My Journey As A First Time Mom; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Kelly Warner

guest post, leaky to leaky

Meet Samuel. This is my rainbow baby, who we welcomed with joy in January, 2014. After struggling with infertility for 5 years, my doctor in Houston told me it was unlikely that we would ever conceive. When we moved to St. Louis we started seeing a fertility specialist, who discovered a few factors that were either keeping us from getting pregnant or not allowing us to sustain pregnancy (an underactive thyroid, being a carrier for MTHFR and either not absorbing folic acid well or clotting after conceiving, and low progesterone). Once we addressed those issues we got pregnant right away, which was so encouraging after having our arms ache to hold a child for years. Unfortunately, we miscarried at 9 weeks and would later miscarry a second time at 6 weeks.   We were in a very dark place but continued to trust God with our fertility. A few months after our second miscarriage we found out we were pregnant again. 40 weeks later, after a snowstorm and before another one shut down the city for a week, our sweet Samuel Bennett was born!

I was so focused on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and having a natural birth that, admittedly, I didn’t educate myself on breastfeeding. Our Bradley Method instructor encouraged me to attend LLL meetings while pregnant to meet other like-minded moms, but I didn’t make it a priority to go. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of 12 months and had hoped that I would be able to make it for 2 years, but I figured I would have the baby first and then it would just naturally come to me. You know, because so far my story has been so natural and easy that it makes sense that I would just figure it out.

We had a beautiful natural birth and our nurses were great about immediately putting Samuel on my breast and delaying all newborn procedures until we had time to bond. He didn’t latch right away but found comfort sleeping on my chest. (In his defense, he did have a pretty long and intense birth that included 4 hours of pushing, his cord wrapped around his neck twice, and the threat of a C-section before I pushed so hard I broke my tailbone and his head came out before the doctor was even suited up to catch him). I kept trying to get him to latch and had just about every lactation consultant and nurse helping too. We were adamant about not using bottles, sugar water, or formula, so when he started showing signs of dehydration, we all panicked. The LC informed me that the combination of my flat nipples and large breasts were making it difficult for Samuel to latch and she recommended we use a breast shield. I was a nervous first time mom, who just wanted her baby to eat, so I took her at her word and began using the shield. I have since come to learn that there are absolutely medical situations that warrant the use of a shield . . . but mine was not one of them. Samuel began “latching” and getting colostrum, but it was so frustrating, painful, and messy for me. Worried that I would give up with breastfeeding, the LC convinced me to rent a breast pump to take home, pump my colostrum, and feed with bottles until my milk came in. Although she unnecessarily encouraged me to use a shield, I have to give her credit for pushing breastfeeding. She showed me how to use the pump and was shocked when I pumped 2 ounces of colostrum in a few minutes. At the time I was super confused why she was all giddy (and felt the need to show my liquid gold to everyone working in the maternity ward) but have come to learn that colostrum is not typically measured in ounces. That gave me hope that I was going to be able to feed my baby – it was just a matter of figuring out how.

My milk came in a few days after we got home from the hospital and my already large breasts became so engorged I didn’t know what to do with them! Seriously, they practically had their own zip code (38-K)! I had a serious oversupply problem and a fast letdown that Samuel did not find nearly as amusing as my husband and I. He’d pull off the breast and get super-soaked in the face or just grimace as a stream of milk shot halfway across the room. I guess when you’re an exhausted new mom you find the humor in anything, because everything else is just so, so hard!

We continued to use the nipple shield but struggled. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Thankfully, my husband knew, deep down, I didn’t really want to quit and I just needed to be encouraged to continue. He was up at every diaper change and night feeding with me, sitting at my feet, praying for me. I remember one time in particular: It was 2am and I was exhausted from nursing Samuel around the clock during a growth spurt. My husband and I got up to feed him and I burst into tears when Samuel latched and I felt the “60-second sizzle.” I said I didn’t want to mess with the shield anymore and that I just wanted to feed my baby. He comforted me in that moment and said he had read that night feeding was a good time to try to wean off the shield. So, figuring it couldn’t get any worse, we took off the shield, and together, we re-latched Samuel. I’m talking, all 4 of our hands were trying to hamburger my nipple so Samuel could latch! There were more tears (by me) and more words of encouragement (from the hubs), and finally Samuel latched! This was such a small thing but felt like such a big breastfeeding victory!

I continued to pump out a few ounces before EVERY feeding to soften my breast tissue so he could latch better. It was really annoying to be tethered to my pump and time-consuming to have to constantly be cleaning out pump parts (and during the winter, which made my hands crack and bleed), but it was worth it to be off the shield and begin having a successful nursing relationship with my son. Plus, it allowed me to build up a good stash of breast milk that I donated to my friend to give to her adopted newborn.

