FEATURE STORY, MOTHERHOOD

My First Time Exclusively Breastfeeding Was with My 5th Baby (+25 Breastfeeding Tips)

Thinking of exclusively breastfeeding your baby? In today’s post, I’m sharing my breastfeeding experiences which led me to exclusively breastfeed my fifth baby. I hope my breastfeeding tips can encourage other moms who are wanting to breastfeed or who are currently breastfeeding!

The first time I exclusively breastfed one of my children was when I had Zephaniah (my 5th baby). I was honestly a little self-conscious about what people would think of me as a mother of five children exclusively breastfeeding for the first time.

Some people seem to assume just because your a mom of many, you don’t still need help with some “mom life things”, but this isn’t true at all. I think no matter if you’re a first-time mom or a mom of ten kids, there’s always something new to learn about motherhood and we can all use support.

Ever since I had Zhen (3rd baby), I’d periodically get comments like, “Oh, you’re a pro at this!” And it’s funny because with certain aspects of motherhood, like breastfeeding, I didn’t feel like a pro.

I remember a couple of hours after giving birth to Zhen, I had asked the on-call pediatrician a question about breastfeeding. Despite having my third baby, I was honestly clueless as to how to begin nursing my newborn.

His reply to me was, “This isn’t your first rodeo! You know how to do this.” And he absolutely did not help me or find someone who could help me with breastfeeding Zhen.

Breastfeeding Tips from a Mom of Five
Photo of me after giving birth to Zhen in October 2012.

I was a little offended by his comment because what he didn’t know was yeah, it wasn’t my “first rodeo” but there was a 10-year gap between my second child (Michala) and Zhen.

Plus, I didn’t exclusively breastfeed Michala. After having her, I had gotten sick and then I wasn’t able to nurse. And when I had Elijah (my oldest, in the year 2000), I had breastfed for about 4 months, I think.

Back at the hospital, I had trouble getting Zhen to latch onto my left breast. I remember the day after I had Zhen, I asked if a lactation consultant could help me with helping Zhen to latch. The consultant was way too rough with her and Zhen ended up crying the whole time. That experience was really disturbing to me and made me feel apprehensive to ask for help again.

I did, however, seek help again from a different lactation consultant when Zhen was about 2 weeks old. That experience was much more pleasant and the woman was very helpful.

Breastfeeding Tips from a Mom of Five
Holding Zhen when she was about 3-months-old; this was when we lived in Tennessee when Travis was active duty Army.

When we were at home, though, I still struggled with getting Zhen to latch onto both sides. As I grew more frustrated with the process, I decided not to continue breastfeeding. My breastfeeding journey with Zhen lasted 2 to 3 months and I’m thankful I was able to nurse her for a short time.

I still wish, though, I would have remained more patient and kept with it. It never occurred to me to continue pumping on the side she wasn’t latching onto until I was able to get her to latch. I think I was just really exhausted and feeling emotional from the experience.

Three years later in 2015, I gave birth to Zechariah (baby #4). He had trouble latching onto both breasts and I sought help, but I was turned away by a midwife who told me, “It happens. Sometimes babies don’t latch on.”

Feeling confused and defeated about how to help Zechariah latch on, I decided to exclusively pump. Somehow, someway we made it work and I pumped for nine months!

Exclusively Breastfeeding: 20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Zechariah latched a few times after his birth, but he had a difficult time continuing to latch a few days later. I ended up exclusively pumping for about 9 months.
Exclusively Breastfeeding: 20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Photo from a time I pumped breast milk for Zechariah’s feeding.

EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEEDING ZEPHANIAH

So when I had Zephaniah, exclusively breastfeeding was a new experience for me. Not surprising to me, I ran into some issues with the nurses during my postpartum care. Zephaniah was having trouble latching and after many attempts, I was advised to formula feed.

I remember thinking to myself, “Not this shit again!” I was determined to breastfeed, and after everything I experienced with my other children, I was prepared to be patient and work it out.

I disagreed with the nurse’s advice and said I would pump and feed my baby breastmilk by bottle. Strangely enough, the nurse refused to give me a breast pump and kept insisting I formula feed. “I knew I should’ve brought my breast pump to the hospital with me,” I thought to myself.

Finally, I said to the nurse, “I don’t understand why you’re giving me a hard time about this. I have asked you several times if I can please have a breast pump. Can you give me a pump, please?” Annoyed with me, she finally got a hospital breast pump for me to use and I pumped colostrum to feed Zephaniah.

Exclusively Breastfeeding: 20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Zephaniah after he was born

The next day of my postpartum stay in the hospital, a different nurse discovered the reason why Zephaniah was having trouble latching on was because he was having difficulty breathing. He ended up having to go to the NICU for about a day and a half.

And during his very brief time in the NICU, I would pump about 45 minutes before his feeding and I would head down to the NICU to feed him. It was a difficult walk that felt like it took forever because I was still recovering from giving birth.

Travis was home with the little kids and he would come to the hospital to visit for a few hours. He wasn’t able to stay with me the entire time because we weren’t able to keep the little ones at the hospital for long periods of time. Instead, Elijah and Michala took turns staying the night with me at the hospital to help me out.

20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Travis introducing Zechariah to Zephaniah a day after Zephaniah’s birth.

I went to the NICU for just about every feeding (except for one or two because I was exhausted and needed sleep) and I would first try to get Zephaniah to latch.

