The Milky Way | Tips for the breastfeeding & pumping mum

I see new babies all over my feed lately! “Aww’ing” over your photos is what keeps the baby fever at bay… For now ūüėČ

New babies means…lots of MILK! Ya’ll have me thinking back to the very beginning of our own journey… Although my son is only a couple months away from his 3rd birthday, these milestones can make¬†those new days¬†feel like a lifetime away!¬† Both of us fumbling around like Bambi with no clue what we were doing. But it gets better I promise… I’m not just saying that to be nice either. No sugar coating here. The milk & boobie gods didn’t cut me any slack… I had just about every bump in the road you can think of – at least that’s how it felt at the time…
In short, our Breastfeeding journey was beautiful. How sacred are our vessels to grow life & nourish it for as long as needed? Pretty freakin’ amazing if you ask me! But, no matter how badass I felt providing for my newborn, the struggle was very real for us. Finding a good latch was a challenge from the get-go, I was insecure about my supply, took bad advice, my nipples cracked & bled & I quickly found myself depending on a pump to exclusively feed my child. It was hard work. A single mom, working full time outside the home with a full time pumping job as well…

And let me be clear on one thing, please don’t turn this into a “she’s all Breastfeeding is the only thing, formula feeding moms aren’t good enough…” This¬†has nothing¬†to do with¬†who succeeded or who didn’t. So, if you chose to breastfeed & you didn’t make it past 3 days or went on for 5 years, then hell yeah! If you chose not to breastfeed at¬†all, who cares?! No one here!

I will say this though, being committed to breastfeeding my baby through a time that was new & insecure for us, was a blessing (often in disguise). While I could’ve done without the worry, it gave me so much to look forward to on our new journey as mother & child. I couldn’t have done it without support & resources though… We went from exclusively pumping/bottle feeding to nursing, pumping & using donated milk in a bottle from other selfless mums. Our milky journey came to a bittersweet end a little after two years when my son self weaned. And yes, I am damn proud of that – as you should be too no matter how far you’ve come on your journey! We are all just doing the best we can.
You will regularly hear me say “what works for one might not work for all…” That is to be said about any tips & tricks you hear but that we all have different experiences to a share with one another. I am always open to hearing from other parents because believe or not, I don’t know it all and I’ll never learn more if I keep my mind closed. Most importantly, take em’ with a grain of salt people! Use what works & ditch what doesn’t. Fair enough?

So, given our trials & tribulations, I thought I’d share a few things that helped us:

