Hi friends & mamas,
DID YOU KNOW: 9 out of 10 babies are currently experiencing a disruption in their belly?!
This is actually my first requested “personal” blog post. I have had quite a few moms message me about my breastfeeding journey, especially because I exclusively pumped for the first 3.5 months due to Warner’s defect (Gastroschisis) & an array of setbacks. If you’re new here, I have posted Part 1 and Part 2 about our journey to Small Fry & I still owe everyone Parts 3 & 4, but it is still really raw & emotional for me, so it is taking me much longer to complete!
Before we even talked about having a child, I knew I wanted to try and breastfeed. Aside from the never-ending health benefits for baby, I was aware that breastfeeding would help to tone my uterus (OUCH, no one told me how painful that would be!), lose the baby weight (as it turns out, stress will help you lose even more), and be a cost free feeding option!
In January 2016, we found out Warner would be born with Gastroschisis & my OB asked if I planned to breastfeed. I replied that I absolutely wanted to give it a shot! He informed me that while at Children’s hospital, they would strongly encourage it unless I was on chemotherapy or was physically unable and that my breastmilk would be “liquid gold” for Warner, especially with his defect, as it would be the MOST beneficial for his guts!
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I worked with insurance to get a breast pump. I was given the Medela Pump In Style through our insurance company and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital provided hospital grade Medela Symphonies for the mothers to use in the NICU.
So, without going into too much detail about Warner & his experience, I am going to share all of the tips & tricks that I learned from the ACH Lactation Team/Facebook groups/Google/personal experience, etc. and will provide links to some of the most beneficial products I’ve found and the benefits I have seen, first hand, from breastfeeding. Before I get started, I do not want anyone to feel that I am shaming if you chose not to BF, were unable to BF, or had to supplement! I realize all bodies, babies, and boobies are different & am simply sharing what has worked best for me & my child!
My Personal BF Tips/Tricks/Successes
- As I mentioned above, OUCH!!!! I had no idea that the first week of pumping/breastfeeding would be SO painful; and not my breasts! I was in the NICU Mother’s Room on Day 3 after Warner was born and I was in tears as I was trying to pump. To my surprise, my Lactation Specialist peeked in and asked if I was having contractions. I just said my stomach was having very sharp pains & I didn’t know how long I could take it. She informed me that your body releases oxytocin while pumping or breastfeeding as it triggers a letdown, while also causing uterine cramps or contractions. These cramps are “toning” your uterus back up & reduce risks of uterine bleeding. That was such a shocker & I was THRILLED to know I wouldn’t always have the extreme pain!
- I researched a ton online & realized that, in order to keep my milk supply up, I was going to need to pump every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day just like I would feed a baby. I stayed on that schedule, almost religiously, the entire 98 days Warner was hospitalized. I set multiple alarms every night and, while it was difficult to make myself get up sometimes, I felt like this was the ONLY thing I was able to do for my son while he was in the NICU a few miles away every night. He was on TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition, nutrients through his veins) for the majority of his stay, so he wasn’t able to have any of my milk, but the hospital froze every mL I produced for when he was finally able to nurse him.
- I struggled with extreme anxiety (naturally) during his stay and, in turn, barely ate anything some days/weeks. During those bad times, I realized I would have major supply dips when I wasn’t getting enough calories and staying hydrated as I should have. It was CRUCIAL for me to snack throughout the day and carry around my favorite jug of water to keep my milk supply up.
- I tried eating oats, drinking coconut water, taking lecithin, drinking “mother’s” teas, etc. to see if it changed my supply, but never noticed a difference. This is my personal experience & MANY moms benefit from the tips, from what I have read online!
- Since I pumped so regularly, I developed a massive over-supply. I never skipped a session and wouldn’t go more an 4-5 hours EVER without pumping. If I did, I got SO engorged and would leak everywhere. A couple of times, I slept through my alarm at night and woke up in extreme pain and the bed would be soaked with milk and then pumped 15 ounces all at once. I typically produced 5-6 oz every 2-3 hours and between 45-50 oz. a day. Every few weeks, we were asked to take my milk home because the NICU was running out of freezer space. We quickly filled up both of our fridge freezers and had to purchase a standing deep freeze just for breastmilk. I felt SO accomplished!!!!
- My milk changed to fit Warner’s needs, even though I wasn’t nursing him! I know people talk about “fatty milk” or “blue milk” based on what their newborns body desires when nursing, but I assumed it wouldn’t change because I was NOT actually breastfeeding Warner. Lactation said my body sensed what Warner needed through kisses and skin-to-skin & it was SO evidently true. At one point, early on, Warner got MRSA in his eyes and my milk turned BLUE! I think it was my body producing immunity for him even though he wasn’t drinking it yet. It still does then when one of us is feeling under the weather & I am in awe of my body EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!
- Pumping sucks. As much as I loved saving all that precious milk for my son, the actual act itself is SO boring, so time consuming, and I loathed washing all the parts every time. As soon as Warner started nursing, I started weening my body to produce less milk so I could stop pumping ASAP! (That being said, I just started pumping once a day again. Breastmilk in a deep freeze is said to be good for 6-12 months. I am starting a new stash so I can try to keep Warner on breastmilk, at least once a day, until he is 18/24 months. I learned a baby up to two years only needs 4 oz. of breastmilk a day to get ALL of the benefits that it provides. So my goal is to give him 4 oz. for as long as I am able to in a bottle, cereal, etc. I don’t plan to actually nurse that long, but I won’t say never, just in case!)
- I was allowed to try breastfeeding with Warner once he was almost up to full feeds in the NICU. I was so terrified that he wouldn’t take to nursing, as I really longed for that special bond with him! Much to my (and our ACH Team) surprise, we tried a few times to get him to latch and once we used a nipple shield, he latched immediately! He used the shield for a couple of weeks & then quickly/easily transitioned to nursing without it.
I have always taken a raw, refrigerated probiotic to help calm my belly & keep my digestive system in order, so I was THRILLED when I was offered the opportunity to test out the Evivo infant probiotic with Warner.
Bad bacteria in the belly is linked to SO many health and autoimmune diseases & a refrigerated probiotic, like Evivo, is the best thing to help restore a healthy biome. Decades of research has shown that up to 15% of breastmilk nutrients are not digestible to a baby, they are simply there to feed B. infantis, a bacteria that protects the environment of babies belly. It is also responsible for reducing SO many harmful strains (staph, e.coli, strep, etc.) & babies that take Evivo saw up to 80% reduction in these potentially destructive strains of bacteria!
I have loved every moment of breastfeeding & I am SO happy I have been able to experience it, even with Warner’s setbacks! It has been empowering, painful, & satisfying in so many way. He is still (at almost 9 months old) nursing at every “mealtime” and throughout the night. Of course, I would prefer to sleep an entire 12 (or even 6) hours straight every night, but I will NEVER take for granted having him home with us & the opportunity to breastfeed him every night because I remember, all too well, what it felt like to go “home” to an apartment every night without him!
PLEASE, feel free to leave comments with your struggles, questions, or tips for other mamas to read about your own personal breastfeeding journey!