Motherhood is hard.
Everyone tells you this when you’re pregnant.
Everyone also tells you that motherhood will be the most incredible thing you will ever do, and you will feel love and joy that you cannot describe. A love that you just… didn’t know was physically possible to experience.
Everyone is unequivocally right.
Man… you THINK that you love that little, wiggly potato-thing beyond belief while they’re still INSIDE your belly?
Nothing can prepare you for the literal assault of love that fills your entire being the moment you hear their amazing first scream as they enter this world.
In honor of this LONG ASS post, I wanted to give you guys a special gift from me to you. Think of it as an early Mother’s Day gift… or bribery– whichever one boats your float!
I created a very special Printable for you!
The Incredible Mommy Affirmations You Should Read Everyday!
This little printable is my gift for you, and I want you to read them EVERY DARN DAY! I don’t care if you need to stick to the fridge, your bathroom mirror- hell, stick it on your partner!
Just make sure you read and recite these affirmations as often as you need. Because you ARE INCREDIBLE!
Now, back to the boob talk…
Everyone is also right in that it doesn’t matter how many hours you spend in labor trying to bring them into this world (32-hours and a c-section, hello), that pain means nothing in comparison to the joy you feel.
You’d do it over again- 100 more times without a second thought– for that little person.
(Please Note: That doesn’t mean the labor that you went through wasn’t something incredibly difficult and probably not nearly as romantic as you envisioned- but we will be discussing that in a different post.)
The interesting and terrifying thing about motherhood (aside from all of the other interesting and terrifying things), are the struggles that people don’t seem to want to tell you about.
Whether that be because they may not have experienced it, or because they don’t want to scare an already hormonal and anxious pregnant lady, some of the stuff I have experienced in this first 6 weeks of motherhood definitely caught me off guard.
While well-intended, personally, I WISHED that some of the mommies I had talked to, or read about, had disclosed some of the tough stuff to me – my hormonal self be damned!
I’ll be writing posts about my personal experiences as a mother, in that regard, not to scare you, but to help prepare you for some of the unbeautiful stuff so that you don’t feel alone or embarrassed(kind of like I did for those first 5 first days of motherhood, specifically).
I’ve been a full-fledged mamma for a little over 6 weeks at the time of writing this post, so while I don’t have a lot of experience- all of the tough stuff about being a first-time mom is not only fresh in my mind- but concurrent!
I wanted to talk about these feelings before they become foggy, so that way I can truly empathize with other soon-to-be new moms like me.
In this first post, I want to talk about what has been THE toughest aspect of motherhood thus far. The thing that I truly had not anticipated being as challenging as it has been.
While I definitely heard that breastfeeding can be challenging and that some moms end up not being able to do it at all… I had no idea, not just in regards to the physical toll, but the emotional toll struggling to breastfeed truly is.
I want to talk about this not just to help prepare you for the trouble… but also to reinforce that it will be okay. I want to share some of the helpful tools friends recommended, as well as stuff I found on my own, that made my breast milk issues much easier.
Now, the views expressed in this post are my opinion, and may not align with the views of all moms, but I still want to share them for the moms that might benefit from hearing my personal experiences.
So, without further adieu…
…let’s chat about boobs.
What A Plot (t)w(i)s(ts): Latching Problems While Breastfeeding
TMI: I have always had massive boobs. I started developing when I was eight years old, and I genuinely believed that breastfeeding would most likely not be a problem for me. I would always say: “I’ve had to carry these things around for 20 years! They better work!”
This was only reinforced when my newborn son latched practically IMMEDIATELY after birth, and I felt a ton of relief as the nurse called him “a pro!”.
I thought that meant that everything was right on track, while I may not sleep for the next year, at least my boobs would do their job and my kid would eat. Feeding my baby would NOT be one of the struggles I’d have to deal with.
So, a bit of background that shaped my personal experience and situation: I did not actually go into labor before arriving at the hospital.
I went for a check-up 2 days after my due date, and my husband and I were quite surprised when the doctor told us that I would be induced THAT AFTERNOON. He decided to induce me because he found “excess fluid” in my womb, which might have meant the baby was not eating enough (I laugh now at the idea that this kid might have had a small appetite). While very nervous, we were excited. I was as big as a house at this point and quite ready to give birth.
