There’s a lot to process in the first few hours of motherhood. After nine months of creating a little human being, hundreds of logged hours reading baby books, and, possibly, several days of intense labor, it’s suddenly go-time – you and the babe, center stage.
Nursing is one of those major parenting decisions that most moms make well before the baby makes its debut. But even with the best preparation, it’s hard to fully comprehend this incredible process until the suckeling – or not suckling – begins.
At Well Rounded NY, we like to think of ourselves as a community of all-inclusive, non-judgmental mamas, because we know that every baby and every mama is different. Nothing could be truer of us, Well Rounded’s founders, whose personal experiences have spanned a wide spectrum of pregnancy and birth. So we thought we’d share our very personal conversations with you.
First topic? Nursing, and our individual decisions to feed our babies in the healthiest ways we knew how.
Kaity Velez: You had Libby first, so let’s start with you – did you know you wanted to nurse before delivery?
Jessica Pallay: Absolutely. I had done a ton of reading about nursing, took a breastfeeding class, and even practiced with my pump before the baby arrived. I gave myself the recommended “private time” with Libby immediately after birth, and rang the bell for the hospital lactation specialist every time I heard so much as a whimper. But Libby and I struggled to make that nursing connection very early on, and I left the hospital without ever truly finding a good latch.
KV: Did it get easier at home?
JP: Unfortunately, no. I called in every big gun I could think of, from nipple guards to lactation consultants, and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I had a lot of guilt about “giving up,” but after three days of crying (both mommy and baby!), I put away my boobs and turned to formula feeding. For me, that’s when I could finally begin to enjoy motherhood. Of course, I knew the health benefits associated with nursing, but I also realized that a happy mom is a healthy mom, and a healthy mom makes for a healthy baby.
JP: Was it easier for you? Did Oliver latch immediately at the hospital?
KV: While he did latch, it wasn’t easy. Oliver (in image above) ended up being delivered by C-section (which is a whole other conversation) so like many other C-section mamas, my body didn’t know it had a baby. Therefore my milk took a little longer to come in. I remember at one point the nurses rolling in a giant hospital pump, vaguely explaining to me how to use it, then leaving the room. I sat there with this loud machine hysterically crying, watching nothing come out… and then colostrum, but the nurses in the hospital I was at still insisted I give him some formula. Feeling scared, I did. Thankfully a lactation consultant came in before I left the hospital and kept insisting supply and demand. So while I did partially supplement with formula because of dry diaper scares, I also kept nursing him every time he cried. I just kept hoping more milk would come out each time, and smiled each time I saw that blue line on his diapers. Over the following weeks we went from two bottles a day, to one, to a few a week, to none.
JP: After that rocky start, what made you want to stick it out?
KV: I think the C-section. Unlike you, I wasn’t dedicated to breastfeeding before the birth. I knew it would be the best for my baby but I thought I’d give it a try and if it didn’t work, well hey, I was raised on formula. But feeling like I had lost all control with my birth plan I was determined to make it work. Honestly, I was ready to quit everyday for the first six weeks. And I do think supplementing those first few weeks helped give me tiny breaks with a baby that wanted to nurse every two hours (and sometimes every hour!). I thought I would never leave the couch again. I didn’t start enjoying breastfeeding for a few months. But I guess at the end of the day, knowing that I was literally the fuel for my baby (which still amazes me) kept me dedicated.
KV: Other than obviously nourishing your baby, what are some benefits you think you got to enjoy through bottle feedings?
JP: It was truly a pleasure sharing the feeding with Libby’s daddy. Seeing my husband get up to do a midnight feeding – and seeing him and his daughter lock their tired eyes – made me fall in love with him all over again. And to be honest, I came to relish in the flexibility that bottle-feeding offered. It enabled me to regain some life balance post-baby, knowing that I could rely on others to feed Libby when I couldn’t be with her for longer stretches of time.
JP: Tell me about nursing in public. What’s it like pulling out a boob in a restaurant or at the park? Did it ever make you uncomfortable?
KV: In the beginning it did, but then I found a local mom group that I started meeting up with weekly when Oliver was six weeks, and we’d literally meet for coffee or lunch, talk and basically breastfeed (or bottle feed) in a group. Something I NEVER thought I’d do (I was admittedly a public breastfeeding judger pre-pregnancy). But after a few months of struggling to make sure I scheduled everything around our breastfeeding schedule I decided “screw it.” I just always made sure to wear a shirt or bring a scarf that would cover my boob and breastfeed so I could breastfeed wherever I went. I’d usually spare male friends or family members though and go to another room.
KV: You probably avoided awkward situations with bottle feeding, right?
JP: Actually, in some neighborhoods in New York City, it seems much more acceptable to nurse in public than to use a bottle! I remember the first time I went to yoga with Libby. I was the only mama using a bottle in a room full of breastfeeders. I felt like I had a Scarlet “F” for formula (or failure!) on my chest. Of course, the older she got, the more common it was to see more bottles… and the more comfortable I got with my own decisions as a mother.
JP: I know you were able to nurse with success for much of Oliver’s babyhood. That must give you such a sense of accomplishment!
KV: It does. It’s funny, I remember when Oliver was around 6 months he was a chubber, and my step dad asked “that’s all you?” It was all me! I never thought I’d nurse past 6 months but he’s 17 months and I’m still nursing in the evenings. I feel really grateful that nursing worked for us.
KV: So, you’re about to have your second baby. Do you think you’ll try nursing again?
JP: That’s my plan. I know so many women that had success with nursing their second time around, and I hope I’m one of those women! But I’ll also keep in mind that there’s so much more to being a great mama than your decision to nurse or not to nurse.