“Nothing prepares you for parenthood. No, taking care of your niece or your younger sibling does not prepare you to become a mother, or a father. I promise you. You’ll know how to change a diaper, but that will not prepare you for the emotional roller coaster it is to be a parent.
On November 2nd, 2019, we welcomed our baby girl earth side. We went through 4 hours of intense labor to bring our baby to our arms, and it was so worth it. My breastfeeding journey started right away. And right then, on our first attempt, I knew it was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be.
I thought breastfeeding would happen naturally, like people make it seem. I thought my body would know what to do and that my baby would just latch and we would follow our lives. Oh, I was so wrong. I didn’t know not all babies are born knowing how to suck on a boob. Complete shock face!
My sister is a midwife and had warned me to prepare for postpartum as much as labor and delivery. If only I had listened to her. I was hit by the worst Baby Blues, and had to cope with the emotional weight of hormonal change and the learning process of breastfeeding.
Being your baby’s source of nutrition is beautiful. It really is. But it is also extremely stressful. Any time your baby doesn’t put on weight as the Doctors or your family thought they would, the stress of ‘am I producing enough?’ or ‘is my milk too watery?’ is all on you. But let me tell you, in most cases women do not have supply issues. A lot of times the issues come because there’s doubt, incorrect advice and misinformation out there. I’m not a medical provider, and I won’t give you tips on how to increase your milk supply but please don’t listen to the evil voice inside your head that’s saying your milk isn’t enough for your baby. If you are concerned, call a Lactation Consultant. Don’t listen to your friend’s advice who has never breastfed, or your grandma who thinks babies need formula after XX months. Do yourself a favor and just trust your body! Your body is not flawed! You are perfect and doing an amazing job!
In my journey there were a lot of rocky roads. My baby did not have a good latch. She had a tongue and lip tie, which caused her to lose the seal, making a clicking sound during feeds. Every time the seal was broken, she would hurt me. My nipples were so sore and cracked that they were close to bleeding. Only a few days after my baby was born I thought I would have to give up because I couldn’t cope with the pain.
We decided to give my boobs a break, so I pumped some milk and let my husband bottle feed our little girl. Well, I cried through that and worried she would never latch on my boob again. I vividly remember the next time I went to feed her. I had trouble latching her and I instantly started to cry, thinking I had ruined my chance to breastfeed my baby because I needed a break. My poor husband took our crying baby and started to rock her, all while I was still crying my eyes out on the couch. My mom was staying with us and at that time she was taking a shower. She came out of the bathroom and Shaun (my beautiful and patient husband) said, ‘Mom, can you help us?’ She instantly went to get the baby and he said, ‘Oh, no, it’s your daughter.’ With a crying baby and a crying mama, the house was complete chaos, but my mother is an angel, and she remained strong for all of us. She calmed me down first, then brought the baby back to me and with her help, baby girl latched and we were happy again. Those first few weeks were so rough that if someone had told me I would be where I am now, I would not have believed it. Sad to say but I think I probably cried more than I smiled. But now I know that it is all normal, and part of the healing process.
My family has been extremely supportive of my journey, and that has helped me through the difficult times! My mom has been absolutely incredible, and the fact that I know she’s proud of me, makes me feel so loved and empowered. My dad has been amazing too. He’s given me food in my mouth while I was breastfeeding my baby, and patted my back when I was in pain. My sister is the one I have no words to describe. She is absolutely my biggest cheerleader. I think if I got her an outfit that said, ‘Go Nai’s Boobs,’ she will definitely wear it everywhere. She has tried to help me with everything, even from far away. And if she didn’t have an answer, she would ask her colleagues for guidance on how to make my journey less stressful. My husband has also been incredible. He has supported me in every decision I took and has brushed away every tear I dropped with kindness and soft words. He is my rock and keeps me afloat.
Back to the story, we had our baby’s lip and tongue tie corrected and slowly her latch got better and better. I was starting to get professional on popping a boob out and latching her quickly, but breastfeeding was still difficult. My baby was on the small side, and although her doctor didn’t seem concerned about her weight gain, well… some family members were. ‘Are you sure she is getting enough?’ I heard that multiple times, and as much as it wasn’t intended to hurt me, it did. I was stuck in a difficult moment, judging and doubting myself constantly. That question and every time someone commented on how little our precious girl looked, my heart would fall into pieces. When my baby was 3 months old, she was about 11 and a half pounds, and someone said to me ‘Oh, now she looks like one of my newborns.’ That hurt me more than it should have. But I was providing my baby with her nutrition, it’s hard not to take offense, it’s hard not to be sad. It was almost like saying I wasn’t doing enough. I think people don’t realize how these comments can be hurtful to a breastfeeding mom.
