Milk Bath Photoshoot

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Hi Friends!

If you’ve been around awhile you know I’ve been majorly slacking in the blog department so I have lots of old content that I am finally getting around to posting. Hopefully you find these posts will be worth the wait! πŸ˜‰ This post in particular is super meaningful to me as it captures and celebrates my breastfeeding journey with Sophia. Whether you’re a mom or not I think you can appreciate the beauty of these photos because Brooke killed it as usual, BUT I think only fellow mothers can understand why I felt the NEED to celebrate it. First off you guys, I’ll let you in on a little secret….

breastfeeding

is

hard.

I’m talking sacrificial love on a completely different level, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, hard.

When you’re pregnant and getting ready for your baby to be born you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to breastfeed and you’ll no doubt receive tons of opinions on the matter as you have with every aspect of pregnancy and hate to break it to you but you will with parenting as well. So you’ll head into the hospital with words like natural/bonding/special/intimate/best and maybe even the dreaded word EASY floating around in your head when thinking about breastfeeding, never knowing or being prepared for words like isolating/excruciating/lip tie/tongue tie/bleeding nipples/thrush/engorged/over supply/under supply/latch problems and nipple shield, just to name a few, as other characteristics of breastfeeding. Your breastfeeding 101 class will not prepare you for what lays ahead.

If you’re lucky enough to have quality lactation support in the hospital then your journey could be off to a good start BUT if like many you have no idea what to ask for help on and your baby won’t latch and you’re exhausted and feel like you literally got hit by a bus Regina George style and then run over by a train chances are you have no idea what you’re doing. So you are forced to or willingly take the bottles of formula offered to you by the nurses because you’ve also heard fed is best so you’ll just figure out this whole breast is best mess when you get home. Sound familiar? Or maybe your baby was in the NICU and given a feeding tube so your journey, like mine, started out with pumping right away, no skin to skin or feeding clearance for the first almost 24hours or more and someone else feeding your baby your pumped milk and then formula to supplement from the get go. (Someday I’ll blog her birth story but for now I’m going to focus on the feeding details) And even if your baby latched right away in the hospital you’re still in for a hard journey ahead. Because you my friend just signed up to be a 24/7 full service milk truck. There are no off days or vacations, your clientele doesn’t care that you haven’t slept, showered, or eaten in who knows how long. They want milk and they want it now.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful thing that we alone can sustain our babies. Their tiny little bodies curled into ours is so so sweet. But it’s also sometimes all you do all day and all night. It means sore and bleeding nipples from constant sucking. It means going into the other room alone with a distracted baby to feed them in silence. It means waking up every night to feed your baby again and again no matter how tired you are. If you work outside the home it means pumping and storing and stressing about milk supply. It means pumping while you drive and on your “breaks” from work. It means carrying milk on planes and trains and in cooler bags for later. It also means something as small as changing your wardrobe to allow for easy access any time and any place. Which if you ask me isn’t small at all but don’t want to sound TOO selfish. πŸ˜‰ Here’s looking at you dress section of my closet. Breastfeeding is a HUGE SACRIFICE, and something I felt like I signed up for as a mom just didn’t know allll the ins and outs of what it entailed.

When I was released from the hospital we rented the hospital grade pump like they suggested and I became a slave to the pump every 3 hours for the next several months.Β This was not the plan, not even close to what I thought feeding my baby would be like.Β I was only going to use the pump in cause I wanted to build up a freezer stash for dates nights and errands. I wasn’t “supposed” to be hooked up to that dang pump all day everyday and then have to bottle feed. I wasn’t “supposed” to have to bring my pump on play dates and girls nights and everywhere on the planet to pump. But that’s what I did everyday for 4 months.

No one ever suggested a nipple shield in the beginning maybe because “its not as affective” or because “nipple confusion” but if they had I could have easily gotten Sophia to latch with it. DON’T BE ASHAMED TO USE A NIPPLE SHIELD, THEY ARE A LIFE SAVER (more on that later). Instead I tried to get a starving baby to latch to my inverted nipples (another set of words you’d never heard of before) while she screamed her brains off before just giving up and going with the bottles. I fell into an exclusively pumping routine and would often pump and feed Sophia a bottle at the same time. Because I had a major oversupply from the beginning I was able to quickly build up a freezer stash and then begin to fill up a deep freezer in the garage. My poor body was producing enough milk for twins so I was freezing half of my milk output every single day, it was crazy. I was constantly engorged for months because a pump doesn’t empty your breasts like a baby does.

{Side note: It’s 2018 can someone invent some quality and affordable pumps already?!}

Also why does no one tell you how bad it hurts when your milk comes in?! Holy ouchhhhh!