So, after a lovely 32-hours of labor that ended in a C-section because I couldn’t dilate past 8 centimeters, my body was in… a LOT of shock- and my hormones were all kinds of confused.
As you may already know (or will know) when you’re baby is first born, you don’t actually produce milk right away. You produce colostrum, which is an insanely nutrient dense pre-milk that your baby eats until your boobs start flowing with milk.
Now, normally a new mom’s milk comes in within a couple of days or so. However, because I had been induced AND had a C-section, I was warned that milk production might take a little longer than others – 7 to 10 fucking days, in fact. This caused me to stress, but all of the wonderful hospital staff assured me that my baby would be fine, and he would get what he needed until my milk came in.
The second night after he was born was VERY tough. My poor little guy just couldn’t rest for more than 20 mins, and so neither did I. (FYI, my wonderful husband was there, but since I was breastfeeding, not much he could do but be supportive, and he very much was).
I had nurses coming in all night, trying to help me soothe him to sleep, thinking maybe he had a gas bubble (which he very well might have had), but he just couldn’t go down. The only rest I got was around 5AM when they needed to take him for a bath, and do a few tests, so the nurse kept him until about 7AM.
Guilt trip number one initiated.
When we got home it was even harder, because my son, in spite of his perfect latch at the hospital, began to struggle. He would get so enraged in those first couples of days that I couldn’t calm him down enough to eat. And once I did, he’d nurse for as long as necessary, and still become furious and angry within the hour, so the process repeated.
This was… insanely emotionally taxing on top of trying to recover from a C-section, and the hormones freaking out in my body as they tried to return to normal. I was a (mostly) silent wreck. Trying to be strong so my husband didn’t worry, but I knew that he could see that I was so exhausted from labor, delivery, and anxiety.
I cried tears of joy and relief that first night when I was able to put him down without him screaming immediately.
He woke up often that night, but that’s normal for babies, so I just assumed he was doing his thing and this was part of being a mother (which it was to an extent).
The next day was another battle, and he was so upset that getting him to latch was impossible. And even when he did, he’d get angry pretty quickly because of how difficult it was for him to get “milk” out.
In desperation and curiosity, I had my husband bring me one of the tiny ready-made formulas that the hospital sent us home with. The moment I put it in his mouth, the poor little thing CHUGGED the bottle like it was his job (technically it was), and immediately passed out for hours.
My poor boy, who hadn’t slept more than an hour or two in the past two days, finally collapsed and I realized all of his fussiness was pure hunger.
I broke down in tears, my husband trying to reassure me that it wasn’t my fault and I was doing a great job…
But the idea that not only had my body not been strong enough to give birth to my baby on its own- but now I couldn’t even feed him. It broke me. He was great at latching, my body just wasn’t meeting him halfway…
Now, in hindsight and with hormones back in check, I realized that the above-described feelings of self-loathing are wholly invalid, and you should not feel that way if you go through a similar situation.
I now understand just how hard I worked to bring my son here; and while I may not have “pushed” him out, I gave every last drop of myself to him, and we both made it out healthy. While my body may have struggled to adjust and build my milk supply that first week, I busted my breasts to here and back to make sure that I make him enough food each day.
I described those feelings because I want to be very transparent in my personal situation. I don’t want to sugar-coat these emotions for those of you who might read this and worry that the negativity and frailty that you might be dealing with is something wrong with you, and no one else understands- or worse, would be critical or judgmental of you.
You’re not alone, and you have nothing to worry about. I have come to realize how truly you can love fellow mommies, even if you may not parent the same way. That bond and those experiences are something you all share, to one degree or another, and you will always be there for your fellow mom.
I’m here for you right now, sister.
So, after calming down a bit, grateful that I had at least found a way of making sure my little guy was satisfied and able to rest, I sent my husband to the store to fetch formula and distilled water to help me supplement while I waited for my milk to come in.
