my breastfeeding journey

when I became pregnant and started talking to other mamas for advice and mental preparation (ha!), the #1 "warning" or "heads up" I got was this: breastfeeding is hard and doesn't come "naturally", although it's "natural." I heard stories of tongue ties, latch issues, milk supply troubles, and crippling pain.

THUS, before I even gave birth, I already had a lactation counselor lined up (we had been Facebook messaging, and I even considered seeing her before the baby arrived but ultimately decided not to.) I went to a 3-hour breastfeeding course with other pregnant mamas and I swear I must've watched 12 hours of YouTube videos on "the perfect latch." needless to say, I wanted to be prepared, and I wasn't taking anything for granted or expecting my experience to be easy. I rather be over-prepared than under-prepared, ya know?

also, I was prepared in my hospital bag with formula. my whole mentality was this: fed is best. so, if breastfeeding didn't work out, I was ready to feed the baby with formula. while I preferred to be able to breastfeed, all that mattered (and still matters) to me was making sure my baby was healthy and getting what he needed to thrive.

my breastfeeding experience and journey

in the hospital, right after they put Luca on my chest, he started breastfeeding. I was so excited that he latched on! but still, I wasn't getting my hopes up! in the next 24 hours in the hospital, he didn't eat much (although they don't in the beginning), and I wasn't latching him on right, because it was painful and I could see my nipples starting to redden. the lactation consultant in the hospital was NOT helpful and she was only there for 5 minutes with me and seemed rushed. she kinda shoved Luca onto my nipple and said, "see, it's easy!" well, it was not.

the next few days I was home with Luca, I was feeding him and he was gaining weight, thanks to the weigh-ins at the pediatrician follow up appointments in the very beginning. however, it began to become EXTREMELY painful. I was texting the lactation counselor, Aliza Sternberg of Latch On To Me (she's based in NJ) and the first thing she said was, "you're doing great, you're feeding your baby!" which was really comforting and then she said, "but, it shouldn't hurt - at all!" yikes, then I knew something was up. 

I came home from the hospital on a Tuesday evening and by Thursday, my milk was full-blown in. I mean, I was seriously, painfully engorged - it felt like someone had injected me with breast implants overnight (they were ROCK hard). it hurt to shower, because by Thursday (after 4 days of breastfeeding), my nipples were torn apart - chapped, scabbed, and with milk blisters. at one point, I thought, "I don't think I can do this for much longer."

working with a lactation counselor

needless to say, I couldn't wait for my Friday appointment that same week with Aliza. she came over and immediately helped. she did breast compressions to relieve my engorgement and corrected my latch, showing me exactly what his lips should look like around the nipple, and positioning him correctly. as someone with large breasts, getting a proper latch can be difficult, due to the heaviness of my breasts (my boobs are bigger than Luca's head - still!) she was so comforting and spent a little over 2 hours at my apartment. I remember at one point, she got Luca to do a good latch and it was pain-free and I couldn't even believe it - I didn't realize that it COULD be pain-free! when she left, I felt so relieved and excited to start breastfeeding again, with what I learned.

Luca has a posterior tongue tie (according to the pediatrician), which makes it a little harder for him to stay latched on, because it restricts his tongue. my pediatrician advised against getting a tongue tie correction (she said it wasn't that bad and the baby was gaining weight and feeding just fine) and Aliza just advised me to give it some time and make the call after a couple of weeks. 

well, I'm glad I waited and gave it time, because eventually, after about a week, my blisters went away, my nipple soreness was completely gone, and breastfeeding actually, truly felt "natural." Luca was latching better and chunking up quickly! 

Aliza came back for a follow up appointment, because I wanted her to just check and make sure everything looked right to her, now that I knew what I was doing. she showed me a few more techniques (and breastfeeding positions) and tweaks to make it even easier - and it did! she kept telling me, "this is new for you - and him!" which was reassuring - it shouldn't be easy off the bat, neither of us know what we're doing! 

breastfeeding now and in the future

now, breastfeeding is hands down the favorite part of motherhood for me. the time we have together when I'm feeding him is the most special to me. it's just him and me, and I'm so grateful that breastfeeding has worked out for me and I'm glad I prepared myself beforehand and afterwards (with Aliza). I love that my body can nourish my baby, it seems like such a miracle to me, and I know many women (and friends of mine) have issues with breastfeeding, so I'm so thankful and will always appreciate our feeding times together. he looks up at me and makes the cutest little noises - and now, he's drinking a lot more, and it's crazy to actually hear him glugging down the milk!  

I haven't had any issues with milk supply (knock on wood), just a slight oversupply in the beginning. I'm exclusively breastfeeding and haven't given Luca a bottle yet. there hasn't been a reason to yet, but there will be in the future - I have my sister's wedding, for example, and her bachelorette, so I'll need someone else to feed Luca. I'm probably going to experiment with bottles in the next week or so, to make sure he doesn't reject them (which I've heard is a common thing.) 

sometimes, Luca will only drink from one breast (like in the middle of the night) and I'll pump the other breast. I freeze my milk (this milk storage system for the freezer with these Lansinoh milk storage bags are the best!) 

how long do I want to breastfeed for? well, I definitely want him to feed from the breast for 6 months and I want him to drink breastmilk for at least 1 year. that's my goal, but I'm open to whatever comes my way and whatever my body and Luca dictate.

my current struggle with breastfeeding 

being comfortable in public! since Luca is still so young, he's not as strong of a latcher as he will be in, hopefully, a couple of months. my breasts are large and it's hard to just stick him on the boob, it takes a little more maneuvering. 

I've breastfed in public places before, but it's definitely difficult. the last time Aliza came over (just this week!) she helped me with tips on how to find the right position for easy nursing without the use of pillows. at home, I have the luxury of pillows and comfy couches and chairs - but at a restaurant, it's not that way! 

ALSO, Luca spits up! he's a 'happy spitter' (a baby who spits up a lot but doesn't seem fussy from it.) it can be unpredictable - sometimes he doesn't spit up at all (hallelujah!) and sometimes he spits up what seems like 3 ounces of milk! it makes breastfeeding in public a little tricky, because I don't want him spitting up all over the place. however, I've been told spit up levels off eventually, as their digestive system matures.

my favorite nursing products

while I've only been nursing for nearly 10 weeks, these are the products that I've found are super helpful and make the experience that much easier:

earth mama nipple butter: in the first couple of weeks, to help with the chapped-ness.

my breast friend pillow: I used this pillow at first, when Luca was little. it's nice and supportive around your back (it clips on) and the baby doesn't roll off, because it's flat and firm. it also has a little pocket that I'd put a water bottle in or a burp cloth for easy access. however, Luca outgrew this after 6 weeks.

boppy breastfeeding pillow with this cute cover: this is great for traveling because it's smaller than the My Brest Friend pillow and I like using it to just hang out with Luca, do tummy time, and I use it when I do the football hold. it's also the pillow I use now that Luca is bigger and outgrew the my breast friend pillow I used at first.

aden & anais burp cloths: for the serious burp situations, these are great because they have cut outs for your neck and go over your shoulder and are large.

burt's bees burp cloths: very soft burp cloths that we use in addition to the aden and anais ones.

balboa baby nursing cover: this is my favorite, because it has wire that goes around your neck and kind of props the cover open like a tent. since I'm still trying to perfect his latch, I need to see him, so it's great for that. it also comes in a lot of pretty colors! 

electric breast pump: I LOVE this breast bump. can't say enough good things about it. and it's sleek and cute! 

manual breast pump: this is the one I use, although I 9/10 bump from the electric breast bump. I like the manual one for travel (I keep it in my diaper bag.)

lansinoh milk storage bags: these are the bags I use to store milk when I do pump.

milk storage system: I LOVE this - it sits in our freezer and every time I pump, I save the milk in this milk storage system. it's sleek and easy to access for when I do need the milk.

lansinoh gel nipple pads: these were LIFESAVING in the beginning. they feel amazing on the nipple - they're cooling, so they provide so much relief. 

lansinoh nipple pads: these are dry nipple pads that help with the embarrassing leaking that happens! I use these religiously, because I do leak and it can be really awkward - and ruins the wardrobe! 

bottle sterilizer: I love this bottle sterilizer - I use it to clean the pump parts and one day, will use it to clean bottles, of course! 

pumping bra: I'm loving this one - it comes with an insert to expand for larger chests! it's super supportive while pumping, but I only wear it while pumping!

nursing bras: I did a whole post on them, here

nursing clothes: definitely get some comfortable nursing clothes! my go-to at home is this tank top by Boob. if you'd like to see a whole post on this, let me know in the comments! 

meet aliza: q&a with my lactation counselor

I asked you all to submit your breastfeeding questions for my lactation counselor, and she's kindly answered them all for you! here's a bit more information about her (I couldn't recommend her anymore!) and her answers.

more about aliza steinberg

Aliza is a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) since 2010 and has breastfeed her 3 children for over 18+ months each. She received her certification through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice. She is also a member of GOLD Lactation, ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association), and New Jersey Breastfeeding Coalition. Through her private practice, Aliza works with families to help them achieve their breastfeeding goals. She also does some work with a pediatrician’s office in Jersey City, with a Breastfeeding Medicine Doctor who does tongue-tie and lip-tie revisions and teaches prenatal breastfeeding classes in groups, private and via online video. She also speaks fluent Spanish if needed. To learn more about Aliza and why she fell in love with helping others achieve their breastfeeding goals you can visit her website at www.latchontome.com (email: aliza@latchontome.com)

Disclaimer: Without Aliza seeing someone in person, she can not advise exactly what is happening. These answers are her advice based on experience, but every person and baby is different, so you should always see a professional in person to get the proper help you need.

How can you get supply back up after being sick. My supply tanked from being amazing to now very little and it's making me anxious and worried. My little one is 8 months.

Yes it is possible to get your supply up however it would be important to know what you are doing now to help increase your supply, your medical history and why you think your supply is low. I would urge you to see a professional LC that can help you navigate and figure out ways to help you figure out if in fact your supply has lessened and to also help minimize your stress level. Stressing over your supply could also cause you to have less supply.  

Should it hurt?

Breastfeeding absolutely should not hurt. If you are in any pain your baby is not latching correctly or there is something going on. Seek help early with an LC to evaluate what is happening to help you elevate any pain to be able to successfully nurse. 

My baby was born small and was in the NICU for a little while. I was told to pump and bottle feed. She's one month old now and bottle feeding well. Iv'e tried to put her to the breast a couple of times but neither her nor I seem to know what we are doing and we both get frustrated and give up quickly. Any tips on how to add some breastfeeding in?

There are definitely ways to get baby back to breast. By seeing a professional LC they will be able to evaluate what is going on and give you ways to bring baby to breast. It may take some time, patience and persistence but it is definitely possible.

I am breastfeeding and my baby keeps spitting up a lot. I am wondering if it's normal or should I be concerned?

It is hard to say if it is normal or not. How much spit up? Many times spit up looks a lot more then it is because it is mixed with saliva. But if you are very concerned I would definitely talk to your pediatrician and an LC who can get a full understanding of what is happening. 

What is the best way to increase your supply? My daughter is exclusively BF and she will be 1 in two weeks. My supply is quickly diminishing, but I need to continue pumping and giving her my milk. She's got a diary/soy intolerance so I can't switch her to milk just yet. I'm going to try soon, but not before she is 1. I already eat lots of oatmeal, drink water, add brewer's yeast to dishes when I can, etc.

What makes you think your supply is diminishing. At 1, babies will have different eating habits. How old is baby exactly? You could add in some pump sessions. How often are you nursing? Are you stressed? Did you start birth control? There are various galactagogue's out there you could take but it would be very important to seek professional help to figure out what to do. Some could actually cause your supply to go down. There are too many questions to ask in terms of your concerns therefore, I think seeking help would be ideal.

Once your baby starts sleeping longer periods at night and you're on an every 2-hour BF schedule right now, what do you do during the night? Should I pump or just stay sleeping?

If your baby has passed birth weight, is gaining well and has longer stretches of sleep it is ok to let them sleep. However, please understand your body makes milk when your breasts are empty so if you don’t pump, or take out the milk your brain will think you don’t need to make more. Emptying your breasts by either nursing, pumping hand expressing is the best way for your body to make more milk. Once you start to skip feeding's and don’t empty that is a form of weaning and your body will start to make less.

