant told me that I am an “over producer” and to get relief I may want to try pumping every 3 hours for 30 minutes instead of 20 or every 2 hours for 20 minutes.
At first I stuck it out with the 3 hours for 30 minutes. Now after all of that, I finally got the chance to nurse Cora. She was so tiny and I did not think she would be able to latch on. I was so nervous. Since she was so small, she couldn’t nurse long. To my surprise she did latch on but only for about 2 minutes. Her jaw still needed to develop and she had to build up her stamina. This made me “pump dependent”. Something I had never heard of.
In the beginning the most efficient way for Cora to get my milk was by pumping. Once she was home, a week after giving birth, I still pumped every 3 hours. I ended up needing to pump every 2 hours because my boobs always seemed like they were so full. On top of the pumping I was also nursing Cora.
What I Learned
It’s possible to pump too much.
While I ended up with a freezer full of milk and lots of praises from other moms I learned a lot. I noticed my supply start to go down a bit or should I say “level out” after 2 months. Tearfully I called my doula trying to figure out what to do. I explained that I was still pumping on top of nursing. She told me I was over working my boobs. Pumping too much is just as bad as not pumping enough. It can lead to supply decrease. She told me to focus on just nursing and only pumping when needed rather than every 2/3 hours like I was doing.
With baby number 2, I will focus on nursing as much as possible and pumping as needed. The great thing about pumping is that it gives your partner a chance to get involved and bond with the baby too.
You can help your milk come in quicker.
Start pumping and collecting colostrum ASAP (with doctors discretion/recommendation). My birth story with Cora was a little different so I wasn’t able to do this. Hopefully with baby number 2 I can go to 40 weeks. If so, I plan to start pumping and collecting colostrum into syringes as soon as the doctors say it’s safe. I think you are allowed to at 38 weeks and only do it once a day but again consult your physician. Pumping too soon can cause your body to start having contractions and send you into early labor.
Thanks for listening to my breastfeeding experience. My next post I will talk more about the pumps I use.
Thanks for reading!