Breastfeeding Challenges

While I was pregnant I learned a lot about breastfeeding. Through reading, talking to moms with experience, and taking a breastfeeding class I knew that it most likely wouldn’t be easy. Even though I knew this before I even had my baby, I still wasn’t fully prepared for how challenging it would be at times. Although breastfeeding is a very natural process, it really takes commitment, a great support system, and a lot of effort to make it work successfully. Here are some of the issues I have faced in my first 12 weeks of motherhood. Brace yourself, this is a long one!

Breastfeeding at 1 day old

Breastfeeding at 1 day old

Acid Reflux. One of our first big challenges was dealing with Kevin’s acid reflux while breastfeeding. He would pull away crying while eating, arch his back, and spit up a lot afterwards. He also would cough, gasp, and wheeze constantly afterwards (due to the acid coming back up). I suspected that he had reflux and my suspicion was confirmed at the doctor. I wrote a lot about this in my weekly postpartum updates, but basically I tried everything to help him with this. It affected his breastfeeding because the pediatrician recommended feeding him small amounts more frequently and pumping afterwards. This meant sometimes he was still hungry when I stopped feeding him, which broke my heart. I also block nursed, only nursing from one side for 2-3 feedings in a row (while pumping the other) then switching sides. Eventually we put him on Zantac, which didn’t end up working so we took him off of it. What finally worked was taking him to my chiropractor, where he was very gently adjusted. We have gone 3 times and his reflux is GONE and our breastfeeding has gotten much better. He is able to eat for longer periods of time without stopping to cry and doesn’t spit up nearly as much. He is SO much happier and is putting on more weight since he’s keeping his food down and eating larger amounts at a time.

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Pumping at Work.  This has been my most recent challenge and one of the toughest. I knew I would need a good, efficient pump when I went back to work at 8 weeks postpartum, so I invested in the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. I am away from the baby from about 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which is a total of 9 hours. I am a teacher so I am limited to when I can pump because it has to be when I’m not with kids (obviously). I am able to pump before the students arrive around 8:30, at lunchtime around 12:30, and after school around 3:45. My colleagues have gotten used to seeing me carrying my black tote bag around everywhere, and they know not to come into my classroom when I have my sign up on the door (although this took a little trial and error- thank goodness I’m not very modest anymore!) One of the most recent challenges has been someone at school who has been less than supportive. I can’t say much about the situation on this public blog, but this person basically has no compassion for my desire to breastfeed and doesn’t seem to understand why it is so important to me. It makes me sad 😦

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Undersupply. Going back to work and pumping half of the day has led me to yet another big challenge- dealing with undersupply. I have never been able to pump very much at a time, usually 3 oz. max from both breasts. It is so hard for me to read blogs of other moms who can pump 6-8 ounces at a time. I don’t understand why I can’t do that too and it makes me sad. I think that he is much better at getting the milk out of me than the pump is. But now with the stress of work and all of the issues there, my supply has gotten worse. I know that stress and a lack of rest decrease supply, and that is a big reason why I am experiencing this. Teaching is NOT a 9-5 job. I take home a ton of work every night and on the weekends. There is so much that I am responsible for that I HAVE to do. On top of that, my left boob has never produced as much as my right from day 1. It actually produces only about a third of what my right one does with each pumping session. I have been working really hard on this and talking to a lactation consultant for help. I talked to her last Friday, and she gave me a ton of tips. I have been drinking Mothers Milk tea 3x a day, taking fenugreek capsules (4 capsules 3x a day), doing a lot of skin-to-skin with the baby, using compression and massage, power pumping in the evenings, weekend, and even the middle of the night since he’s sleeping longer now, trying to reduce stress and relax as much as possible (my husband has been AMAZING at taking care of cooking, cleaning, and other household things), letting him cluster feed as much as he wants in the evenings, and supplementing with my own freezer stash if he is hungry and I have nothing left for him, while pumping at the same time to stimulate my milk production. Whew. It’s been a full-time job, but it is working. In only a week of doing all this I have been pumping about 4 ounces more daily. I used to be able to pump 9 ounces max, and now I’m pumping 12-13. He also doesn’t cry when he’s finished both breasts and seems more satisfied, even when there is a short time between feedings. Good progress!!!

Lunch break in the car!

Lunch break in the car!

Weight Gain Worries. We got off to a rough start with baby Kevin’s weight due to jaundice which had him sleeping constantly and not wanting to eat. Then his reflux didn’t help matters either since we had to feed him small amounts and he was spitting up a lot. Now that we have resolved that issue he has been hungrier and able to eat more. However, it’s tough to keep up with his needs since I have an undersupply problem and I’m not able pump much for him to eat the next day. I would feed him right before I left for work and as soon as I got home, and he was eating three 3 oz. bottles every 2-3 hours while I was gone. This was okay at first, but lately that hasn’t been enough, and his babysitter has told me that he’s still hungry after he finishes his bottles. There was definitely pressure from my pediatrician at his 2 month appointment to supplement but she gave me another month to try to get him to gain more weight. The problem is that he was in the 50th percentile for height but only the 12th for weight and she said that height & weight percentiles should match up. He was born at 7 pounds 2 ounces, but dropped down to 6 pounds 7 ounces when he had jaundice, and we’ve been working our way up from there ever since. This has made me feel like such a failure because I am the sole person providing his nutrition and it’s not enough. It is really hard on me emotionally. We constantly hear comments like “he’s so small,” and “I can’t believe he’s that old, he doesn’t look big enough,” which really upset me. I know people aren’t saying these things to hurt me, but it does hurt because I am trying so hard. The good news is that since I talked with the lactation consultant last Friday and been working on increasing my supply, he has already gained 7 ounces! He now weighs 10 pounds 3.5 ounces (we bought a baby scale to monitor his weight). Still little and barely on his curve, but it’s good progress. We’ll see if it’s enough for the pediatrician at his appointment soon.

Feeding him in public is a breeze nowadays!

Feeding him in public is a breeze nowadays!

Leaking. I have always had an issue with leaking and I constantly have to wear nursing pads or else I will leak through my clothes. I wonder how long this will last? I hate buying those disposable pads but the reusable ones are not absorbent enough for me.

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Running. Running while breastfeeding has been another learning experience for me. I have found that I need to feed him, pump, or do both of those things before I go out to run, or else it is really uncomfortable for me. When I would run for more than an hour it used to get really uncomfortable toward the end, but it’s not that bad anymore- probably since my supply has dropped. Since I have been dealing with this issue I have been wondering if my running could have anything to do with my supply issues. I learned before I had my baby that there is conflicting research on whether or not running or hard exercise causes a decrease in supply. I asked my lactation consultant last week, and she said the research is conflicting, but it has been shown to cause supply issues for some women. I was really hoping I would not be one of them, but I am starting to think that I am. I have noticed a drop in supply especially after my long runs. This makes sense because the lactation consultant recommended not exercising to exhaustion because it’s hard on the body and the milk supply. This makes me so sad and because of this I’m re-evaluating my race plans. I love running and training for marathons but my baby comes first- end of story. I’ll explain more about this soon in another post.

Pumping before an early morning run

Pumping before an early morning run

Nutrition / Hydration. Getting enough food and water to support my breastfeeding has been difficult some days, especially since I’m back to work now.  I have been working really hard on making sure I eat and drink enough, since that can also affect supply. I carry a 32 oz. water bottle wherever I go and try to drink at least 3 of them a day, more when I run. I also make sure to bring a lot of snacks to work and eat whenever I am hungry.

Breastfeeding in Target. I’m good at multitasking 🙂

Dairy Sensitivity. The last challenge I am dealing with is not being able to eat dairy. The doctor hasn’t confirmed that he is allergic to it or has dairy intolerance, but I have noticed that his reflux gets a lot worse whenever I eat any type of dairy. He spits up a lot and the coughing/gasping comes back. This has led me to believe that he is sensitive to it, and the pediatrician agreed that those are signs that he is. I am also lactose intolerant, but I’m usually fine if I take a Lactaid pill. Unfortunately, that’s not going to work for him so in the meantime I am avoiding it. He could grow out of it though, so the pediatrician recommended trying to eat a little dairy once a month to see what effect it has.

Milk drunk. I love this face!

Milk drunk. I love this face!

I have come a long way in my breastfeeding journey and learned a lot so far. I’m far less modest about doing it and talking about it these days and open to asking for help when I need it. The best resources I have found for breastfeeding help have been Kelly Mom, La Leche League meetings, my lactation consultant, and other moms with experience. Even with all of these challenges I truly love breastfeeding and the special bond it’s helped me create with my baby. It is so worth all the time and effort it has taken me to figure things out. We are far from finished with our breastfeeding journey, as I am going to try to continue until baby is at least a year old. We will see what other challenges arise! I hope this post helps some other new moms who are dealing with breastfeeding issues, or that the ‘been there, done that’ moms can relate to what I’m going through. It’s hard work but it is so worth it!

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16 responses to “Breastfeeding Challenges

  1. So many things to comment on! 🙂 Great post. I find breastfeeding post so relatable, because like you said, despite being prepared for it to be hard, it was definitely harder than I expected. But we made it through the first 4 weeks, sailed until I returned to work at 14 weeks, and then I struggled through the first month of working FT & pumping. Then, I sailed along (dealing with ALL the same issues!) until he turned 1.

    1) I wouldn’t give up on your fight against supplementing with formula. My little guy was in the 40%ile for weight until his 4 month visit. Then between 4 and 7 months he gained (ready for this?! 1 OUNCE! I made them re-weigh him because I was sure it had to be wrong. Talk about feeling inadequate….
    Our pediatrician was supportive of continuing to EBF + add some solids at 6 months and didn’t push formula at all. His big thing was proportions. He looked healthy, proportionate, and was meeting all the other milestones. (And, despite him recommending it – I never would have given him formula. Just our choice.) He’s now only in the 10% for weight, 40% for height but he looks great and is still meeting all the milestones. Plus, he eats like a fiend (we just wonder where it all goes….ha!)
    2) I wouldn’t give up running … just yet. You’ve come a long way in increasing your supply in just the last week or 2, right? Kevin is completely more effective at getting milk out of you then the pump.
    One thing I found super, super helpful when C was around 7 months old (and we left him overnight for the first time!) We have a Women’s Resource Center here that rents out pumps. They are the pumps that the hospitals have and they have what’s called a “preemie card” in them. The pump is super strong, effective, and I could pump a ridiculous amount of BM during that week that I rented it. See if the LLL has access to anything like that? Maybe your hospital has a rental program? I was able to rent it for an extremely cheap daily rate (I think it was $8/day??) and I just had to buy the attachments for it. I used it all to supplement my freezer supply and pumped an EXTRA 56 ounces that week. No joke. (And I wasn’t one of those people that pumped 8oz from each side during the day…usually 4-5 from each side during my first pump, 3 and 3 in the afternoon). Just something to look into that could give you a good freezer supply.

    HOLY LONG COMMENT. Sorry 🙂

    • You know I love your comments Becky! Thanks for the suggestion about the pump rental. An extra 56 ounces is crazy! I’m definitely going to look into that. It would be a great way to stockpile some milk so I could supplement with that rather than formula if we ever needed to. It is good to know that there are other healthy babies out there that are in the lower weight percentile. The doctor made me feel so bad about it! We actually just switched pediatricians to one that has a reputation for being more open minded. I hope she is more willing to listen and work with us. As for running, I am not giving up on it altogether, but I’m just going to take it a little easier than originally planned. My milk supply is getting better with each day, so I don’t want to risk it quite yet!
      Thank you for your comments. They really make me smile! 🙂

  2. I had major supply issues for the first 3 months, and although I don’t have to supplement with formula anymore, I can tell that I’m just barely making enough. I know what you mean about it being hard to read about other moms who make so much milk, and some of us have to try SO hard just to get by.

    Personally, I wouldn’t worry about your baby’s height/weight matching up. My daughter is around 35-40% for weight and 90% for height – it’s just her body type, and our pediatrician isn’t worried. As long as they stay close to their curves over time.

    Keep up the good work, mama!

    • Thanks Kim! It is so nice to hear from other moms who have been there and understand. It’s good to know about your baby’s height/weight not matching up. I didn’t even realize it was “supposed to” until the doctor made me feel horrible about it!

  3. Love reading your blog! 🙂 It’s fun tracking along with someone whose baby is about the same age.

    My baby has a dairy sensitivity, too! But for her it’s painful gas, not reflux… I was so relieved when we figured it out.

    I’m going back to work next month, and I was actually thinking of comment-asking you a question but then felt weird, but this post opened the door 😛 — Do you have any tips about pumping at work? I’m a music teacher, so I’m going back to a classroom setting situation, too. I’m nervous about the whole thing… but seeing your posts has been an encouragement!

    • Thanks Sarah! Ugh, the dairy thing is no fun at all. I love cheese and ice cream and frozen yogurt and all that good stuff. It gives Kevin gas too but for him the reflux is worse! I hope that our babies grow out of it after a few more months!
      As for pumping at work, it is still so new to me, but I can tell you what has helped so far. I really need to make sure I relax during my pumping times. It’s hard to do as a teacher when you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do it all- but I learned the hard way during a lunchtime pumping session when I was rushing around and spilled a whole bottle of milk. It was my second day back to work and I cried so much! Since then I have really tried to sit back, relax, and look at pictures and videos of my baby on my phone while I pump. I heard this helps with letdown and I think it’s true- when I do this I will let down 3 times or so, and when I wasn’t relaxing and focusing I would only let down twice if I was lucky. I do a lot of compression while I’m pumping which helps get more milk out. I also bring one of his little onesies or hats or blankets and that helps too. It reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing!
      To save time I leave my pump plugged in with all of the tubes and everything attached and hide it behind my desk. So when it’s time to pump all I have to do is grab the bottles and funnels and go. My lactation consultant told me that you can put your pump parts into a baggie and store them in the fridge if you have one (I have a mini fridge in my classroom), and you won’t have to worry about cleaning them every time. The cold refrigerator will stop any bacteria from growing. Then I just give them a really good wash once I’m home.
      I always put a sign on my door that says “Please knock or come back in a few minutes.” I also wear my cover when I pump just in case. I’ve been walked in on a few times but luckily nothing was seen! I also told my students not to come in if they see that sign on the door. They didn’t ask questions thankfully 🙂
      Pumping at work has been a little stressful because I’m doing it on all of my ‘breaks’ during the day, so I never really have time to do other things I need to get done. But somehow it all gets done, and it has been so worth it- despite all the challenges I’ve had. You will be fine! I hope this helps you. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  4. balancejoyanddelicias

    What a touching post. I didn’t know you had so many issues with breastfeeding. I think as he gets older the reflux gets better. Remember my baby girl was having gas and reflux problem around 5-6 weeks? It’s all gone now and I didn’t do anything. I think her digestive system just got more developed.
    About under supply. I think now that he can eat more your supply will keep up with him, just nurse as much as you can when you are not at work.
    Really sorry to hear the story with your principal, it’s just bad luck to have someone who is not supportive to BF. I hope you keep strong and do your best and not feel so bad about it. It’s a personal decision and they might not think that way.
    Running can affect milk supply, I read so much about it so it worth trying cutting off a bit on long runs to see if it helps.
    Keep up girl, you are doing great job!!!

    • Thank you. Breastfeeding has been tough but so worth it. Despite all the challenges I’ve had I really love it and the bond that I’ve created with my little man is amazing! I’ve already noticed my supply increasing to keep up with him. He doesn’t cry at the end of feedings anymore and seems more satisfied. I hope it keeps going this way!

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  6. I feel like no one ever tells you that breastfeeding can be challenging. It is definitely work! I admire you so much for pumping at work. Pumping is no fun. You have gotten over one major hurdles so far. I hope things get a little easier for you very soon!

  7. I found your blog through a friend’s blog and have loved reading it; I have an almost 3 year old son and a 4 month old daughter and I’m training for my first half marathon. Your running tips have been great!

    I’m also a NICU/nursery nurse and a huge advocate for breastfeeding. I had zero issues with breastfeeding my son…until I went back to work. Then, like you, I started having supply issues. I worked 12 hour shifts and was usually only able to pump once, maybe twice a shift. I had a lot of trouble with let down and rarely pumped more than 3 ounces at a time. It was so frustrating and made me so upset when I had to start supplementing at four months because I couldn’t keep up with his demand while I was at work. We had no problems when I was home with him though.

    My son has always been around the 90% for height and around the 20% for weight, very tall and skinny! It made for a very long, thin baby, but that’s how I was as a child too. It was normal for us and had no reflection on how much breast milk he received. Try not to let people’s comments about his size get to you!

    My daughter is built completely different; at 4 months she’s in the 95% for height and OFF the charts for weight. She’s super squishy and I love it! I have decided to stay home with our kids for now, which I realize is not an option for everyone, but I will say that not having the stress of battling supply issues and pumping at work has made breastfeeding her a much smoother process.

    Good luck to you with your training, breastfeeding, and child rearing. Motherhood isn’t easy, bit it’s beyond rewarding!

    • Thank you for reading Christina!! I feel so lucky that all these amazing women somehow find my blog and come back to read it 🙂 I’m glad I can help with your training!

      I can’t tell you how much better it makes me feel when I hear stories like yours. I can’t imagine working 12 hour shifts and only being able to pump once! I would have been so frustrated too. I’m already frustrated and I am able to pump 3x a day! It’s also nice to hear that you first baby was tall and skinny like mine. I was the same way until I hit puberty, so there are definitely genes playing a part in his body type.

      I would love to stay at home but it’s just not possible for us right now. Maybe with the next baby, but we’ll have to wait and see. Luckily as a teacher I have really good breaks for holidays and summer, and I am already counting down the days 🙂

  8. Katie,
    You are doing great! Breastfeeding is a huge commitment. I was never able to pimp enough for M either, but I only worked every other weekend at first so that helped. I had the same pump as you, when you feel like your milk flow is slowing hit the yellow button to change the suction so it does the let down pattern and you may get more milk after the 2nd let down. Also bring a shirt baby K wore, smell can help with let down. Your definitely increasing your supply and baby k may be increasing his demand at the same time. There wil definitely be days when all you do is breast feed to hould your supply when my ex left abruptly I was very stressed and had to feed M every 2 hours around the clock for weeks, probably months because I was so stressed. So know that you are not alone! I’ve also heard that babies should grow along the trend of the curve, fire growth that it doesn’t have to be equal. Thats what I learned in nursing school, adults have different body shapes and so do babies. Hand in there!!

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