Breastfeeding Belligerence

When you’re breastfeeding, you’re rife with hormones. Just overflowing. Your body is not your own, your personal space is not your own, your schedule is not your own, your wardrobe choices are not entirely your own, your bed may not even be your own. Heaven knows your toilet stall is not your own! This and so many scenarios can make a breastfeeding mom a tad… cantankerous.

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You know you are doing the best thing you can for your child. You may be struggling and pumping and supplementing and rubbing tinctures and sipping lactation teas and stirring voodoo milk-making magic, all to feed your child. You may have blebs and bleeding nipples; you may talk to your lactation consultant more than your own mother. You may suffer vasospasms but cry through it because you know it’s worth it. You may be overrun with milk and suffer clogs and mastitis. You may face unsupportive counterparts who dismiss your breastfeeding endeavor. You may be happily in the middle with just the right supply, perfect latch, and cheering support system. You may desperately want to nurse, but through no choice of your own, are forced to wean, supplement, or exclusively pump. No matter your nursing situation, you get crabby. You do. And that’s ok.

When a non-breastfeeding adult is sick, he or she gets extra rest, long showers, and can request extra personal space due to skin aches. When a breastfeeding mom gets sick, she gets none of this. Instead, her nursling may suckle for longer and more often due to supply dips. Of course this is partially priceless because: hellooooo antibodies! You are, in that sickly moment, your child’s best medicine and tailor-made defense against whatever bug plagues you. You are also exhausted, possibly nauseated, and every touch feels like a pummeling, so nourishing a human with your own ill body is a task only a fellow breastfeeder could truly understand. It is a true act of love and self-sacrifice. You shoot death-glares at your non-lactating spouse because… well, because.

It’s hot and humid and all you want is air-conditioning and a cool drink, but guess what your nursling wants? Boob. He wants to press his sweaty, chubby body up against your sweltering self and nurse. You cringe, anticipating the discomfort, but still pull your babe close, offer your breast, and feel the co-mingling sweat pool on your under-boob. You once were hot but now you are a furnace drenched in sweat that is not entirely your own. Visions of sixth grade bacteria slideshows dance in your heat-exhausted head. Still, you know your breastmilk is not just nourishing your little one but it provides better hydration than any sports drink. You are a saturated powerhouse! You’re still irritated though.

It’s quiet and genteel . You are in a conservative setting and your breastfeeding toddler — who will not wean — wants milkies NOW. There’s no time to run to the car or duck into some secluded corner. Your have two choices: nurse your toddler right there in public or face the milk-craving wrath of a boob-addicted tot. Either way you’re facing ridicule. So, might as well feed your child. You grab a seat and breastfeed, bolstering yourself with all of the courage-boosting mantras you can muster. If you are unflappable, if you are confident, haters will be silenced. You are a breastfeeding badass, a lactation warrior. You are standing up to ridiculous social mores for the benefit of your child. It still sucks and inner you feels vulnerable and wishes this wasn’t happening, but screw it! It is what it is. This is motherhood. Milk on milky mama! It’s ok to feel on edge.

You’re at work and need to pump. Someone — who has no children or is unfamiliar with breastfeeding body requirements — requests that you skip your pumping session to meet his or her business needs. If you push this session you know that, 1) you won’t have another pumping opportunity that day or at least not for hours, 2) you will leak and will be painfully engorged which could not just lead to milk duct clogs but mastitis, 3) you may not produce enough milk today to feed your child at daycare the next day, 4) you set a dangerous precedent that your medically necessary pumping sessions are negotiable. Explain that you have a legally-protected medical need to pump but, after you pump to feed your child, you would be happy to meet with him or her. You cringe having your colleague think about your breasts, shudder worrying about career fall-out, and loathe having to stand up for yourself, but you embolden yourself knowing no one would ask a diabetic to delay his or her insulin shot for a meeting, and your medical need should be equally honored. You’re anxious and frustrated, knowing full well that men don’t face such dilemmas.

You want to have adult time. You want to go away with friends, have freedom, feel momentarily human. But you’re breastfeeding. If your little one accepts a bottle, you can navigate this with careful planning. You can pack your pump, a cover, and a cooler. You can enjoy the fun then dip out to pump and rejoin the festivities. It’s not ideal or entirely relaxing, but it’s feasible. If your little one does not accept a bottle and/or your body doesn’t respond to the pump, you either delay such activities until the babe has been weaned, or bring your nursling with you. One option is depressing and one is exhausting. You know breastfeeding is more than worth this temporary inconvenience. You know this is but a blink of a moment in the journey of your life. You know you won’t breastfeed forever and may even miss it one day. But you’re still miffed.

