how we're surviving: breast and bottle feeding
BOOBS. You guys. Oh man.
I have a lot to say on this topic, so I'm not even sure where to begin. But let's start with boobs. They get fairly large while you're pregnant, which is kind of fun. Now I know what cleavage is! What I wasn't quite prepared for was how much bigger they get AFTER the baby comes, when your milk supply arrives. I think porn-y is the only adequate adjective. For any of my large-bosomed friends, how on EARTH have you been doing jumping jacks all these years?
Also, you wait 10 (yes, 10) damn months to be able to sleep on your stomach again and then it turns out you can't because it causes clogs in your milk ducts. And don't take any sinus medication. And don't eat mint. Oh and also, no underwire in your bra and seriously forget about touching your nipples ever again because they feel like they're constantly being prodded by a hot iron.
Look, there's the TMI train pulling out of the station...
Breastfeeding has absolutely been the hardest part of the motherhood journey for me. Not only has it not been easy TO breastfeed, but feeding a baby -- from the bottle or boob -- is complicated and very time consuming at first. Even now, on days when I have someone watching her, I still can't be gone for very long unless I want to crouch and pump in a Starbucks bathroom. My body is constantly on a timer for when I need to feed her. And while I'm thrilled to be giving her breast milk, let's be frank here: breastfeeding is a huge, huge pain in the ass.
A little history: As I touched on before, Avvie had a lot of trouble latching. What this meant practically was that she had to be bottlefed breast milk starting from day one. In the hospital, this involved hand expressing (literally squeezing my boob until the colostrum or milk came out) onto a sample-size spoon and letting her lap it up like a kitten. The day we came home, we rented a hospital-grade Symphony pump which was a huge game changer. My forearms have never felt so much relief. From then on, she took a bottle for every meal.
The reasons for her non-latching ended up being a lip and tongue tie. For the uninitiated, this means there was a bit of extra skin under her top lip and her tongue that prevented her from being able to suck properly. They diagnosed her at the hospital and she had both of them snipped right before we left. Unfortunately, as our stellar lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor noticed when she was about three weeks old, the hospital did not do a stellar job and we had to get them redone. Note to any other new parents: if you're told your baby needs to get a frenulectomy, GO IMMEDIATELY TO SPECIALIST. You will save yourself a lot of heartache and stress. We went to Dr. Dahl, who I'm pretty sure is the baby whisperer of tongue ties; I've talked to at least three other moms who went to her. Avvie latched literally as soon as she was done snipping. And, for what it's worth, the "surgery" truly is a snip. The entire procedure takes maybe 10 seconds.
Now, before you get too excited, this didn't mean she was suddenly on the boob all the time. The next few days, every time we tried to get her to latch, she would let out blood curdling screams and thrash her head like a One Direction fan girl. After about a week, we took a break from attempting breastfeeding all together and I continued to exclusively pump for her.
What does exclusively pumping entail? Basically, if you have a healthy milk supply and you prefer to give your non-latching baby breast milk over formula, you can pump your milk from day one and have your newborn drink it from a bottle. In the early weeks, this meant pumping eight to nine times a day, for around 15 minutes per pump. I know some women that have done 12 times a day for the first 12 weeks, at 30 minutes a session, so it can get pretty gnarly depending on your milk situation. It also means that after your feed your baby, you still have to pump (although I am proof that you can pump and bottle feed at the same time, with the right accessories. Looking at you, Rock 'n Play.). It's time consuming; you'll feel like you're constantly washing bottle and pump parts, which you are. You'll also probably feel quite a bit of stress that you don't have a "normal" breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
But the upside is that you'll know exactly how much baby is eating and, more important for any new mom's sanity, someone else can bottle feed. I have a few friends whose children never took a bottle, meaning that mom could never leave them for more than a few hours. And while I'm not out gallivanting every day, it is nice that Mike and I can swing a date night without worrying that our baby is starving. Plus, I ended up having enough milk that I've been donating some extra, which gives me all the feels.
Avvie finally latched around two and a half months. I had been trying, on and off, since the second surgeries and one day she just popped on like a champ. I think she just wanted to do it on her terms (she is an Aquarius). So, some days we breastfeed, most days we bottle feed. I'm not sure I'll ever be one of those uber-confident moms that can whip out the boob in a restaurant, so I like having the option of bottle feeding when we're in public.
Bonus! All my essential tools for making milk are below:
Breast pump and accessories: If you plan on pumping a lot, rent a hospital-grade pump through insurance. I use the Medela Symphony, but also have the Freestyle to use when we're traveling. I definitely notice a difference in the suction; the Symphony is MUCH better. You'll also want extra bottles to pump in and at least one spare set of pump parts.
Hands-free bra: The Simple Wishes is the most sturdy, but you can't really wear it under your clothes. I leave that one near the rocker and just change into it if I'm pumping at home. If you're going to be out and about and pumping wherever, I recommend getting the Rumina, which is comfortable enough to wear all day and still looks normal under clothes.
Bottle cleaner: I like Giggle's.
Bottle brush: This gets good reviews.
Drying rack: Get one that can hold a lot of bottle and pump parts, like this one.
Bottles: We use Dr. Brown's, which have a lot of parts but are supposed to be the best for reducing gas in babies. Plus, they come in pink!
Nipples: Leigh Anne recommended starting with the preemie nipple since it's a much slower flow and helps babies go back and forth from breast to bottle. This worked great when she was younger, but this new mom didn't realize that, at some point, the slow flow was going to be incredibly frustrating to a growing baby. I originally thought she was just getting fussy at feeding time, but it turned out we really needed to switch to a faster flow nipple. All of the sudden, as soon as we did, she was finishing every bottle without a complaint.
bibs and burp cloths
Avvie spits up a lot, so at this point, I always have her in a bib when she's eating, plus there's a stack of burp cloths near by. The only bibs I like at this point are the ones with a plastic layer in the middle. These Green Sprouts are my favorite, you can also get them with a built-in dribble collar. I like the burpy bibs as burp cloths the best, because they can double as bibs. But I also recommend buying a stack of cloth diapers to use as burp cloths. You can also line your changing table with them!
Nipple cream: This one got recommended to me the most. I like that it's organic and you can also use it as lip balm.
Mother's Milk Tea: Does it work to increase your supply? I'm not totally sure, but it's useful for de-stressing, which definitely helps your flow. I like this one.
Lactation cookies: Again, I don't really care if these work or not because they're delicious and they make me happy. A happy mom = lots of milk. The best I've had by far are Barley & Oats.
Breastfeeding/pumping-friendly shirts: I bought a bunch of these Gap tank tops. There's enough support for the boobs and I like that they're longer in length for layering.
Nursing bras: I switch between two types. This Jessica Simpson one is my regular, every day bra. And I wear this one at night, since it's very light. If you're not nursing but still pumping, make sure to avoid any bra with underwire, as the extra hardware can often give you clogs. And clogs are no fun.
What are tips, tricks, and tools you guys used?