By the time Samuel was 6 months old my supply had finally regulated. It was so freeing to be able to feed on demand and not have to pump first. Samuel was healthy and happy and in the 50th percentile for his weight, and an added bonus was that he was a really good sleeper! Shortly after he turned 7 months old, however, he started waking up multiple times at night to nurse. We brushed it off and assumed he was just teething or going through a growth spurt, but it continued for weeks. I called my pediatrician and asked her why she thought his sleeping pattern changed suddenly. We ruled out ear infections, viruses, the Bubonic Plague, and continued to be dumbfounded . . . until my ped asked if it was possible that I was pregnant. I probably offended her for laughing so loud on the phone, but, come on! Me? Pregnant? I mean, sure, it was a possibility I could be pregnant, but I was exclusively breastfeeding, had not introduced solids, and remember how it took the stars aligning for me to have a healthy pregnancy with Samuel? I hung up the phone, dug out an expired pregnancy test from the Dollar Store, and took the test . . . and then proceeded to take another 3 before I believed my eyes! I told my husband and he didn’t believe me, so he went to the pharmacy and bought the most expensive digital pregnancy test . . . which told us the same thing the 4 tests prior did, only in words instead of hieroglyphics. I. Was. Pregnant!

guest post, leaky to leaky, pregnant photo

Once the initial shock settled we were thrilled for our news, but clearly my milk supply had already begun to decrease. Ahhhh the irony! My ped suggested starting a supply-boosting supplement that was safe while pregnant, but cautioned that it was likely we would need to supplement with donor milk or formula. Having just donated all of my pumped milk to my friend for her adopted baby, we were forced to supplement with formula. We chose the only organic formula that we can buy locally and hoped that it would be palatable. Only, Samuel wouldn’t take it. Clueless about what to do, I emailed Jessica from The Leaky Boob for advice and was so humbled that she took the time to answer me. She encouraged me to get a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to keep stimulating my breasts to produce milk while getting Samuel the supplementation he needed. He had lost so much weight he dropped to the 5th percentile, so we were ready to try just about anything. All I can say is using an SNS is like trying to juggle flaming arrows while blindfolded! I feel it apropos to high five any mom that has successfully nursed with an SNS. First off, that thing is impossible to set up alone (thankfully my husband is really supportive of me breastfeeding). Secondly, the tape that is supposed to keep the tube in place is worthless! Thirdly, my son was so offended that I was trying to sneak that tiny plastic tube in with his latch. Needless to say, we gave up.

After giving up on the SNS we tried to introduce a bottle. By this time Samuel was close to 9 months and had only had a bottle when I pumped my colostrum the first few days of his life. If he was offended about the SNS tube, he was not having the bottle either. We must’ve bought one of every brand of bottle on the market only to find out he would rather starve. We tried syringes, medicine droppers, spoon-feeding, sippy cups, open cups and this kid was not impressed. The only thing that he took a liking to was a straw – and not a sippy cup with a straw because that’s far too juvenile for a 9 month old – a straw that you, a grown adult, would get at a restaurant. He’d sip on the formula throughout the day but never really had a “feeding” like he would with breastmilk. We sneaked it in smoothies, made popsicles, and just about anything to get that kid to drink milk.

Keep in mind I’m still pregnant through this . . . I’m tired, hormonal, my nipples are sore, and I’m nauseous! I lost 10 pounds from throwing up and not being able to eat food while pregnant and still nursing Samuel. Those days were ROUGH! I kept telling myself that, “This, too, shall pass.”

We found our rhythm and made the most of our cuddles and nursing sessions until Samuel started throwing fits when I offered him the breast at nap-time or bed when he was 13 months. After a few days of us both crying at every feeding, I assumed he was no longer interested in nursing and wanting to wean. I stopped offering it and we just, kinda moved on. Looking back, I honestly believe he was having a nursing strike from being frustrated from having to work so hard to get any breastmilk.

In May we welcomed our daughter, Felicity Claire, into the world. Once his sister was born he started showing interest in nursing but it was as if he had forgotten how it all worked. He constantly talked about my “ba-ba’s” and wanted to touch them for his sister’s first month of life. 4 months later, he asks for milk at bedtime and smells and touches my breasts asking for more. It breaks my heart that I likely cut our nursing relationship short, but I am glad we were able to overcome so much and still make it 13 months.

guest post, leaky to leaky

So far, Felicity nurses like a champ and I feel so much better prepared this time around. While I wouldn’t wish my struggles with breastfeeding on anyone, I am glad I had to persevere through them. Not only did it show me how much support I have, but it highlighted how important a good support system is for breastfeeding. I hope that other moms find support to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and that my story encourages them in their journey.