You go shopping and find a few clothing options that wonderfully work with your postpartum physique. But there’s no boob access. You can either buy the items and hold onto them until after you wean — but will they fit you then? And you really wanted the morale boost of a new cute outfit. — or you keep looking. Either option is frustrating. It’s so minute in the grande scheme, and you know it, but it still irks you. It’s a little gut punch to your postpartum paunch.

You want to sleep in after a rough night’s sleep, but your little one just wants to nurse. And nurse and nurse and nurse. You just want to flop down on your stomach and sleep-drool on your pillow. Then you see your spouse, snoring away. Blissfully sleeping with nipples unencumbered. You fill with irrational frustration that seeps out of you in unglamorous, unflattering aggravation throughout the day. You know you’re in the wrong for being grumpy. You know your spouse cannot nurse your child for you. But you just wanted to sleep! It’s not fair. You’re feeling envious and burdened.

All of this is ok. It’s ok to love breastfeeding but hate it sometimes. It’s ok to love your spouse but envy his/her nipple freedom sometimes. It’s ok to feel burdened or frustrated or touched-out. It’s ok to feel like breastfeeding is the longest brief life phase. It’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It doesn’t lessen your efforts.

Sure, you should try to harness your emotions and not lash out at others. Of course hormones aren’t a blanket excuse to act however you please. Yes, you shouldn’t be edgy towards non-breastfeeders because they don’t face your same trials; you know full well that they battle their own struggles.

Still, we’re human. Sometimes we falter. Sometimes our burdens overwhelm us and sully our good intentions. That’s natural. That’s normal. Breastfeeding is still worth it. You can do this. You’re still a good mom. Even if you are grumpy.

 

 

 

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What to Expect: Mastitis

Mastitis. The word sends shivers down breastfeeding mothers’ spines. The boogeyman of lactating mothers’ dreams. I recently had a throw-down with the beast and am sharing my experience so that others may know what to expect should they find themselves fighting the same battle.

What is mastitis? Essentially, a breast infection. As many moms know from sufferer’s stories, the malady causes pain, often fever, chills, malaise, and a red blotch on the breast. See more a more detailed description here.

Some women are placed on bed rest for healing. Considering I have three young children and don’t have a personality that mingles well with bed rest, I was pleased to simply be told to “take it easy.” Though, after experiencing the level of fatigue brought on by mastitis, I certainly understand the call for bed rest. That exhaustion is unlike anything I have experienced.

How did my healing process look? Well, this is my timeline.

Sunday 4pm: feel suden fatigue, but I’m a mom of 3 so fatigue happens.

Sunday 5pm: skin and body aches with increased fatigue, along with a 100F temperature (I took Advil.)

Sunday 9pm: feels like I have a 102F fever but I’m 98.6F (pronounced body aches, tiny bones in hands and feet hurt, chills, skin sensitivity, fatigue) Advil allows me to sleep.

Monday 6am: feels like I got hit by a truck: fatigue, brain fog, increased body aches, clogged milk duct is notably uncomfortable, 97.9F temperature. Advil lowers the pain to a flu-like level.

Monday 8pm: still at 97.9F, fatigue is pronounced, chills are notable, milk duct clog is painful but so is everything else.

Monday 9pm: body aches and fatigue are so elevated that walking is slowed and encumbered, chills have increased, anxiety is raised, burning nerve pain across the shoulders and base of the neck. I’m crying due to the pain. This is truly awful. Advil allows me to sleep.

Tuesday 6am: Red blotch appears over the milk duct clog site, brain fog is irksome, fatigue is notable as are the body aches and breast pain despite Advil.

Tuesday 3pm: I see my physician who asks me about my symptoms and conducts a breast exam. I receive an unwavering mastitis diagnosis. A 10-day round of a breastfeeding-safe antibiotic (Dicloxacillin) is prescribed along with  the recommendation to increase my current probiotics to avoid thrush

Tuesday 9:30pm: chills, body aches, painful breast; first dose of antibiotic… major heartburn

Wednesday 3:30am: second dose of antibiotic… At 4am reflux is so bad it is not just bubbling up the back of my throat but coming out of my nose. With that, I’m officially up for the day.

