Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Mommy Files: Breastfeeding Part II

I got lots of encouraging responses from Part I of this post.
Yay for all the super moms out there!
Breastfeeding or not.
Ya'll are my heroes.

Welcome to Part II.

Breastfeeding Part II: My Experience and Making it Work at Work

Well. Just about everything from the start of Lyla's life is a cloudy blur. All I know is that childbirth is intense, I went weeks without sleeping, life revolved around this tiny little human that completely depended on us for everything, and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

I'm serious, guys. No clue.

Whoever thought it was ok to release us from the safety zone of the hospital and into the wild of childrearing was crazy.

But we got through it.

Lots of trial and error. 
Lots of failing.
Lots of frustration.

And then deciding to exclusively breastfeed was no joke. 
Quite the responsibility. 
I can remember running a quick errand at the beginning and thinking, "What if something happens to me? I am the sole resource for my baby's life right now."
Scary stuff.
And pretty empowering, if you ask me. 

But let's take a closer look at the general experience.
Let's go back to the very beginning.

The Beginning: My Experience.

Luckily I had an incredible amount of support from personal cheerleaders.
My husband was and still is the most supportive person on the planet.
{He deserves an entire post}.
Both my mom and mother-in-law were very pro breastfeeding.
And many of my friends were a few steps ahead of me to show me the ropes.

I'm not sure how I would have...could have continued without the moral support.

Breastfeeding is hard.
And mentally.

Especially when you haven't slept in weeks.
Especially when it is extremely painful.
Especially when your baby won't stop crying because she can't figure things out.

The very beginning was actually quite wonderful.
Lyla crawled right to me and began to nurse the moment the nurses laid her on my chest for the first time.
Just like we saw on the video in labor class.
I couldn't believe it!

Thank goodness my newborn knew what to do.
Because I sure didn't.

The most beautiful moment in my entire life.

Then, the second day of life.
Things got a little more challenging.

How do I keep this little gal awake to eat?
How often to I feed her?
How do I know if she's getting enough?
Is it supposed to hurt this badly?
Is it possible to die from exhaustion?

Luckily, you are in the safety zone of the hospital for a couple of days.
There are nurses.
And doctors.
And lactation consultants.

If I could go back, I would have used the lactation consultant more.
I just remember telling her that I didn't think Lyla was getting very much from my right breast.
And she had become quite partial to my left.

The LC chuckled and said, "All babies have a chocolate and a vanilla.Your right side is baby's vanilla. So you just need to start on that side to get her used to it and make her acquire a taste for vanilla!"

Then I remember having no clue when Lyla was hungry.
So I pretty much just nursed every time she cried.
In hindsight, that seems pretty ridiculous.
I'm not quite sure how I would handle someone sticking their boob in my face every time I was upset.
But it worked.
It was like calming magic.

Then, after about 2 weeks, we started to get into more of a "routine".
As routine as a newborn allows.

I started to follow more of a schedule.
But I also followed my mama instinct. 
If Miss Beans seemed hungry, I fed her.
Simple enough, right?

Some of my super-organized friends kept things like spreadsheets.
Tracking how long baby nursed on each side.
How many poo and pee diapers baby had each day.
How long baby went in between feedings.

I think I recorded those things for about one week.
Then I forgot to jot down a couple of feedings.
And I thought Lyla went 3 days without peeing.
"Because it isn't showing on my handy-dandy app!"

Needless to say, recording every single feeding and diaper stressed me out.
As if I didn't have anything else to worry think about.
So I decided to eat the $5.00 I spent on the baby schedule app.

And ignorance was bliss.

