breastfeeding: the spray factor and a few other things i wish i knew

According to the CDC only 25% of infants are breastfed exclusively at the age of 6 months. I breastfed exclusively until 7 months when I introduced formula 50/50. I am incredibly proud of myself and my ability to grow and nourish my son with my body. We bonded and I feel great about the potential of him benefiting from the nutrients provided in breastmilk. That said I am so glad it is over. Am I one of those moms who is emotional about it coming to an end? No. Would I do it again? Yes, with these things in mind.

Pump panic

Breastfeeding can be overwhelming between selecting the right pump, before baby arrives, learning how to properly latch or figuring out how to manage your supply when you find out out mid-way that your pump might not be functioning properly. I ended up with a Medela and after a few weeks learned that a manufacturer issue was decreasing my output. I received a replacement but it ended up happening a second time which out of frustration and panic of potentially losing my supply led me to the spectra. I also picked up an Elvie for convenience. So I owned a total of three breast pumps.

If I could do it again, I would have started with the Elvie and Spectra. Spectra worked really well for me and the Elvie (single) just delivered immensely while traveling or in meetings. I also would not have stressed so much about pumping in general. Looking back at it I acted as though if I missed a session all my supply would drop and it would be over but the reality of it is, I still nursed and your supply is going to fluctuate. It is okay. You are not going to wake up the next day ejecting dust particles from your nipples. 

Calorie craze

Similar to when you find out you’re about to be medically induced and want to try everything humanly possible to naturally induce labor, when you realize your milk supply might be suffering or you want to produce more milk for a stash you will do anything. 

I mean, anything. Fenugreek, lactation cookies, oatmeal every single day and, yup, I even went ahead and took the pediatricians suggestion of beer, in my case Guinness. I learned oatmeal, lactation cookies and an occasional Guinness worked best for me. I stuck with most of them for about 6 months, and switched to oat milk once I could no longer stand the sight of oatmeal. I also ate a lot. I believed my supply would suffer if I didn’t consume enough calories. Some days that meant eating things that were out of my usual scope of nutrition and that didn’t make me feel so great. 

If I could do it over, I would go with healthier alternatives or again, wouldn’t pressure myself to meet a quota just for the sake of having a overly sufficient milk supply. I genuinely believe the stress of potentially not having enough did more harm than a day here or there of not eating enough. 

Don’t stress the stash

My understanding is that the female body makes just enough milk to fully nourish its baby. Stories of massive surplus is generally a result of women who heavily focus on calories or have an abundance of time. As a working office mom, I did not have time to sit at a pump for hours, manipulating my body to think there was a baby on it every 20 minutes. I did have a stash that I built up during maternity leave but it didn’t last very long. Even after, I would build a stash and it would disappear.

Again, it was one of those things that had I just let go, it would have worked itself out. My son was growing at a healthy rate, usually at the top percentile. That should have been my point of reference as to whether or not I had enough milk. I also find pumping to feel and be extremely unnatural, the manipulation approach is something I would probably not try again.

The spray factor 

Why didn’t anyone tell me that there would be breastmilk everywhere?! When I enter rooms I’ve pumped in I can still locate milk residue months later. And it’s not only me, if you go into a mother’s room it’s like someone sneezed onto everything, it’s rather gross. All I’m saying is had I known about the spray factor I would have thought twice about pumping in my car. 

All jokes aside breastfeeding is HARD! Overall I wish I would have been more calm about it all, I don’t think stressing it helps. There are enough things to worry about with a newborn, the small antics of breastfeeding rules shouldn’t be one of them. Keep the conversation, feel free to DM me with questions about my personal experience.