Wednesday 6am: “fatigue” does not do justice to the level of lethargy. I also have body aches, breast pain, and brain fog, but still no fever.

Wednesday 9:30am: third dose of antibiotics… by 10am I start to feel less achey but still fatigued. By 12:30 the energy increase is clear, but the discomfort remains. By 3:30 I just have a sore breast and feel like I had a bad night’s sleep.

Wednesday 9:30pm: mild chills return, breast is sore, fatigue is pronounced… 5th dose of antibiotics. No reflux.

Thursday 3:30am: sore breast but no chills… 6th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 6am: Tired with a sore breast and mild brain fog, but returning to normalcy.

Thursday 9:30am: Sluggish with a tender breast, insatiable hunger… 7th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 3:30pm: Sluggish with lowered patience and a tender breast, but relatively normal… 8th dose of antibiotic

Thursday 9:30pm: no chills or body pain, simply a clogged duct feeling and fatigue… 9th dose of antibiotic.

Friday 3:30am: no breast pain, constipated…10th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30am: fatigued with tired muscles but feeling otherwise normal, insatiable hunger, constipated… 11th dose of antibiotic

Friday 3:30pm: beyond fatigued, constipated, sore breast where the clog is… 12th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30pm: exhausted, constipated… 13th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30am: constpated, slight heartburn… 14th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30am: constipated, edgy, lethargic, full-body fatigue… 15th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30pm: constipated, edgy, lethargic (better after having taken a nap) … 16th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30pm: constipated, edgy, fatigued… 17th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 3:30am: constipated, edgy… 18th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 9:30am: feeling a bit less peppy than usual but otherwise normal, still slightly constipated… 19th dose of antibiotics

Sunday 3:30pm: feeling slightly constipated but normal

Normalcy with slight constipation has continued since. I rejoiced upon taking my final dose of antibiotics 10 days after beginning the regiment. Once my gut flora repopulate, I presume the regularity will return fully.

Despite it all, I’m still breastfeeding and pumping for donation. No clear end in sight for us!

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding Uncovered

Today I am proud of myself. Today I breastfed in public entirely uncovered. No blanket, no baby carrier, no scarf, nothing. And you no what? No one flinched!

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We were seaside and it was a land-breeze day. Biting flies and swampy heat sent us wading into the sea for relief. My one-year-old wanted to nurse. So, I breastfed him there facing the waves.

At first I was nervous that someone would say something snarky. I considered possible kind-but-clear responses. None felt right. Then, I looked around. Everyone was so busy with their own vacation experiences that they didn’t even notice me. If anyone did, they certainly didn’t say anything.

So I continued. It was liberating not feeling the need to hide, to make myself physically uncomfortable for the supposed comfort of someone else. I simply fed my hungry child away from the pesky biting insects and enjoyed the cool waves at my feet.

Three kids it has taken me to get here. With my first, I’d pump and bottle feed in public — even at the beach — leaving me uncomfortably engorged. With my second I’d hide in a hot beach tent with a cover (that was truly miserable.) With my third, I’ve generally tossed on a light cover or utilized the coverage of a baby carrier to nurse in public. Be a faster learner than I. Do what makes YOU comfortable. Few if any care or notice, and if they do that’s on them.

My “Mighty” Milk Mom

Breastmilk donation has brought some amazing people into my life. Dedicated, loving moms and families from various backgrounds, faiths, and lineages. Their stories have varied, their struggles differed, but their determination to nourish their children with breastmilk has remained a communal tie.

One of my remarkable recipients was recently featured on “The Mighty.” This woman is one of the funniest, most positive, most headstrong and determined people I know. I began donating to her just days before she woke up paralyzed one morning. I remember her recounting her story of sudden onset paralysis as I pumped that day at work.

My milk recipient prior to the sudden paralysis

My milk recipient prior to the sudden paralysis

Can you imagine waking up one day, hearing your infant crying in the other room — just like any other day — and then you realize your legs won’t move? Did she melt into a sobbing puddle on the bed? Nope. Did she lose her cool and not know what to do? Nope. That woman dragged herself down the hall, collected her son, and just did it. She conducted her whole day as best she could like a bad ass because she is strong, she is tough, she is hopeful, she is Mighty.

My milk recipient after the sudden paralysis

My milk recipient after the sudden paralysis

Please watch this brief video to get a glimpse of just how impressive this woman is. If it doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse.