The bottle and pump washing part had to be the worst part of it (aside from the engorgement). I would seriously lay in bed at night and think to myself I can not wash another bottle, I just can’t do it. But then morning would come and we would start our routine all over. I wanted Sophia to have breastmilk for the first year of her life so if pumping and bottle feeding was the way to make it happen then hook me up and let’s go. I had an app to track my freezer stash with a count down to when I could stop pumping and have enough milk left to get her to her first birthday. I was making the most of a hard situation. There are benefits to this method, the number one being that someone else can feed your baby or put them to sleep. It was a huge perk to be able to give Josh a bottle to put Sophia to bed so I could pump and then be done for the night. Or to get some things done around the house while another family member fed her. But after a couple months it was getting so draining and I wanted to figure out a way to get her to occasionally nurse. I bought a couple nipple shields to tried out and she actually latched! I couldn’t believe it! I would still have to pump the other side after she would nurse since my body was used to producing so much milk but having the ability for her to nurse when we were out was so awesome.

I didn’t think I would ever get to the point where she was exclusively nursing but little by little I was able to cut back on the amount of pumping sessions I was doing and we were doing great with the nipple shield. She was so used to a bottle so essentially turning my nipples into bottles was exactly what we needed for her to figure it out. Using a shield has its draw backs because if you have a fast let down or an over supply you can quickly fill up the shield and soak your bra and/or shirt every.freaking.feed ::eye roll:: but it was so worth it to be able to just breastfeed her. By 4.5 months she was no longer getting any bottles!!! I was able to nurse her for EVERY FEED!! Such an accomplishment I can’t even explain it! Unless you’ve been there it’s hard to understand but it was so exciting! By about 6 months I was able to stop pumping all together and my supply had settled to exactly what she needed.

I can’t tell you how freeing it was to give up the pump and just enjoy my time feeding Sophia. I honestly feel like I was robbed of so much bonding time in the beginning and am sad about how long it took to get our breastfeeding journey of the ground. BUT because of my pumping and my over supply I’ve been able to donate milk to feed 10 other babies!! Yes, 10!! That makes all the hours and hours of pumping so so worth it! Knowing my hard work was not in vain and that all those frustrated tears were for the good of others is honestly the best feeling. I get emotional just thinking about how far we’ve come and how much we’ve accomplished. We were able to loose the nipple shield right before 6 months as well and have been going strong ever since! I am so proud and can honestly say I NEVER thought we would make it this far. A year was my stretch goal for her just getting breast milk in general and Sophia will be 15 months this weekend and I don’t see an end in sight to her breastfeeding. I plan to let her decide when she wants to be done and would love to make it until she’s 2 but we’ll see.

If anyone out there is thinking about giving up, YOU CAN DO IT!

Your body was made for this.

You’ll figure it out.

You’re not alone.

It’s ok to ask for help.

And it’s ok to say you hate breastfeeding, cause girl, I get it.

But…..

the hard work, pain, sacrifice, sleepless nights and times of isolation are worth it. We made it through formula supplements, 4 months of pumping, a nipple shield, engorgement, mastitis, eliminating dairy and gluten and countless clogged ducts; not to mention toughing up my nipples to just nursing, ouch. I’ve pumped in airports, airplanes, cars, bar bathrooms, and hotel rooms. I’ve pumped at wedding receptions and on vacations away from Sophia to maintain our breastfeeding relationship and I can say the hours and hours of uninterrupted time Sophia and I have had together is priceless. It’s not easy, don’t let anyone tell you it is. My body is not my own and hasn’t been for 2 years. But even though it’s hard I know these days are fleeting and day by day she is more of a little girl and less a baby. Everyday is a sacrifice and sometimes I want to tell her “no, sorry the taps run dry!” but I want her to have the best I can give her for as long as she wants it and right now that means we still nurse on demand and the milk keeps flowing.

Plus, who could say no to that face anyways?! πŸ˜‰

Brooke, thank you for capturing these photos so I can cherish them forever! I love the bond I have with my sweet girl and highly recommend a milk bath photo shoot or breastfeeding shoot to celebrate reaching your goals. Be proud of yourself and also give yourself some grace. Find a breastfeeding support group either in person or online because someone is always up to chat with at night. You go this, mother’s are hands down the strongest people I know!

Photos: Green Eyes Imaging

|Dress|Necklace|Earrings|Bracelet, Bracelet|

 

Thanks for stopping by and nurse on mamas!

 

“The most precious jewels you’ll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children”

author unknown

xoxo,

Madelyn

 

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