In July 2017, Courtney Farley welcomed her first child, a baby girl, into the world under the care of Dr. Cecilia Stradtman at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. As it typically goes for first-time parents, the initial couple weeks of parenthood were an emotional roller-coaster for the Farleys; below, Courtney says at one point she felt “utterly lost”. Running low on sleep and fuel, the couple slowly began to navigate into their new normal, which included a difficult journey into the sometimes-not-so-wonderful world of breastfeeding.
Now, more than a year later, Courtney is a breastfeeding pro and here to help any struggling mamas out there who need some advice or a bit of encouragement.
Anyone who knows me well knows that breastfeeding was one of my biggest priorities after having my first daughter. Before having her, I had it in my mind that it would be wonderful and natural and (if I’m honest) easy.
Oh to be young and naïve.
Not to say it wasn’t all of those things eventually, but it certainly wasn’t at first.
Immediately following my daughter’s birth at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, a lactation consultant helped with my first latch and ensure all was well. Contrary to my preconceived notions, even though breastfeeding is the most natural, primal way to feed an infant, those little angels don’t always come out knowing how to do it. And I’ll also say that I’m pretty sure the knowledge of breastfeeding doesn’t fall under the umbrella of “motherly instincts” either.
I was utterly lost, and I had no idea why. I had read all of the materials, attended the classes, and talked to my mom, and still was not prepared for the journey that was to come. My daughter would not latch correctly in the hospital, despite the efforts of every lactation consultant. The moment they would get her latched correctly, she would undo all of that hard work by an immediate thrust of her tongue. They checked for tongue-ties, lip ties, anything to indicate why she wouldn’t latch correctly. There was no explanation. And dear heavens, it was painful! Because of this horrible latch, we ended up having to supplement with donor milk while I was trained to pump.
After leaving the hospital, it was so hard. From pumping constantly, using nipple shields any time I wanted to pump, to weaning from the nipple shield, navigating a dairy intolerance, starting back to work, all while being a brand new mom and just trying to survive each day. In the beginning, it was anything but wonderful and natural and easy. However, little by little, she got better, and so did I.
Now, I am so proud to say that I have been breastfeeding for 13 months and counting.
There were several things that helped us along our little journey, but I wanted to share some of my essential tips, tricks and products that helped make breastfeeding into the wonderful, natural and easy experience that it is today.
(I want to preface this list by saying that breastfeeding, like most things in motherhood, is completely unique to each person and each baby. No one journey will look the same. Hopefully these tips will be helpful to the majority of you!)
- Set Goals: For me, it was helpful to set small goals at first and increase them as I reached the smaller ones. My first goal was to get off of supplemented milk, then off of the nipple shield, then make it 6 weeks, then 6 months and ultimately one year. I had not planned to breastfeed past a year, and we have started to wean, but there are a couple of times a day that neither of us are ready to give up just yet, so until we are, we will continue to do what we have always done. Setting those small goals made the larger, seemingly daunting task, a lot more manageable. Also, it really helps to celebrate even the smallest little victories.
- Find a Tribe / Seek Support: This was honestly the most crucial step for long-term maintenance for me. While goal setting was the initial springboard for my motivation, some days were so long and so hard, that the only thing that helped me was to talk with some ladies that could say “me too!”. I found so much of the help and encouragement I needed in the early days by attending the breastfeeding support meetings held by the lactation consultants at Brookwood. Not only did I get one on one help and answers to questions by professionals, but I also got to be in the same room with other ladies struggling with the exact same things I was. Another vital support tool for me was the Facebook group, Mom’s Best for Breastfeeding. It is run by local ladies in Birmingham, many of the same ones who come to the support group meetings. Seriously, there is so much good information on there, and any question I had—really , any question— would be answered in a matter of minutes.
- Don’t Compare: This is quite possibly the most difficult thing on my list. As I previously stated, every breastfeeding experience is different! At the end of the day, even with your goals, and all of the amazing support, you have to trust yourself and trust your body. Do not compare your experience with someone else’s and think that you should be a certain way. Embrace what you have and do the best you can!
- Moisturize: Before, during, after, first thing in the morning, in the middle of the night. Whether you use lanolin, or coconut oil, or whatever the latest and greatest product is, make sure you are covered! One of the best tricks I learned for pumping was to apply a little coconut oil before pumping. It makes the whole process a lot smoother and a little more comfortable. (As comfortable as pumping can be, I guess.)
- Multitask: I am kind of embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that I could do other things while I was nursing/pumping. Once my daughter got nursing all figured out, I was able to do it just about anywhere, doing just about anything. (Even maybe a little shopping, with her in the carrier. Trust me, no one had any idea.) Also, the day I figured out that I could pump while putting on my make up in the morning, lets just say that was a good day. From that point on, I enjoyed a whole extra 20 glorious minutes of sleep.
- Organize: Whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or like me, doing a combination of the two, you just have a lot of stuff. Figuring out a way to organize it so that it makes each day a little easier is so important. Since I pretty much started out pumping, I had a pretty big oversupply, so my freezer filled up fast! A couple of things that helped out a ton with all of the frozen milk was that, one, I would lay the bags flat to freeze, so it saved as much space as possible, and two, I would go ahead and put them into gallon size freezer bags labeled with the month. This really helps in sorting them later to determine which ones to use, or in my case, donate, first.
MY FAVORITE PRODUCTS:
- Undercover Mama Nursing Tank: This tank, which I found on Amazon, was absolutely amazing. It does not have any straps, so no extra mess to unclip when trying to wrestle a starving, screaming baby. There are loops that attach to your nursing bra, and even clips that will attach to a regular bra, so you can wear it even after you are done nursing. It is extra long and helps hold everything in. I loved that I could wear this under any kind of top and be 100% covered if I needed to nurse in public.
- Car adapter for breast pump: Sometimes, you just gotta pump on the go. This was one of those things that I didn’t think I needed at first, but once I got it, it was such a game-changer. Suddenly, I didn’t have to panic if I woke up a little late and didn’t have time to pump at home. I would just throw all of my stuff in the car and pump on the way to drop my daughter off at daycare. Bonus: it is also super helpful on long car-rides.
- Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra: Another wonderful Amazon find. This completely transformed everything about my life as a pumping mom. It took my ability to multitask from zero to a million. I love this bra because it truly is one size fits all. The back has two Velcro sides that attach to a pretty long panel, so you can adjust it to fit you at all stages of post-partum life. Also, it is strapless which I thought was convenient, but if you feel like you need that extra support, it does come with two clip on straps.
While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of everything needed for getting through life as a breastfeeding mommy, it really does touch on some of the most important things that helped me. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as well! Nurse on, mamas!
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