Here are my top share worthy pieces of content I've stumbled across in the past week! This list is a little shorter than usual because (if you've been following along you know) I unplugged for a bit to do Disney World with my family. Now that I am getting myself back up to speed, here is what has caught my eye.
April was Alcohol Awareness Month - @neda did a great post sharing that about 20% of eating disorder patients develop an alcohol use disorder. This week at Digestive Disease Week I have also been learning about the correlation between IBD and developing an alcohol use disorder. This topic is very top of mind for me right now and I like that this post highlights some resources for those looking for support.
May 4th was the first Terminated for Medical Reasons Awareness day. This topic is an emotional one and often hard to talk about, but with abortion rights continuing to diminish we need to be talking about this. @postpartumsupportinternational shared a powerful post about one mother's experience with TFMR and her explanation of why it is so critical to protect this right.
NPR on Messy House Shame - My mom actually sent me this article because she knows how hard I stress over keeping my home together. This article provides some relief in validating that you are running your home just the way you are supposed to for your family.
I'm kicking off your week with a roundup of content I've found really valuable over the past two weeks! The last roundup was a hit so I am even more excited to share a bit of what has been filling my content plate recently.
Always feel free to drop a link to your favorite article, podcast, or post you "saved" this week. I would love to check it out!
Black Maternal Health Week - Posts & Resources
Black Maternal Health Week was 4/11-4/17 so I wanted to first and foremost highlight some of the resources related to the topic. The Womb Room, a Baltimore based perinatal support center, shared a post on Instagram that pointed out so harrowing statistics about maternal mortality rates for black mothers. This post serves as a somber reminder of the disparity in healthcare and the importance of bringing awareness to this issue. The post doesn't just share WHY we need to care, it also shares specific ways that you can make an impact. We shouldn't just wait for this week to occur to bring awareness to this issue. This needs to be at the forefront of our minds constantly until changes are made. This article on The Every Mom from a couple years ago is also very helpful if you are looking for a deeper dive into the disparities in Black Maternal Health and some suggested ways to help.
Addressing Healthcare Inequity with IBD Advocate @kimberlymhooks
Kim and I are both part of the American Gastro Association Patient Influencer Program. That is how I discovered her content and have been finding everything she puts out to be so helpful. She is a great follow for those in the IBD community. She shares a lot about her life with IBD and the advocacy work she is doing all with an incredibly positive attitude.
78% of the Mental Load Falls on Mothers with @mamapsychologists
Mental load is a hot topic right now and rightfully so. We are finally putting a name to all of the extra work that moms do and recognizing that work. It's not just magic behind the scenes, there are hard working mom's making life happen. This post really spoke to me as I recently recorded a podcast episode about the mental load of traveling as a mom.
Podcast: Skimm This: State of Women... and Society
My last pick of this week is a podcast. The Skimm just launched Skimm This Special Edition where they are diving into different issues impacting women in America. The first episode called State of Women... and Society was one of the best podcast episodes I have ever listened to. It so eloquently described the social landscape we are facing as women and even had the author of Fair Play on to weigh in. The Fair Play card game has been a game changer in my marriage after having kids so I was thrilled to hear more about how this tool can help other women. The second episode of the mini series dropped a few days ago and it is at the top of my queue to listen to while working this morning.
Designing a nursery can be so fun, but it can also cause you to rack up some pretty big bills. Baby supplies in general, and especially nursery furnishings are not cheap. When I was pregnant with Maddox, we were still living in our townhouse. He had a super tiny room we were trying to make into a Pinterest worthy nursery and a budget almost as small as the room. We made it happen through shopping sales, repurposing furniture, and a little DIY. You can read about the whole process here. This time around we were also hoping to stay within a small budget for designing our baby girl’s nursery. We moved into a new house so we have more space to work with, but with adding a second kid into our budget we were hoping to still save on the decor.
The first thing we decided on was reusing the furniture from Maddox’s nursery. He had graduated to a big boy bed so no longer needed the crib. We also were ready to move the glider out of his room so he could have more space to play. Both of these we are utilizing in the nursery now. We also assessed the house for other things we could repurpose. We have a refinished long white dresser that used to be a TV stand in our old living room. This is now her dresser/changing table. We had some white shelves that we used for storage in our old basement. We moved two into her room/closet for extra storage. We also had a large piece of art in our old living room that didn’t really have a home since we moved. The color scheme is pink, gray, and gold which actually was perfect for our nursery design. We were really leaning into the pink theme and the gray from the art really tied in the colors of the glider and crib from Maddox’s old nursery.
At this point I felt pretty good that we had the base items covered. I made a list of the additional items we wanted and then waited for sales. My company offers a discount at RugsUSA so we were able to get the rug we wanted for a reasonable price. We found a lamp we loved on clearance at HomeSense for $25. I waited for some sales at Target to pick up this Studio McGee mirror and shelves (they were only $20 each!). Amazon was my go to for picture frames, curtain rods, curtains, and storage baskets. We were also lucky enough to have most of her linens gifted to us which was really helpful. What I would categorize as the “unnecessary” or “cherry on top” items were the Barefoot Dreams blanket, the art prints, and the ceiling light. One of my best friends gifted us the Barefoot Dreams blanket (she also gifted me my very first one, so kind of a tradition I guess!). As for the ceiling light, I almost purchased one off of Amazon until my sister (who was decorating my niece’s nursery) clued me in to this steal from Lowe’s. It is about $140 which is a great price compared to some others I was finding (think in the $300+ range). This one is great quality and looks a lot more expensive than it is. One of the last items I decided on were the prints for her wall. For Maddox’s room I found prints off of Etsy and did the whole digital download, print yourself, cut to size thing, which I didn’t mind. This time around I found an Etsy shop with these two prints (1, 2) and just knew they were perfect for the room. I ordered them already printed and it ended up being about $50 total. It was more expensive than the DIY thing, but I was happy to support a woman owned small business. I love that I can tell my daughter that one day when she looks at them.
Overall I am so happy with how the nursery turned out. I don’t feel guilty that we spent too much money. Looking back I’m relieved that I put the money I wanted to spend on an entirely new, stark white Pottery Barn room set in her college fund instead. No shade to anyone who goes for the splurge, it just didn’t feel necessary for us. I think it’s cool that a lot of the pieces in her room have a story about where they came from, just how Maddox’s room does. I am also really shocked at how different the gray glider and crib from Maddox’s nursery look in the new nursery. I was skeptical at first, but seeing how well everything came together definitely made me realize how little decor tweaks can make all the difference.
If you read my post about designing Maddox’s nursery, you are probably already familiar with my tips for finding sales and staying on budget. This time I’m going to leave you with a few new tips after going through this a second time.
Tips for Designing a Budget Friendly Nursery
At the end of the day, no matter what theme you decide on or what budget you are working with your baby will love their nursery. It is a special place that you put love into creating for them. You’ll be spending a lot of time in there with your little one over their first years so the biggest tip I have is make sure it is a place where you feel comfortable, calm, and safe so that your baby can learn to feel that way in their room too!
On October 18th 2022 we welcomed our daughter McKenna Josephine into the world! After a rough pregnancy and some complications we were thrilled to finally have her safely in our arms. She was delivered via c-section at 37 weeks. After some hours in the NICU she was reunited with us and we have been loving on her ever since.
After Maddox was born I shared his birth story via blog post. I wanted to do the same with McKenna (just this time in podcast form). Delivering Maddox was a lot more of a difficult and traumatic experience than delivering McKenna. Despite them both being c-sections they were incredibly different in a lot of ways that I share in her story. I thought it was important to highlight that such a positive birth experience can come after having such a scary one.
If you have followed our journey on social media you probably know that both McKenna and I faced some challenges after she was born. I wanted to keep McKenna's birth story separate from the discussion all of those details so this episode really only focuses on her birth story. There will be a separate episode sharing the next part of our story.
I hope you enjoy the story of our spunky, sweet, beautiful McKenna Josephine joining our family earth side.
Listen to the episode below or directly on Spotify or Apple.
Juggling a toddler and a newborn this holiday season has left me less time for gift guide curating this year. For most people on my list I’ll be relying on the other creators who have researched and put together thorough lineups. There is a category which I currently do feel like I am an expert in so I wanted to share a niche, but helpful guide that hits home for me right now.
Practical (+ Thoughtful) Gifts For New Moms
Of course I’ve shared some tried and true favorites which are always good to give to new moms - things like a cozy Barefoot Dreams cardigan, Ugg slippers, or a breastfeeding safe ingredient face mask. This list, though, I put together as I am in the trenches of postpartum. Literally I put this together in the middle of the night while pumping. Here are five things that are not run of the mill new mom gifts, but gifts that are things she truly wants/needs and may not even know it.
Click to shop.
1. Baby Book Journal - Baby books are such a sweet concept, but as a busy mom it’s hard to remember to even respond to an email much less keep up with a baby book. I love this one because it only requires one hour of commitment per year. The prompts are created for you and the layout/design is super chic. Gifting this is something a new mom will appreciate. It’s thoughtful, useful, and not stressful to keep up with. There are a bunch of options out there, but this is one I like!
2. Mini Fridge - This is a game changer if you are combo feeding, exclusively pumping, or formula feeding. Having a convenient spot to stash milk supplies next to your bed makes a huge difference during those middle of the night feedings. She could also use it at her feeding/pumping station, keeping it full of drinks and snacks to keep her fueled up. Once baby is old enough, she can switch it to a skincare fridge for things like face masks and under eye creams. Convenience and a little bit of luxury.
3. Heated Neck Stretcher - The postpartum back and neck pain is NO JOKE. Carrying a baby and delivering a baby are tough on your body, not to mention breastfeeding (where we’re often hunched over or tense). Show a new mom you’re thinking of her with a device that will help ease some of that tension. It will be very appreciated.
4. Audible Subscription - Listening to audiobooks is a great way to keep entertained during those sleepless nights or have something to focus on during the long (sometimes lonely) postpartum days. When adult human connection is in short supply sometimes putting on a good book to listen to throughout the days makes me feel better. The best part about audiobooks is they are perfect for multitasking with the baby. You can listen during feeds, neighborhood walks, or drives.
5. DoorDash or UberEats Giftcard - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could justify getting coffee delivered to my doorstep at 7am. Also, I can’t even begin to count the nights when ordering takeout is the only way we have a chance at getting fed. Meal delivery gift cards are practical, will most certainly be used, and definitely appreciated. Anything that can justify a 7am coffee delivery for a new mom is a win.
Okay, it’s time to talk about potty training. I’ve had so many conversations with other moms about this and I feel like this is a universal rough spot of parenting.
I don’t really have a specific parenting style. I read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and like all of those infographics on Instagram. I feel informed in many areas, but don’t subscribe to a specific method or style. We take what works and discard the rest (or save it for later depending on the advice). This works for us, but sometimes I think it perpetuates the feeling that I’m always making a wrong decision. So many of these methods and styles contradict each other and since I pick and choose what I use I am never following a plan to a T. I’m never getting to check the boxes on everything. All of this means that by someone’s standards I’m always doing something “wrong”. I get now that’s kind of just par for the course in motherhood.
Well potty training was going to be different for us.
Our day one potty training experience sucked. Like obviously, yeah running your kid back and forth to the potty is a lot, and cleaning up pee from every floor in your home is rough, but it’s more than that.
We decided to start training early (a little before 23 months), because there is a local preschool program that we think Maddox will love. You can start once you turn two and you are potty trained. Everyone we mentioned this to was like “wow two is early”, but we read the books, took notes, and had a plan. He could stay my little baby in diapers for another year and I’d be fine with it, but thinking about the fun I know he will have at this program motivated me.
Well fast forward to day one of getting our plan in motion. We did everything the book said, and we were proud of how well we abided by the plan. Maddox was doing a great job sitting on the potty, but was really struggling with knowing when it was time to get to the potty. We had a day mixed with success and accidents. We stayed super positive through it. By the end of the day though, Maddox started getting so frustrated with himself. He’s smart and knows he’s supposed to be doing something, but he was really struggling to do it. He’s a natural problem solver so I knew he was really trying. It broke my heart. He patiently waited on the potty, allowed us to help him, and listened to our directions. He was exhausted and upset. We were exhausted and upset. Not because of accidents or mess but because seeing our little boy so frustrated with himself was horrible.
In every potty training and behavior book I’ve read about toddlers there is a focus on the independence you are giving your child by helping them learn things for themselves. You’re helping instill confidence in them and giving them the boundaries to explore and succeed safely. I definitely buy into this and we’ve seen it work with so many other milestones. It’s how our family functions each day.
Looking at this day through that lens made me question what we were doing. We were giving Maddox the boundaries, the rules, the tools, the encouragement. The effort was there fully from us and him, but this was not giving him confidence even when he was getting it “right”. Things just didn’t feel right. We were off the rails and fumbling our way through.
I was reluctant to stray from our plan because even the books say you’re “weak” or letting your child manipulate you. I was failing by not making this happen for him. Was I failing him? Or did I feel like I was failing myself? I’m not a quitter I thought. But I also want what is best for my son. If he’s not ready then why can’t we reevaluate? Reevaluating went against my instinct to always push forward and “complete the mission”, but as a parent, my mom instinct was twisting inside of me saying “you know your child best and you know how/what he responds to best. You know how he works. You may not be a parenting or toddler behavioral expert but you are the expert on Maddox.”
