Thoughts on the Beauty of the Breast

Note – this is my first time participating in the PAIL: Monthly Theme Post. Check out this link for more information!
*ETA – As a background FYI for those of you here through PAIL, I have a three month old daughter, was blessed to be a 100% SAHM the first eight weeks of her life (not nearly long enough IMO), and I now work outside the home four days / week. She is 100% breastfed, so I’m pumping to supply her needs on those days.

I went into my pregnancy 100% assuming that I would breastfeed, and honestly, I wasn’t even concerned that we’d have any issues with it. My Mom fed all of us that way, and it just seemed like the “normal” way to do things to me. It’s convenient, it’s free, it’s the best source of antibodies for an infant, and I thought it was pretty amazing that my body could make the perfect food for my baby.

I admit, now that I’m 3 months in and after reading the stories of a few of the women who had babies around the same time as me, I know that I’m pretty lucky that it went as smoothly as it did, and I am so unbelievable grateful for that!

We struggled in the hospital – she latched well right off, and then not so much for the next 36 hours. Her tummy was full of gunk that she kept spitting up, and she was feeling sick and sleepy, so latching and sucking just wasn’t really happening. Meanwhile, the hospital lactation nurse first had me try a hand pump, and then they went and busted out the hospital grade pump to try to get my milk to come in faster. I managed to get a few cc’s of colostrum each time (“liquid gold” according to my nurse), so we would feed her that with a little eye dropper to get some nutrients and energy in her. At birth their little tummies are only the size of a grape tomato, so I really wasn’t worried about her getting only a tiny bit. I got into it with the on-call peds doc (the @#%Y*^@$) on the 2nd day about it because he basically accused me of starving my baby by waiting for my milk to come in (WTH – most people do this!), but I eventually allowed her to have 3cc of organic formula dropper fed to her so they would discharge us and let us go home, where she has latched great and has been exclusively breastfed ever since.

Interesting info from an article I found that help put my mind at ease about how little she ate in the first couple of days that I thought you might like:

“The capacity of the newborn stomach after birth is very small in the first 2 days.  In a 3-kg baby, for example, the average physiological capacity of the stomach is 6 ml on the first day and 12 ml on the second day after birth, while the average volume of mother’s colostrums is 25-56 ml on the first day and 113-185 on the second day.  Although the amount of colostrum secreted is not voluminous, it can still meet the needs of the newborns…Frequent sucking in the first several days can increase milk secretion up to about 500 ml per day after the third day, thereby allowing a rapid weight increment.”

Since then, I had one instance of toe-curling pain for two days whenever she’d latch on my ride side (not sure if I had a cyst or what), and then last weekend, I think I had mastitis on Saturday (miserable for 12 hours), but both situations resolved themselves, and for the most part, things have been great.

Below are a few of my observations about breastfeeding:

The boppy is invaluable to have those first couple of months. I still use mine all the time and love it! Get a plain one that you can put different covers on, because invariably the cover will need to be washed after a major puke or blow out diaper. Also, choose your boppy cover pattern with photographs in mind – you’ll end up with tons of pictures of your baby laying on it, propped up in it, sleeping with it, etc!

Being hooked up to the pump every day sucks. Once a morning wasn’t too bad, but now I’m pumping 3-4x/day on work days. Ugh. Having a good double pump is key if you’re going back to work (I love my Medela PIS).  Also, having a handy dandy hands-free breast pumping strap to allow me to read and write emails / blog posts while pumping – priceless. I’ve also just ordered a hands free bra, so we’ll see how that works.

