You may have heard that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. I’m going to partially reject that statement. Yes, our bodies were meant to nurse our children.
However, for many women (especially myself), breastfeeding is not an easy thing to do in the beginning. Prior to giving birth, I took a breastfeeding class and read tons of posts and articles about breastfeeding.
I thought I was completely prepared. And while I was equipped with some great information, there was so much I didn’t know. My breastfeeding journey had many highs and lows. We struggled with slow weight gain, a bad latch, cracked nipples, inconsistent milk production, and more.
Thankfully, I was still able to breastfeed my son for 12 months. There were many mistakes and corrections made in order to get us through the full 12 months. Hopefully after reading this post, you’ll avoid all of my mistakes and will have an easier time breastfeeding.
Here are the mistakes I made and how I corrected them in order to maintain my supply to breastfeed and pump all 12 months.
Mistake #1 – Not meeting the lactation consultant at the hospital
I tried to breastfeed immediately after delivering JC, but he wasn’t interested in latching at the time. Later, a hospital staff member came around and helped me to get JC to latch. I assumed the staff member was a lactation consultant. When she helped me to get him to latch, I assumed we passed some breastfeeding test and were guaranteed to breastfeed the full 12 months (or longer) without any issues or complications.
Boy was I wrong.
Turns out she was the baby’s designated nurse and completely missed that JC had a shallow latch.
I had no idea that JC had a shallow latch. The bad latch resulted in him losing more weight than recommended. Additionally, it made breastfeeding extremely painful for me and incredibly unsatisfying for my baby. My poor baby was hungry, and I didn’t even realize it because I had milk left in my boobs after nursing so I assumed that he was getting enough milk.
Please, please, please meet with the hospital’s lactation consultant while you’re at the hospital. I honestly have no idea why the hospital lactation consultant never came to visit us, and if your consultant doesn’t, demand to see her. Especially if this is your first time. I’ll be sure to have ours come to observe with the next baby.
Even though it will be my second time, I don’t know all there is to know about breastfeeding and I want a professional to help where needed. Your insurance pays for this, so make sure you get the assistance you deserve.
Mistake #2 – Not finding a lactation consultant before my due date
So, we went home, never meeting a lactation consultant. Then when the pediatrician warned me about JC’s weight loss, I immediately tried to reach the LC at the hospital. She never returned any of my calls or voicemails. So here I am, a new mom with a crying, hungry, unweight baby and no one to help.
My mom was out of town, sick with an ear infection in both ears, and an eye infection, so she couldn’t come help. Hubby and I really had no idea what we were doing or how to find a lactation consultant. I spent countless hours feeling helpless. This all could’ve been avoided, had we found a lactation consultant prior to having our baby.
We eventually found a non-profit organization that offered lactation consultant services and it was a complete GAME CHANGER. The consultant immediately identified that the position and latch were incorrect. If you’re in the Houston area, this is the organization I used to get help with breastfeeding. It’s a program under WIC, but you don’t have to be on WIC to be seen by a lactation consultant there. And it’s 100% free. Thanks to their help, support, and information, I was able to breastfeed my son for 12 months.
For more information on things to do before your baby’s due date, take a look at my third trimester checklist.
Mistake #3 – Letting JC fall asleep while nursing
This is a big one! JC was NOT an easy sleeper by any stretch of the imagination. He fought his sleep to no end. One night I was desperate and put JC to sleep by nursing him. Any pediatrician (including mine) will tell you this is a big no-no. Reason being is that it hurts your milk production because your child likely falls asleep before emptying each breast. It’s also a bad habit (and a hard one to break) for sleep training your child to fall asleep on his/her own.
In terms of helping your production, if your baby falls asleep on your boob, finish expressing your milk by using a pump once you put your baby down. This will help to build your stash and tell your body to continue to produce more milk.
Mistake #4 – Stressing about supplementing
If you’ve looked into the benefits of breastfeeding, you know that it is incredibly beneficial to your baby. You may also get the impression that formula is the devil. That’s the impression I got. So when JC wasn’t gaining weight as he should’ve been and my pediatrician suggested supplementing with formula, I was outraged. “How could a medical professional suggest something like that? Is he in it with Big Pharma or something,” I thought to myself. He sent us home with some samples and in the beginning, I refused to use them.
Our next appointment rolled around, and JC still was vastly underweight compared to the average American baby his age. Looking back, I have MAJOR REGRET in waiting so long to supplement, my poor baby was struggling to breastfeed and here I was depriving him or nutrients in hopes that I was enough.
Supplementing does not mean that you’re doing a bad job of producing for your baby.
It also doesn’t mean that your breastfeeding journey is over.
Supplementing is about filling in the gaps.