As he took a nap I obsessed over fearing I was letting him down by “giving up” on our plan, but then also fearing that I wasn’t doing what’s best for him as his mom who knows him best. Either way I felt like I was making a wrong decision (which honestly motherhood feels like this a lot).
Matt and I sat down at the end of the day and agreed on a pivoted plan that felt best for our son based on what we, his parents, the “Maddox experts” think. The weight felt lifted off of my shoulders and the knot inside my stomach loosened. That should be proof enough we made the “right” decision.
Well fast forward to once everyone is in bed and I’m still thinking about our choice. This has become an entire emotional mind fuck for me. Am I weak and letting my family down because I can’t follow “the plan”. Am I not dedicated enough? Am I not wanting to deal with the challenge? Somehow my entire worthiness as a mom and a person is hinged on this stupid potty training decision. Why.
I broke it down and by pivoting to a custom Maddox plan as we call it there really are no downsides for him. He will eventually be potty trained, when he is developmentally ready. He may not be able to start preschool right away, but he can start when he’s ready. There are plenty of other ways he can socialize, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. All is good.
All of the negatives are based on me feeling like I failed him, me feeling like weak, and me feeling like I didn’t do things “right”. Logically I know this sounds crazy, but once you read enough parenting advice that literally threatens you not to divert from the plan and you’re a type A personality it really can take hold of you.
How could I have predicted that the most traumatic part of potty training would not be accidents all over our new house, but instead the emotional weight of trying to do what’s best for your child, while also trying to figure out what the heck that is.
I guess the moral of the story here is a few things:
You know your kid best, you may not be a parenting expert but you’re an expert at being their parent
Plans, books, and advice for parents read very black and white. On paper it is nice and neat and makes perfect sense. In practice though our kids are all of the messy but beautiful colors in between so we have to figure out how to navigate that. A black and white plan isn’t always the answer.
Parenting really throws your biggest insecurities in your face and makes you face them head on. As you child grows you are growing emotionally too.
So a month out from our original potty training weekend, we are continuing to practice our “Maddox plan”. He is wearing training diapers and practicing going to the potty. He is a lot happier, we are a lot happier, and we will get this potty training thing down fully when it’s the right time for our family.
Back in May we shared the news that we are adding a new little one to the Pickens family! I really wanted to do a cute shoot to announce the pregnancy, but also focus on Maddox becoming a big brother. To us that was part of what made the news so exciting! We had an adorable "Big Bro" jacket made for him, thanks to Amy Scripts. After we say how cute it was we decided to fully embrace the denim thing as a family.
We worked with my friend Jade (Jade Nikkole Photography) to bring the vision to life. We opted for lots of candids (a must when shooting with a toddler!) and wanted to highlight the genuine happiness as we told Maddox what it was going to be like to be a big brother.
I shared a few of these precious photos in our social media announcements, but wanted to give them a moment here too since they are so special to us.
This time last year I was in my third trimester, feeling pretty sick everyday, and trapped in my house thanks to the pandemic. When I tell you the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale kept me going there for a few long nights when I was too uncomfortable to sleep. I planned out a whole ‘Wish List’ of things I was going to need for delivery/new mom life. I was thrilled when I was able to find just about everything I wanted in stock, but of course there was the question of whether or not I would actually use this stuff. There is always that expectation versus reality thing that gets you, especially when entering parenthood.
A year later I can say that all of my top picks from the sale last year have actually been some of my most used/worn items throughout the end of my pregnancy and first year of motherhood. Honestly, a lot of these picks I couldn’t justify getting if I didn’t snag them on sale so I want to share them with you all so you can add them to your ‘Wish List’ as the Anniversary Sale kicks off.
I will never not recommend this blanket. It is the softest, coziest blanket and worth every bit of hype surrounding it. This is probably one of the most used items in my life. I brought one to the hospital with me when I had Maddox and we snuggle in it everyday. They are also super easy to wash and care for which is a must when dealing with baby mess.
I have two pairs of these pajamas and they are a staple in my closet. Their buttery soft fabric has me looking forward to changing into them at the end of the day and honestly, I spent many consecutive days right after Maddox’s arrival in these. The button down style makes the top breastfeeding friendly and the bottoms are super stretchy so they accommodate for that postpartum diaper look or c-section recovery.
These Barefoot Dream cardigans are worth the price. They are basically like wearing a super cozy blanket. I pretty much lived in these all Fall and Winter. I paired them with nursing tanks and leggings and was ready for lounging on the couch, feeding the baby, or a Zoom meeting.
