Sitting at the doctor’s the other day, I was reminded of sitting on that same sofa about 7 months ago, feeding Reagan for the first time out of the comfort of my own home (hospital feeds not counted here). That reminder stirred a lot of emotion and I began to think. We spend a lot of time and attention to our babys’ milestones. Sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you even obsess over said milestones. Their first smile, first giggle, first full night’s sleep, first fart … you name it, we’re there with the milestone card and the camera ready to go. But what about our own milestones? We hit quite a few as mothers too. Since this week marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m going to look specifically at some breastfeeding milestones I feel need a little recognition.
While I know breastfeeding milestones already exist; bronze boobs, silver boobs, glitter boobs, what about the other milestones that deserve celebration? Here we go …
My milk came in
Yay!! This can take a few days for some people which is difficult because you also have added pressure of ‘having’ to give your baby formula as you wait for your liquid gold. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not the end of the world if you do give your baby formula but if it’s not what you wanted to do, it’s upsetting. So when your milk does actually come in you want to do a little happy dance. Unfortunately, if you’ve had a c-section, you’ll have to wait a while before you can physically do said dance. I can’t speak for natural birth mamas and doing a victory dance so soon after pushing out a tiny human but I imagine it’s not super easy either.
Eeek, the nerve wrecking latch. You’ve read the books, you’ve watched the videos, you’ve gone to the classes. Now you need to latch that baby. That same baby that also has to learn how to latch. You’re a bag of nerves. Ok, here we go … hold your boob like a sandwich and in it goes … nope!! Right, this one … baby’s head back and in … nope. That’s ok, you read that if you open your mouth really wide and show the baby, he/ she will imitate you and there you go … latched … and, nope. Out comes the videos you’ve saved on your phone. You’re getting frustrated now. You ring the bell and ask the midwives for help. You ring that bell many more times too for reassurance. Soon the midwives come into your ward and try their best not to make eye contact with you in case you call them over AGAIN. In my case, the midwives were amazing and helped me through the latch but I’m sure they did their own celebratory dance the day I went home. I also had a fantastic friend come to visit me and help me out. This friend shall remain nameless but she has often been referred to as ‘The Boob Whisperer’.
I made it through day two
Oh, day two. You weren’t told about this. Is there something wrong with your baby? Why is he/ she crying so much. Why won’t they settle? Ouch, your boobs! Your nipples! Your milk is definitely in now but its gone hard. Why are your boobs so hard? And sore? Your baby wants to feed again? But why? Is your milk not good enough? Are you even sure you have milk? Surely a baby this small doesn’t need that much milk? Is this even real? Are you just having a nightmare? Who are you? Did you have this baby? And who in the hell owns these gazoongas? You start to question your very existence. That is day number two. It is insane. It is intense. Be warned! In fact, I was warned earlier that day by one of the nurses but I thought she was exaggerating. She was a little old school and I guess I judged her. She told me to fill Reagan up as much as I could before I planned on going to sleep that night because if I didn’t, I’d be up all night going from boob to boob to boob with her (yeah, I have three boobs. It’s totally normal.). She said something about cluster feeding. “Yeah, ok lady”, I thought. Guess what? Reagan did cluster feed and I was up all night. Silly me. Although, I’m not sure ‘filling her up’ would have even worked. The next morning, in complete desperation, I text Berto and told him to bring a pacifier to the hospital. She didn’t take it and still doesn’t.
My nipples are healing
Huge milestone. Need I say any more? All the ointments, cups, oils, and days of walking around your house topless and finally! they are healing. Time to start enjoying this breastfeeding thing … right? … RIGHT?!?!?
Nursing in Public. The nerves! How do you even do this without exposing your nipple? You already struggle with latching at home. How in the hell are you gonna do it in public? The time comes and you search for a ‘private’ place to feed your baby. All you’re really worried about is latching them. Once you have that done you can carry on as you were.
I was at our doctor’s for my first NIP. Off I went and latched her in the bathroom. In the panic to get to the bathroom, I forgot to lock the door. Just as I had latched her on, the door swung open and a middle aged man began to walk in, obviously not knowing were were in there. Once he noticed, he quickly turned, apologising and hurried back up the hallway. That’s when I knew I couldn’t hide away in the bathroom for this feed. I needed to go to the packed waiting room and continue to feed her there. Once I sat down and stopped shaking with nerves, I took a couple of “Brelfies” and sent them onto my breastfeeding group chat (three people including yourself is a group, right?).
Ditched the Nipple Shields
The saviors. Seriously, these bad boys! The got me out of a huge hole. My nipples were in bits. My Public Health Nurse cringed for me and called me the day after she had seen them to check up on me. She said she had been thinking about me since being at my house. That is how bad they were. I was skipping feeds for Reagan and terrified of when she would wake for another feed. Nipple shields to the rescue. I used them for almost 8 weeks and tried a couple of times to take them off and feed without them. The fear consumed me. I researched how to wean myself and Reagan off them. I asked support groups on Facebook and watched YouTube videos. I asked friends who had breastfed. Everything I watched, read and was told made it seem super easy. But I was scared. I didn’t want the pain to return. I was afraid that it would completely turn me off breastfeeding. I had already come so far, I didn’t want to have to stop now.
I was in the living room about to feed Reagan one night, nipple shields on the arm of the couch waiting to go on. I looked at them and thought, ‘nope, not tonight!’ I didn’t use them that night. Nor did I use them the next day, or the next. I did however keep them beside me for feeds for a couple of days…just in case.
Nipple Thrush. My arch enemy. Three times it came back to haunt me and Reagan. The first time was the longest and roughest stint. We tried so many methods to get rid of it. We even got our hands on Gentian Violet which was taken off the shelves years ago in Ireland. Reagan was going around with big purple lips and under my bra, my boobs were also a nice shade of purple. Actually, my bra was also pretty in purple but not purposefully. That stuff is messy. Also, I would not recommend it. Reagan’s breathing got super weird, like she was skipping breaths after using it. I immediately stopped when I noticed and went to the next solution, and the next. Finally, we found our remedy; Grapefruit Seed Extract.
I really can’t (and touch wood) talk much about this as I haven’t come face to face with it yet, fortunately. However, I have friends who had it and by the sounds of it, it is rough! Shivers, fever, sore boobs and all while continuing to feed because that’s the best thing to do for it. Hmmm, no thank you. Pass the biggest Mastitis milestone card we have to those ladies puh-leeeese.
The Formula is gone
And I don’t mean we emptied the can. I mean we tossed it out. I had a back up can of formula in our kitchen, just in case. After breastfeeding didn’t work out on Leticia for several reasons, I needed to have a plan B on Reagan too. We used it one very tough night and that was it. I wanted to use it other times too but breastfeeding has really shown me the full extent of my stubborn nature. I think we finally dumped it when Reagan was a little over a month old.
I booby sprayed
The joys of an overactive letdown and something I still find hilarious, although it’s not as much a novelty anymore. I didn’t spray for quite a while actually so I used to be a little envious of my friend who was like a water gun (sorry, that isn’t how I really pictured you, I promise). I still won’t forget the first time it happened. I screamed for Berto to come into the sitting room but it was over almost before it began. I was laughing so hard and weirdly excited that it had finally happened. I waited and waited for the next time so that I could get a picture. Again, it happened too quickly but Reagan’s face was covered in milk which was equally as funny. Now I’m the water gun with my nosy baby who insists on pulling off just as my letdown is coming and I’m left there spraying as she laughs at me. And they say babies aren’t smart. I beg to differ.
My Ultimate NIP
OK, you’ve nursed in public so many times you can’t even count now. But the time will come that you’re going to nurse somewhere, or at a time, you least expected. For me this was on the streets of Dublin on a super sunny day. Sun’s out, huns out so there were LOTS of people. There I was walking along the streets, Reagan in the sling attached to my boob. Obviously, there are some much better places that other people have fed their babies but for me, this was pretty awesome.
I got bitten
Teething … always fun, right? WRONG!! Teething is horrible on both the parents and the baby, no matter what. Now put nipples into the equation. I think the thing that intimidated me most about breastfeeding was teeth. I just feared having my nipple bitten off.
Well, fast forward almost 6 and a half months to Reagan getting her first two teeth. They came together on the same day. For three days solid, she chomped down. And for three days solid, I cried. It was almost the end. Then after those three days, no more biting. Well, until yesterday that is … and this morning. I was wondering why she was suddenly biting me a little again only to figure out later today that one of her top teeth have cut through. So, ummm, yay?
I am just coming up to 8 months into my breastfeeding journey so I know there are way more milestones for us to hit yet. I’m hoping that they aren’t too connected to teething but I am super excited to hit (and possibly write about) the upcoming milestones too.
Feel free to share the moments you feel you should have gotten a big fat “booby milestone card” for in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them.
And to all that have breastfed (even if only for a day. That shit counts.), are currently breastfeeding, or who plan on doing so …