Breastfeeding Questions I Had as a First Time Mom
Never, and I mean NEVER, did I think I would be passionate about breastfeeding. Now here I am, five weeks into motherhood, and I’m so confused on how I got to be this passionate about it. I think I came to the conclusion last week when I felt hysterically upset because I thought I had failed my child in terms of breastfeeding… but we’ll get there.
It seems like no matter who you ask, they’ll have a strong opinion on breastfeeding. Let me tell you, it is ABSOLUTELY ok if you don’t have an opinion. I didn’t.
I went into motherhood saying, “I want to try breastfeeding, but if it doesn’t work out, that’s ok.” I don’t know how many times I read the words “breast is best,” and felt that something was wrong with me for disagreeing. I’m not here to preach anything, but if I was going to preach something, it would be, “fed is best.” As long as your baby is fed and getting the nutrients they need, that’s what matters. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you read my first blog post, you know the theme of it was that I always have a million questions about each step of motherhood. The thing I had the most questions about as a first-time mom was definitely breastfeeding! I had heard that it wasn’t easy, that it’s supposed to come naturally but it’s difficult… that was extremely underplayed. I read books on breastfeeding (highly recommend this one), watched Instagram highlights by professionals, I did everything to prepare, and yet I don’t think you can ever truly be fully prepared. Here were seven of my questions about breastfeeding.
How do I breastfeed?
So I’m not here to give you the medical science lesson. I’m not going to tell you about colostrum or the science of breastfeeding and milk ducts or anything of that sort, if you have questions, check out Karrie Locher on Instagram… I learned a shit-ton from her. Instead, I’ll tell you about the questions that I had and my experience learning to breastfeed.
Within thirty minutes of Sasha being born, the nurses told me that I needed to try to breastfeed her. I’d heard this would be the case, but hearing those words, I felt like a baseball player stepping up to bat (excuse the sports analogy, I am not a baseball person at all so I have no clue if that terminology is correct). This would be the moment of truth. The nurse, who had been with me ALL day through labor, came to my side, showed me how to cup my boob into a “c” shape, and basically put it into Sasha’s mouth. After about a minute of positioning on my right boob, Sasha latched. I did it. I literally felt like I hit a home run.
And then it got harder…
Fast forward two hours later, and trying on my left side, and it didn’t go so well. After some help from the nurse in my recovery room and my mom (who did not breastfeed in her day and I turned out great), we got Sasha latched. Positioning was extremely important. My nipples took a beating over the next week. If I have one tip here for new mamas, it’s to apply nipple butter early and often. The hospital gave me a Lansinoh lanolin sample, but I preferred my Earth Mama Nipple Butter. I used it to help with pumping later on, too!
So how do you breastfeed? From my experience, it’s a lot of asking for help from nurses, a lot of patience, and a little bit of intuition. If you’re determined, you can do it. But if you can’t, in my eyes, it’s not the end of the world. Your baby will be fed, and that’s what’s important. So what if you have to use baby formula? At least you’ll know how much your baby is eating… (more on that later).
How will my milk come in? How will I know my milk has come in?
Milk “coming in” was something I didn’t fully understand. I knew it could take about 3-5 days after the baby was born. For me, my milk came in at 3.5 days postpartum. After a full day at home with Sasha (we were discharged 48 hours after she was born), I woke up with boobs that were so hard and full, I literally didn’t know what to do. I have always had big boobs, so it wasn’t so much that they were bigger when my milk came in. My boobs were looked so different. Instead of the saggy, low-hanging boobs, I am used to (just being honest), they looked perfectly round and perky. I knew instantly that my milk had come in. In all honesty, the first twenty-four hours hurt really bad. I was sore in the boobs (on top of nipple soreness from breastfeeding)
How long do I breastfeed?
This is the question I am still asking myself daily at 5 weeks. I go back and forth about this. My first goal was to make it a month – well that’s passed and I’m still going… I’m damn proud of myself too.
My next goal was to make it until after I get my second covid vaccine. The science of the benefits are still unclear, and I am not here to debate whether or not I should be vaccinated, but I figure if Sasha gets the antibodies or whatever the scientific terminology is through my breastmilk then great, and if not, it’s not going to harm her.
I want to have her on breastmilk until at least three months, ideally six, but I don’t know if my boobs can take it. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers discuss their journey and what it means for them. For me, I’m at a loss on what to do and how long to do it for. I am starting to consider exclusively pumping.
I go back and forth with guilt about wanting my body “back” and wanting that time with her. I’m scared I will feel like I am selfish if I choose to stop breastfeeding. It’s not about what anyone else thinks of me, but what I will think of myself. Breastfeeding is such a personal journey, so just make sure you do what’s best for you and your baby.
