Monday, February 10, 2014

Tricks of the Trade: Mama's Milk

We've almost made it. It's been a struggle, but we've almost made it twelve months of breastfeeding.

This is a big deal to me. With Katie we lasted six months. Maggie, not much more than that. Lainie and Natalie, I'm thinking it was maybe 9?

So what's the difference? Why were we able to nurse the full twelve-months as recommended by every pediatrician you'll meet? I have better tricks in my tool box this time around.

1. I have a better attitude. I didn't feel like as much of a failure when we had to start supplementing with formula. I didn't feel like it was an all-or-nothing situation. This time around, I realized that the babycould still benefit from the breastmilk while getting the quantity he needed with the formula.

2. I have better nutrition. When my supply started dwindling, the first thing I did was start eating and drinking more. (It would have been better if I would have rested more too, but that didn't happen.) I ate at least 300 calories more daily. I made sure those calories had calcium, protein and fat. As someone who struggles to take in 1200 calories in an average 24 hours, that was a big deal. And I saw the difference in not only the quantity but also the quality (fat content) of the milk.

I have to thank one of Jay's friends for this one. She's the one who mentioned not being able to eat a milkshake while breastfeeding because it would make her produce extra milk and feel so engorged. That's not a bad thing for someone who struggles with making enough.

3. I have better tools. I started the fenugreek and blessed thistle supplements as soon as I started back to work. I bought Mother's Milk tea, which really had an immediate boost on my milk supply.

4. I had better support. There were days, when I wasn't scheduled to work, that my number one priority was nursing John or pumping every two hours. And not only would Jay manage other stuff for me while I did that, but K, M, L, & N were great at being my go-fers while I sat and fed our little guy. While at work, I initially was pumping five times a shift, or about every two hours. It's since slowly dwindled to twice a shift, but that was more my doing and not a reflection on my employer. My co-workers have never once complained (that I've heard) about watching my patients while I go pump. And our hospital has multiple places we can go for privacy while pumping.

5. I had better hours. For my first five months back to work, I would pump while at work, and pretty much sleep-or-feed during my sleeping days. Still now, when I have a weekend shift, John plays downstairs with his siblings until he gets fussy or hungry or tired. Then, they bring him up to me, wake him up, I feed him, then someone comes up and gets him and he goes back downstairs to play. Yes, I feel like an open dairy bar on those days, but it's working.

I commend those who can breastfeed exclusively for twelve months or more. Hell, I'm even a bit jealous of that ability. But I'm very thankful for the tricks that have allowed me to nurse our little guy for this long.

Hopefully, I will get to pass on these tricks of the trade to other moms who are just starting out.

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