Nora and I had a much shorter nursing journey than I'd hoped and imagined. We ended at 4 months. It was complicated.
Here's some backstory, but you can scroll down and skip this part if you'd like ;) -- I tore a bad fourth degree at delivery because she was 9.8lbs and her fist was her face. My doctor midwife ended up being out of town when she finally arrived (ten days late), so my present midwife needed me to be repaired in the hospital, however, this meant having to leave Nora behind at home while getting this done. We knew this was the wisest thing, so I nursed her a few more times, got lots of loving and snuggling in… made sure all was well and that things were all set. We called ahead and told the situation, and were told we’d be back home in just a couple hours. My midwife, DJ and I headed to the hospital and my mom stayed home with Nora. Some bags of breastmilk were donated for the few hours we were to be gone.
Upon arrival and admittance, I ate a sandwich I asked for from an ER nurse, because I was STARVING. I had just had a baby and pretty much ate nothing for 24 hours! It took so long for an actual doctor to come see us. Nothing against hospitals or doctors, really. But I just wanted to get this part over with and get home to my baby STAT. Hours later, the on-call OBGYN came in and checked everything, we agreed to having me get anesthesia since DJ wouldn’t be able to come into the OR so I didn’t want to be laying there being operated on, awake and alone. The problem was, since I ate that sandwich, I had to wait TWELVE HOURS before we could do the procedure because of the risk of vomiting while being under anesthesia. I was so upset. How was I supposed to know? We were all so tired, so frustrated, and I just wanted to be home with my brand new baby girl.
Anyways, they pumped me with antibiotics in case of infection, and admitted us to a quiet room where DJ and I could get some rest until time for my surgery. Since we thought this would be a couple hour situation, both our phones were dying, we didn’t bring a single personal item… phone chargers, toothbrushes, change of clothes, nothing. The next morning I was rolled down on the bed to the OR and I don’t remember much of anything until I woke up afterword. My midwife and DJ were both there and we talked with the nurse, signed a few papers, then headed home to be with our baby!
I couldn’t help but cry and cry when I was reunited with her. She nursed easily thankfully. I was so nervous that since she’d had bottles the last 12+ hours that she wouldn’t want to nurse, but she did and I was so grateful.
Over the next couple days and then weeks, my nipples began to be in excruciating pain every time Nora nursed, every time I showered, and even just when I'd have a milk let-down. I then developed a UTI and my toenails were turning yellow. You guys. The antibiotics created extreme yeast and it took over my entire body. So I was dealing with thrush for weeks, plus UTI pain and my toes were getting infected and it was all painful and so strange. Because of the intolerable pain in my nipples, I often had to pump and and give Nora bottles in the evenings. My supply was decreasing because a pump just isn't quite as efficient as a babe and the more often we did this, the more my body was getting used to the pump rather than baby's suckle. After weeks and weeks of this, I was finally prescribed a medication that would rid me of the yeast, paired with a strong probiotic. The medication WORKED and I was finally pain free and nursing was more enjoyable. Until it literally dried me up and Nora would suck me raw and still be so hungry because she was not getting enough milk. I was devastated. I felt like every little thing was thrown at me to fail at this from the beginning and felt extremely low.
We ended up supplementing and then having to move entirely to bottles (which she ended up preferring since she would actually get milk from them, heh), and she was happy and healthy and neither of us were so stressed and fatigued and upset anymore. I was sad, but it ended up being the right (and only) choice. I also forgot to mention that I DID see a lactation consultant in the midst of all this as well. I did everything I was told, but this is just how our journey went and though I was so sad, I know I have a happy and healthy little one and I have another opportunity to try again with different circumstances in just a couple months :)
ANYWAYS! Here we go! My favorite items for breastfeeding --
1. WATER - you literally cannot drink enough. Water = breastmilk. You can have all the lactation cookies and tea in the world, but water is number one to stay hydrated for both you and the one you're nourishing by nursing. I love ice cold water, so having an insulated water bottle is key to help me keep up on water intake.
2. Nursing Bras - go for comfort! Especially in those first days and weeks. You'll have leaky boobs, and especially right when your milk comes in - they'll be huge. You want something stretchy and soft and easy to whip the boob out, because those newborns will drink drink drink. The last thing you want to deal with is a bulky bra to mangle while trying to feed your babe. My absolute faves from my first around were Kindred Bravely. They're SO SOFT, organic, and incredibly comfortable. I actually labored and birthed Nora while wearing an Organic Cotton Kindred Bravely Nursing Bra :)
3. Nipple Butter - Earth Mama Angel Baby was my favorite. I had one in every room! Nora loved it too because it's sweet and all natural. It was probably like dessert for her when there was some leftover on after a previous nursing session (those cluster feeds, man, yikes), haha. It's healing and helps with preventing any cracking or soreness.
4. Oat Mama - the bars are literally my FAVORITE. I'm obsessed. No joke. I made a ton of my own lactation cookies and bars and different things, but nothing ever compared. Like, I literally crave them, they're that good! PLUS the obvious - they help tons with milk production. When you're breastfeeding, drinking water is number one, but keeping up on calorie intake is really important too. These are perfect to have on hand always as a snack that also boosts milk. They're a win-win all around. I haven't tried their tea yet, but I love tea and especially when it's cold, so with my winter baby it'll be great!
5. Multi-Use Nursing Cover - I'm all for making breastfeeding normal. For real. No woman should ever be shamed for feeding her child, no matter where she is. It's a beautiful thing. I personally just don't want other people seeing my boobs when I'm in public so I've loved these CoveredGoods covers! They're easy to just pop on over baby's head and peek at while they're feeding. You can wear as a scarf then just slide over when you're nursing. It's also an amazing carseat cover and then cart cover when they're older!
6. Nursing Pads - you'll need these! I was using organic washable pads, but with thrush they ended up making it worse because they held in more moisture. I still think they're great, but I ended up using disposable after all and thought they were great! Those first couple months = milk everywhere. No joke. They're clothes savers. Trust me. You need them, lol.
7. Breastfeeding-friendly tops - pretty much every new piece of clothing these days, I'm considering how I'll be able to get my boob to my baby's mouth without undressing. There are lovely shops like Boob and NOM Maternity that specifically make nursing-friendly tops, but sometimes those can be a bit more pricey. Or, maybe I'll just want a more seamless and less obvious look. The key to finding non nursing-specific tops is buttons and easy access. Buttons or some kind of opening on the sides or front. Madewell is quality apparel that has TONS of options. All. The. Buttons, but Old Navy and Target and a ton of other places have amazing options as well!
8. Lil' Buds - engorgement-pain life-savers. These little packs saved me tears when I was engorged. The pain is unreal, especially when you've got postpartum contractions going on (throw thrush into the loop too), so DJ would warm them up and I'd literally stuff them in my bra until it was time for Nora to feed again. They're filled with flax seed and lavender and are the softest organic cotton. I highly recommend!
The very most important thing to remember: FED IS BEST. Whether bottle or breast, as long as baby is healthy and thriving and so are you - that's what is key. Focus on what genuinely works best for you both. What brings you both peace and nourishment. If it means bottle, then do that. If it means breastfeeding well into toddler years, then do that; and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, mama.