Boobs. Without question my biggest challenge as a new mom. Well, that and sleep, but that’s usually all new moms and we can save that for another time. Every new mom has their thing. The thing that pushes them to their limits, causes tears, anxiety, sadness, frustration, pain and makes them question whether or not they are doing it right. For me, that was my boobs. And along this wild journey I’ve discovered that most women struggle in some way, or at least at first, with breastfeeding. How did I not know this? I mean, I knew it doesn’t click for everyone so I had low expectations but as a girl with a lot of girlfriends to talk to and who read quite a bit pre-baby for prep I’m surprised how little real talk there was about all things boobs.
Now at 8 months into mommyhood I still find myself struggling with my boobs. I love the fact that I’m able to provide my babe with breast milk bottles a few times a day (and for the record have no issue the rest are formula, fed is best!) but I reaaaaalllly resent the fact that 80-100 minutes of my day are spent strapped to a machine sucking the liquid gold out like a cow (baby rejected the boob at about 2.5 months so it’s been pumptown for me ever since). Nothing like a good old pumping bra to make a new mom getting back into shape feel sexy. Insert eye roll here.
So, in an effort to put out there what I wish I had known/read prior to my experience I give you my BOOBY PSA. If it helps even one mom along their journey I will be overjoyed:
1. Blebs are a thing. Have you heard of them? Not only had I never heard of a bleb but it wasn’t until I was facing my fourth, yes FOURTH!, round of mastitis that I figured out what they are by googling “tiny white dot in nipple”. Should I clarify now that I did not major in science? Think of it as a clogged pore. It can occur because of a fatty milk supply where the thick fat in the milk creates a hard blockage or from a build up of dead skin cells which clogs the pore (similar to a pimple). As a result the milk that should be releasing through that pore backs up and your milk duct can swell and become clogged. Clogged milk ducts are incredibly painful and can usually be massaged out but that’s only if they have a place to release the milk. You know what hurts really bad? Massaging clogged ducts that have nowhere to release the milk. Yeah. But the amazing thing (or annoying if you’ve already had mastitis a few times) is blebs are super easy to watch for and take care of if you know what to keep an eye out for. It can be as simple as using the tip of your fingernail to scrape the white dot to clear the pore or you may have to get a little more Dr. Mommy on yourself and use a sterilized needle to lance the bleb like you would do with a splinter. The first time I did this, not only did I prevent that fourth round of mastitis THANK GOD!, but I brought on my own personal little Niagara Falls in my bathroom. I wish I would have saved or measured the amount of milk that came out…my best guess is at least 3 ounces from several clogged ducts. It was wild. I should add if you have a super fatty milk supply (which makes clogged ducts and blebs more common) ask your doctor about taking the supplement lecithin. It helps to thin the fat in your milk and prevent this whole damn situation.
2. Nipple shields are amazing, but also the worst. I was so beyond engorged there was virtually no option for me except a nipple shield. It made it possible to feed my babe and deal with the excruciating nipple pain, cracking and bleeding (gah, it was honestly like a horror movie) I went through. But they are such a pain in the ass and if I had to hear one more lactation consultant tell me how we should work to get off the shield – like it was easy to do – I was going to lose my shit. Oh wait, I did lose my shit on several occasions. Ok. Well, I would have lost it again! I didn’t want to be using one. I would see other new moms discreetly putting their baby to boob without even so much as a cover and be filled with jealousy unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Bottom line, do what you gotta do and DO NOT let anyone make you think any part of it ‘should’ be easy. If you need a nipple shield, use it. If you can get off it, you rock! If you can’t, do not think you are the one person who just can’t quite seem to make it work. Just do whatever feels (literally) best to you and know the fact that you are trying is amazing.
3. Bottle nipples have different sizes. This may have just been a big miss on my part but just in case you don’t know and plan to give your baby bottles, nipples for bottles change sizes and at around 2-3 months old your little babe may want/need more flow from the bottle than the infant nipples allow. The (terrifying) way we realized this was my babe basically stopped eating. Long story very short, he was getting frustrated because he wasn’t getting as much milk as he wanted and for about a week was just giving up a few minutes into each feed. Rejecting food…are we sure this is my child, ha! But it was one of the scarier weeks of new parenthood and at the end of the day SUCH A DUMB AND SIMPLE FIX! I’m so mad at myself for not knowing this and putting my babe and husband through it because it was awful and completely avoidable.
4. Pacifiers are not all created equal and it might f*ck with your boobs. Piggybacking on the bottle nipple size sitch above…we ended up at a pediatric therapist (the one who gave this bozo the tip to go up a nipple size and solved our horrifying baby hunger strike) who told us the pacifier you choose can really matter. I know for a fact that every baby is really different with pacifiers so I should preface this one with do what works best for you and your baby. BUT, for whatever it’s worth she highly recommended that we stick to Dr. Browns pacifiers because they encourage the baby to suck vs chew which is super important. I believe there are several brands with the similar nipple shape so take your pick…but she said it helps to avoid baby rejecting the nipple because if they start “chewing” their paci too much they will start to think that is what they do when they get the boob too which can lead to feeding issues.
5. Pick your pump wisely. I started with a hand me down Medela pump and bought new pump parts to ensure the suction was still top notch. But after the nightmare of multiple rounds of mastitis I had a lactation specialist tell me I needed to get the Spectra. It was like going from a Honda Civic to a Bentley. Not even kidding. In hindsight I wish I would have rented a hospital grade pump to use while I got everything under control. It is so hard at first anyway, do whatever you can to make it easier on yourself, right? For the record, I now use the Medela when I travel for work and it’s awesome, but during the most painful times the Spectra was my saving grace.
6. Next time, I’m hiring a lactation specialist. I’m just barely coming out of the black hole of new parenthood and already taking note on things I would have done differently. Number one on the list is hiring a lactation specialist to come to my house and help me get shit under control. I went to the hospital at least 6 times to visit the lactation specialists at the clinic but I never saw the same person more than twice and it always felt rushed, inconvenient and zapped my whole day. I was in so much pain and looking back wish I would have done myself the favor of a personalized touch to help me figure everything out and create a plan for MY situation, MY boobs, MY baby. The bottom line being, whatever your challenge ends up being as a new parent do the things you can to make it easier on yourself. It is 100% worth it.
Well folks, there you have it. My booby PSA. And if you made it to the end of this insanely long post I leave you with the following video as a sign off. Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard = THAT STORYBOOK KIND OF LOVE