Breastfeeding in the middle of the night… a mixed bag. I miss solid hours of sleep, but I love the quiet times together with just Stella and me. Some of my favorite memories so far are of nursing in the middle of the night with my baby. Also, I honestly feel like it’s easier than bottle feeding in the middle of the night, because there is no wait while you’re heating up a bottle – I just whip the boob out, and she’s set. 🙂 Now that she’s a little older, I generally get out of bed to nurse her at 1am so she’s a little more awake and gets a good feeding in, then if she’s up again at 3 or 5, I’ll just dream feed her from a side-lying nursing position in bed. That way neither of us has to fully wake up. 🙂

My right side definitely produces more than the left. Weird but totally normal I guess. My morning pump session produces about 5oz on the right and 3oz on the left (this started off about 2-3oz total, and is now usually 7-8oz total, so make sure you stick with it and give your body time to adjust!). Mid-morning and mid-afternoon pumps at work usually yield about 3-5oz each pumping session (plus I’m nursing Stella over lunch).

Drinking LOTS of water is key to production for me. If I slacked on drinking water and/or drank some beers the night before, my production will always be lower the next day if I wasn’t careful to drink a bunch of water. I try to down a 16oz glass of water every time I pump/nurse, plus I sip on my water bottle all day long.

Breastfeeding covers are a PAIN. I either don’t use them (especially if I have an easy nursing tank + shirt combo going on) or use the muslin blanket as a cover, at least until I get her latched. People constantly tell me “I didn’t even know she was feeding!” This is truly one of those ‘practice makes perfect’ things. Stella and I are much smoother at it now than we were two months ago, for sure. Honestly, I think it’s much less obvious and obtrusive than using a cover once you’re good at it.

Stella’s first time eating at the airport!

Don’t be afraid to have a drink or two. Alcohol is metabolized in milk just like it is in your blood – pump & dumping is really done for the mother’s comfort, not because you actually have to in order to make the milk “safe.” If you are comfortable with your supply being pretty well established and not prone to engorgement issues, just wait it out and let your body do its thing. If you’re having more than a couple of drinks and your baby is going to need to eat again soon, just make sure you have some extra pumped milk handy to bottle feed him/her.

Nursing at the airport bar when we got stuck there on our way home yesterday.
She was content with her warm milk, and I was happy to be having a cold beer!

Shannon is right – nursing sometimes activates your bowels… and it’s a weird, weird feeling. I have definitely had to nurse Stella while moving myself to the bathroom, stat. There was really no other option.

Showers with your husband just will NOT be as sexy, especially when he looks at you and says “it’s so weird that you have milk streaming out of your boobs right now.” Um, what? I hadn’t noticed! (I truly hadn’t! *LOL*)

Overall, I am so thankful that we’ve had a relatively easy time of it, and it makes me feel good to know that my daughter is getting the absolute best nutrition possible for her, and we are getting great bonding time in all at once. Knowing that it’s free, convenient, providing protection from illnesses, and always around are all just awesome bonuses. 🙂

I know that BFing isn’t always possible or realistic for everyone, but I truly believe that if you have the option, you should give it a shot and try to stick with it – it gets easier every day!

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20 comments

  1. I'm so glad breastfeeding is going so well for you and Stella!

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  2. The nursing covers SUCK SUCK SUCK about 4 months in when they REALLY wake up and start noticing everything in the world (at least for Gracie and I've heard a lot of other babies). She was NOT having that thing draped over her face, blocking her view from everything around her. I pretty much just stopped nursing in public altogether because she'd pull off and look around at every little sound. I know for most people, not nursing in public isn't an option, but for me, as a SAHM, I just planned every last detail of our days around her eating.Congrats on your success! ESPECIALLY as a working mom.

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  3. I had the pleasure to witness pumping today! I could not believe how big the nipples get! Like in your picture, huge! didn't know breasts / nipples could do that lolHS

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  4. I love this post. Thank you for posting all this information! It will come in handy for me one day for sure.

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  5. The pumping sounds…..interesting.I think at first I was like you – why would I have any issues but then I start to stress because I read too much into things!!It really is fascinating to hear everyone's take on it.