I know for a fact that I am not quite ready to give it up though. When Sasha was just three weeks and four days old, I got mastitis. During those few days, I was mostly pumping, because I was too weak to hold her for extended periods of time and feedings sometimes took 30-40 minutes. I missed out on that time with her so much, so while I may be thinking about stopping in the future, I know for me that time is not yet here.
Breastfeeding for the Single Mama
People often discuss the benefits of pumping as giving “your partner” time to feed and bond with the baby, but as a single mom, there is no partner. However, I do get help from my parents and brother. They are amazing with her when I am pumping.
What’s this I hear about clogged ducts and mastitis? Is mastitis really that bad?
So I believe my mastitis started with a clogged duct, and I highly recommend taking Sunflower Lecithin to clear and prevent clogged ducts since I started taking this immediately after. I also used this massager (with heat) to help clear my clog, and I hear a simple vibrator or electric toothbrush can help massage them out as well. However, I mainly want to share my mastitis experience with you, because I was not prepared for what that would be like.
My Mastitis Experience:
I did not have a textbook case of mastitis. My case started when I woke up on a Tuesday morning with soreness on the side of my right breast. I pumped a bunch and took a hot shower where I hand expressed and massaged and applied an ice pack immediately after. My breast soreness went away after that, and by mid-afternoon, I had a 101 fever, chills, body aches, and no other symptoms. My breast wasn’t sore, there was no redness, it was not hot to the touch.
By early evening, I had a 103 fever that would drop to 100 with Tylenol. The nurse on call at my doctor’s office did not think I had mastitis, due to lack of breast symptoms, but left a message for the doctor. I had a gut feeling that I was suffering from mastitis. My supply had dropped significantly throughout that day in my right boob (which was always my high-supply breast).
The next morning the OBGYN’s office called me back and prescribed me an antibiotic, in case it was mastitis. I had insane chills and body aches, but no more breast discomfort. I was barely able to care for Sasha and basically slept the whole day while my mom took care of her. Around 2 pm on Wednesday, my hands and feet became insanely itchy, something that was not a symptom of mastitis. Everything I found on Google did not connect my itchiness to mastitis. However, I refuse to believe I was having another issue at the same time. It wasn’t an allergy, and Benadryl cream did not help so I soaked my hands in ice and basically sucked it up. I started my antibiotic Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday night, my breast finally turned red and warm to the touch, confirming my mastitis. Basically, up until then, it was a guessing game. Nobody knew what was wrong with me. I had talked to four different medical professionals outside of my OBGYN’s office – an allergist, a pediatrician, an RN, and a med student. By Thursday morning, I felt well enough to hold Sasha and take care of her, but not well enough to be home alone with her. I was fully back to myself by Saturday. All in all, mastitis sucked. It was unpredictable and truly was the worst I’ve ever felt.
What’s the aftermath of mastitis?
After the mastitis, my supply dropped for a few days. Several days later, I was hysterical. I thought my breastfeeding journey needed to come to an end. I had pumped my nightly pump which I usually do right before Sasha gets her bottle before bed. Typically, I would have an extra 3-4oz, on top of the 4.25 oz I give her. This night, I pumped around 4 ounces, and barely got enough to cover her feed. I was convinced our breastfeeding days were numbered. The next day, my supply was back to normal.
So how do you treat mastitis?
Antibiotics that are safe for breastfeeding, warm showers, ice packs, and lots of rest. You’ll feel like you have the flu, and it might even feel worse. The most important thing is to continue breastfeeding/pumping from that side. If you are breastfeeding, give the baby that side first! Sasha cleared out my clogged duct on that first day. I was sitting there, feeding her, with my mom, begging her to keep eating to heal me, and she did! My baby girl literally made me feel better!
Preventing mastitis is key. Make sure you feed/pump/hand express until you are empty as often after a feed or pumping session as possible. I don’t think I was before this but I am now. I also always try to Haakaa on the side I’m not feeding on. This helps to make sure I don’t get/stay overly full.
Wait, what the heck is the point of a Haakaa?
I never knew this before getting pregnant, but when you breastfeed, the boob that your child is not eating from still leaks. This is called letdown. The Haakaa suctions on to that boob to catch the letdown. Sometimes I would get 3-4 ounces from my Haakaa. This really helped me start my freezer stash of breast milk before I even pulled out my pump. I highly recommend the Haakaa with a suction cup and lid, just in case you’re accident-prone like me. I’ve definitely cried over spilled Haakaa milk. It’s also a great tool to relieve engorgement you may experience if you go too long between feeds. Also, putting on a Haaka with warm water and Epsom salt can help you clear a clogged duct.
Also, I have an entire post on exclusive pumping here.
Let me know in the comments if you had any of the same questions or other’s I didn’t cover!