Spilling the Milk: Reflections on Our Breastfeeding Experiences (Part 2)
[Note: Welcome to the second installment of Spilling the Milk, Orchid's 3-part series on breastfeeding. We honor and acknowledge everyone’s journey and know that each experience is so different (as is evident with our own stories!) Through these stories, it is our intent to not only share our individual journeys, but also to continue the conversation in highlighting the inherent diversity in others' experiences with breastfeeding.]
Alright, I’m going to start with a little TMI. I was showering late pregnancy, examining my very different body, and contemplating the arrival of my daughter when it hit me - my breasts were about to become my baby’s food source. In all honesty, it made me uncomfortable. At this time I was a birth doula and breastfeeding was a normal, natural part of my job. I helped new moms with their first latches. We celebrated the start of that beautiful relationship. But it was suddenly about to be my body and my baby, and I felt squeamish. It totally took me by surprise. I put it aside because my decision had been made. I was going to breastfeed. End of story.
My daughter finally arrived after a very challenging labor that ended in an emergency c-section and several drugs I was mentally and physically unprepared for. My rhythm was thrown off. The natural birth I had planned for went out the window. The stress and medications slowed my colostrum. My daughter spiked a fever and was away from me. They started her on formula. Through my haze I kept insisting she return to me to work on breastfeeding. She had a tongue-tie that was addressed immediately. We seemed to find our breastfeeding rhythm as I was being discharged from the hospital.
Once home, the latch I thought we had established seemed to deteriorate. My whole body would clench in anticipation of her latch which was counterproductive to my milk supply. My little nightstand supported a collection of creams and pain relievers and nipple shields. And because my supply was so low I had to continue supplementing with formula while pumping to increase my milk. I had also developed postpartum anxiety. I was frequently on the verge of defeat.
But something had shifted. The thoughts about the foreignness of breastfeeding my baby were gone. So although I cried through an intense pumping schedule I told myself it was likely temporary. I accepted the part that the formula played while I worked on my supply. I wore her as much as I could and we co-slept with the thought that proximity would help stimulate my body. A friend delivered delicious dark and creamy beer and my husband found funny shows for us to watch while I pumped or breastfed. I was fortunate to have resources for different body work to support and relax me in my healing process. I was very lucky to have the support of friends, my mom, and in-laws so I could talk out my anxieties, rest, and focus on my daughter. In the end, we didn’t fully have our rhythm until she was well over a month. And then we continued until she was three. And that’s a whole other thing…
My eyes were opened to the critical postpartum period. I was surprised that no one seemed to talk about how intense it was aside from “things will never be the same”, or, “you’ll be tired all the time”. I trained to be a postpartum doula and I always meet the family before the baby is due to talk about expectations, establishing good self-care practices, and connecting to resources, like a good lactation consultant and support groups. I am grateful for and have a deep appreciation for my breastfeeding journey and postpartum challenges.
Our third installment is just around the corner! Stay tuned as we join Rebecca for Part 3 in our breastfeeding series, Spilling the Milk, appearing next week!