Thanks, Kim, love this!
All images from Kim Raymond
1. When pregnant, what was your plan for feeding your child? How did you think you would do in the hospital? How easy did you think it would be?
When I was pregnant with my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I had no idea what to expect really because I didn't know anyone from my family who breastfed. My mom had two sets of twins and we were all fed formula. (For anyone out there with multiples who is nursing...you are amazing!) I had a close friend who was very comfortable with breastfeeding and would nurse in front of me. That was really my first experience with seeing someone breastfeeding.
I didn't have a lot of expectations but was picturing this easy experience with my baby nursing a few minutes after birth. I was wrong!
2. How did you prepare for feeding your child while pregnant? Did you read any good books, check out Web sites, take classes, take free items from your doctor's office, talk to other moms, etc.? How prepared did you feel going into the hospital for feeding your child?
While I was pregnant I tried to talk to friends and family about what it might be like. It was hard because everyone seems to have different view about how they feed their children ( which is totally ok!) Some of my family members seemed to not quite understand why breastfeeding was so important to me but they were trying to be supportive. I did some reading online about bottles, different nipples, pacifiers, nipple confusion, etc. I think the best thing that I did was to pump myself up and keep telling myself that I could do it and that It was going to be so good for my baby!
I also learned some about breastfeeding and what to expect in my childbirth class. I have to mention that I also met my now best friend in childbirth class! Both of our two kids are about two weeks apart in age (and we didn't plan that!) So I totally recommend taking a childbirth class as a first time mom to at the very least connect with some other first time moms.
3. How did the first week of feeding go for your child? What did you try? What helped, what did not help? What challenges did you experience that first week feeding your child? How did you FEEL with feeding your child that first week?
My first week of breastfeeding was so far from what I expected! I actually went into labor without even realizing it at 35 weeks. My daughter Zoelle was born two days shy of 36 weeks. Because she was under 36 weeks, they automaitially had a NICU nurse in the room and said they would have to take her to the NICU right after she was born.
When she was born after only 10 minutes of pushing, I remember this overwhelming feeling of joy and also anxiety because of all the extra people in the room (nursing student, med student, NICU nurse) I didn't get to hold her right away as I had hoped. They finally handed her to me a few minutes later (felt like forever!) and I was so happy. I remember thinking that I wanted to nurse her before they took her to the NICU. She didn't have any breathing problems or anything and was a healthy 6 lbs 7.5 ounces. I told one of the nurses that I wanted to nurse her before they took her away but somehow that got lost in communication between that nurse and the NICU nurses. Within minutes she was taken to the NICU before I could attempt nursing. I was tired and emotional and overwhelmed. I think if it had been my second child I would have definitely stood my ground and spoke up about wanting to feed her.
Finally an hour and a half after she was born, they wheeled me into the NICU and all I wanted to do was feed her and hold her. I read about it being easier to breastfeed if you nursed as soon as possible after birth so I was worried. Plus they told me that her blood sugar was a little low so they had given her a bottle of formula already. I was so upset by this. Not because formula is bad (Its not!) but because it wasn't the experience I had pictured while I was pregnant. When I finally got to try nursing her It went ok. She did latch on after several attempts. It is hard sometimes in the beginning I think because her mouth was so small!
I was overjoyed when she was finally nursing and I remember thinking “Yes, she is doing it. It's going to work!” It was an amazing feeling that I was giving her something that no one else could.
I was lucky that she was very healthy but she did have jaundice so they said she had to stay in the NICU. It was so hard because I couldn't just nurse on demand. They had her on a 3 hour feeding schedule so I would go in every three hours and nurse her. They also didn't want me to nurse for more than 10-15 minutes on each side. I hated not being in control and looking back I wish I had spoken up.
Zoelle had to stay in the NICU for a week and I was discharged on day 3! It was such a horrible feeling leaving my baby in the hospital while I had to go home. I cried so much when I left. I was fortunate to live close to the hospital so I would drive back and forth to the hospital every 3 hours so I could be there to feed her. Mostly during the day. I didn't go at night. I was so exhausted! When I wasn't feeding her, I spent time pumping. On the day I was discharged from the hospital they sent me with a hand pump and I knew I needed to go get an electric pump right away. I hadn't had a chance to buy a pump yet because I had gone into labor before I bought one. I was fortunate because my insurance paid for my pump because my baby was in the NICU.