I will always say that breastfeeding is the best nutrients that you can provide for your baby, but if you’re struggling with it, don’t deprive your child of food. Breastfeed or pump as much as you can, and if your baby is still hungry, supplement with formula. We supplemented as needed with a bottle a day, on and off for a combined total of 3 months or so. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it did help JC to gain weight and took some stress off my shoulders.
Mistake #5 – Not pumping when I was engorged
When the pediatrician told me that JC was underweight, I couldn’t understand how that could be possible. I had plenty of milk just waiting for JC to express it out. Even when I was engorged with tons of milk, JC didn’t really get much of it. I didn’t know that when your breasts are full and firm, it makes it more difficult for your baby to latch on, especially a newborn.
And I was so intent on making sure that Joshua was fed, I was reluctant to pump, in case JC became hungry. So next time, I will make sure to pump after feeding the baby so that I don’t get engorged. And if baby isn’t hungry when my breasts are full, I will pump it out and save it for later.
Mistake #6 – Wrong flange size
When you receive your pump, it will come with the “standard size” flanges. Not all nipples are the same size. I had the wrong flange size which not only made pumping very uncomfortable but also resulted in me not expressing much milk during my pumping sessions. It wasn’t until we met with the lactation consultant for a second appointment that we realized the flanges didn’t fit me.
Mistake #7 – Skipping sessions
JC was nursing 2-3 hours around the clock. But every now and then, randomly he would skip a nursing session…and so would I. A few hours later my boobs were full and I was so pleased that JC was getting so much milk. Imagine my surprise when my supply started to take a dip. By skipping sessions, I wasn’t giving JC more milk, instead, I was telling my body that I didn’t need to produce as much milk. Eventually, my supply started to decrease.
As soon as I realized that skipping sessions was hurting my supply, I started pumping around the clock again. It was exhausting but helped me to be able to build a stash.
Mistake #8 – Not waiting for the second let down
Believe it or not, I had no idea that your breastmilk comes in TWO let downs. When you first get on the pump, your first let down comes and your boobs just start spraying out milk. The letdown was always exciting to me, but after the letdown, it was pretty dull and boring. My boobs would just drip, drip, drip. After a few minutes of dripping, I’d turn off my pump and go on my merry way.
I was MONTHS into pumping when my friend told me that you have TWO let downs. Before, I was just pumping until my first let down ended. Not realizing that I had more milk coming. It hurts to think about how much milk I missed out on. But at least now you know and won’t make that same mistake.
How to fix: Wait for the second let down!
Mistake #9 – Not power pumping
Power pumping is interval pumping for 1 hour.
Pump (20 minutes) > Break (10 minutes) > Pump (10 minutes) > Break (10 minutes) > Pump (10 minutes)
This honestly sounded like a punishment to me so I put off power pumping until 11 months in, when my stash was gone, and I was struggling to produce. Although it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my lunch hour, it did help me to be able to complete my last months of pumping. If you’re returning to work soon, check out the pump bag checklist I used to ensure a comfortable and productive pump session.
I’ve heard many testimonies from moms that power pumped much sooner during their pumping journey and they swear by it. I can say that it helped me to produce more, and I will definitely begin power pumping much sooner with baby #2.
Mistake #10 Getting caught up in the ounces
There were pump sessions that produced 6 ounces, and sessions where I only expressed 2 ounces. The inconsistency can be so hard and discouraging when you’re pump session isn’t giving you the ounces you were hoping for. And unfortunately, the more you stress, the less you produce.
You may experience a few days where you’re pumping 40 ounces, and others where you’re pumping 10 ounces. It’s okay, just keep going. The less you concern yourself with the ounces, the less you’ll stress and the better chance you have of producing more in upcoming sessions.
iii. Just keep pumping mama, as long as you’re trying, you’re doing the best you can. Towards the end of my breastfeeding journey, I was consistently pumping a total of 2 ounces of milk per session. It was much less than I wanted, but at the end of the day, I at least brought home a bottle, which was better than nothing.
Mistake #11 – Comparing my supply to others
When I got pregnant, I read articles that talked about how to build a 300 ounce stash in only seven days. While I don’t doubt the authors of such posts, this created a TRULY unrealistic expectation for myself. Some women just have an oversupply. I wish! I did not, most of the time (while I was on maternity leave) my body produced as much as JC needed +1 bottle.
So don’t get discouraged when you see other moms posting 3 Medela bottles full of milk from one pumping session. Everyone’s supply is different. I was much happier when I focused more on my baby’s health and happiness than I was when I worried about how much the next mom was producing.
Okay mama, there you have it! I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions about breastfeeding or pumping, feel free to comment below or send me an email.