“Mothering failures don’t make you a failure at motherhood”
This blog series is going to be focused on the triumphs and defeats I’ve faced and will continue to face in my motherhood journey. I feel like it’s so important to talk about the entire spectrum of motherhood, not solely the good and not just the bad. There are certain things I have done and overcome in the past 3.5 years of being a mom that I am so beyond proud of, but there are also adversities I’ve faced that I feel so many people could relate to and learn from. So here’s to being completely raw and fourth coming about those experiences, and if you know me in person, you know that’s not always the case.
Isla’s Story -
I wanted to start the series off on something that’s maybe a little controversial, but has been such a monumental part of my motherhood journey and that’s breastfeeding. Before becoming pregnant with Isla I can honestly say that breastfeeding versus bottle feeding wasn’t even a thought on my mind, even during our ttc journey it still wasn’t something I thought about. Once I found out I was pregnant I knew that I wanted to try to breastfeed, but I wasn’t going to put a bunch of pressure on myself if it didn’t work out. I bought all the breastfeeding supplies imaginable but also bought some bottles and had a few sample cans of formula on hand because I’m always way over prepared (it’s a problem..)
On June 22nd 2020, our sweet girl was born into this world during the height of Covid. Daniel was the only support person allowed in the room during delivery. As soon as Isla was born we did skin to skin and I tried to get her to nurse but she would just fall asleep right away. She was a little jaundiced due to coming 3 weeks early so she had to stay one night under the lights to get her bilirubin back up. She would nurse a little here and there but I was getting concerned because I didn’t feel like she was getting a full feeding. The lactation consultant came in and gave a few positioning tips but other than that I was kind of left on my own to figure it out. A few days later she had her first pediatrician appointment and she had lost a significant amount of weight and the pediatrician made me feel horrible about it. She said I needed to formula feed her right away and so on. I really felt like that wasn’t the right path in our situation. Isla was alert, happy, and within a normal range for weight loss after birth. Especially a birth where I was pumped full of IVs for 16 hours, it’s normal for the baby’s to be born with extra water weight. Don’t worry I found a new pediatrician right away that aligned more with my views as a mother and was supportive in my decisions.
In the following weeks I expressed some milk and would feed Isla with a syringe in between having her nurse. I started doing a ton of research because I knew that something was off. I was in an incredible amount of pain, and it would take Isla close to an hour to get a full feeding in. I found a Facebook group that was run by a Libclc and found a wealth of information about tongue and lip ties. I was 100% sure she had both ties so I made an appointment with our local lactation consultant to find out the next steps. She confirmed that Isla did have those ties and helped me navigate those next steps. She also gave me tips on how to help heal myself because when I say it was bad I mean it… I was in so much pain I dreaded nursing Isla and would have tears steaming down my face which made me so sad because I wanted so bad for it to be positive experience. I was at that point where I was 100% going to make breastfeeding work, unlike my go with the flow mindset when I was pregnant. Isla ended up having 2 lip ties and a tongue tie revised by a water laser. The procedure was done by a local pediatric dentist and lasted 3 minutes. I nursed Isla as soon as the procedure was over and could immediately tell a difference in her latch and overall mouth movement. The worst part was the dreaded mouth stretches that had to be done the weeks following. We started taking her to the chiropractor as a part of follow up care to help her body unwind after being so tense for her first few weeks of life. We also took her to get craniosacral work done a couple times as well for that same reason, relieve all the tension.
Isla slowing started gaining more weight, and I very very slowly started to heal and not be in excruciating pain when nursing. It probably took until she was about 6 or 7 months old for me to be completely pain free just because the amount of damage that was caused in those few short weeks. We got into a really good routine and I was (still am) so extremely proud of all of the hurdles we had to jump to make it work. I started using the Hakka pump and ended up saving 100+ ounces from that alone. I froze it all but never had to use any of it. In the end Isla had one breast milk bottle when she was 2 weeks old because the pediatrician suggested “she get aquatinted with it”. I realized there wasn’t really any reason for that since I worked from home. In the end I nursed Isla to sleep for every nap and every night before bed. I continued to nurse her for each wake-up in the middle of the night until she was about 18 months old. She loved (was totally obsessed) with her “milkies” and ended up nursing until she was 22 months old. I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Elliot and my milk completely dried up within a few days. At that point I was only nursing her to sleep at night time so it wasn’t a huge transition and she seemed totally okay with it. I was really relieved (but also a little heartbroken) that I was able to have a few months not nursing before I would be back in that newborn nursing stage again. I had a lot of conversations with Isla about how Elliot would need “milkies” once he was born. I got her a few special cups to drink her oat milk out of, played “nursing” with baby dolls, read little books about nursing and hoped for the best. 4 months after Isla weaned Elliot was born and it started all over again, but definitely looked different this time.
My main takeaways from my first breastfeeding experience:
Trust your gut. It’s okay to stray away from the pediatrician’s opinion (in some cases). Most pediatricians have very limited training on breastfeeding and don’t always give the best advice. It’s always a good idea to reach out to a lactation consultant for help!
The best way to increase milk supply is to nurse nurse and nurse, do skin to skin, drink water and nourish yourself with healthy food.
Nursing bras with pads suck.
Learn to nurse laying down, it made a huge difference on my quality of rest.
Reach out for help, ask questions, and advocate for yourself. If I didn’t do this I can tell you that there is no way I could’ve continued to breastfeed for almost 2 years. I’ve connected with so many other moms going through similar things along the way.
If you're comfortable, document your breastfeeding journey! I was able to take part in 3 breastfeeding photoshoots with Isla and I love being able to look back at those picutures to see how far we made it. Thank you to Addie and Kay Photography, Love Runs Wild Photography, and Bri McKee Photograpy for capturing these special moments.
Celebrate your victories! Every small step forward was such an accomplishment for us. Don’t forget to take note of those moments, they’re truly what keeps you going when you’re in the trenches.
Come back next week for Elliot’s breastfeeding story!
Here’s a compilation of the products that I would 100% recommend to anyone who plans to breastfeed! I’ve used each and every one of these items throughout the past 3.5 years.
affiiate links below*