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guest post, leaky to leakyKelly is a mother of two from St. Louis, Missouri, who lived a good chunk of her adult life in Houston, Texas.  She and her hunk of a husband struggled with infertility for 5 years and had multiple miscarriages before having their first child in 2014.  Prior to starting a family, she taught 7th grade life science at a college preparatory charter school for low-income, minority students in Houston.  When she’s not nursing her 5 month old or telling her 21 month old to stop throwing balls at his sissy’s head, Kelly enjoys hanging out with her husband, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and writing music.  Despite many struggles with breastfeeding, Kelly nursed her son for 13 months; 6 of those while pregnant with her daughter.  In addition to being passionate about breastfeeding, Kelly loves baby wearing, cloth diapering, staying up to date on car seat safety, and having grandiose dreams of being a midwife someday. In the meantime she’ll stick to chasing her sports-nut toddler around the neighborhood and hoping that she remembers to put her boob away before answering the front door.  

 

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Tension and Breastfeeding, How Relaxing Save Her Breastfeeding Relationship

by Vivian Muehlen
this post made possible by the generous support of KoalaKin.
Vivian & Luc KoalaKin

The author and her son.

 

I still wince when I think that I had to give up breastfeeding 5 months after my son was born, due to a myriad of issues ranging from low milk supply, tendonitis, mastitis and lower back pain. And that was almost 12 years ago!

When my second son was born, I was again 100% committed to breastfeeding, but now I also had a preschooler running around the house. Not only that, but I was again afflicted with mastitis (caused by a poor latch) and arm, neck and shoulder pain from breastfeeding my little guy 8-12 times a day. Wait! Wasn’t breastfeeding supposed to be natural? It was then that I realized that breastfeeding may be natural, but its not instinctual. I needed help ASAP!

I tried slings and wraps, but they didn’t work for me. They weren’t supportive enough and my son’s face always ended up not perfectly aligned with my breast, or his latch would slip as soon as I moved.

I was at my wits end, almost giving up, when I decided to create my own solution. As soon as I developed a halfway functioning prototype of the KoalaKin and began using it with my son, a flood of relief ran through me as I was finally able to relax a little bit. My son was supported, his latch was firm and I had not one, but two free hands. Not longer feeling any strain, I was able to give my boy all my attention. I noticed his teeny, tiny fingernails, his fine hair, and the insane cuteness of his little feet… Words cannot explain the feeling of empowerment, confidence and GRATITUDE I felt when I realized that after all these years of struggle, I was finally able to effortlessly breastfeed my child.

And best of all: I now loved just staring at him breastfeed, knowing I was giving him the absolute best. There’s no feeling like it. No pain, all gain.

One of the best pieces of advice I received in my breastfeeding journey, was that it was important to minimize stress as much as possible. When moms are stressed, their breast milk supply usually decreases dramatically. Also, some studies even show that elevated levels of stress also cause a defective let down reflex.

Paradoxically, breastfeeding in itself is actually calming. The hormone prolactin is released during breastfeeding, which gives mom a feeling of peace and tranquility. That being said, the worry ABOUT breastfeeding (is my baby getting enough, what, he’s hungry again?, when is the laundry going to get done?), causes stress amongst moms and may interfere with a mom’s ability to establish a good milk supply.

KK Jade Comp LR KoalaKin

Vivian created the KoalaKin to offer other women the kind of support she found she needed to help her relax during breastfeeding and reach her breastfeeding goals. To learn more about how the KoalaKin could support you and to determine if it is right for you, click here.

 

What I wish I had known on how to relax during this special time:

Don’t wait until your baby is crying. Nothing stresses out a mom more than hearing her baby cry. Fussiness is the first cue that a baby is hungry. This is the time a mom should calmly sit or lay down with her baby and nurse. Not waiting until the baby cries will greatly reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Listen to calming music. Take a moment to pop in your favorite calming tunes. Don’t focus on what kind of music you listen to, focus on how the music makes you feel. Classical music may be relaxing to some, and annoying to others. I personally liked to listen to yoga music, which always drove my husband crazy!

Create a favorite breastfeeding spot. Be it a bright space by a window in your living room or a dimly lit corner in your child’s nursery, creating a favorite breastfeeding spot can immediately relax and calm a tired, overwhelmed mom. Again, choose a spot that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s the feeling you want over and over again when you breastfeed.