My son is 9 months and exclusively BFing. He only nurses for about 3-4 minutes and then he's done. I try to get him to nurse longer but he wants no part of it. Is this ok? I should also mention that he's eating solids now (and devours that) and is gaining weight butt he short nursing sessions concern me, since I was told this should be his main source of nutrition until he's one.

That would be concerning to me to warrant seeing a professional LC. I would need to know more about what is happening and a full history to understand why he is doing this. Is he an efficient eater? Distracted? Do you feel empty when he is done? Teething? Was it always like this?

My 3 week old is nursing and gaining like a champ. Nursing is her main source of comfort and really the only thing that works to get her to sleep, soothe her, etc. however, lately, she is spitting up so much - she's still having plenty of wets and poops throughout the day so thinks he is just purely overeating. She's a happy spitter, but wonder if I should start ot try new soothing techniques to prevent the amount of spit up each day or still let her nurse pretty much all day on demand.

Have you talked to your pediatrician about this? Have you gotten any in person LC support? I would really need to understand more about what is happening to be able to give you better advise but it could be an allergy, tongue restriction, bad latch positioning and he is taking in gas. How much spit up? All the time or sometimes? Please seek help in your area to be able to figure out what is happening.

This question is about D-Mer. Do you have any tips? Will this happen when we have another child?

Please seek professional help if you think you have D-Mer.  With help you can overcome it. This could happen with another child but getting help could give you the tools you need to hopefully achieve your breastfeeding goals.

How do you know that your baby is getting enough hindmilk and not enough foremilk? Should I be concerned about green poos if he is very content and happy?

If you are nursing 8-10x a day, switching sides and nursing for more then 10 min on each breast your baby should be getting what he needs. If you are concerned please seek professional help from an LC.

Do you have any tips on getting that lower jaw open wider?

It depends on what is going on. If your baby doesn’t have a wide latch it can also be because of a restricted tongue and lip, from tightness in their jaw, recessed chin... Getting a professional assessment from an LC can help guide you to seeing what is happening. They can refer you to providers that do body work, chiros, CST, etc.

Is breastfeeding hereditary and does breast size have anything to do with the ability to breastfeed?

It is not hereditary- if your mother or grandmother couldn’t breastfeed doesn’t mean you can’t. It depends on why they couldn’t breastfeed. Breast size does not matter in order to breastfeed successfully. There are caregivers that have all different size breasts and have successfully breastfeed. I urge you to get help early while pregnant is ideal in order to understand the in’s and out’s of breastfeeding-- so that you set yourself up for success.

My son had tongue tie that had to be repaired, then nursed better after. Do you often see siblings of tongue tie babies with tongue ties too? Wondering if we will have the same issue with a second baby.

Yes it is definitely possible to have this with another baby however it is not  an absolute given. Now that you know what to look for, you can take the right steps needed if your next baby is having issues. Keep in mind every pregnancy is different, every delivery is different and every nursing experience is different so if you are able to keep an open mind to the possibility of it being different then it could help elevate some of your stressors for baby #2.

I'd love information about waiting to start using and/or weaning from a nipple shield. What are best breast feeding positions for comfort after C-section and what should I do if my baby isn't latching because of a shorter nipple (I was recommended the nipple shield because of this.)

I really need to know more information before being able to properly answer your questions however using a nipple shield if needed is ok. If you do need to use one you can wean baby from it. It can take time and patience but it is possible. Baby’s can nurse with shorter or even “flat" nipples so working with an LC to figure out what is happening would be your best bet. The best position after having a c-section is really the position that works best for you and baby however, I will say that that football hold can be comfortable. If you are doing the biological norm to laid back position, the baby will most likely kick their legs (an automatic reflex) and it could kick your incision and you don’t want that to happen. Cradle and cross cradle are also good positions.

How do you know if you should change your diet?

Is your baby showing signs of being very uncomfortable after a feed? Spitting up a lot? Projectile vomiting? Blood in stool? Always feeling gassy?… However, many times these signs could be related to lip and tongue restrictions. Would have to be evaluated and talking to your ped and an LC would be very helpful.

I hope this was helpful for all of you mamas and mamas-to-be out there! And if you have any specific questions for ME, leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you! 

shop the post: