My Breastfeeding Story by Laura Ouellette of Life & Travel

Good morning from a quiet kitchen, music playing and two sleeping babes upstairs. I am finally getting some longer chunks of sleep which means mama can wake before the craziness. And I love it. I have NEVER been a morning person but as a mama it gives me a few hours when I am actually energized, hot cup of coffee and some quiet to start the day. GAME CHANGING. Seriously.

This new series is called The Story and one I have been dying to start. One of the parts of motherhood that i have enjoyed is meeting incredible mamas with a story to tell. I hang on to every word and am always wanting more, the details, the good the bad the ugly. Mainly because of the sociology major in me that wants to study people, that wants to absorb difference. It's going to be a regular series of just that, stories. Some to help us feel less alone, teach us something, make us ugly cry and of course some that will have our postnatal bladders tested...

First up one of the sweetest mama bloggers out there. We have chatted via IG and IG comments for a while and this summer we finally got our girls together and it was so fun. She oozes positive energy, has a contagious smile and don't even get me started on that sweet babe, Sona is like the perfect little model baby!!! Looking forward to more playdates and partnering more here on le blog.

Laura is my first contributor for this series and is sharing her breastfeeding journey, something I am absolutely adamant about sharing (remember this post?) and so dear to my heart. Although BF'ing is probably one of my favorite parts of motherhood it isn't as easy as I thought it would be, so hearing other's journey (even if it ends as they leave the hospital, goes 3 years or never even starts for one reason or another) is empowering, interesting and supportive.

Hey Friends, this is Laura from Life & Travel - a travel and motherhood blog. A little about me, I live on the north shore of MA right by the ocean with my husband, Dan and baby girl Sona. I work in social media, from home so I'm with my little one full time. We spend most of our days in search of fun things to do outside and on the north shore. Thanks for reading my breast feeding story. Find me over at Life & Travel!

Breastfeeding has probably been one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of my experience as a mother so far. I know I’m not alone on this. Before I had her I knew one thing, that I’d like to breastfeed. My mother had nursed me and I had never considered doing anything else. I took the prenatal nursing class so I knew what to expect, which like many things prenatal is just informational. I thought like many, it is the most natural thing in the world – how could it be difficult? And I decided that even though I had heard countless stories about how difficult it was for some women, I would not be one of those women. But that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Just when you think you know what’s up you are in this place of uncertainty and self-doubt. It’s the most powerful thing in the world to be a mother yet we often times feel like we have no idea what we are doing.

Like Mother Nature playing a joke on me, my baby girl and I really got the hang of breast feeding when there was a nurse right there watching us. I remember feeling so proud when the lactation consultant said, “great job, she has a perfect latch” – it was such a relief knowing I wasn’t going to struggle with it. Sure, something didn’t feel right and my positioning bordered on painful but she said we looked good. It wasn’t until we were home and I got engorged that the trouble started. I was in so much pain and no matter how often she nursed, my breasts stayed as hard as a rock. Being engorged is such an out-of-body experience. I felt trapped, like there was nothing I could do and no relief to feel. It took days to regulate and even when it seemed to steady itself out, I was still painfully full right before she was ready to eat again. It was frustrating. I can remember those late nights and the tears. I dreaded going to sleep at night because I knew in a few hours I’d be up again struggling through.

I thought, how could this be happening to me? I’m doing the right thing, I’m nursing my baby and it’s this difficult? She was struggling to latch because my breasts were so hard. My husband at times had to position her himself because I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt like I was failing at something that was supposed to be so “natural” but it was difficult.

After about a month it seemed to get better. Things got a little easier, the positioning felt more comfortable, she learned, I learned and just when I was starting to feel really good about it, I got mastitis. What a sick joke. After everything we had been through and then this. I was such a novice because of my symptoms I thought I had the flu so I started pumping because I thought she might get sick too (later learning that is the worst thing you can do). It is comical now thinking back about how much I didn’t know. Once the mastitis passed I started doing research on milk oversupply. I had heard so much about not having enough milk that it didn’t occur to me that some women could have the opposite problem. Which in many cases can lead to mastitis and reoccurring blocked ducts because you are producing so much milk that isn’t able to be released.

While I can only imagine how frustrating an undersupply may be, an oversupply has its fair share of hardships. For one my letdown was so fast and there was so much milk that she wasn’t always able to keep it down. We had some epic, scary spit-ups basically emptying her stomach and I’d have to feed her again right after which made me produce even more milk. I constantly had to have a towel because of the spraying and my poor girls face was always drenched. I felt bad that she had to struggle as much as I did. Another issue was my constant discomfort. My breasts were always so full that I never felt any relief. And I’ve had quite a few blocked ducts which feel like you have the flu. It’s an overwhelming experience. I didn’t understand why it was difficult. I didn’t understand why I had to be one of the mothers that struggled with it.

Somewhere around 3-4 months I found my rhythm. I had to wake up before her, pump 8 ounces and then go back upstairs to feed her. This was a double-edged sword. It was the best solution for regulating out the day. It made it comfortable for the both of us and I wasn’t dealing with engorgement anymore. She didn’t spit up, I wasn’t spraying and all & all it was really ideal. But with pumping that much in the morning, I was also maintaining and encouraging a really large milk supply. I did this until 7 months when I started working from home. I decided I wanted to be done pumping every morning especially when I was going to be with her full time. Pumping is a lot of work and to be honest I really didn’t like it. I slowly stopped and after a few weeks and a couple blocked ducts it regulated out to where the supply wasn’t so much and accommodated what she needed. From 7-11 months I continued feeding her 5 times a day and while I was still always full, I wasn’t uncomfortable besides in the morning, right before her first feeding of the day. On the 11th month I started weaning her down to less feedings and my supply dipped (in a good way). My breasts were finally after all that time feeling more comfortable. Now at almost 13 months she’s down to two feedings. Personally, I’m ready to be done but she still really wants those two feedings so I don’t want to take them away from her just yet.

My best advice would be to assess what’s going on and get in touch with other moms. I think we are often times nervous of opening ourselves up and asking questions because it feels like we are failing in some way. But the truth is us moms have to stick together and the first step is reaching out. You’ll find that the majority of us just want to be helpful and share our own experiences. I hadn’t heard about an oversupply in the class I went to or articles I had read. It’s just not as common or talked about as much. But when I opened up and asked questions in my mom groups, I was met with a lot of knowledge and advice. No doctor, nurse or lactation consultant helped me more than other mothers had. Another factor that played a huge part in getting control was a schedule and being consistent. Once I realized what was going on, consistency played a huge role in being able to regulate my supply. As much as I hated waking up earlier than everyone when I could have really used the extra sleep, it made a big difference in our day.

Through all that confusion and frustration, breastfeeding was still one of my favorite things to do with her. I can’t explain it but it really has bonded us in such a powerful way. I never felt the urge to quit through the times we struggled but I did feel resentful of how difficult it seemed to be for us. But now that those foggy months are behind us, I realize how much we were learning together. She was right there with me every single step of the way. She looks up at me and reaches for my face and it’s in those moments that I know it was worth it. And we did it together.

Thank you so much to you Laura, for your candid sincere words on such a big part of your motherhood story.