Still early on, I faced another breastfeeding issue: clogged ducts. I tried everything I could to prevent that from happening but just about nothing really worked. It started to get better when my supply started to drop, right about at 7 or 8 months. It was so bad sometimes I had to squeeze my nipple as if there was a zit on it, and little milk stones would pop out of the ducts. To help me, though, I started pumping right before bed time.
I knew I wanted to keep a stash of breastmilk in the freezer for when I went back to work, so I started to pump on top of exclusively breastfeeding. That’s when I started noticing I didn’t get much milk out of my pumping sessions. That led to another visit with a Lactation Consultant. I was terrified my journey would be over once I went back to work. But she assured me that things were going great, our baby was growing strong and definitely getting what she needed.
Slowly, I built a small stash of frozen milk. I probably had about 400 oz. But what happened is that I did not have more room in my freezer, and did not want to save more than I could use. I still had to pump before bedtime to avoid getting clogged ducts, so every day I had a little bit more milk to put in the freezer. When my baby was about 3 months old, I donated breastmilk for the first time, for a local mother that needed it. I remember her saying her milk had dried up because she got pregnant again and she was struggling with money to get formula (those things are unfairly expensive). I probably gave her about 200oz and I was so relieved that milk was going to be useful to someone that needed it. The whole time I was pumping, even though I wasn’t getting a lot, I wondered if I would hit a point where I would need to use most of my stash for milk baths because I didn’t want to bottle feed if I was home with my baby. I even thought of getting another freezer just for breastmilk, but that didn’t sound like a great idea and we did not have room for that.
Although donating to that mother really opened my eyes to the difficulties so many go through, it was when I went to Brazil that I learned a whole new reality.
I was born and raised in Brazil, so whenever we get the chance, we take a trip to visit my family. Our baby was 4 months old and I was still pumping before bed time, and I knew that milk pumped in Brazil would not make it back to California in good condition. Keeping it in my mom’s freezer was also not an option because we don’t visit them that often. That’s when I thought of looking for a local milk bank. It is a slightly different reality than what we see in California, but still worth sharing with the world.
They requested I answered some questions and have blood work done. If results were good, then I was clear to donate milk to their bank. The beautiful thing about it is that they have people that drive through the whole town to pick up the milk containers, so that it’s easier on the donating mothers. They provide the glass jars, gloves, a mask and if you don’t have a pump, they have it in their facility. They were so grateful that I was going to be donating some.
The employees were really kind and talked to me about their situation with tears in their eyes and a hole in their hearts. They told me they get about 100 liters of breastmilk every month, and that’s what they have to supply four cities. There is no other milk bank in the area. My heart dropped to the floor. To put into perspective, at 3 months, my baby was consuming 1 liter of breastmilk a day. Most of the donated milk goes to NICU babies, who are mostly premature and don’t need as much as a 3 month old, but it is still crazy to see how little they get and how much they need.
After two weeks at my parents’ house, I was able to donate close to 2 liters of breastmilk. I probably over pumped during those two weeks because I really wanted to help that milk bank. But how wonderful it was to know that my body was capable of making a little extra for other families. How beautiful that my baby gave me the opportunity to help other babies.
To all mothers out there, I am not special. I was not gifted the power of producing an enormous amount of breastmilk. I am just a mom who had a couple extra ounces here and there and saved up. I don’t have a magic formula to make more milk. I am not someone you see on Instagram and should be jealous of. I don’t have everything figured out. I am just like you! I am just trying my best at motherhood, but I still have days when all I want to do is hug a pillow and cry. I am not perfect, but I AM perfect for MY baby!
Today I am 14 months into our breastfeeding journey. I have cried many tears. I have worried myself sick that I was losing my supply. I have stressed over my child’s weight gain. I have cried over spilled milk. But now I see how all a mom needs is the trust in their own bodies. So if you are a mom, and you’re new to breastfeeding, please be kind to your body and to your mind. Surround yourself with people that will lift you up. Know that you are amazing just for trying! Being a mother is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. But I see you, mama. I see your tears and my heart is with you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nai Jones from from Simi Valley, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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