The Breastfeeding Diaries: Chelsea from The Perfect Catch

February 5, 2014

 Hi!  I'm Chelsea from The Perfect Catch Blog, a lifestyle blog about my adventures being a wife, mom and shopaholic living in the suburbs of Houston, TX. I'm also a contributor for Houston Moms Blog.  My husband Jason and I met at the Houston Rodeo (how Texan is that) and have been married for almost five years. We have a nine month old sweet baby boy named Jack Grayson and a ten year old furbaby - a chihuahua named Tucker. 

 I can not thank Julie enough for hosting the Breastfeeding Diaries Series. As you will read below in my story, Julie's blog and all of the guest posts greatly contributed to my breastfeeding success.  I'm incredibly excited to be apart of this series. 

The Decision

I never thought twice about my desire to breastfeed. It was a given that I would in my mind. I knew that there might be issues beyond my control, but as long as I was able to, this was my plan.  This is where my planning stopped. Let me back up and tell you how much of a planner I am. I research everything and over think anything. Throughout my pregnancy I read all of the preparing for baby books, browsed baby stores like it was my job and polled all of my friends with kids. My husband and I toured the hospital where we would deliver, never missed a doctors appointment and took lots of classes: infant care, childbirth, infant CPR. We even had our infant seats professionally installed. 

 In all of this planning I did not do one thing to prepare for breastfeeding except buy a breast pump which I threw in the back of my closet. I knew nothing about breastfeeding aside from all of the benefits it offers you and your baby. I thought letdown was a feeling of much to learn! 

The Delivery

Jack was induced exactly one week early due to my increased blood pressure and sudden weight gain. After only a few hours of minor contractions I was sent to the operating room for a cesarean. Jack was not responding well to the contractions and having late decelerations. I was beyond disappointed to deliver via c-section, but as soon as Jack was born our perfect birth plan was long forgotten. You can read our full birth story here.

I was able to see Jack for just a few minutes before he was taken to the nursery to stabilize and have tests performed with our pediatrician. I wasn't able to hold my baby again until three hours later so we never had that initial skin to skin moment or breastfeeding right away like I wanted. With all of the complications and the quickness of the delivery, I was scared and just did whatever the doctors and nurses told me to do. Finally after five hours or so I asked if I could breastfeed. Someone in my room piped in and said, you don't have to ask, it's your baby. So FINALLY, we tried to breastfeed. I had a lactation consultant and my husband by my side and everything went perfect. Good latch. Happy baby. We were in business. 

The Struggles

I nursed Jack every few hours or anytime he seemed hungry. The hospital staff was there when I needed them. I was experiencing some major pain during feedings and even though the lactation consultants told me that nursing shouldn't hurt, his latch and my technique seemed good so we just kept at it and I struggled through the pain. Who knew that I wouldn't ever get to use those breathing techniques that we practiced in childbirth class for labor, but for breastfeeding!

 One frustrating thing we did experience at the hospital was all of the different answers we were given. Some nurses told me to nurse Jack as long as he wanted it. Others said to stop after 30 minutes. Since I did not do any breastfeeding education on my own I was at their mercy about what to do. I started feeling defeated and cried a lot during our nursing sessions. 

Jack lost some weight by the time we were released from the hospital, but we were told this was normal and to just continue doing what we were doing. Home we went where I continued the painful nursing sessions. After just a few days at home, Jack starting spitting up blood so I immediately called our pediatrician...on her cell the middle of the night (yes, I was that mom). It was determined that it was just blood from my cracked and sore nipple and to give that side a rest for a few days. I healed with time (and lots of lanolin cream). 

 Those first few weeks were the hardest. I was trying to get our groove with nursing, educate myself since I hadn't prepared ahead of time and get a little rest too. Ha! Try reading a book about breastfeeding with a crying newborn and a few hours of sleep. I had a lot of self doubt, but a strong desire to stick with it even when others told me it was okay to throw in the towel. 

I was an emotional mess at times. I wish someone would have prepared me more for the baby blues. I would cry at the drop of a hat and then feel guilty because I was crying which led to more crying. What a sight! Pictured below is me with Jack just ten days old on my 30th birthday. All within the first two weeks of Jack's life we celebrated my first mother's day, birthday and our wedding anniversary. I can remember just wishing these celebrations away because I just couldn't handle it all. The purpose of me sharing this with you is just to reassure any new mom with these same feelings that it will quickly get easier even when you can't imagine that it will. I always find comfort knowing that other moms have gone through the same thing.

 Mistakes were made along the way, but we all learned as we struggled along. One of those mistakes was using the breast pump too early. My husband felt helpless and wanted to assist with feedings so I could rest so he urged me to pump milk. After just a day of being home from the hospital I started pumping. All this did for us was put added pressure on me. Another thing on the to-do list rather than just be with my baby - pump, wash the parts, worry about ounces. Plus this never really gave my body a time to rest in between all of the constant newborn feedings. Finally, my OB saw that I was struggling (there may have been a few tears at a checkup) and stepped in to tell me to put the pump away and relax. "But what about building a freezer supply before I go back to work" I asked him with a quivering lip. He told me again to relax, focus on the baby, and listen to my instincts. Best advice ever. He was right. I didn't worry about building a freezer supply until two weeks before I went back to work and I had plenty!
Another decision that I made after the first month was to introduce a little formula into our feeding schedule. I realize that some breastfeeding advocates are gasping right now (grab a paper bag), but this was the best decision for me at the time. Sometimes I did need a break as Jack always seemed hungry. I felt like I wasn't providing him with enough, but also wasn't ready to throw in the towel. From about week 4 to week 9 we gave Jack about one feeding per day of formula, sometimes none. It never upset his stomach and gave me a little break. Plus, Jack seemed more content after we added this. Happy mom, happy baby. After week 9, I was able to get on a pumping schedule that worked for me and build that freezer supply I was so worried about. We haven't used formula since (and I've never really needed that freezer supply).   

During this crazy time I was doing a lot of googling and stumbled upon The Breastfeeding Diaries.  I remember sitting in bed while Jack napped and reading each and every post. Each story, even though all different, made me feel better. It's like a light bulb went off and I realized that everything I was experiencing was completely normal. Breastfeeding can be difficult, but oh so rewarding.  It just takes some time. It helped to know that I wasn't alone in my struggles as I often felt those first few weeks.

The Payoff

I'm so happy that I stuck through the hard times. After just two months I actually started enjoying nursing and looked forward to his feedings. It was our special time to bond and something only I could provide for him.  It is the most rewarding feeling to know that your body is what is keeping your baby nourished. 

At 2.5 months, I went back to my full-time job leaving Jack with a nanny. This was a much easier transition than I had anticipated (not easy, just not as bad as I had imagined). I was very worried about losing my supply when I returned to work or him refusing to nurse after becoming accustomed to a bottle. We've hit bumps in the road every now and then (and several nursing strikes), but at 9 months we are still going strong! 

 I'm able to nurse Jack before I leave for work in the morning. He gets two bottles of expressed milk while I'm away. Luckily I only have to pump 1-2 times per day: once during the day while I'm at work and a second time before I go to bed most nights (other nights I'm way too tired and give myself a break). These 1-2 pumping sessions give me enough milk for his bottles the next day. I'm able to nurse him late afternoon as soon as I get home and one more time before he goes to bed.  My most favorite part of the day is our nursing session as soon as I get home from work.  My husband isn't home yet and it's not quite time to worry about dinner.  It's just our special, quiet time to reconnect.   

The Advice

I made a lot of mistakes along the way. My biggest piece of advice for moms-to-be is to educate yourselves ahead of time. Knowledge is power and will give you confidence. Take a class, read books, and identify help in your area before you need it. Buy the supplies you think you might need like a breast pump, but also take the time in advance to learn how to use it properly. Trying to read a breast pump manual with a screaming newborn just isn't the most ideal. Read more about my breast feeding book and product recommendations here

Second, trust your instincts. Since I didn't have confidence with my lack of breastfeeding preparedness I listened to others more than I should have. At the end of the day, I somehow knew what was best for my baby and should have listened to myself more. 

Set small goals for yourself, but also don't be afraid to adjust them. My ultimate goal before I gave birth was to breastfeed for at least 6 months. I don't really know how I came up with that number. It seemed attainable and in line with what my friends had done. After those first few weeks of struggling, I adjusted that goal to 6 weeks. Just make it 6 weeks Chelsea. Very attainable and I did it! Once I hit the 6 week mark things were better so I readjusted that goal to 3 months. By 3 months I was not only still breastfeeding, but not supplementing with formula anymore and LOVING our nursing sessions. I then hit my next milestone of 6 months so we kept at it. Happy Dance! My ultimate goal is one year, but no matter how long I make it, I feel proud of myself and my baby.  Don't forget to celebrate your successes too. I like to celebrate with dessert. 

Finally, don't be so hard on yourself. Push everything off your plate those first few weeks at home other than you and your baby. I should have worried less and cuddled more. Even now I know I'm too hard on myself to be that perfect "super mom" who can maintain a career, blog, healthy baby, happy husband and even throw in a Pinterest project or two. It's exhausting and impossible so we all need to throw that notion of super mom out the window!  

 Thank you so much for reading my story.  I hope you were able to find something helpful in it, even if it's just, wow people in Texas really do go to rodeos. I think any mom who is trying to be the best for her family is simply amazing. I love this online community that has been created so that we are able to support and encourage each other. Be sure and check out my tips for nursing and pumping on the go too.  Hope to catch you soon

All professional photos by Studio Ainsley

Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries at the top of my navigation bar!

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4 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries: Chelsea from The Perfect Catch”

  1. This is a GREAT post! She gives so many good tips! Thanks for sharing!

  2. GREAT post! I agree that somehow we just don't educate ourselves about breastfeeding during pregnancy. We also don't truly educate ourselves about birth in general. And I agree 100% with the hospital staff giving you contradictory information about nursing. I had the exact same issue!

  3. Beautiful story! I struggled as well in the early weeks of nursing - and I had taken a course in breastfeeding! My son ended up having a posterior tongue tie. I think it's so important that we share each our stories in order to normalize the difficulty that can sometimes occur with breastfeeding and not to give up!!

  4. Thanks everyone for the kind words! I am so honored to be apart of the series. Thanks Julie for everything!


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