AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE, I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. THAT MEANS IF YOU USE THEM TO MAKE A PURCHASE, I'LL EARN ENOUGH MONEY FROM THAT SALE TO MAYBE BUY GEMMA SOMETHING PRETTY - DO IT FOR THE BABY.
I’m going to start with the obvious.
Breastfeeding is so freaking hard
I knew from the get go that I wanted to breastfeed. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to make it work. And even if I struggled, I was going to fight tooth and nail for every second I could get breastmilk to my daughter. I knew that I had worlds of science against the thought of me even trying this journey. But I was going to do it anyway.
Screw infertility. Screw PCOS. Screw having a cesarian section. I was going to breastfeed my daughter!
And with knowing that I had the world against me. I did a crazy amount of research on how to fight for breastfeeding.
Now before I go too far, I want to point out that this is NOT a formula bashing post. It just wasn’t what I wanted for my daughter. And as a mother, I am allowed to say that. I can fight for my breastfeeding relationship and NOT be bashing the mother who chose to formula feed.
In the world of Fed is Best, I believe that it has suddenly made it so that encouraging and celebrating breastfeeding is bad. It is somehow shaming other mothers who did not choose or could not go down the breastfeeding path. That is not what I am doing. But I am providing support for those who have decided as I have that there is no other option. I don’t want to give formula because I strongly believe that breast milk is biologically better for my child. My body literally makes this JUST FOR HER, not some generic recipe that works for most babies. It is OK that others have decided the same as well. It is OK that others have decided that that is not their path as well.
It has not been easy. Doctors tell me that my body is naturally working against me with my PCOS. Women who struggle with infertility often struggle with the hormones that make the precious milk that i wanted to provide Gemma. Then I had a long and strenuous labor. I had a cesarean section. Gemma swallowed meconium and I didn’t get her on my chest until fifteen minutes after she was born. It was another half hour before I could even try to position her to breastfeed without a sheet draped over my body. Then there was the issue of her weight. She was born a big baby. Big babies struggle with their sugar levels. Big babies from cesarean sections tend to drop more than 10% of their body weight. Her latch was shallow. She struggled to gain weight. She’s still skinny.
Gemma has never had a drop of formula. Or even donor milk.
She has been 100% mama fed and this has ALWAYS been supported by my husband and pediatrician.
And you can do this too! Set yourself up for success straight from the get go.
Before Baby Is Born
Educate Yourself on Breastfeeding
Guys, THIS CLASS, take it. Love it. It really is amazing! Simeon and I watched it together in the weeks before Gemma was born and it taught us so much. Milkology
Find a Pediatrician Who Will Support Breastfeeding
Everyday, I see mama’s in my breastfeeding support groups who ARE NOT being supported by their children’s doctors. Who are actually telling them that formula is better and that there is no way their child will thrive on breast milk. While this may be the case in a baby here and there, I think way too many women are being told this.
I have been so blessed to have a pediatric office that has a certified IBCLC pediatrician that also educates all of the doctors on staff to support breastfeeding mothers. Even with Gemma gaining weight slowly, they have always been supportive of our journey. Telling me that Gemma’s weight wasn’t a major concern (especially with her father’s figure) and to just keep doing what we are doing! Even when I was personally concerned, we did weighted feeds and were educated more by the IBCLC.
Get Items to Support Your Breastfeeding Journey
While breastfeeding is “cheaper” than formula, there are still supplies you need to get ready to breastfeed! Your nipples will hurt. Baby will sometimes still need a bottle (so you can get a break!). And you will have cravings. Not to mention getting comfy, dealing with leaking, and catching all that extra milk!
Talk to Your Spouse about Breastfeeding
THIS IS SO CRITICAL! If you don’t have support in your Spouse, breastfeeding can go south so quickly! Simeon would have to pick Gemma up for me to feed her in the beginning because of my unplanned c-section. He also had to cheer me on through the days of tears when it seemed like Gemma and I were never going to get it. He cheered me on through the multiple weight check appointments where I questioned if we were making the right decision. And proudly would count up the ounces in the freezer so I would know that I made plenty of milk for our baby girl. His support was CRITICAL to my breastfeeding confidence with Gemma.
Not only do you need your husband on your side when it comes to breastfeeding in general, but discuss your plans for when you are out in public and baby gets hungry. Now I do warn you that this is a topic that many men are uncomfortable with. Simeon was too. But I laid out my feelings and listened to his concerns as well. We came up with a game plan. I would try to usually feed Gemma before we went somewhere or even in the car before going in anywhere. If she still needed fed while we were out and about, I used the two shirt method. If I was somewhere that I didn’t feel comfortable breastfeeding without a cover, we keep a light muslin swaddle in the diaper bag. This is something that I see couples fighting over ALL THE TIME. Don’t be bullied, but don’t be a bully either. You both just want what is best for baby. So compromise.
