A Year of Breastfeeding | Personal

This is definitely not a photography related post, but there are a lot of cute pics of Liam 🙂

One of my biggest accomplishments in life has been being able to breastfeed my son. It is a true labor of love that literally takes blood, sweat, and many many tears…but every bit of them has been worth it. It’s a small price to pay to give him the very best start in life that I can.  

Our journey has not been easy. Liam is my third baby, but the first that I was able to successfully nurse. I knew during my pregnancy that I was going to really give it everything that I had, no matter what it took. I’ve sacrificed relationships with friends, job opportunities, and my sanity…all to stay home with my son and establish a good supply and an even better nursing relationship. My sacrifices were not in vain, as we have the best bond now <3

November 17, 2015. Our first day together. Our first latch. The moment that changed our lives forever.

(I was exhausted and swollen and couldn’t feel half of my body due to my spinal…but I was overjoyed that we got a latch. Liam was barely 2 hours old and this was my first time getting to hold him since my c-section. Pure bliss.)

The nurses in the maternity suite all gave me conflicting information, and that was really overwhelming!! The last thing I needed to hear when I was fresh out of surgery and deliriously tired was that I was doing things wrong. There wasn’t much encouragement – and any nursing mama will tell you that support is CRUCIAL. I had a Boppy and brought it with me, but one nurse said it was a waste and that I didn’t need it. One told me that it was great and showed me how to hold my son on it so it wouldn’t bother my incision. Even though I ended up using it and loving it, I felt bad for having it because of that one nurse. One thing to remember when starting out, is to do what feels comfortable for YOU. If you need a Boppy, use a damn Boppy! Don’t let anyone’s opinions discourage you from doing what you feel is right for you and your baby.  

(1 day old and already staked his claim)

Once I was home and on my own, things got crazy. Like…super freakin’ crazy. I wasn’t super confident in Liam’s latch, because I didn’t know what felt ‘normal’. Everything hurt. Bad. I cried every day, at every feed (and in the beginning, it was 12 feeds every 24 hours. BRUTAL!!!), my nipples looked like they had gone through a meat grinder. I bled, cried some more, barely slept…it was a nightmare. At Liam’s second appointment we discovered that he wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as they’d like. His pediatrician said if he didn’t hit a certain weight mark in a week we’d have to look at supplementing with formula (which I was completely against). On top of dealing with all of this I had to somehow be a mom to the girls between nursing, recovering from surgery, and trying to sleep.  

During my night feeds, I would read mommy blogs and breastfeeding websites. I studied and studied, trying to make the most out of my quiet time. I read somewhere that if you can make it through the first three weeks of breastfeeding, the rest would be a piece of cake. In that moment, that became my mantra. I held onto that bit of information like my life depended on it. Three weeks? I could do that. 21 days wouldn’t kill me – although some days it sure felt like it would. As harsh as it sounds, I made the decision to kind of close myself off from everyone so I could focus on learning how to nurse my son. I didn’t really leave the house, I stayed in my bed all day, I kept Liam on my body at all times. I absolutely LOVED it. He did too. I was accessible to him 24hrs a day at any given moment. It wasn’t always convenient, but it was what we needed. With that and the help of my super sweet lactation consultant, we made it work. By day 21, I hurt less. Liam was a more content eater. He started gaining weight steadily. We seemed to be in sync and working together.  

(Those chubby little fingers prefer cuddling a boob to sleep rather than a teddy bear…and that’s okay with me.)

At that point, I set small goals for myself. If I could make it 21 days, then surely I could make it 6 weeks right? 3 months? 6? A year?

And guess what? I did. WE did. We beat every single goal I set for us. Despite the clogged milk ducts, the mastitis that gave me a 103 fever for 3 days, the painful days, and the newly discovered biting 😉 we did it.

(The most perfect view. I really love connecting with him during our nursing time.)

Before I had Liam, I didn’t understand how moms could nurse their kids for more than X amount of months. It seemed crazy to me, as did a lot of other things. I never thought I’d be that mama that nurses in public, or that would let her son self-wean when HE is ready. But I am. I am that mom <3

Whenever I come home after being away from Liam, he immediately crawls or toddles over to me, and wants to nurse. There is no sweeter sound to me than him latching on and nursing. Oh, his sweet little breaths as he drinks, his soft little feet on my arm…and chin…and nose (haha), and the way I get to smell the top of his head a million times a day. I have grown to need our bonding time as much as he does.  

(what our days look like 50% of the time)

The hell we went through was worth the heaven we get to experience now, and I wouldn’t trade any of it.

(11.16.2016 – the day that marked 365 days of breastfeeding for us, and the day before Liam’s first birthday! Such an important day for us!)

(I am really proud of myself for creating every roll, dimple, and bit of fluff on my sweet baby boy. Here’s to another year, my prince!)  

 New Breastfeeding Mamas!! Here’s some essentials that helped me get through the hard parts:

A Boppy Pillow (or any nursing pillow) – I have a vertical incision from a childhood surgery, and it helped me tremendously. It’s fantastic for post-op mamas, so I imagine it’s also great for vaginal birthing mamas too! It was really handy when I needed an extra hand to pump while nursing.

A Big Cup – Seriously. Breastfeeding makes you SO thirsty. Keep a huge cup of ice water with you so you can sip while you nurse.  

Nursing Pads – You will leak. A lot. Keep them handy in the diaper bag!

Lanolin – I loved Lansinoh’s Lanolin cream. During my particularly painful early days, I would rub it on my nips and nursing pads to ease the pain and speed up healing. It doesn’t take the pain away completely, but it does make things a tad more bearable.

Snacks – Nursing is a great time to graze! You have to eat to produce, and as a new mama you don’t always have time to eat. Liam has had plenty of crumbs on his poor little head due to us having dual snack time. I’m sure he’s forgiven me by now 🙂

Medela PISA – It’s absolutely not necessary to pump if you are going to exclusively breastfeed. I chose to have a little something stashed away in the event that I had to be away from Liam in an emergency. I would rather have him have breastmilk from a bottle than to have formula. I loved this pump for it’s ease of use.

Medela Harmony Hand Pump – I learned that when you have clogged ducts it’s good to have a hand pump on hand to try and break up the clog. I really like this hand pump, and it’s also convenient if you need to pump on the road or where you can’t use an electric one (like the shower!).

Nursing Bras/Tops – Y’all. 98% of the tops I wear I can nurse in. V-Necks are wonderful, as are any standard tank tops. Make it easier on yourself and do not wear things in public that you have to completely remove in order to feed your baby. Babies do not wait and are not quiet about wanting their milk! For convenience, just make sure you can pop a boob out at a moments notice before you leave the house. Take it from someone who has had to fumble in the checkout line trying to discreetly feed my screaming baby in a dressy top 🙁

A support system – I felt like giving up a lot.  The pain, the constant waking, the doubts…it takes a toll mentally.  Thanks to Denzel and my sweetest friend Elaine, I was able to stick it out and keep fighting.  Elaine – I will never be able to repay you for everything you did for me, from answering my million nursing questions to just being encouraging…you really do mean the world to me.  

I love sharing what I know and my experience because I want to be that support for anyone who needs it.  I am a total open book in regards to breastfeeding, so if you have any questions (or if you just need to vent about how frustrating it is) ask away!


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