All images from Leander Matos
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?
While pregnant, I was excited about breastfeeding and anxious all at the same time! I have to laugh though, back then I thought it would be so easy...I was soo blissfully naive! haha!
My original goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, once we got into our groove around 6-8 weeks, I set my sights on getting to 12 months. I wasn't sure what to expect at the hospital other than constantly thinking, ok first things first we have to get a good latch so there won't be pain and the rest will fall into place! I had my boppy pillow ready to go and that made me feel prepared! lol
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?
To prepare for breastfeeding I took the course they offer at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. I would HIGHLY recommend the course to any new mom! That night when I came home from the class I felt slightly panicked because I had learned that it wasn't going to be as easy as I had naively thought it would be! But at the same time I was utterly amazed by what I had learned. My poor husband's head was spinning because I was so excited to tell him everything I had learned. The class absolutely helped me to feel prepared going into the hospital, I also felt more comfortable knowing the lactation nurses could help me with anything and everything that I would need there.
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?
OH boy, the first week. I think I cried every time she latched on. Whoever said there would not be pain if you're doing it right lied!! The nurses assured me that her latch was perfect and the pain was normal as my nipples needed to get used to breastfeeding...I think it took about 2 weeks and it truly was magical the first time she latched and there wasn't pain...I think I cried again, but happy tears lol
I got relief from putting breastmilk on my nipples and letting them air dry...its funny how far from modest I am after becoming a mommy lol. I would also put lanolin ointment on which helped soothe when I was wearing nursing pads. I also used the hydro cooling pads from medela and they were lifesavers!! I had tried a nipple shield, but we never really got the hang of it.
The biggest challenge we faced the first 2 weeks was getting Emelia to eat! She was 3 1/2 weeks early and the poor little thing just wanted to sleep! She lost too much weight in the hospital because it was just too much work for her to nurse. This is when the lactation nurses were AMAZING!! I learned all about pumping which was something I hadn't even thought I would be doing..again, silly me! lol I had to keep a journal and track how much she was eating and her diaper changes. I drove myself crazy with the journal, but its pretty amazing to look back now and remember the early days. Journaling everything was a lifesaver at the time because everything was so new and we were so sleep deprived! It helped keep everything on track.
When all was said and done, the first 2 weeks were hard...the hormones, the pain from breastfeeding, the lack of sleep....but without a doubt the first 2 weeks were the most AMAZING time in my life. I felt like a mother and it was such a beautiful thing.
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
I was most surprised by how discouraged I felt in the early days. I started this breastfeeding adventure feeling prepared and excited and I thought I had studied and read everything I could to prepare myself. For something so natural as breastfeeding it felt very unnatural at first. I hadn't expected blood, sweat and tears would go hand in hand with nursing, but for me it did.
I'm extremely fortunate that my husband was so unbelievably supportive. Breastfeeding Emelia wasn't just my goal, it was our goal. I'm pretty sure if I didn't have his support and encouragement I wouldn't have made it past the first week.
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
Ignorance is bliss. I'm glad I didn't know the nitty gritty details ahead of time because this journey was my own and I didn't have any preconceived notions about the reality that is breastfeeding.
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
After we got into the swing of things nursing was a piece of cake!! I loved our routine and I cherished the moments cuddled up with Emelia. I almost looked forward to our night feedings...some nights were rough and it was hard to get up, but once I had her snuggled in my arms I would turn on the lullably station on Pandora and I would just relax and rock her and I loved every second of it. I got very lucky that she is such a good sleeper, she was sleeping 8 hours a night by 6 weeks and 12 hours by 12 weeks old! I was sick as a dog my entire pregnancy, so I joke that this was her way of paying me back lol :) To keep up my supply since she was sleeping such long stretches I would pump before I went to bed around 10 or 11, then I would get up around 3 or 4 to pump.
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.)
Once I finally stopped worrying about whether of not I was producing enough milk, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Milk production is like a keurig machine, your body produces what your baby needs and makes milk on demand. My advice would be to trust your body to do what it was designed to do. Your job is to "mind your milk", that was a phrase I had read in one of the gazillion articles I read on the topic of nursing and it was something I would remind myself of often.
I also learned that the composition of milk changes based on the time of day, therefore we would only feed her milk I pumped at night at her bedtime feeding, and pumped morning milk at morning feeding.
Lastly, another tip that I found helpful was to let Emelia completely finish one side before switching over. The hind milk that comes at the end of a nursing session is the good fatty stuff that will keep their little tummies fuller, longer!
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
Receiving advice is tricky because there is no black and white when it comes to feeding a child, each and every child is unique and every situation is different. We know what is best for our children and as mothers we have to advocate for them, my advice would be to trust your instincts and if it feels right then it is right.
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've been feeling the weight of mama guilt a lot recently. I'm weaning my daughter now and it has been much, much harder on me than I could ever have imagined. My daughter is our first and only child, I'm trying to savor every ounce of this beautiful experience while it lasts. I know that the time is right to wean and I'm looking forward to the freedom that comes with that, but I feel guilty about that and the times that I tried to rush through a feeding, or decided to give her a bottle because it was easier... because I'll never have to chance to nurse her again once my body stops producing milk. But mostly I feel guilty about not knowing if this is what she wants too. I guess I have to take my own advice...If it feels right, then it is right..my emotions are just trying to catch up. And that is exactly what I would tell another mama.
10. What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
I am beyond PROUD that my breastfeeding goal has almost been reached! My daughter turned 1 on August 17 and I will have nourished her with my breast milk each and every day for 365 days! My husband said he is going to plan something for us to celebrate this huge accomplishment:)
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?
I only have 1 child so I can't speak to that experience.
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
I've learned of a loving, bonding experience that is unlike anything else I've ever known. I've learned of a love that is so strong and fierce that has gotten stronger everyday. I've learned to trust my instincts and know that I know what is best for Emelia.
I've also learned that I had a strength that I never knew I had. The responsibility of raising a child is a scary thing, but with this new found strength I know that no matter what I will always know the right thing to do when it comes to Emelia.
13. What supplies, equipment, brands, accessories, etc. were your favorite as far as feeding your baby? (bottles, formula brand, nursing or pumping equipment, etc.)
I used the Ameda purely yours pump and have had great success. I would pump into storage bags (I love the target brand bags) and would reheat the milk in the storage bag under running hot water and found that this was very quick and much easier that trying to reheat in bottles...I wish I figured that out sooner lol. Emelia hated bottles! She preferred to nurse and after many, many bottles we found that she would take the lansinoh momma bottle! We seized the opportunity around 9 1/2 months when she was on a bottle strike and gave her a straw sippy cup and haven't looked back! She hated the bottle and loved her cup so it worked out that we won't have to wean her from a bottle as well. I'm also a fan of the lansinoh nursing pads...I've tried many brands but these have always been my favorite :)