A few other things I remember about the beginning...
  • I had an excessive amount of questions. So, to lessen the obnoxious-ness, I alternated questions between 3 friends. And had them on speed-text. 
  • Google has never seen the word "breastfeeding"typed into a search engine so many times. 
  • I have a weird obsession with things being even. So I nursed for 10 minutes on each side. Every.single.time.
  • Already mentioned this, but it hurt. And most LC's say, "If it hurts, baby isn't doing it right." Well, have you seen my Chunkin? She was clearly getting enough to eat. And it still hurt.
  • The football position was the only one that worked for Lyla at the beginning. Nothing else.
  • I was so paranoid about "nipple confusion" that I did not introduce a bottle or pacifier until 4 weeks old on the day. 
  • The chair in Lyla's nursery rocker has become the most used piece of furniture in our house. It's where we share started our bond and have spent many hours. 
  • We put Lyla in her crib starting Night #1. This means that I stumbled into her nursery to nurse her about 4 times a night. {Have I mentioned that I do everything the hard way?} I always envied those mamas who could just roll over and nurse while baby and mom fall back asleep. I caught up on work e-mails during that time. Because I'm crazy. 

Going back to work.

I absolutely need a post entirely dedicated to this topic. 
After 7 months of being back at work. 
I am still not fully ready to share my emotions.

As if breastfeeding weren't hard enough, going back to work made it seem impossible.
I almost threw in the towel after one month.

And you know what?
Had I quit, Lyla would be just as happy and healthy as she is today.
And life sure would have been a piece of cake.
Or at least resembled more of a cake than the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink batter my life had become.

But I was committed.

I had to be.

Because things got very difficult.

I'm not one of those moms blessed with magic milk.
You know, the ones who have an overabundance of milk supply?
That wasn't me.
I barely pumped enough milk for 2 bottles each day.
And I pumped all.the.time.

Then it seemed like my entire immune system shut down.
Nursing and pumping *literally* sucked the immunity right out of me.
That coupled with being a teacher who is around germy kiddos for 7 hours a day?
I was sick for 3 months straight.

Then, I subsequently got clogged ducts 5 times in a row.
These are no picnic in the park.
They are incredibly painful, annoying, and can turn into a nasty infection if you're not careful.
Heat, massage, and lots of nursing is the key to getting rid of these nasty guys.

And of course there were the never-ending tasks.
Cleaning pump parts.
Steaming bottles.
Freezing milk.
Storing milk.
Portioning milk.

Oh. And let's not forget the day I returned to work and discovered that all milk I express instantly turns sour.

After all of that nonsense, my stubborn will came in handy.
Because I was determined to make it to Christmas.
Then spring break.

And now here we are.
Summer vacation.
And I'm still going.
With plans to make it to the year mark.

Making it Work at Work. 

Most, if not all, women experience a major dip in supply when going back to work. 
So it can make things incredibly difficult if pumping isn't a top priority. 
{Or for some, if pumping isn't able to be accomplished at work}.

How did I personally make it work after heading back to teaching?
Let's talk logistics. 
  • Economics 101. Nursing is all about supply and demand. Our God-given bodies know exactly how much milk to produce based on what the baby demands. So as a rule of thumb, I tried to pump as many times as Lyla ate while she was away from me. *And then some*. I basically pumped any chance I got because I really did not want my supply to dip. And I wanted my body thinking that Lyla was still an eating machine.
  • Get a Running Start. I began pumping when Lyla was 6 weeks old. Call me a planner, or call me crazy. I like to think ahead. So, I slowly began pumping after a nursing session here and a nursing session there. And I'm a results kind of gal, so you can imagine my frustration when it took me 2 or 3 pump sessions to get ONE measly ounce. But I kept with it. And eventually I had a freezer full of milk. 
  • Nurse.Nurse.Nurse. Just like anything else, nothing competes with the real thing. Artificial anything is never quite the same. This goes with nursing as well. A breastfeeding baby is so much more efficient than a pump. So, I made it a priority to rush home and nurse Lyla before after school meetings or other personal obligations...rather than skipping a nursing session and pumping instead. 
  • All in a Day's Work. I really protected my pumping sessions at work. This can be incredibly difficult for some professions, teaching included. Because there is zero flexibility as a teacher. I often get the question how to make it work as a teacher. Well. In my case, I am lucky with my schedule. I was able to pump during my plan time in the morning and then again at lunch. 
  • Anywhere. Anytime. There were times when I missed a pumping session due to a meeting, etc. But I always made sure to make up that pumping session. I quickly learned to swallow my pride and be willing to pump anywhere. I've been in quite the awkward predicaments on more than one occasion
  • Become a camel. My kids were always so intrigued by how much water I consumed in a day. I took my giant post-partum hospital jug with me to school every day. And I filled it 3-4 times in a 7 hour period. That's an average of 100 ounces of water just during school hours. Staying hydrated is key because a lot of liquid is coming out!
  • Keep it Clean. I started things off by vigorously cleaning and sterilizing my pump parts after each use. Then I got gross efficient. I *gasp* only cleaned my pump parts at the end of each day. I seriously could not keep up the maintenance. I was on a non-negotiable time restraint during my pump times. There just wasn't enough time to clean the parts too. But I thoroughly washed the parts each night with boiling hot water, soap, and a bottle scrubber. 
  • Milk Hoarding. How did I store my liquid gold? I have a mini fridge in my classroom where I kept my pumped milk. Then I'd take it home and pour into milk storage bags. I currently *still* have an entire deep freeze of Medela storage bags full of milk.
  • Number Obsessed. Being Type-A, I had to make a conscious effort to not become number-obsessed. It's so easy to get into the habit of, "Well, she's eating three 5oz. bottles at daycare, so I should be pumping 15 oz. while I'm at school." I never even came close to pumping that during my school day. Sometimes, I'd pump 6 oz. in my morning session, while other times I pumped 2 oz. It was very inconsistent. Eventually, I did get to a point where I was no longer pumping what Lyla was taking in. But that's why I tried to build a "cushion" with my morning and night time pump sessions. 
Last but not least, for all you visual learners, here is a peek at what my daily schedule looked like. 
*I did eventually take out the 3:40 pump session after a couple of months. And at the very end of school, I finally took out the night session.*

Daily Schedule.

6:15 Nurse first thing in the morning. 
7:00 Pump while eating breakfast/putting on makeup. 
9:30 Pump during plan time. 
11:50 Pump during lunch. 
3:40 Pump after school. 
4:30 Nurse.
6:00 Nurse. 
9:00 Pump Before bed. 

*I grew to really dislike my pump. Why? Because I saw (and heard) it more than my own husband and baby. Pumping is what nightmares are made of. There is nothing worse than getting in bed only to realize you still have to pump. Except maybe waking up 30 minutes early every morning just to pump. Seriously. I've never cursed something so much.

And after all that? 
My supply still suffered a bit around 8 months. 

I'm telling you.
This nursing stuff is no joke. 

But I'm fortunate enough to have a summer break. 
I'm able to catch up. 
And boost my supply again.

Plus I have a husband who packs my lunch, washes bottles, and pretty much reminds me daily that the sacrifice is worth it. 
So a big shout out to my main squeeze. 
And a second shout out to a really cute Chunkin. 
Who makes all of this worth it.

It is so incredibly worth it. 

****Today I'm linking up with a dear, longtime blog friend. She hosts BabyTalk Tuesdays, and I've linked up today. Go check her out - She and her little Kenley are just sweet as pie!


Jami said...

Oh my goodness...I know exactly how you feel!! Well, I have been pumping since she was a couple weeks old and havent nursed since then because of my crazy schedule. She is nine months old and I feel like I pump all the time. I have never been able to stock up, so I give her a bottle and pump for the next one! I have a love/hate relationship as well. I keep saying I want to make it to a year...almost there! haha

Shoshanah said...

These posts are awesome! And that's coming from someone who isn't currently a parent. But hopefully by the time we have a baby, I'm able to do a lot of this. At least that's my goal now, so we'll see when it finally gets there.

Sarah @ Life, Love & Dinner said...

Oh, I love that I found your blog! I'm expecting a little girl in September and I teach fifth grade. I will most likely be going back to work after Christmas break and plan to pump but have no clue how to do that from school. Reading this makes me feel like it's totally possible. I'm going to need to check out some of your other posts for tips! :)

Aliya said...

You go mama! To this day, the sound of my pump haunts me and I didn't do it nearly as long as you! I also have to say that picture of you and itty bitty Ly passed out in the glider? Well.. It might or might not have literally made my heart ache for a baby. Don't tell my husband I said that.