How fortunate I feel that our paths crossed.  Milk donation is a gift that goes both ways. This woman is a force, a light, a warrior. May we all be a bit more like her.

Hand-saving Breast Pump Part Washing Hack

You just milked yourself for 15-40 minutes. You’ve bagged and stored the extracted breastmilk. You need a break from anything pump-related for a while, but no. Now you need to wash your pump parts. Gah!

What if I told you you didn’t have to individually soap and scrub each and every piece of pump equipment? Yes, there’s a faster way to get clean pump parts! Better yet, it saves your hands from those hot, soapy, manicure-killing suds.

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First, get a big, sturdy plastic strainer and a big plastic bowl in which the strainer can easily sit. When you’re done pumping, put the strainer inside of the bowl and place the duo in your kitchen sink. Then, fill the bowl-strainer combo with scalding hot soapy water (be careful with the hot water please… no spilling or allowing children near the liquid), toss in the used pump parts, and allow them to soak (30 minutes is generally plenty of time.)

Once the parts have finished soaking, lift the strainer out of the water and either rinse off any remaining suds with hot water (simply spray the bubble-covered parts with water from the tap as they sit in the strainer) or fill the bowl with clean hot water, and resubmerge the strainer to allow the pump parts to rinse. Once the pump parts are rinsed, remove the strainer containing the freshly cleaned pump parts from the sink and place the pump parts on a drying rack to air dry.

As you move the parts to the drying rack see if any require a little love from the bottle brush. If so, put a dot of dish soap in the big bowl, add water, submerge the needy pump part, give it a quick once-over with the scrub brush, rinse the cleansed part under the tap, and pop it on the drying rack. Done!

My Breastmilk Donation Journey

For one year, I have pumped three times daily for donation. That’s roughly 730 hours of pumping, predominantly to feed others’ offspring.

In the sleepless early months when supply was unregulated and ever-flowing, pumping three times daily was pure relief. My growing baby couldn’t possibly gorge himself enough to alleviate my oversupply. I also needed to deplete my reserves to manage my heavy letdown. If left unattended, engorgment would lead to clogs which would easily give rise to mastitis. (The dreaded “M” word… no one wants mastitis!) My heavy letdown caused my baby to choke and sputter, cry at the breast, and become gassy. So, I pumped.

I had entered into this third nursing relationship knowing I wanted to donate my surplus. I had discovered milk donation six months after having my second child. I had an overflowing freezer stash and needed to do something with the excess pumped milk. So I began researching and came across peer-to-peer milk-sharing.

I read through request posts on my state’s Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets Facebook pages. I discussed the possible venture with my husband. Then, I responded to a milk request.

At first, I had a recipient from a distant corner of my state who would occassionally retrieve milk. Then, I discovered I had a dairy allergy, and began donating every-other week to a local mom who required dairy-free donor milk. Once her daughter was weaned, I regularly shipped my milk to another recipient who lived in a bordering state four hours away. On occassion, I’d help a friend or acquaintance by giving 40-100oz. I also regularly donated milk while on vacation. Sharing breastmilk became akin to lending a cup of sugar to a neighbor; I had extra, she had none, so why not share?

This pattern continued until I was 19 months postpartum and very early pregnant with my third. Pregnancy has, thus far, been the only thing that dries my supply. As sad as I was to step away from donation, I knew wanted to rejoin the journey as soon as I could. So I did.

One week postpartum from my third child, I began pumping again. I wanted to start donating immediately, but I knew I needed to build a back-up milk stash, just in case. Three months and well over a thousand ounces later, I perused Human Milk for Human Babies’ page again. I posted an offer, received many responses, but one tugged at my heart so clearly I knew I’d found my milk baby. And so began my renewed journey of donating breastmilk.

Every few weeks my husband drops everything to help me ship breastmilk to my recipient. It is a lot of work but it’s a calling. On occassion, a friend traveling near my recipient will kindly agree to transport milk for me. Alleviating the stress, cost, and risk of shipping milk is always welcome.

Over the course of my donation journey, my surplus milk has fed 20 babies. To have the opportunity to help nourish so many children is a gift for which I’m immensely grateful.

As exhausting as it can be, I love being a breastmilk donor. Over 39 gallons of donated milk and one year later, I have yet to see a distinct endpoint to my path. As with everything in milk-sharing, it will be as it’s intended.