  • Water, Water & More Water – I can’t say this enough. If you think you’re drinking enough water, you’re probably not. So, drink more. Having¬†a large water bottle or one that is “pretty & appealing” helped me because my attention was drawn to it & reminded me to pick it up.
  • A Conscious Diet – It is common sense that you should be eating healthy right? So, I by no means¬†suggest¬†that you¬†do any mainstream version of “dieting” however, I simply would encourage you to be conscious & aware of your diet. If you already have great eating habits, tweaking them slightly or adding something new may help you. For me I just put more emphasize on being aware of eating balanced meals & eating frequently. I didn’t limit myself because it was more important to me that I ensure both baby & I had enough nutrients than it was to get my pre-baby “figure” back. I am genetically iron deficient so, adding Spinach & other iron-rich foods to most of my food seemed to help me. I also added steel-cut oats, flaxseed¬†& brewer’s yeast¬†to many of my foods, either in my smoothies, muffins, breads or other recipes.
  • Mother’s Milk Tea – There are a few different brands out there that support milk production but I used this one from Traditional Medicinals ¬†solely because I already liked some of their other teas & the “licorice” taste of this one was kind of like a treat for me. Plus, drinking tea helped me stay hydrated.
  • Power Pumping – This was a game changer for me since I depended on pumping alone for such a long time. What¬†I didn’t know at first, was that a pump will NEVER be an accurate reflection on the amount of milk your body is producing because it isn’t the natural flow but because I had no other choice, I had to find a way to make pumping WORK. I wish I could remember who recommended I do this because they totally deserve the credit. It went a little something like this; for about an hour at a time, I alternated pumping for 15 minutes on & 15 minutes off.¬†Combined with taking some natural supplements, I¬†saw a significant increase in my pumping output¬†after doing this¬†consistently for a couple weeks. Afterwards, I didn’t need to do this as often & relied on this technique only when having to be away from my baby for extended periods of time.
  • Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle – Both natural supplements are a galactagogue which can help some mothers¬†increase their milk supply. But seriously consider why you think you may need a supplement first¬†& if you choose to use one don’t rely on the supplement alone. These combined with other techniques may be a great temporary aid.
  • Shower Feeding – When I was a single mom, taking a shower alone or doing anything alone was scarcely an option. So, I made the best of it. My baby showered & bathed with me regularly. This came to be a great routine for us that allowed us to be the most relaxed & comfortable & ended up being the place where my son found his way back to the breast around 4 months old. That was a small miracle for us & ultimately became our favorite place to nurse.
  • Heat & Massage – I sew very simple heating packs out of scrap fabric & rice but you could even fill a long tube sock with rice & tie off the end. I heat these up in the microwave for about 2 minutes (give or take – use caution) & they make the perfect pad to lay across the top of your breasts while feeding or pumping. I also gave myself duct massages along the tender areas that flow milk to your nipple. Your partner may like to help with this one too if your comfortable ūüėČ
  • Paced Bottle Feeding – When I returned back to work after a brief maternity leave, I always felt like I was never able to pump as much as he was drinking from a bottle while I was away from him. Along with finding the right slow-flow bottles,¬†I found that sharing the technique of ‘paced bottle feeding’ with our family & caregiver, helped cut back on over feeding & my false insecurity that I wasn’t producing enough when I actually was.
  • A Security Blanket – I struggled with milk insecurity from the very beginning for too many reasons. I was so focused on being successful that I worried about being unsuccessful before it was even an issue. I wish someone had told me to just trust my body, relax & let it do what it’s meant to do. So, ultimately my worrying hurt my supply. One of my many blessings was our babysitter – while she no longer cares for my son daily, she is still one of the most selfless & caring women I know. A natural at being a mother – she offered to help in any way that she could which started with her trying to pump for us. Given that her body was only used to nursing at the breast & had never responded well to a pump, she offered to be a wet nurse for my son. Initially my son’s dad was a little taken back by the idea of another woman nursing our child but it proved to be a huge relief, not having to worry if my son would have enough milk while I was away. With me worrying less, we ended up only needing her help temporarily. Later down the road, I struggled with supply because my son began to transition between my home & his dad’s – this brought about not only an emotional transition as I had a lot on my plate but a feeding one as well. After going through different periods of using many of the methods mentioned above, I realized my biggest enemy was STRESS again. I wanted to stop worrying about NOT making milk so I could just focus on making milk. Through a local mom group, I was able to connect with other moms who I could trust to donate their over-supply of milk for us to supplement with. Having extra milk in the freezer was a HUGE weight off my shoulders & allowed me to find peace in knowing that my son would always be fed & that I had the support of these selfless, beautiful, women, which got us through a period of about 4 months. Lastly, I¬† occasionally used an organic homemade formula when I felt it was absolutely necessary – a recipe that was passed along to me by a friend & even surprisingly confirmed by our family physician to be a reliable choice.

 

However your milky journey looks; exclusively breast fed, exclusively bottle fed, supplementing, using milk donation, relying on formula Рnone of the details matter, we are all doing the best we can to provide our children with what is best & that looks different for every family. If you find any of these tips to be helpful to you or a friend, please consider sharing this post. If you have some ideas of your own, please feel free to share in a comment below!

Please note my tips are based solely on my own personal experience as a mother. I have no medical background & this post is not intended in any way to provide professional advice.

 

With love,

Vivianna

8 thoughts on “The Milky Way | Tips for the breastfeeding & pumping mum

  1. I love your neutral position on breastfeeding. I’m all for it, but was so miserable trying to feed my daughter — who was LOSING weight due to my lack of ability to get her any nutrition from my defunct boobs — that I gave up after a few weeks. I love that you’re not only encouraging breast feeding, but giving great tips on how to do it successfully.

    • No mama & baby or family is exactly the same. We all feel differently about how things should be done & we all react differently to various challenges. I try really hard to not come across as “this is the only way to do something” when blogging about or encouraging someone to try something that worked for us… Thank you for seeing that!

  2. Great tips! As I write this, my little one is nursing away. I always admire moms who exclusively pump. I hate pumping so much, since it takes two-three sessions to get a bottle! Then, since my daughter won’t take a bottle I wonder why bother (but that’s a story for another day).

    • Oh yes, pumping is hard work. I admire those moms too because I honestly don’t know how much longer we would have lasted exclusively pumping… It’s exhausting! I feel you on the bottle struggle too. We tried many kinds!

  3. Breastfeeding can be a crazy journey, huh?! I thought I had it all figured out after the first go, but the more kids I had and the longer I breastfed, the fewer answers I felt like I had! It’s such a hugely personal thing and I love how you write from a place of true compassion, understanding and acceptance. That’s what we women need. This list is also fantastic, practically speaking!! Wonderful post mama!!

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