Dear Seekers of Truth Regarding the First Year of Motherhood

SHIT!  WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BOOBS?  

Obviously your milk is coming in. You know that. The unknowns are: How much? How fast?
Will this little baby latch on? Even the mothers who decide to formula feed will go through some of these issues until their body can regulate on its own. My experience was that I had more milk than I knew what to do with. Violet, my first born, did not eat any of my pumped milk until she was seven weeks old. Even then she was only drinking about 1-3 mL at a time. We are talking only a sip - and I was pumping eight ounces from each boob every three hours. So needless to say, I bought a deep freezer and started stocking up. I am one of those mothers who was lucky and had a great supply of milk. With this privilege came lots of pain and work.  The first three months I pumped every three hours. I bagged it and froze it. This was my routine. But, I often found myself having to deal with clogged milk ducks (a blockage that will interfere with releasing the milk from your breast). This feeling is bizarre. One section of my boob will feel rock hard and hurt to touch. I would feel shortness of breath and nauseous. The most productive way to alleviate it was to take a hot shower and squeeze my sore boob until the milk worked its way out. I was always confused about why this happened to me. I had a schedule with my $300 pump and always stuck to it, so I didn't understand how I could get a clog. But I did...many times. My daughter was never breast-fed but luckily loved the bottle. My son, however, was a boob man. It did surprise me how much more effective my son’s latch was compared to the pump. Again, I had so much milk. The first three months after having my son I would cry from pain because my boobs were so engorged. The only way I could feed him without feeling like I was water-boarding him was to lay on my back with him on top of me. This was not productive, comfortable ,or clean for either of us. So I would to relieve myself before or after latching him on and freeze the excess pumped milk for later. This took A LOT OF WORK and TIME.

During this time I got what I thought was a clogged duct, but could not push it out. I took a hot shower and bath, but none of my tricks helped. I started to get scared and told my husband I may need to go to the hospital. Before packing up the kids and making the drive I Googled "breast feeding problems". Turns out, after staring into the mirror for a couple minutes, I realized I had a small pimple sized white spot on my nipple. This little dot was a "milk blister." Who knew they even existed?!? Not me, but now you all do!  I ended up taking a sterilized needle, a deep breath, and popped the blister. Surprisingly, it did not hurt at all. Instead it was a steady flow of milk spewing out and it felt amazing. Immediately, I could breath normally and we didn't have to make that trip to the hospital.  Another more common problem that occurs while breast feeding is called Mastitis. I never had this, but many friends did. This is an infection in the tissue of the mammary gland inside the breast. My friends felt pain and had a fever. This did not resolve on its own, a doctor and prescription was needed.

Bottom line, I was not prepared for how much time it would take to pump and/or breast feed.  It is like being pregnant all over again, watching what you eat and drink, being tired and often very uncomfortable. On the plus side, it did help me lose the extra weight, I didn’t have to pay for formula, and I was able to bond with my son while he was at his calmest.

 

Kitty, mom of two
I did zero research about breastfeeding and was totally clueless and surprised when I suddenly had enormous Pamela Anderson boobs. Pretty amazing for a 32A gal! Luckily, I didn't have trouble nursing and had great supply, but was totally unprepared for the commitment of it. It took me a long time to adjust to the understanding that I didn't get my body back just because I wasn't pregnant anymore. I remember standing in my bathroom one of those first days and literally thinking, "I'm leaking from every part of my body!" Tears, milk, blood. Oi!
I found a lump in my breast while nursing my first-born. I thought it was clogged duct, but it wouldn't go away. I went to doctor, then to a specialist, who preformed an ultrasound (instead of mammogram) since I was nursing. They couldn't determine what it was, so they did a biopsy. They warned me it would be very rare, but I might get a fistula (milk squirting out the biopsy site.) Well it sure did and I got an infection at the biopsy site!  OMG! I had to keep a nursing pad on the side of my boob - what a ride that was!
I occasionally have the feeling of milk let down,* which is two years after I stopped nursing my second born!

*Let down reflex is an involuntary reflex during the period of time when a women is breastfeeding which causes the milk to flow freely.

