at an outdoor concert.
"What growth I've experienced from four years ago...
My older daughter, Ava, was born three weeks early by c-section after finding out just before my water broke that she had flipped to a transverse breech position. Without knowing any other options, we went ahead with the c-section after planning for an unmedicated, vaginal birth.
Breastfeeding was difficult and she took weeks to return to birth weight. We were sent to a lactation consultant for weighed feedings and advice on latch. Her latch continued to be painful for many weeks, but we persevered.
I remember speaking with a coworker who assured me it took until almost three months for her to find her groove with nursing - this was great to hear after thinking we were doing something wrong.
I returned to work when Ava was 10 weeks old and had two times a day to pump. Thankfully, I worked with a great teaching partner who allowed me to sneak in an extra pumping session, or I fear our journey would have ended much sooner. At Ava's 6 month checkup, we were told she had not gained any weight since her four month visit.
My heart sank; I felt like I had been starving my sweet baby.
The pediatrician recommended we switch to formula and continue nursing morning and night if we chose. I left feeling like such a failure. Once we made the switch to formula, there was a weight lifted. Weaning was very easy for both of us which seemed to solidify the fact that I wasn't producing much.
Fast-forward three years...
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I planned and prepared for a VBAC. We secured a doula who would also do placenta encapsulation and made sure the midwives were on board with this plan. I read all the birth stories I could on Birth Without Fear, as well as Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I had visits to the chiropractor and acupuncturist lined up to ensure our daughter would be head down for delivery.
Around 20 weeks, I was diagnosed with Pubic Symphysis Disorder which made walking and running very painful at times. I was able to see physical therapists two times a week to help keep my hips and pubic bones aligned. I spoke with them about keeping my pelvis in position, as well. I went into labor with Zoey in the evening as I was getting ready for bed. She was born only four hours after my water broke in an amazingly fast, powerful vaginal birth.
She immediately latched after birth and nursed like a champ. My second birth was so different than my first.
However, this did not mean that our nursing relationship was without issues. Zoey struggled with low bilirubin levels and we were sent home with a bili blanket. She was also slow to regain weight and took almost a month to return to birth weight, but thankfully our pediatrician recognized we had the same struggles with Ava. We were sent for a weighed feeding at the lactation consultant again, but this time, we were sent off feeling confident she was getting enough milk. The main difference between nursing Zoey and Ava was my mindset.
With Zoey, I made sure to surround myself with others on the same mission. I was invited by a friend to join the local La Leche League group, which was also accompanied by a Facebook group. I also joined several other breastfeeding groups, one of which I became especially active in. These groups were a great sounding board for any complications that arose as well as to share celebrations. The groups were filled with women from all different backgrounds - some working like me, some stay-at-home mothers, some with legitimate low-supply and some with oversupply.
I returned to work when Zoey was ten weeks old. I had planned with my teaching partner (a different one by this time who thankfully is one of my best friends) that I would pump during morning recess, lunch, and again in the afternoon during specials. This meant my teaching partner would need to cover all recess duties which is normally a shared responsibility. Thankfully, she was willing to help in any way she could.
As time went on, I started feeling guilty about my needs and work pressures pushed me into dropping a pumping session.
By this point, we had already encountered some issues with our daycare provider claiming we weren't sending enough milk (they sent home references from the state with recommended ounces - thankfully, I had the support of the Facebook groups to point out that this referenced formula which is completely different than breastmilk.) As we continued, Zoey moved to an in-home provider who stood by our decision to breastfeed and helped by pacing feedings and making sure that milk was never thrown away.
By spring break, I was struggling to pump enough and had depleted my very small freezer supply trying to keep up with Zoey's needs. I was nursing morning and nights (overnight several times, too!) I planned to feed on demand over my spring break in hopes to boost my supply for the last two months of school. Unfortunately, this was not enough as my pumping output did not increase. Even with a middle-of-the-night pumping session, I could not keep up. Thankfully, I reached out for support and was met with offers of donor milk.
I received small donations at first from two close friends. This was such a relief since I was constantly counting ounces and worrying. Then, one day I was talking with a coworker about her huge oversupply and I joked with her that she could send some of that my way. She happily offered milk and ended up donating hundreds of ounces over the next two months. Her donation helped me make it to summer break without worrying about every ounce.
Summer break was such a great nursing experience. I exclusively nursed and was able to ditch the pump. No more counting ounces or worrying!
Zoey also loved food which meant nursing was mostly before and after naps and bedtime. As Zoey's first birthday neared, as well as my return to work, I was determined to ditch the pump and only continue nursing morning and night. However, we had actually built my supply back up enough that I was uncomfortable at work without pumping. I added one pumping session in per day at work during the busiest time of my school year - those first weeks of school with Kindergartners are tough! I have recently cut this pumping session out, but thankfully my coworker offered another large donation to ensure Zoey is able to receive breastmilk during the day for another few weeks! Thankfully, Zoey loves all food as well as cow's milk so when the time comes to stop offering breastmilk during the day, I know she will be okay.
We are almost to 13 months of breastmilk and I couldn't be prouder of this accomplishment. I'm so grateful for all the differences since Ava was born. I have grown so much as a person in those four years.
With Ava I would worry about people seeing me nurse which was very isolating. With Zoey, I nursed anywhere and everywhere, covered and uncovered. I think the shift towards public breastfeeding awareness and laws has helped me grow in this regard. I also became more comfortable with my postpartum body as well as public nursing through exposure via the Facebook groups, Fourth Trimester Body Project, Birth Without Fear, and even here on Azure's webpage. I hope this shift towards public breastfeeding normalcy continues so some day our children can nurse in public without thinking twice. Keep on keeping on, mamas." - Amanda