 

 

Mom-friendly Swimwear Search

Swimsuit season is upon us! If you’re like me, breastfeeding has increased your bust size beyond reason. It’s like puberty all over again, navigating how to dress this new body type. And swimsuit shopping when you have multiple motherhood-related variables to factor into your swimwear quest… it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

I searched various websites and stores for bra-sized swimwear that fit my measurements, allowed for nursing access, and existed in that non-matronly yet not uncomfortably revealing middle ground. That’s when I remembered Bare Necessities. I love Bare Necessities for undergarments and now I’ve found success with swimwear too.

For my newly large cup yet small band size, the brand Pour Moi offered attractive, supportive, comfortable, and wearable swim separates that allowed for nursing access. I particularly liked this brand because the underwire is widely curved so it doesn’t put unwanted pressure on my milk ducts. There are also non-halter options, which I like since — though I adore the look of them — halters hurt my neck and make me cranky.

Some of my similarly proportioned friends enjoy Panache swimwear too. I found the underwire too narrowly curved for my nursing needs, but not everyone is as clog-prone as I am. Both brands are available on Bare Necessities’ website.

Amazon is also an option, with free returns and faster shipping (unlike Bare Necessities.) The selection of bra size swim separates was more limited though. If you’re within a more standard sizing range, Amazon may be your best bet.

In previous years, when I existed in a standard bra size, I easily found great suits at Macys. I was able to try them on and buy them right there in the store. Now, though, that is no longer a feasible option because shopping with three kids is stressful — and bathing suit shopping doesn’t need any additional negativity tacked on to it — and my size would be pretty darn hard to find in a department store.

Good luck, mamas! I wish you the best in your swimwear search. Throw on that suit, silence your mind, and enjoy your summer. You deserve it!

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Photo Tutorial: Using and Nursing in the Ergo 360

I nurse in my Ergo 360 multiple times daily. People often ask how I do it. So, I’ve created a photo walk-through of how I put on and nurse in the carrier.

HOW I PUT ON MY ERGO 360

1. Pick up the carrier and fasten the hook-and-loop portion of the hip belt tightly around your hips, allowing the front panel to hang upside down in front of your legs while you do this.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2. Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt.

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

Fasten the clip portion of the hip belt

3. If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether.

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

If needed, tighten the hip belt by pulling the tether

4. Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps.

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

Lift the front panel of the carrier and place your arms through the shoulder straps

5. Fasten the shoulder blade clasp. (I recommend having this adjusted to your preferred tightness and positioned at a reachable clasping height by a companion the first time you wear the carrier and then NEVER loosen or move the strap. It’s challenging to adjust on your own.)

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

Fasten the shoulder blade clasp

6. Pick up your baby, with him/her facing you.

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

Pick up your baby with him/her facing you

7. Place the baby in the carrier, shimmying him/her down into the carrier pouch.

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

Place your baby in the pouch, shimmying him / her down into the carrier pouch

8. Check that the baby’s legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Check that the baby's legs are properly positioned in the leg holes.

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

9. Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

Hold baby up in the carrier so that you could easily crane your neck down to kiss the top of his/her head. Tighten the shoulder straps individually to maintain this positioning.

10. Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

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Release your hold on the baby and further tighten the shoulder straps if needed.

HOW I NURSE IN MY ERGO 360 

1) Loosen the shoulder straps

Loosen the shoulder straps

Fasten the hip belt around your hips, allowing the front panel to flop down in front of your legs

2) OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover.

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OPTIONAL: Put on your preferred nursing cover

3) Shift baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

Shift the baby and the carrier pouch to the side on which you intend to nurse.

4) Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

Unclip your nursing tank/cami and latch on the baby.

5) Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Tighten the shoulder straps until everything feels secure.

Hands-free incognito nursing… ta-da!

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Nursing Tank Must-Haves

I wear a nursing tank daily. Wear it under a cardigan, blazer, kimono, slouchy top, flowy blouse, tunic, or hoodie. Layer on a scarf or chunky necklace. Tuck it into a maxi or skater skirt. Wear it with jeans or yoga pants. All the while, have easy clip-down nursing access and bra-like support.

My favorite two nursing tanks are:

Bravado Dream Nursing Tank which comes in bra-specific sizes from 34B/C to 40F/G.

Bravado Essential Nursing Tank which comes in bra-specific sizes from 34B/C to 44F/G.

A variety of color options can be found on Amazon. Get one (or more) in every color in your size. I know I did!