 

Emily, mom of two
Breastfeeding makes you extremely dehydrated. Drink, drink drink!

 

Michelle, mom of two
Nursing. Is. Hard. And it doesn't always come easy. Between nipple shields, biting, cracked/sore nipples, getting the latch down correctly, it was definitely a long learning process. Also having to plan every outfit around having to nurse or pump and possibly hide milk stains was a challenge.
Pumping takes a long time in the beginning. I never expected to have to be away from the baby or anyone else who was visiting because I was exclusively pumping and had to leave for 45 minutes every couple of hours.
Your boobs become everyone's property, except your husbands! When I was in the hospital and trying to nurse I asked for help and a nurse came in and started maneuvering my boobs and the baby, three minutes into this she introduced herself.
Don't expect to run or jump without some seriously supportive sports bras.

 

Heather, mom of three
Not only do your boobs leak during any kind of endorphin release (sex, exercise), but any major emotion can cause it! WEAR BREAST PADS AT ALL TIMES!

 

Holly, mom of four
I was literally feeding my son ALL day and I can remember sitting in my rocking chair and bursting into tears out of pain, exhaustion and frustration. It took me till month three to get the hang of everything. But, I ended up nursing my baby until he turned a year. Victory!

 

Missy, mom of two
Best tips for your nipples: lanolin, let them be “free” at night when sleeping, and make sure baby is latched properly, this may take time.
It was incredibly painful to get my boobs to dry up (at 13 months). Some of the crazy things that worked for me were: Cold cabbage leaves placed in your bra to help with the pain. This is so weird, but it works even though you may smell like sauerkraut for awhile. Lots of peppermint (tea, altoids, gum). Hot showers and massage to try and clear out the ducts. Having my husband or friend give bottles, that way my body wouldn’t see my baby and think “make milk!”

 

Talia, mom of one
While breastfeeding my son I got vasoconstriction.* My nipples looked white, were cold, and hurt like hell. Wool pads helped to keep warm and maintain circulation.

*Vasoconstriction is the the constriction of blood vessels, which increases blood pressure.

 

Ashley, mom of three
I remember the first time something leaked out of my boobs, when I was 40 weeks pregnant with my first born, it actually disgusted me. After almost three years of nursing babies, it just feels like the most normal thing.
When you stop nursing your "Dolly Parton’s" will turn into saggy bags of skin that point south, so enjoy them while you can.

 

C, mom of two
The sound of the pump today makes me cringe, but it used to be my best friend. Also, if you didn't know this already, milk sprays out every which way from your nipple. It's not one straight shot. Let your partner know so they don't freaked out.

 

Kristen, mom of two
I remember when I stopped nursing my son at eight weeks old I felt like the worst human on the planet. I could hear the judgmental neighborhood moms talking about breastfeeding as "so natural" and "God's way." Truth was, our pediatrician didn't know if my son's feeding issues were because of silent reflux or allergies. We tried medication, which did not help and was told I needed to do an elimination diet. To me, this seemed like starvation and torture. The doctor told me to avoid all dairy, or anything with a dairy product baked in. I WAS STARVING!
I gave up. My son wasn't any better and I was miserable. I would rather be a happy mom who formula feeds than an unhappy one who is nursing. Baby number two came along and I was DETERMINED to make breastfeeding work this time. It actually started out really well until she ended up nursing so much I had an oversupply, which made her reflux worse. Yes, I was blessed with two severe reflux babies. I wouldn't wish that hell on my worst enemy. I resorted to exclusively pumping to keep a steady supply to get my daughter to twelve months of that "liquid gold." And you know what that taught me? If we ever have another, he/she will be formula fed from the start. Breast milk isn't "liquid gold" if all it does is cause worry and anxiety. I am not a failure. I'm not a bad mother for formula feeding. I am a good mother for wanting both myself and my baby to be happy and healthy!

 

Tonya, mom of two
Big chested woman does not equal more milk.

 

Eveline, mom of two
I learned while breastfeeding my son with food allergies that you have two different kinds of milk while feeding. The first kind is, FORE MILK, which is the fatty, sweet milk that gets your baby to latch. The second kind is the HIND MILK that sits farther back and was all of the substance. If your baby is only eating the fore milk it can hurt the babies belly. A hint this may be happening to your baby is they are wanting to eat too often, like every hour and a half.  

 

Lindsay, mom of two
“Are you breastfeeding?” I never could have imagined how loaded this question is.
Much to my surprise I had major problems breastfeeding due to an inverted nipple and a flat nipple. I was distraught, I was stressed out beyond belief, but determined to make it work. I wanted my daughter to have breast milk more than anything. In those first few weeks, babies really don’t need much. I felt like I was failing at the one basic thing she needed to just be alive. It was a pretty rotten feeling and looking back; I know it overshadowed a lot of the joy that I should have had just holding my little girl in my arms.  We went through two in-office lactation consultant visits, one at-home lactation consultant visit, and two weeks straight of sleepless nights with me in tears. I made it work the best way I could. I pumped breast milk for her and wore a nipple shield when nursing. As much as I tried we never really got a good handle on nursing directly from the breast. So by three months, I was pumping exclusively for my first -born. Ask any woman who pumps exclusively for her baby and she will tell you it is the first truly selfless act you can perform for your child. It’s lonely. It’s uncomfortable. It’s stress inducing because of the exact measure of milk supply and demand. You don’t get to do it while cradling your baby in your arms. It sucks. This is my reason I would never just ask a new mother if she is breastfeeding. I know now that it’s entirely possible that she was up last night at 3 am pumping alone so her baby can have breast milk. Or she tried her hardest to make it work and couldn’t make it happen and is terribly sad about it. Or she decided from the beginning not to breastfeed and just doesn’t want to hear another judgy response from some unsolicited stranger. Every new mother has to do what works for her and what is best for her baby.
I was much more relaxed as a second time mother, I didn’t have time to stress out and I was already armed with all the knowledge from my experience with my first. Today my six month old son is happily nursing and going strong. With a combination of zen, nipple shields, pumping, and bottle feeding from my husband, we made it happen.

 



BREAST MILK INFORMATION

I have a random knowledge of pumped and stored breast milk. My cousin once told me, "You should write a book about all the breast milk knowledge, you’re like the pump master!" Mind you, this is breast milk knowledge, not breast feeding knowledge. My cousin’s daughter was what some would call, a lazy eater. She didn’t want to work for her food and my poor cousin resorted to pumping and literally spoon feeding her infant for longer than she would like to admit. Eventually, her baby did put in some effort and got a handle of the bottle. She would call me with questions like, "How many hours can freshly pumped milk stay out before I need to dump it?" The reason I knew the answer to questions like this was because of my darling daughter’s time in the NICU. I learned from the best nurses and doctors and most of all, experience.

Here is a short list of Q & A.

1. How long does pumped milk last in the refrigerator?
    1 week, usually. Make sure to smell before. Trust me, you will know if it has gone bad!

2. How long does it last in a freezer?
    Six months in your regular freezer, one year in a deep freezer.

3. How long can pumped milk stay out before putting it into the refrigerator (for the first time)?
    This depends on the weather. I found in the summer (80 degrees and higher) is can only stay out for about three hours before it needs to be put into the fridge. On cooler days (65 degrees and lower), it can make it up to six hours. Obviously use your judgment. If the milk has been in a room with a comfortable temperature, you’re fine. If you left it outside on the porch in the direct sunlight, toss it.

4. How many times can I heat or reheat milk?
    I would take a frozen bag, thaw it, heat it up, and feed my baby. If there was left over milk I would stick it in the fridge and make sure to use it for the next feed. I would not let milk stay in circulation for more than a day before dumping it.
I found that if I took milk that had never been frozen, I could heat and reheat no more than two times before dumping it.

5. How do you heat the milk?  
    Heat a mug of water to almost boiling in the microwave. Insert the frozen bag of milk into the mug and let it sit for five minutes or so.  Sometimes reheating the water a second time is necessary. Never heat the milk directly in the microwave for two reasons:
1. The microwave does not heat liquid equally, so your baby could drink warm milk followed by hot milk in the same sip.  
2.  If you heat the milk directly it will not last as long.  

 

I MAKE MILK! WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
— Jennifer Ritchie, IBCLC