When Aria was still a little blip in my belly, every day I would feel those little feet kick and couldn’t wait to meet her (or him)! I wasn’t scared or nervous for her arrival, I knew babies were hard to break and was already a practiced pro on surviving on minimal sleep.
The one thing I was intimidated by was breastfeeding.
I had heard horror stories about the pain, milk not coming in, and babies unwilling to latch, but the reality of someone physically needing me every two hours to survive was the most daunting part.
I did my homework which included a breastfeeding prep class and a bit of reading on blogs and sites, but otherwise I didn’t overthink it. I knew research confirmed breastfeeding is best for baby and for you, but I tried to go in with realistic attitude and planned to not beat myself up if it didn’t work out.
In a perfect world I had hoped to breastfeed for 6 months. And now with Aria’s 6-month mark just around the corner, and I am ecstatic that I made it! And even though my experience breastfeeding was far from miserable, I can tell you it was both the hardest and most rewarding part of being a new Mom. So here’s how I survived the most intimate, yet most inconvenient, physical relationship of my life:
Breastfeeding hurts in the beginning.
All the classes will tell you that if breastfeeding hurts, you are doing it wrong. That is bullshit.
The first 3 days were extremely painful even though all of the nurses confirmed her latch was textbook perfect. What they did not tell me (and should have), was to take her off after 15 – 20 minutes and not let her suck for an hour just for fun. Because one of my two boobs was raw and excruciatingly painful for the first month because of it.
In addition to the sucked raw fun, for the first month of breastfeeding I suffered from this crazy creepy crawly-like sensation I can only describe as Restless Legs Syndrome all over my body. My OBGyn was perplexed and when googling my symptoms, I only found a few random Moms who experienced it. A few reported some relief from taking Magnesium, so I did that and eventually, the sensation went away and breastfeeding became something I looked forward to most.
The night feedings are on you.
I’m not sure how new Moms who are exclusively breastfeeding share the overnight feedings with their partner, because I couldn’t see how it was possible. Even though Julie offered to help, if she were to get up and give Aria a bottle my boobs would be so full, uncomfortable and leaking that I would have needed to get up and pump anyway. So it was 100% on me until she finally started sleeping through the night at five months old.
Sure there were times I was in that deliciously elusive mid-REM sleep and I would wake up seething that I had trek to her bedroom to feed her (Aria started sleeping in her crib at 8-weeks-old), but more often than not, I couldn’t wait to go snuggle her twice a night and give her the one thing only I could provide.
And now that she’s sleeping a whopping 12-hours a night (praying for no sleep regression!), I can tell you I wouldn’t trade those 5 months of interrupted sleep, 3am feedings and groggy days for anything.
Making pumping work at work.
Far worse than any lack of sleep or less-than-motherly emotion that I felt in the first few months of breastfeeding, is the inconvenience and near impossibility of pumping now that I am back to work.
Working as a creative director in the demanding industry that is advertising, my calendar is at the mercy of very senior clients who change meetings more than their minds. And because I run multiple pieces of business, I often don’t have an open 30-minutes all day and have been known to not drink water throughout the day so I don’t have to “waste time” going to the bathroom.
Clearly I cannot do this while breastfeeding. Beyond the need to hydrate like crazy and consume at least as many calories as I am burning, I now must block my calendar three times a day and shift meetings around like a magician to make sure to pump three times a day. It doesn’t happen at perfectly-planned 3-hour intervals and I’m never kicking my feet up relaxing while I do, but it happens.
It is nothing fancy, but thankfully my agency has a room dedicated for pumping with a door that locks and a fridge. Another new Mom is also pumping, so in addition to my nutty schedule, I have to text with her multiple times a day to make sure we don’t overlap. The stress and time coordinating this every day is not just inconvenient, it nearly kills me.
Before going back to work I had the delusion that I could only pump twice a day, but anyone will tell you that if you don’t pump as often as your little one eats, your supply will plummet even more than it normally does after going back to work.
Since pumping at work sucks, get yourself a good hands-free pumping bra, some nice nursing bras (that you ideally haven’t been wearing around the house for the last 3 months), tons of extra bottles/ice packs, an extra set of flanges/tubing and ideally, an extra breast pump so you can have one at work and one at home. Now that insurance covers breast pumps, ask a Mom who is done nursing for their old pump so you can cut down on your schlepping.
Another tip that saves me both time and sanity is opting to not wash the breast pump parts after each at-work pumping session. Per the advice of another Mom, I just pop them in the fridge throughout the day and then wash them at the end of each day. This probably won’t pass sanitation standards, but it saves me time and from fielding questions from 24-year-old guys when washing out breast pump parts in the community kitchen.
When I was still figuring out this breastfeeding thing, a fabulous woman I met in a new Mom’s group told me she opted not to breastfeed because she didn’t want to get saggy boobs after she was done. And I still think that is both amazing and inspiring! So whatever you decide to do when it comes to feeding your little one, be kind to yourself and know that whatever decision you make each and every day in this crazy journey as a new Mom, it is the right decision.