Why I called a lactation consultant
At 3 weeks postpartum, we headed to the Emergency Department where it was discovered that I had several major blood clots. Up until that point, I had solely breastfed our son and had no intention of doing otherwise. But since a hospital is not exactly a good place for a newborn to be and I had zero stored milk, my husband took our son and picked up formula and bottles on the way home. I was able to get a manual pump at the hospital to keep up my supply but was told I couldn’t store any of the milk since I was getting certain medications (which I later learned were actually okay). I was able to continue solely breastfeeding our son once I got home until my next hospitalization a few weeks later for surgery. Once again, my husband stayed home with our son and fed him donated breast milk (THANK YOU MAMAS) and formula while I pumped and dumped at the hospital. While being bedridden, I made sure to pump at least every 2 hours, if not every hour to keep up my supply (which I figured out later was more than enough). Thankfully, my mother flew down to help us out while I was recovering; however, this brought along LOADS of doubt and questions.
My mother told me that because of my health issues, I was not producing enough milk. She told me that my breasts were supposed to feel hard if I had enough milk, and they didn’t. She told me that I needed to start putting him on a eat every 1 1/2-2 hour schedule instead of nursing (almost) constantly. I wasn’t supposed to nurse him when he was tired or for comfort either. She told us to start supplementing with formula after every breastfeed while waiting for my milk supply to increase and since he “wasn’t getting enough nutrition”. Since we didn’t know any better (and she had successfully breastfed 4 kids), we did it.
My mom left two weeks later, and I felt frustrated, disappointed and defeated. I wanted to be the sole food and comfort supplier for my son, and I was failing. In a plea of desperation, I contacted Mimi to help us try to get back on track.
What I got from my visit with LEIF
I learned SO much valuable information. The most important takeaways though were confidence and truth that replaced the doubts! Because we had started regularly supplementing with formula, my milk supply was low (it wasn’t low before we started that!). Our son was gaining weight way too fast because we were overfeeding him (3 pounds in 2 weeks, eek! Thankfully, we can laugh about it now.). My breasts didn’t have to feel hard or squirt milk to show that I “had enough milk”. And she gave me permission to breastfeed whenever our son needed or wanted it! She taught me the “breast sandwich”, hand expression, paced bottle feeding and double pumping. I had MANY questions, and she loved and enjoyed answering them all, even weeks after our appointment.
Where my breastfeeding journey led us
We successfully returned to solely breastfeeding on demand! I want to say it took a little less than a week of pump, pump, pump, pump, pump to recover my supply. For the first few days, it was an exhausting schedule: breastfeed, bottle, pump, breastfeed, bottle, pump. Our son quickly got reoriented to solely breastfeeding, especially by using paced bottle feeding. I was SO happy to be back to nursing on demand. Our son is now 13 months old, and he is still consistently breastfeeding. We started baby-led weaning around 7 1/2 months, and now he is eating 3 food meals a day. I LOVE breastfeeding and how it makes me feel when he breastfeeds. It was not always like that- I remember reading how it would release all the loving/mommy hormones, and I didn’t start feeling that until he was probably 4-5 months old. Breastfeeding is a special time for us to bond. I love the fun moments- when I made him laugh while nursing and milk went out of his nose; when he blows air into my breasts to make farting noises; when he discovered my facial features and belly button, etc. He never got into the regular breastfeed every 2-3 hours schedule. He ate at least every hour plus naps and comfort for a long time and still breastfeeds fairly frequently. I honestly prefer it that way- it gives us lots of opportunities in the day to come together and spend that special time together.