Find out Any Concerns with Breastfeeding
As I have explained before, I have PCOS. This can be a major concern with breastfeeding as well. I knew this from the get go and so I was not surprised when at my first IBCLC appointment, it was brought up. I was warned again that it might be a hindrance in having this wonderful relationship with my daughter. Hormones, they rule everything that your body can do.
Since I knew ahead of time what I was going to be up against, I was able to research and be prepared for these concerns from doctors. I also already had the mindset that I was going to have to work a million times harder than most mothers to even begin this journey, which is why I did my best to set everything else up as perfectly as possible.
Create a Birth Plan
Which brings me to my birth plan. While I didn’t get everything that I wanted in my birth, I still did the best research I could to set us up for breastfeeding success from the get go. This included taking a natural birthing course, and letting nurses know exactly what I wanted to happen immediately after birth. I came to the hospital with multiple copies. Next time I plan to even frame one and prop it up so that it is immediately noticeable to staff caring for me. It wasn’t long or excessive and would fit perfectly in just one paper sized frame.
Find Your Breastfeeding Support Group
I will say this over and over again. You DO NOT have to do this alone. Even if you are the first in your family to breastfeed in generations. Even if none of your friends breastfeed. Mama, you have so many people that will gladly join your team, including me! I am a part of two breastfeeding facebook groups that I adore: Milky Mamas and Breast, Bottle & Beyond. You can learn from mamas who have already been there. Have solidarity with mamas doing the same thing as you (there always seems to be one middle of the night “whose up feeding their baby right now too?!” post somewhere! Some cities also have in person groups where you can bond and ask questions with moms in your area!
After Baby Is Born
Baby to Breast ASAP
This is something that I freaked out about the most when they started wheeling me down for my cesarean section. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed Gemma as soon as I wanted. My dream had been for Gemma to pop out and for her to immediately be put on my chest to latch while we waited for her chord to cease pumping. I didn’t get that dream. Not only was my chest covered by a sheet and she had to be put practically on my neck when I got to see her finally, but Gemma had swallowed meconium as well and had to be suctioned before I ever got to see her. BUT they did encourage latching as soon as I was in the recovery room. As soon as they were done stitching me up, she was skin to skin with me and having her first meal.
Skin to Skin As Much As Possible
The more time that you can spend directly skin to skin with your baby, the better. This may mean putting up some rules in your birth plan, such as if anyone is going to be squeamish about seeing your skin or breasts, they might just need to wait until you get home to visit. It’s ok to stand up for your bonding with your new baby. You don’t have to hand her off right away so another family member can see her. You don’t have to put a shirt on if it is just going to get in your way. You just birthed a baby that you’ve been baking for 10 months. You get to make the rules!
See a Lactation Consultant in the Hospital
Even with all the education and videos to watch in the world, latching your baby is still a completely different story when you go to do it. It’s great to have a professional take a glance at your latch and make sure that you are doing great. It also is nice to have someone take a peak into baby’s mouth and check for any tongue or lip ties that might make breastfeeding more painful.
Immediately Communicate ANY Issue with your LC, Pediatrician, and Spouse.
If you think there is ANY issue. ANYTHING at all. Tell someone right away. Don’t let it get to the point that your nipples are gushing blood or that baby is loosing weight. If you have any question or concern, work with the professionals to figure out the answer. I was so happy that our pediatrician for the first few weeks was also a IBCLC. We were doing weight checks on Gemma for a few days after coming home from the hospital because she was slow to gain weight. But with working with someone who is a professional at breastfeeding, we were able to get weighted feeds at her appointments and be given advice on the best ways to latch her and keep her awake for feeding! I was re-assured that breastfeeding was the right path and so excited for it. We were able to trouble shoot and figure out any issues before they became major.
Many mothers seem scared to go to their pediatrician with any problems with breastfeeding because they fear they will be pushed into formula immediately. If you don’t think that you can trust the people that you are working with to raise your baby, you need to re-evaluate who you have allowed into your babies life. Any professional that is in your child’s life still should work with you because you are mama! You made and will be raising this little being!
And don’t let any doubts bubble up in your mind alone. Go to your spouse and let them set you straight. I was soooo terrified that I wasn’t making enough milk. So Simeon would drag me in front of the freezer and show me the stash that was already building. He wouldn’t let me live in the un-true doubts that circled my head.