My name is Stacey and I blog over at Living on Love. I am an interior designer by trade, artist and blogger in my spare time, lover of SEC football [go Dawgs!], wife to my husband, Jake, and first-time mommy to my Valentine’s baby, Ryleigh.
I’m the girl who was reading parenting books even before I got pregnant. From the moment that Jake and I started talking seriously about trying to conceive, I immersed myself into baby-land…Looking up nursery ideas on Pinterest, downloading parenting advice apps, reading Jenny McCarthy’s Belly Laughs book and some What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I promise I’m not crazy, I was just really excited for what might lie ahead in this next huge life chapter. In my mind, I was going to be a perfect mom, and I never second guessed my assumption that I would breastfeed.
My one regret during pregnancy was that I did not attend a breastfeeding class. I highly, highly recommend finding a good one to other first-time moms. And when you go, drag your husband [even if he’s kicking and screaming] with you. Although there’s no way our partners can understand exactly how it feels or what we go through to nurse, attending a breastfeeding class together will give them some insight and hopefully make them more likely to offer comfort and encouragement when they see our struggles. Jake and I went to a childbirth class and did the hospital tour, but there wasn’t a breastfeeding class that fit well into our schedule. Thankfully, I have a wonderful best friend with a 3 year old who was a breastfeeding champ and shared her wealth of knowledge with me so that I wasn’t totally clueless.
Ryleigh was born 11 days early in the middle of an ice storm here in SC. You can read more about her birth story here.
So, here is where modesty and TMI go out the window…Let’s talk about flat nipples. Cause apparently, that’s a thing. I had never even heard of this, or ever even considered myself to have them, but my second day in the hospital when my milk came in I was told that this was the reason Ryleigh wasn’t able to latch properly. Nobody talks about this–or at least I never heard it while pregnant–which is really a shame because when Ryleigh was about 3 months old I learned that there are products out there to help prevent flat nipples if you wear them during your last few months of pregnancy. Unfortunately it was too late for me because by that time we were already exclusively pumping.
I tried breastfeeding and pushed through the pain for about two weeks. She was frustrated. I was frustrated…and in the words of my lactation consultant, I was becoming “very damaged” from her not latching/staying latched properly. We supplemented a little bit with formula when she would get too frustrated to try to breastfeed. It was excruciatingly painful. Just when I could get her on, she had a very strong suck for all of two seconds before she would open her mouth and come off. I was constantly upset and would dread the next feeding because of the pain. I remembered reading Jessica Garvin’s exclusive-pumping story, so I just thought I would get out my pump and give it a try. I am so grateful that my body was forgiving and worked with me the first week of figuring out pumping, because I definitely did not start off pumping every time I would normally feed her. Since I would get enough for a few bottles from one session, I waited until I only had one bottle left before I would pump again. Thankfully, in my sleep-deprived mind I realized I better get on a pumping schedule, and settled into that quickly. I won’t say it was all perfect from there, because there were still frustrated cries when I would need to pump but home alone with Ryleigh and she was fussy or crying and wanted out of her bouncy seat [which is where I usually put her when Jake was working and I needed to pump]. I had some wonderful friends, even some that I hadn’t kept in touch with for years, who reached out to me when they found out I was exclusively pumping to offer support and share advice because they had exclusively pumped for their babies. All of that support really kept me from just throwing in the towel. I also noticed in the beginnings weeks that breastfeeding/pumping was really helping my body and baby-weight loss which added some incentive to keep at it.
I have a full-time job for a small business, and I wanted to not have too strict of rules or expectations for myself with breastfeeding because I wanted to be realistic. Sometimes you can have the best of intentions but outside factors make it really tough to keep going. I decided that I wanted to set small, milestone goals for breastfeeding, with the thought in the back of my mind that I would really love to make it to a year–Although, the entire time I always thought that was completely unattainable. I just didn’t think that I could make it that long, I was so tired and worn out. I hated that pumping kept me up another 45 minutes after my husband went to bed and kept me from that amazing sleep that I really needed. So, my first milestone goal was to breastfeed/pump for my entire maternity leave, 8 weeks. Soon, time passed and I met that goal. I knew figuring out pumping at work would be challenging at a small business, but everyone was so accommodating and respectful of my decision to breastfeed. I figured that I could make it at least another two months, so 4 months old was my next goal. That came and turned into 6 months, which gave me a new boost of confidence and pride in myself when I met it. That gave me the power to make it to my birthday [just over 8 months old]. I was so settled into my routine by that point, that I decided I would keep going through the end of the year. Honestly, that decision was more for my personal benefits [hello, calorie burning!!] throughout the holidays so that I could indulge in whatever holiday treats I wanted. Around Christmastime, I decided I would stick with it and make it to February, 1 year. Although it was still a love-hate relationship with pumping, I knew that I could keep going and power through those next two months to make it to Valentine’s day, Ryleigh’s birthday.
This breastfeeding journey is coming to an end, as I’ve started weaning her to whole milk and cutting out pumping sessions each day. I can’t believe how fast this past year has gone by. As a very self-assured person, I never knew that a little baby could teach me so much about myself and what I am truly capable of. Exclusively pumping was definitely not a path that I could foresee us going down, but it is one that we adapted to and has worked for us to survive this year. It takes a lot of dedication, and I’m so thankful for the support I received and my milestone goals that made the journey a little bit easier.
My closing piece of advice for new moms would be that having a plan is great, but just like how your birth plan can change in seconds, so can your breastfeeding plan. BE FLEXIBLE!
Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar.