“Challenging…but worth it”

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Julia HeadshotJulia is a part-time Physical Therapist and mom of 2 living with her husband in Wisconsin.  She shares about her journey to build a frozen milk supply while on maternity leave and her frustrations with her daughter refusing a bottle. She blogs at My Life in Transition.

I vividly remember putting Cecelia up to the breast just minutes after she was born. I sort of paused for a second when the nurse asked me which hold I wanted to try and ended up just bringing her to me the way that felt most natural. Maybe it was a ‘reverse football hold’ or something but whatever the label, I marveled at how CC just knew how to latch on so well. In those magical first hours of a new baby’s life, I felt incredibly blessed to nurse this child. I hoped it would go smoothly for us this second time around, just like it did with Truman.

My milk came in faster this time (24 hours after birth!) and I pumped for relief on day four, something that I never even considered the first time. I pumped every day throughout my maternity leave and ended up with a freezer stash nearing the 300oz mark. I think my max with Truman was about 250oz and that child was a beast, probably consuming even more milk than dainty Cecelia ever could. And once again, my previous A-cups grew to D’s or beyond.

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Nursing CC for the first time.

She was a typical newborn that loved to eat, seemingly non-stop for hours in those early weeks. This time I was prepared to park my butt on the couch as often as I could. But this time I also got really skilled at walking around the house with my baby still nursing from me, since big brother would need me *just* as I started to get CC situated at the breast. She didn’t mind and was totally fine to cruise around the house, sucking away. It’s possible that I might have attempted to pull Truman’s underwear up for him while nursing at the same time. Yes, potty training my two year old while nursing my two month old wasn’t the easiest, but we all survived the questionably sanitary conditions. You potty training moms know what I mean.

Cecelia always nursed really well in public, too, and we managed to be fairly discreet about it without always using a cover. Last summer when I was on maternity leave with my itty bitty baby, I remember nursing her at the zoo, at the pool, playgrounds, outside of our house just dripping in sweat because it was an ultra-hot summer here in WI. Cecelia didn’t seem to mind her sweaty head from where my arm would support her noggin. I didn’t love that feeling of sweating and letting down, but we pushed through and much preferred to nurse in the comforts of our cooler home. That’s where I could set up my station of the Boppy pillow, water bottle, and my iPhone. And I seriously have no idea how I managed to survive nursing Truman on maternity leave without an iPhone. Oh, the good old days.

Multitasking while out and about with 2 little ones - CC loved to be held this way!

Multitasking while out and about with 2 little ones – CC loved to be held this way!

Sister loves to nurse so much that she resisted a bottle with a FIERCE statement of hatred. We introduced the bottle around three weeks and she completely refused to even latch on the artificial nipple. So okay, whatever, we just kept trying every now and then. Until we got to about 10 weeks, with just two weeks remaining of my maternity leave. Then panic set in. This child would NOT take the bottle from anyone. Eventually she succumbed to a ‘gentle’ bottle stand off on the first weekend after I returned to work. Oh, Cecelia. That was a rough time that caused way too many tears and frustrations on both of our ends. I was so grateful for her ability to nurse and this bottle war was the first time I realized that she is our little fighter girl. My red-headed firecracker has opinions that need to be known! But she figured it out which made life a lot easier. And despite all of my worries, she still wanted to nurse even after she did agree to a few bottles.

Returning to work and relying on the pump to get me through on my Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays wasn’t too horrible. I mean, I despise pumping but that’s mostly because I have to do it in the confines of my car and it’s challenging to create those breaks into my work schedule. But I wasn’t as freaked out about the pump this time and sort of just did it religiously, three times per day until about ten months. More on that little road bump in a bit. But pumping at work was a blessing because it allowed me to continue nursing Cecelia as a working mom. Much love to double electric pumps. I still hate you, though;)

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First day back to work as a mom of two.

I had a few clogged ducts along the way this time, something I never had with Truman. I mean, I had mastitis three times with T but never a clogged duct so these stubborn dudes were pretty painful and annoying. But I was happy that they always worked out before turning into the Big M…..until I got hit hard at 9.5 months. Yep, mastitis for the first time with Cecelia but oh, how could I ever forget what HELL that pain/fever/aches/chills can be? It was on my right side again, same as the other three times. And boy, this mastitis did a big number on my supply.

Cecelia didn’t nurse any differently but I was only pumping half of what I could before it hit me. Luckily I had 150 oz of frozen milk remaining because my supply never did return….at least not for the pump. She continued to nurse but I believe this was the time she would only nurse on the right side. Good old righty always was her favorite;)

I gradually used my frozen stash to make bottles for daycare. I stopped pumping all together shortly after ten months because it was just too depressing to see next-to-nothing coming out after all of that effort to set up the pump. We started mixing in a bit of whole milk into breast milk bottles after eleven months and after one year, we started giving all whole milk in bottles. Then sippy cups a few weeks later. All of those transitions went so smoothly and I frequently thanked God for that amazing freezer stash in my in-laws deep freezer. Without it I would have had to buy and mix formula for two months, which would have been doable but annoying. And expensive compared to the free breast milk I had instead. Plus I didn’t want to have to transition her from breast milk to formula to cow’s milk all within a few months. My girl was so picky about how her method of getting milk–she hated bottles, then hated frozen stuff for awhile, she had to have the temperature exactly right, and then she would randomly give Lori a hard time with bottles even months later. I had a bad feeling that she might even refuse a formula bottle and wanted to skip it if possible. But I would have done it if I didn’t have a freezer stash for if my supply tanked earlier than 10-ish months.

Sweet CC at the breast as a toddler.

Sweet CC at the breast as a toddler.

And just like that, after a few road bumps we made it to a year, which was really my only *loose* breastfeeding goal. At that point CC was nursing about four times per day and now at fifteen months it’s still about 2-3 times per day. I never really considered having to make a decision about weaning her, since Truman slowly started to self-wean around nine months and nursed just once per day until his first birthday. Then he was completely done, and I figured Cecelia would be finished by her birthday, too. But these two kids are so incredibly different in all kinds of ways, nursing being one of them.

I have not gotten my cycle back yet, and I hope I won’t have to force Cecelia to wean in order to get my cycle back but we’ll see. For now I’m happy to nurse her a few times per day and love staring down at her long/lean toddler body wrapped around my lap.  Sometimes I get all sentimental thinking about how tiny she used to be curled up next to me, drinking away, oblivious to the world around her. Now she is so big and very much aware and into everything around her. But at least for those few minutes while she nurses, she is all mine and is relaxed and quiet and peaceful;) This is something I will cherish forever, no matter how long we continue to nurse. Breastfeeding has been one of the biggest privileges I’ve had as a mom: challenging at times, but every bit worth it.

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