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  6. Just cruised by, Josey…Funny fact is that my left b seems to be more satisfying than the right b…but it is the right one that seems to be squirty all the time!And I hear you on the covers…I don't like the BF covers…very inconvenient really…

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  7. Oh this post made me miss bf-ing so much! I'm glad you are still able to keep going after being back at work- you go girl!

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  8. I totally agree on the nursing covers – way more obtrusive than just going ahead. But some people feel really uncomfortable about doing that, so if the nursing cover makes them feel better, I'm all for it. Will never use one myself though, seems like a royal PITA, plus one more thing to lug around! So glad nursing is going well 🙂

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  9. Fantastic post. A lot of moms-to-be will learn a lot from this. And you rock the discrete public nursing. Like Sheelah, I can't do it or else Taylor will unlatch and leave me with a boob hanging out for the world to see.And of course, love the shout out! 🙂

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  10. You are a BF'ing pro!!! I have to use a cover, Roman loves to come off the boob too much there is no way to be discrete, lol. But I can honestly say breastfeeding is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. There are no words for the feeling of closeness it gives me to my little guy. I love all the extra cuddle time we get.

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  11. I didn't know that strap existed… def need to try it out now that I'm pumping 3x's at work. I'm encouraged by your experience because right now I'm getting about 2-3 ounces at each pumping (day 3) and I hope that it will increase. I am wondering if you leave her everything you get the following day…? I've got to get better about water! Great, informative post!

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  12. I used the nursing covers for about three months, then Matthew had had enough of them and that's that! He does not like privacy at all, so we can't nurse in public anymore. It's disappointing – I used to nurse everywhere.I cannot imagine NOT nursing – I've just loved it and reading your post almost felt like I'd written it myself!

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  13. So glad to hear that bf-ing is working out so well for you!

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  14. oh i just love so many things about this post!! I couldnt agree with you more on how lucky we are that we can BF… I hate keeping up with and cleaning bottles… I do use a cover- mainly for me and for my hubbys sake … I love how easy you make NOT using one look- what is your trick. I would love to NOT use one, just not sure how I can be discrete without it…

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  15. oh yeah, and how soon did it take for you to get more pumping? I HATE PUMPING and rarely do it because I hate that I only get 2ish ounces TOTAL from both sides after a good 20-30 minute pumping session… please share how you did that!?

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  16. I exclusively pumped for 9 months. My little one would not latch…little stinker. I felt like a cow every time I hooked myself up to the pump. I pumped in the car while coming and going to work. It saved time so that when I got home I could just play and not have to worry about pumping. I've got about a 20 minute drive to get to anywhere so it worked out perfect for me. Medela sells a cord that you can plug into the AC adapter in the car then I just used a scarf to cover myself. It worked out perfect.

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  17. It is so interesting reading all these posts how difficult latching seems to be at first, and that it takes a few days for milk to come in. I'm starting to think it's just…normal. I'm not into nursing covers either. If I was in public and having a little trouble latching/positioning, I would just throw a scarf/blanket over us until he was on, and then remove it. I am very, very surprised at how comfortable I was feeding him in front of family, friends, and in public. So weird!That last picture is absolutely stunning. So, so beautiful.

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  18. {ahh, you already have a hospital grade pump. Ignore my email…}So glad things are going well for you and miss stella! It really is a great experience if things are going well. I love side-lying nursing and still do it if Cheeks wakes up more than once a night.pumping SUCKS. It's horrible. I'm done pumping every morning, it's time for me to decrease my supply and prep for weaning (at a year I think) but I hate that that means I won't have extra to help other mamas out and I get nervous that we won't have enough somehow to make it to a year.

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  19. […] life will be filled with challenges, but we sure hope that learning isn’t one of them, and Thoughts on the Beauty of the Breast was my 1st PAIL contribution. Nearly a year later, I really am so proud of and grateful for the […]

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  20. […] while working outside of the home. I participated in the first PAIL Monthly Theme post topic of breastfeeding back in March of 2012, and it’s interesting to me to see what has/hasn’t changed for me […]

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