During the night when I was getting up every 3 hours to pump, I was in pain. My nipples were red and sore, milk hadn't come in very well yet and I wasn't producing very much. The hospital had given me some labels and containers for my breastmilk so I would bring the labeled milk in everytime I went in for feedings so she could get some of my milk at night when I wasn't there.
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
I was surprised that it took so long for my milk to really come in well (5-6 days). I don't know what I expected but I though that by day 2 or 3 I would just be this milk producing machine. That was not the case. I was also surprised at how much my nipples hurt(maybe to much information!) Some was due to Zoelle having a poor latch but some was due to pumping soo much! In some ways I was surprised at how easily Zoelle first latched on even though it was over an hour after she was born when I first tried.
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
I wish I had known that it was possible for a baby to be fed formula and still have a successful breastfeeding experience. It would have made me less anxious. I also wish I had known that your milk doesn't come in immediately and that babies lose weight in the beginning.
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
Once Zoelle was out of the NICU and finally home with us breastfeed was easier. I could feed on demand. I do remember setting my alarm for every 3 hours during the night at first because I was so worried about her jaundice and weight loss. I remember wondering if she was getting enough and how do I know? If she spits up should I feed her more? Do I always have to feed on both sides? Those are some questions I had. Those first few weeks were a blur. I don't think I would have eaten or brushed my teeth if it hadn't been for my husband!
After the first couple of weeks it did get so much easier! It was so nice to always have food ready to go with no prep. Zoelle was gaining weight and latching on better. We fell into a rhythm. I felt like we were communicating in our own way. I began to notice her hunger cries and cues more and felt like I was starting to be this milk machine I had imagined. Pumping got easier too. I started pumping a little about 30 minutes after feedings a couple of times a day so that I could build up a supply in the freezer.
7. What tips do you have for either breastfeeding or formula feeding, or exclusively pumping or some combo in between? What specific things helped you to feed your child the first few months? (Drink more water, bring baby to you when nursing, try 2 oz of formula at first, try different bottles, etc.)
I want breastfeeding moms to know that it is important to do what you think is right and take advice with a grain of salt.
I remember my mom (who didn't breastfeed) once say “Didn't she just nurse an hour ago? Does she really need to eat again?” Sometimes babies might want to eat every hour or two in the beginning. Both of my girls used to always eat every two hours for the longest time!
Trust your instincts! You are the mom.
It really helped me when my husband would bring my daughter to me. We did a lot of co sleeping too which made breastfeeding easier. I tried to make sure I drank a lot of water and took my vitamins so I could be healthy myself. Having someone around to help you remember to take care of yourself is a huge help!!
It is also a good idea to build up a supply in the freezer. I knew I was going back to work in a few months so I worked hard to build up a supply. Even if you aren't working it is nice to have some back up in case you have to go out sometime, so your partner can do some feedings or in case of emergencies.
I really want new moms to know that it's ok if things don't go as planned. It might not happen as easily as you hope but it is important to not give up.
I have heard lots of people give advice about not giving your baby a bottle or a pacifier too early or they would get nipple confusion and not nurse. 'Im sure that is a problem for some babies but wasn't for us. Well, Zoelle had a bottle and pacifier before I even got to nurse her for the first time and it still worked out for us!
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
I think it is so important to remember that it is your choice and it's your child. Sometimes people judge just because they don't understand it. My husband never knew anyone who had breastfed and therefore would say things like “well you don't have to nurse when we go to visit my family because you can just put some in a bottle” Of course he soon realized that if your baby is with you it is way easier to just breastfeed (or it was for me anyway!)
Buy a good nursing cover or just keep a receiving blanket with you and you can breastfeed anywhere! I learned quickly that all I had to do was throw a receiving blanket over my shoulder and no one could see anything. With a receiving blanket it is actually easy to just lift up and peek at your baby while she/he is nursing, they don't take up much space and there are no hooks or straps or snaps to deal with. I actually had a BabyGo front carrier that I found at walmart that both my girls practically lived in when I was out and about. I learned to just slip one strap off to the side and put a receiving blanket over and I could nurse them on the go!
There will always be people who will judge you and it is important that you tell yourself that you are doing something good for your baby. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed you are feeding your baby they way that works for you and your baby. You shouldn't feel bad about that!
One thing that helped me was going to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I gave birth. At those groups, moms would just sit around the circle and feed their babies in front of everyone. It really helped me to realize that it was ok and helped me to be very comfortable with just feeding my baby when and where I needed too. I just carried my receiving blanket or two with me and felt at ease that I could feed my kids when I needed to without stress.
9. If you felt Mama Guilt over how you fed or did not feed your child, what was that like for you? What's your advice to other moms who experience that guilt?
I had guilt about not feeding Zoelle right after she was born, and guilt about not being able to feed on demand the first week. I also felt a ton of guilt when I went back to work at 13 weeks. It was so hard but did get easier when I got into a routine. It is important to realize that if you are a working mom and are pumping at work then your baby is getting something from you even when you aren't with him or her. I used to tell people “I'm feeding my baby” when I had to go and pump. It helped me keep going and I often used this time to call and check in with daycare while I was pumping.
I also have learned that things won't always go the way you plan but kids are so resilient and will be ok! I was lucky to be able to breastfeed until both my daughters were around 19 months. I never planned to breastfeed that long but it was going well so we just kept going.
Whether you use formula, breastfeed or a combination of the two, your baby will be ok!
10. What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
I'm proud that I was able to nurse as long as I did even though it wasn't always easy. I'm proud that I didn't give in when I was feeling pressure from others to wean. I'm also very proud that I kept going even when my supply was starting to go down and I was struggling to find time to pump at work. It was so frustrating when I would only get one or two ounces after pumping for 20 minutes when I had friends who would get 8!! But I kept going.
11. If you have more than one child, was your experience feeding your children the same or different? In which ways? What's your advice to a mom who did not get the experience she wanted with one kid, could it be different with feeding another one?
With my second child I had a very different breastfeeding experience. ( I was in the hospital for 26 nights before she was born.... but that's another story!) I was able to nurse her minutes after birth and never had to give any formula at all. We went home from the hospital together so I didn't have to do so much pumping in the beginning. She was very colicy and cried so much for the first few months that I didn't think it would ever stop! I felt like she was nursing for comfort ALL THE TIME! But I wore her in the carrier a lot which helped and I learned to nurse on the go.
I think that just because something doesn't go the way you planned the first time doesn't mean that you can't have a successful breastfeeding experience with another child. You can do it! And even if it doesn't work out they way you plan, your child will be ok!
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
I've learned that it can be overwhelming when you are the food source for your baby but also so amazing. I have learned that I am so much stronger than I thought I could be.
In a way I think breastfeeding helped me to be more outgoing and open. That may sound strange but there is something about sitting around in a circle at a breastfeeding support group with other mom's with a baby attached to your breast that makes you realize what is really important. It is important that I stay confident in myself and not worry about the judgment of others.
13. Anything else you'd like to add?
When I was going to the breastfeeding support group I got a chance to talk a lot with a fabulous lactation consultant Pam Houston! She was awesome and it was great to talk to her if I had questions about what to expect, what was ok, medications that were safe while breastfeeding, etc.
I would also say that if you can connect with other moms who are also breastfeeding then you can share advice, problems or breastfeeding bloopers! It's nice to have a little humor and talk to someone who understands exactly what you are going through.
My youngest daughter Aisley is now 21 months old and I wish I had taken pictures of our breastfeeding/ cuddle time. It goes by so fast.
I feel happy knowing I gave my girls part of me and helped them to grow into the happy healthy girls that they are. It wasn't an easy journey but worth every single second.
I hope that by sharing my experience, I can help other moms to feel inspired or stronger by knowing that another mom maybe had a similar experience. As a mom, I always find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone.