Making the decision to feed your baby breast milk, in whatever way and for whatever length of time your choose, is amazing. But, every breastfeeding journey is different, and none are perfect. In this ‘Notes From a New Breastfeeding Mom,’ first-time mother Joy shares her experiences in her own words. Her journey, like other moms’, has its flaws and challenges, but it is a real glimpse into the perfectly imperfect experience of breastfeeding. Read Joy’s post No, I Will Not Ask My Mom here.
Part 2: Oh, I’ll Cry Over Spilled Milk
The first time I heard the phrase “protect your supply” I was in the middle of my third lactation appointment. My third appointment in just two days.
Honestly, at this point I had shown my breasts to a lot more people than I preferred and really didn’t want to put on a show for anyone else. But a mamma’s gotta do what a mamma’s gotta do. My son Grant was three days old and losing weight – fast. He needed milk, and I was determined it was going to be MY milk.
So I undid my nursing bra and had the lactation consultant try once more to get my son to properly eat. No dice.
Luckily, I already had a backup plan brewing. I went into great detail with the consultant on my plan. She happily nodded along the way and offered some kind words of support here and there. Then afterwards she looked me squarely in the eyes and said something pretty close to: “There are three things you must do. You must feed your baby. You must take care of yourself. And you MUST protect your supply.”
I remember smiling to myself and thinking, “Okay tiger, calm down.” Little did I know.
Fast forward a couple days – or more accurately, a couple sleep deprived days later. I’m following my plan to the T. I’m breastfeeding, pumping, and then offering Grant additional breast milk from a bottle – every three hours. Note each session takes about an hour.
Don’t worry; I’ll do the math for you. Eight hours. 480 minutes. An entire workday. That’s how long it took me to provide food for my son.
On one hand, I was doing two of the things the lactation consultant told me to do. Feeding my son and protecting my supply.
But I definitely wasn’t taking care of myself because I was so focused on feeding Grant, and I was laser focused on protecting my supply.
As the days passed, I got a little obsessed about pumping and my supply. I would look up ways to increase it. I would look up ways that could harm my supply. And I pumped and pumped.
It drove everything I did. I planned my entire day in three-hour segments. If I had to run to the store, I would have everything ready to go, Grant diapered, my shoes on – the whole nine yards. Then I would do the hour-long feeding-pumping routine.
The moment I was finished the great marathon would happen. I’d dash out the door, speed to the store, get what I needed and rush back home to quickly breastfeed, pump, and offer breast milk in a bottle to Grant.
I was exhausted but determined to get and save as much milk as possible. I pumped out every ounce. I saved every ounce. I even gave up closet space to put a deep freezer in it. I figured the more I froze now, the longer Grant will have my milk…just in case I could no longer protect my supply.
And then, it happened. I dropped a bottle of milk. Four hard-fought ounces dripping down the countertop and puddling onto the floor. My heart ached. My boobs ached. Tears started streaming down my cheeks. Yes, I literally cried over spilled milk. The irony of the situation didn’t go without notice.
I was devastated.
In that moment I learned something important. You can cry over spilled milk. And it’s okay to cry over it. You worked hard for it. I worked hard for it. Our hard work should not go unnoticed. Our commitment should not be glazed over. Women pump and breastfeed for one reason – for our little bundles of joy. And if something is getting in the way of providing what we feel is the best for our kiddos, it’s okay to be upset.
It is okay that I cry when my milk splatters across the floor. Or get aggravated when I fall asleep before I put the milk properly in the fridge. I’m allowed to be miffed when my husband dumps out “just an ounce” or when Grant takes a mouthful and spits it out. It’s okay that I have these feelings. I’ve earned them!
I also learned in that moment I needed to get a bit more sleep and rework my plan. While I was doing what was right for my son and my supply, I was ignoring one part of the lactation consultant’s advice – I was grossly neglecting myself.
So I now bottle feed while I’m pumping a couple times a day. Sometimes my husband feeds Grant while I’m pumping. And, of course, I take a couple precious feedings and bond with my son while breastfeeding. It’s a mixed bag of tricks, but it’s working. There’s not as much stress on me anymore. There’s not as much tension around feedings anymore.
While pumping will never be a “fun” activity, I don’t mind it as much. I make pumping sessions a chance to catch up on TV, an opportunity to call a friend, or sometimes I just sit in silence…precious silence – that one is my favorite.
To read more posts from Joy and to follow along her breastfeeding journey, click here.
Real Stories, Real Support
Perceived low milk supply is one of the main reasons moms stop breastfeeding before they’re ready. If you’re concerned about your supply, reach out to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to get personalized advice. Lactation support can be found locally, online through our free Ask The LC program, or directly from your MyMedela app.