Breast Pump Problems
So, I heard that pumping (along with your baby nursing) was the best way to inspire your boobs to start oozin’, and so I started putting my breast pump into overdrive. Spending over an hour, at some points, desperate to squeeze out every last drop of precious food for my son.
This was all a pain in the ass initially, not just because I was struggling to learn how to use a breast pump, but also because what precious little supply I was producing was leaking down my boob and being wasted!
My God, I was gonna lose it.
Turns out, I have smaller than the av-ur-rage nipples(TMI, sorry). This self-discovery was really surprising to me, as I had assumed I would have been on the other end of the spectrum.
So off to Amazon I went (Amazon was my best friend in those first weeks), and found a smaller cup size compatible with the brand of breast pump I used (I’ll talk more about that later).
Even though I was still struggling to master the collaboration of my boobs and the breast pump, switching to the correct size cup helped immediately. Now, the only time I leak is usually due to user error.
During the first several days, I was still pumping colostrum, still struggling to get Jake to latch, and still feeling pretty guilty for supplementing with formula.
But after a week that felt like an eternity, I finally started to produce what looked like milk; and slowly but surely, I made more and more and was finally able to make enough food to keep up with my baby’s needs!
Products That Helped Increase My Breastmilk Supply
Now that you know a bit about my personal breastfeeding journey and that it will get easier! I’ll tell you about my favorite products that saved my sanity, and helped improve my milk supply greatly- as well as quickly.
Just to make sure I mention it: none of the products below that I’m going to showcase are sponsored.
I paid for everything out of my own pocket (along with all the stuff I bought that DIDN’T work– yay!) and I just wanted to share my favorites with you guys on the chance they can make your life a little easier!
So, let’s take a look!
I had been lucky enough to have to wonderful friends who had becoming mommies a few months prior to me; and so, in spite of my embarrassment and shame for admitting I was already a fuck up as a mother(again, that was the ugly and hormonal side of my brain talking- I know that this isn’t true), I messaged them asking if they had any tips.
After reassuring me that I was, in fact, not a POS, and that they had similar issues with their own children, they recommended these Nipple Guards.
While I decided that the best method for my baby and I was to pump and bottle feed him, those nipple guards were a godsend for the times I would spend trying to help my son latch and eat.
Basically, they make it much easier for baby to latch, and it’s much less painful on your nips.
Breastfeeding, and pumping is quite painful those first few days, so I strongly recommend buying a nipple cream to help soothe those puppies between feedings. The brand I used was Lansinoh because it happened to be the sample I received from the hospital, and it helps a lot.
However, from what I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure Lansinoh is the standard brand.
I’ve not only found Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream on Amazon, but also in most of the retail stores I frequent (in the baby section by any pumping supplies).
Don’t skimp on the cream, these are the little ‘self-care’ steps that will make your recovery easier. You’re going to experience exhaustion physically and emotionally like you’ve never known, don’t add to it by neglecting your boob care.
Medela PersonalFit Flex Breast Shields (AKA): The Correct Flange Size
As I mentioned above, my main issue while learning to use my electric breast pump was that all of my hard-earned milk was leaking out all over my shirt (super awesome). After doing some research and asking another (more experienced) momma, I discovered that BOTH of the standard cup sizes provided by my insurance were too large.
Unfortunately, this meant that I had to spend more money on a smaller size.
On a side note: I don’t know if it was just my insurance that did that, but I think it’s RIDICULOUS that insurance companies wouldn’t supply you at least ONE sample of each size- just in case you aren’t one of the “standards”!
… rant over…
Anyway, I ordered the Medela PersonalFit Flex Breast Shields in a size 21mm flange, being that it was compatible with my pump (a Madela: pump in style advanced), and its more flexible design seemed like it would work better than the more traditionally rigid flanges.
They solved my leaking problem right away.
Now the only thing I was left to struggle with was actually producing enough breastmilk for my son to eat…
So I’ll tell ya about the supplements I have taken to aid in this.
Dietary Breastmilk Supplements
Your diet is a MAJOR factor in creating and keeping up your breast milk supply. You need to be incredibly hydrated because breastfeeding is very taxing on your body (hence why it burns all of those calories).
You need to be eating enough, especially complex carbs (but, my dear friend, you’re going to have your hands full, so just eat what you can get for now and sate your appetite).
You also need to drink tons of water. This was harder for me than expected, but that was mainly due to being distracted by, you know… caring for a precious little infant who relies on you for everything.
It’s only kind of a big deal, I guess…
Anyway, once you do your best to meet those above dietary requirements, there are HUNDREDS of supplements in the form of: teas, cookies, vitamins– you name it, to help stimulate milk production.
Now, of course, you should also consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplement- blah blah blah.
No, but seriously, Fenugreek (the main ingredient in one of the breast milk supplements I’m about to discuss) is still a foreign chemical in your body, and so you should consult you doctor and you pediatrician, before starting any of these supply enhancing supplements.
Here are the supplements that I have used and like best…
I think I discovered the “Mother Knows Best: Goat’s Rue” on social media somewhere, and after reading reviews (and having just finished my previous bottle of Fenugreek supplements), I decided to order it.
From what I have read here on WebMD, there isn’t enough known about Goat’s Rue for them to have any set side-effects. FYI, here’s the link where you can read more about this supplement on your own!
I’ve been taking it for about 3 days now, and WOW. Even just after a few days, I’ve noticed that I’m able to pump 2-3 extra ounces of breast milk during my first-morning pump. This is very helpful, as my little guy is going through his 6-week growth spurt, and is practically insatiable.
I’m also noticing about a 20-30% increase in each of my following pumps throughout the day. Going from an average of 3-4 oz per following sessions to about 4.5-6 oz.
I’m obviously not going to guarantee these results for everyone. Firstly, I’m not a doctor or a professional lactation consultant(obviously), but also because my body is uniquely me, so the stuff I am recommending may not have the same effect for everyone.
The Upspring brand has been a huge help in my post-partum life. Not only do I drink their UpSpring Milkflow: Chocolate Milk Flavored Breastfeeding Supplement, but they were also the brand of C-Section recovery control underwear that I bought after I got home from the hospital (which I CANNOT recommend enough if you’ve had a C-section- they helped me SO MUCH).
Here is the Amazon link to the recovery panties in case you’re interested: UpSpring Baby C-Panty C-Section Recovery Panty.
Honestly, if you don’t mind my opinion, I would strongly suggest ordering these around your due date JUST IN CASE.
You never really know what your birth will be like, I’m living proof. There was absolutely no sign that I would need to have a C-Section literally until an hour before I got one.
Having recovery underwear will be a huge help in shrinking your uterus back to its normal size, regardless of whether you end up having a C-Section or not.
Now, back to the chocolate milk!
This chocolate milk supplement from UpSpring is fantastic. It is also a huge contributor to my milk supply improvement, and it DOES actually taste quite good. I would say I can’t really tell the difference between drinking this and a regular cup of instance hot chocolate.
It says you can drink it hot or cold, but I prefer it hot. It is also not super high in calories(60 per serving) so it isn’t going to make it harder for you to get back to your pre-preggo body.
I would say that the only thing that can be a little frustrating about taking either of these supplements (in my personal experience), is that I do notice a drop in supply if I happen to run out and can’t take them for a few days. So, I just need to make sure I am always stocked up.
The one thing I would like to note are a few of the possible side-effects that can accompany taking Fenugreek for you and your baby. In fact, I might be experiencing one of these effects which might force me to stop taking the stuff, in spite of how helpful it has been in increasing my supply.
Some of the side effects include: body-odor, gastrointestinal issues like gas, diarrhea, etc, and some people might have an allergic reaction. Here is a link to the full list of symptoms that you can take a look at…
The reason I am holding off on taking it for a few days is that I found out that Fenugreek can also cause gas problems for your baby- and my little guy’s biggest gripe is gas bubbles. It seems like no matter how much we burp him, he usually has at least one super crummy gas bubble pain every other day.
So, I’m taking a small break to see if not taking Fenugreek will improve that!
My Personal Feeding Choice
Now, as I mentioned above, I have chosen to exclusively pump and bottle feed my baby. This was because, even in spite of the helpful nipple guards, my boy just preferred a bottle.
He had gotten so used to it early on that he just was a happier baby on the bottle. And I felt that it was more important that he was happy than me worrying about my insecurities about ‘being successful at breastfeeding’. I do not regret it.
I just also find that bottle-feeding fits my lifestyle better. It has made it possible for my husband to help with nighttime feedings (making my recovery much easier since I was availed that precious extra time to rest at night) and he can also enjoy that bonding experience with our boy.
I can also keep track of exactly what he is eating, and it helps me know his eating patterns and how they’re fluctuating as he gets older. This gives me peace of mind because, when I would breastfeed him, this kid would “eat” for 20-45 minutes, and still not seem satisfied.
It was as if he had been eating so long, fading in and out of sleep, that he’d forget he had eaten. As with all newborns, he was a notoriously sleepy boy, so he’d fall asleep on my breast constantly, and no amount of prodding, tickling, wiping with wet cloths, burping (etc) made a difference.
Even now I still need to supplement with formula sometimes, but it’s very rare, and its usually when he has hit a little growth spurt and suddenly decides to eat double his usual amount!
Now, I have discovered since becoming a mother, that there is a lot of controversy in regards to “how you should be feeding your kid“. From: “Breast is Beast” to “Fed Is Best”, there seems to be a culture that may think my decision is the wrong one.
Frankly, they’re not my child. So I really don’t care if someone would accuse me of “not trying hard enough”. My goal is to care for my precious child, and I feel SO FORTUNATE that I’m even able to produce breast milk AT ALL!
I know that there are mommies that may not be able to pump or breastfeed, so I truly think that every mommy is doing their very best, and that as long as your baby is eating, gaining weight, and your pediatrician is giving you a clean bill of health… who the fuck cares whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a part of me that is sad and disappointed that it didn’t work out the way that I imagined… but the positives have far outweighed the negatives for my family. I’m too busy focusing on how blessed I am to have such a perfect and healthy little baby to devote any time to self-depreciating thoughts.
It’s totally okay if there are mommies who don’t agree with me! I respect that, but I’m not here for the mommies who have it all figured out…
I’m here for the fellow mommies that might just need someone to say out loud that it’s okay to feel really frustrated and stressed… and that your family is going to be just fine.
Do You, Beautiful Mama. It’s Not Gonna Be Okay… It’s Going To Be GREAT.
The most important thing to remember, no matter what kind of breastfeeding trouble you might go through (if at all), as long as your baby is fed, fat and healthy, then that’s all that should matter.
Feed your baby, whether that needs to be with formula, or not. If you decide feeding formula exclusively is better for your situation, than talk to your doctor about the best options for your baby and do it.
Your baby will be fine, and your emotional and physical health needs to be one of your priorities if you want to be a happy and healthy mamma. Your baby needs you to be healthy and happy, too. They’re so tuned in with you, and whatever can help alleviate your stress, will help alleviate your baby’s stress, too.
Being a mom means the last thing you think about are your needs, and your limits- hell, the fact that you’re still just a human being trying to figure this all out (hence why I named my blog L2Mom).
But you need to make a concerted effort to do what is best for both of you.
All of the hard stuff gets easier and easier…
You’ll acclimate to this new life, and your child is going to be the most amazing thing you will ever lay your eyes on. Even the toughest moments won’t compare to the joy in your heart when you look at your kid.
And it’s okay to be afraid, and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. You are a human, giving birth doesn’t change that, and you and your partner will need time to adjust to your new life just as your baby does.
Your love for each other will grow and push you through it. The bond you will build watching one another become parents is beautiful, and priceless.
Watching yourself accomplish each of those tiny successes day-by-day will make it easier to deal with the tougher stuff.
While none of our situations will ever be exactly the same, I really hope that this post has provided not just a sense of awareness, but comfort and reassurance that you are not alone if you struggle with breastfeeding. Don’t worry, because you and your wonderful baby will be okay.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I can see that my own precious miracle is about to squeal his little lungs out via my baby monitor, so I’m ready to go enjoy some baby cuddles.
Talk to you soon!