I will say this, the NICU nurses were very kind and one nurse, in particular, would go out of her way to try to help me with Zephaniah’s latch. He wasn’t able to latch, though, so I fed him my breastmilk with the bottle.

Thankfully, after working with Zephaniah at home, I was able to get him to latch onto both breasts by week three. That felt like such a big victory for me. I will never forget that moment!

Exclusively Breastfeeding: 20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Photo of me holding Zephaniah in the NICU.

If I could go back in time with my other children, though, the biggest thing I would have changed about their infancy care would be I would have focused on being more patient with breastfeding them. I would have taken the time to educate myself on how to breastfeed, learn the benefits of breastfeeding, and sought better breastfeeding support.

I still feel thankful for each breastfeeding journey with my children because, by the time I had Zephaniah, I was able to take all of my breastfeeding experiences and learn from each one. My determination to breastfeed my baby and our hard work to remain consistent with it paid off because I ended up breastfeeding Zephaniah for 2.5 years!

Exclusively Breastfeeding: 20 Breastfeeding Tips to Encourage Moms
Breastfeeding Zephaniah at age two.

25 EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEEDING TIPS I’D GIVE TO MOMS

Here is the advice I’d offer to moms who are interested in exclusively breastfeeding their baby.

1. DON’T GIVE UP! 

2. Not all newborns latch after birth. It’s okay if your baby needs more time to learn how to latch. Be patient, give yourself grace, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. When your milk first comes in, SAVE THE EXTRA MILK! For two weeks I was overproducing breast milk. I breastfed Zephaniah and I also had to pump because I was producing so much milk. If I wouldn’t have pumped, then my breasts would have been engorged.

I made sure to store the extra milk in breastmilk storage bags and I put them in my freezer. I ended up having close to 100 bags of stored breastmilk and I used every single one of those bags in later months!

4. However, you may not always overproduce milk. From my experience, it only happened after my milk first came in. After a few weeks, my milk production became more balanced. I would only pump if I was going to be away from Zephaniah for longer than two hours.

I made sure to store the extra milk in breast milk storage bags and I put them in my freezer.

5. It’s normal for baby to favor one breast and latch onto the favored side but not the other. Keep working with your little one! This happened to me with Zhen, Zechariah, and Zephaniah. I kept working with Zephaniah and he eventually latched onto both sides with no problem!

6. Not every mom’s breastfeeding experience is the same so don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, use other mom’s experiences for encouragement and support, but never compare yourself to anyone.

7. Drink a lot of water! Staying hydrated is SO important for YOU and your baby.

8. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin. It truly helps!

9. Yes, it’s possible your baby will bite at some point. Yes, it hurts like a mutha…, but I promise you the biting phase is something you and baby can work through together. It takes a great deal of patience, but you will get through it!

Don’t compare yourself to other mamas because not every mom’s breastfeeding experience is the same. Use other mom’s experiences to encourage you on your journey.

10. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping can be done when you do it in a safe way. 

11. It’s okay to breastfeed past 12 months! There are many nutritional benefits to extended breastfeeding.

12. It’s okay to pump if you need to go back to work, go out without baby, or if you just need a break!

13. Using a boppy pillow really helps with back support, especially if you have back pain like I do. 

14. Breastfeeding in public is not as bad as I thought it would be. Once I overcame my fear of public breastfeeding and I found a comfortable way to nurse in public, it got much easier for me.

Also, more and more businesses and organizations are starting to be more supportive of breastfeeding. Some places offer nursing rooms for moms. Target, for instance, tells employees not to bother a mom who’s breastfeeding and if she asks for a private place to nurse, a team member will offer a comfortable place in the fitting room area.

15. Did you know that some women don’t get their period when they are breastfeeding? Whereas other women may have a period or an irregular one. My experience was I didn’t get my period until Zephaniah was about 18 months.

A hot summer day breastfeeding Zephaniah at the Detroit Kit Festival. By this time Zephaniah was over a year old and I felt comfortable nursing him in public.

16. Yes, you can have sex if you are lactating. 

17. But it’s also okay if you don’t feel up to it. That’s normal, too.

18. Just like when you are pregnant, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet for you and baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, you should increase your caloric intake by 500 calories each day.

19. Babies also like to breastfeed for comfort, i.e. when they are fussy or sleepy.

20. You won’t leak as much as you did when your breastmilk first came in, but you should still bring nursing pads with you just in case. I used the Lansinoh pads and I didn’t have any skin irritation.

When Zephaniah was 4 months, I bought a big box of Lansinoh pads. That big box lasted me for a long time– thanks to less leaking and understanding my body.

21. Document your breastfeeding journey in your journal and with your camera. You will thank yourself later!

I documented my breastfeeding experience with my camera and I am so happy I did! I now have some treasured memories I can look back on years from now.

22. Do what’s best for you and your baby. Seek encouragement and support from family, friends, and professionals, but don’t let anyone’s opinion overrule you. You have the final say. Always.

23. It’s okay to choose a time to stop exclusively breastfeeding if you think it’s best for you and baby.

24. You can breastfeed while you’re pregnant, too. I breastfed Zephaniah during my first trimester of my current pregnancy.

25. And most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP, MAMA! You got this!

If you breastfed your babies or are still breastfeeding, is there anything you have learned about breastfeeding your baby? What would you add to my list?


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