Make sure you are seated in an ergonomic way. There is virtually no way a mom can relax if her body is feeling any level of discomfort. Back or arm strain can make a nursing session torturous, and therefore it is very important to ensure mom is comfortable, and can stay that way for the next 20-40 minutes. A chair with excellent back support and an armrest is a must. Breastfeeding pillows, slings or a KoalaKin can help support the baby’s weight, allowing mom to relax any areas of strain and enabling a more ergonomic breastfeeding position.

Prepare a light snack to eat while breastfeeding. Don’t they say “sleep when the baby sleeps”? Well, I’ll add to that and say “eat when the baby eats!” Keep a stash of healthy, convenient snacks, like trail mix, pretzels and hummus, healthy energy bars and fruits where you can just grab and go. Once the baby is latched on and contently nursing away, treat yourself to these delicious snacks. Since nursing sessions can take up to 40 minutes, moms can take their time and really enjoy nourishing themselves!

Read a good book or watch TV. After a good snack, there’s nothing better than indulging in a good book or favorite TV show. As much as breastfeeding can be bonding, it’s not practical to expect to stare into your little one’s eyes through every session any more than every meal with your romantic partner should be a candlelit dinner. Getting comfortable and enjoying something that has you looking straight ahead can also help relieve tension in the neck and shoulders when you have good support.

While breastfeeding is something we do for our babies, with a little bit of organization and practice, this can also be a time that moms can use to take care of and nourish themselves.

Thanks to the KoalaKin, I was able to bond more with my son, and most importantly, I was able to breastfeed longer than I would’ve been able to, because the KoalaKin helped ease the strain I was feeling.

I’m a big believer that a mom should use any tool she thinks might help her successfully nurse her baby. After all, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful, healthy and natural things a mother can do with her baby. There isn’t any one tool that work for every mom or even with every baby for the same mom. Be flexible and willing to try new things and take care of yourself to better be able to take care of your baby. Relax, you’ve got this!

___________________________

The KoalaKin Hands-Free Nursing Pouch was created by Vivian in 2009 after she suffered through several very frustrating breastfeeding attempts, where a poor latch coupled with arm, neck and shoulder pain from holding her baby in the same position for 30-40 minutes several times a day, took away from the wonderful experience that breastfeeding should be.
Tired of the pain and frustration, Vivian decided she needed help fast and turned to products such as slings and wraps.  However, she quickly realized there was nothing in the market that addressed her needs … so the first prototype of the KoalaKin was born!  With the goal of becoming the product that provides the best possible breastfeeding experience, Vivian worked tirelessly with lactation consultants and other birthing professionals, and turned her early prototypes into the KoalaKin that is available today. 
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Get Comfortable Breastfeeding- Bebe au Lait Giveaway!

A big part of reaching your breastfeeding goals may actually be about how comfortable you are breastfeeding. Physical comfort (back ache or nipple pain is going to put a big damper on things!), emotional comfort, social comfort, you name it, feeling comfortable can be key to the whole breastfeeding experience. Which is why we are talking about comfortable breastfeeding with our friends at Bebe au Lait and Katy Linda, IBCLC from The Breastfeeding Den and give away 2 breastfeeding covers and 2 breastfeeding pillows to help you get comfortable in your own breastfeeding journey, whatever that means for you.

 

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you're a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.

The Nursing Cover, $36-$38 value

Bebe au Lait introduced the Nursing Cover, 10 years ago as a solution for nursing in public. The stylish and comfortable covers are adjustable, and are made with a patented open neckline that holds the cover away from the baby, allowing mom and baby to make eye contact. They come in a variety of designs and colors, and are made of either 100% cotton, organic cotton or muslin.

 Bebe au Lait breastfeeding pillow

The Nursing Pillow, $55 value

Bebe au Lait launched for the first time this year, The Nursing Pillow. Created by a nursing mom, The Nursing Pillow puts baby at the optimum height to promote a better latch. The features include a reversible, dual sided surface (soft or flat), convenient two-sided pocket to keep essentials within easy reach and an adjustable, tuck-away strap. The Nursing Pillow is designed with an open shape for a better fit and is foam-free. Both pillow and removable slip cover are 100% cotton and machine washable. Please note that this item is not yet available and will be shipping mid December with the lucky winners being some of the very first to get their hands on one of these beautiful new pillows.

 To be entered for a chance to win one of these prizes, follow the directions on the widget below. Please note, this giveaway is open to those in the USA.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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