While I was pregnant with my daughter Demi, I assumed I would breastfeed, and I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was a second-time mom with one successful breastfeeding journey under my belt and believed what every other second-time mom thinks, “I know what I’m doing.”
I was three weeks postpartum when I realized I needed help, and by then, it was too late. I was out for the count with a clogged duct that turned into mastitis, an infection of breast tissue. The pain, fatigue, body aches, chills, despair, and anxiety was unlike anything I had ever experienced. When the infection hit, Demi refused my breast – which was confusing because, until the infection, she was on my breast all. day. long. How does one baby eat around the clock, yet is always hungry?! Fahk me.
I wasn’t ready to give up on nursing, so I called in the experts at The Lactation Network to help me get back on my feet – and holy shit, am I glad I did.
THE LACTATION NETWORK
The Lactation Network connects families with lactation consultations, breast pumps, and breastfeeding products they need to thrive. Powered by the largest network of IBCLCs in the country, TLN advocates to provide access by working with insurance providers to deliver in-home care. Additionally, TLN is a resource to rent or buy breast pumps. They’re lactation consultants, yes, but also educators and confidants who set families up for ultimate success.
The best part? It was SO easy to book my appointment. All you have to do is enter your insurance (more insurance includes lactation support) and request an appointment based on how urgently you need a visit. After that, the rest takes care of itself – you’re set to meet with an experienced lactation consultant in the privacy of your own home – in some cases in as quickly as 36 hours.
Within 24-hours of my outreach, I learned I had at least three sessions covered by my insurance and an appointment with a consultant for the following day. I felt an automatic relief just knowing that help was on the way.
My LC, Joan, arrived right on time after a series of texts informing me how to prep for our appointment and what to expect. After our initial introductions and pleasantries, Joan got down to business. We stripped Demi down to her diaper, weighed her, and then nursed for a half hour. After the feeding, we weighed Demi again and found that she took in A HALF OUNCE OF BREASTMILK.
That was it.
That was the reason behind her nursing all day but constantly feeling hungry, the clogged milk ducts, and the mastitis.
In a matter of a half-hour, Joan had the answers to all the questions I had been asking myself for three weeks. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I pumped for 20-minutes to empty my breasts while Joan helped me outline my breastfeeding strategy.
MY PLAN OF ACTION
I was on a mission to rebuild my supply, which plummeted due to the infection and get Demi to latch again. Joan advised a four-pronged approach, and it’s important to note that this plan was customized for me based on Demi’s needs, my life, anatomy, and situation. That’s the beauty of the consultation – it’s for YOU. I can’t recommend meeting with one of The Lactation Network’s consultants enough.
- Renting a hospital-grade pump
- Nipple-like bottles and pacifier
- A detailed pumping schedule
By the time she left, I felt confident, in control, and so relieved.
RENTING A HOSPITAL-GRADE PUMP
Hospital-grade pumps have more powerful motors that provide a higher level of suction and more efficient pumping than commercial pumps. They’re expensive as hell, but the good news is you can rent them! And as it turned out, my insurance covered that too.
Like any other process with TLN, it was a snap. Joan facilitated the conversation between TLN and my insurance provider, and within a week, a Medela Symphony pump (and all the parts) was delivered to my door. It’s HUGE, heavy, and kind of clunky, but damn does it work. I pump at home with my rented Symphony, and on the go with the Medela Freestyle Flex.
Whatever your needs or preferences may be, TLN can help you find the right pump for you.
According to Joan, there are many breastfeeding supplements on the market, but the only ones worth their salt are from Legendairy Milk. She urged me to purchase Liquid Gold, which helps milk production, mammary growth, and prolactin release. And Sunflower Lecithin, to help prevent clogs in the future. I purchased before she even left my house and followed the recommended serving sizes.
Just like fitness nutrition, these supplements are not a shortcut or secret sauce to increasing supply. They’re a piece of the puzzle. Do you know what I mean?
BOTTLES AND PACIFIERS
Bottlefeeding was always an inevitable part of our journey – my mat leave is over on October 18th and with Demi in daycare, the majority of her meals will be from a bottle.
A bottle with a nipple similar to my anatomy would help encourage Demi to go from one to the other. Obviously, Joan had a recommendation for that too, and with that, I purchased a six-pack of Lansinoh mOmma bottles, as well as Bibs pacifiers which she said would help strengthen Demi’s sucking power.
IMPLEMENTING A PUMPING SCHEDULE
The final tactic was my pumping schedule. I’d begin pumping every 2-3 hours, including a power pumping session for 4 consecutive days. Power pumping is like the Tabata of breastfeeding. It’s two sets of 20-minutes of pumping separated by 10 minutes of rest. That’s an hour of pumping, bishes. I power pumped Tuesday-Friday for two weeks straight. I waited until both kids were down so I could relax and focus. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical. I had a rather pessimistic POV but decided to trust the process…and Joan.
Within a week, I was producing more milk than I’d ever produced before. I went from pumping 3oz TOTAL per session, to at least 5oz total with every session. I couldn’t believe it.
Now, every body is different, so is that to say this protocol will yield the same results for everyone who tries it? No. This strategy was created for me by my dedicated lactation consultant.
However, there’s one universal truth with boosting milk supply – empty breasts fill. If you’re consistent with your pumping and power pumping, chances are you’ll see some sort of increase.
The next few weeks Joan checked in to see how we were doing and made herself available to answer any questions I had.
When I learned of Demi’s milk protein intolerance (I had to cut dairy and butter out of my diet immediately so Demi’s gut could heal) Joan emailed me RIGHT AWAY with educational resources, food options, dairy-free brands, and recipes. Her attention to detail and commitment to me was truly remarkable.
Finally, their website hosts a library of articles, and evidence-based information to help you educate yourself, so you can make the best choices for yourself and your family every step of the way.
In the US, postpartum care is severely lacking. From medical to emotional support, new mothers are left to their own devices to not only take care of their babies but take care of themselves.
Breastfeeding may be biological and therefore natural, but do not for one moment confuse natural with easy. Breastfeeding is challenging and can feel isolating and at times lonely. But it doesn’t have to be! The Lactation Network is a wealth of knowledge and offers invaluable resources from consultants to research, equipment, and more. When we, as women, use the resources we have available to us, have open and honest conversations with one another about our experiences, and provide each other the support we so desperately need, we can change the conversation around breastfeeding (and pumping!).
Knowledge is power. And my MO in and out of the gym transcended to my lactation experience.
Stop guessing. Start living.
The expertise of TLN helped me get out of my head, and get into my present moment to savor every moment with my growing family.
And that is truly priceless.