After having Maddox I needed some good walking shoes because as a new mom you walk a lot. Something I learned the hard way is that you also need treads/a good grip. These are perfect for strolling through the neighborhood and eventually chasing you little one around. I have the plain white and grey ones, but can’t wait to get my hands on this pattern this year.
What Else I Would Add This Year
Hospital slippers are so necessary and you want a pair that is both comfy and soft effective (in case they get yucky). These check both of those boxes and would be at the top of my list if I was expecting again.
I lived (and still do live) in leggings so having a few quality ones to rotate through its a necessity. These Zella leggings are a great price, are high waisted, and have pockets. They are on my ‘Wish List’ this year!
Scroll through a few more of my picks below to see what I am hoping to add to my cart this year.
As restrictions ease up and we start “reentering life”, I can’t help but feel more than a little uneasy. Yes, I am concerned about safety and my family’s health, but there has been more than that weighing on me. The past year has impacted everyone so differently and for me the global pandemic just happened to coincide with being pregnant with my son and becoming a mom. It has certainly been a year of massive change. Both of these life events I’m sure would have been catalysts to life changes, but together they have pushed me through an emotional journey and I’m coming out on the other side sort of a different person. That is what I am so nervous about. I am a different person than I was 14 months ago at the beginning of this and I am not sure I know how to be this person back out in the world.
I won’t explain all of the evolution I’ve been through and revelations I’ve experienced as I have been alone with myself and my thoughts late at night uncomfortable from a pregnant belly or nursing a tired newborn. What specifically the changes are doesn’t matter. The key is that now, after 14 months of happily living with my new self, I have to take her out into the world and figure things out.
This transition is more challenging because we were very, very strict with our quarantine. I have not been into my office in over a year and I have not seen my friends in person since before anyone could even tell I was pregnant. I literally grew an entire life inside of me, birthed him, and he is now almost 8 months old. In that whole time I have rarely seen anyone outside of my family bubble.
The weird thing is, the world was still going on around me while I was almost paused in this quarantine bubble. Protecting my baby was number one so I blocked out the rest of the world and here I am trying to reemerge and things are really different. But so am I.
My anxiety, I’m sure, stems from my lack of control of the world around me. Now that I am out of my bubble, anything seems to be fair game. My carefully calculated life is now open to scrutiny, error, and failure. I don’t have the same priorities, interests, or even fashion sense as I did a year ago. I’m more vulnerable than I have ever been as a new mom just trying to figure that out and figure me out. Our society is not kind to new moms (or moms in general!) and their changes are often seen as weakness instead of growth. I am taking that raw person and putting her out into almost a new world and what used to be default and comfortable is now just the opposite.
My ultimate goal is that I am able to carry on a slower, more mindful pace of life and keep my protective bubble at least partially intact while exploring what, on the other side of the past 14 months, makes me, me. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this and I’m sure navigating this will be a journey in itself.
No matter how you feed your baby, the journey has ups and downs, as well as an often glossed over emotional component. Our feeding story has been a mix of many methods, but today I’m talking specifically about my experience breastfeeding.
At 10 weeks postpartum, I wrote an emotional post explaining the realities of breastfeeding during those first 10 weeks. I never released the post because it felt too raw and emotional at the time. Now at six months postpartum, I revisited it and added an update on where we are now. Being more removed from the trenches, per say, it feels like it’s time to share. Hopefully these truths help to either prepare you that struggle is normal or show you that there is a bright view from the other side. I wish at 10 weeks postpartum I would have read something like this and honestly that is part of the reason why I wrote this.
Breastfeeding is freaking hard. It is one of the most time consuming and thankless jobs you will ever have. I definitely feel like my expectations were skewed going into motherhood. From looking at Instagram and all of the mom bloggers posting their boob happily in their baby’s mouth, I was under the impression that breastfeeding was this super easy natural thing and my biggest issue would be the sad day I’d have to stop because he got too old. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. I am here to tell you that is not the norm although it may happen to some of the lucky ones, but do not let that expectation take over. I have grown a lot more comfortable with my journey and realized that a lot of other moms have these ups and downs in their breastfeeding story as well. I want to walk through my story and the stuff no one tells you because from my experience there is a lot of it. I am an avid researcher of situations before entering them and no class, book, or Google search prepared me for this. The only thing that made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy or the only one going through the breastfeeding rollercoaster was hearing the raw truth from other moms.
So let’s start with when I realized how underprepared I really was which was, well immediately after giving birth. I didn’t realize that I was going to be pumping from the beginning. I had this idea that my baby would be born, immediately latch to my boob, and that would be that. I thought the first time I’d have to even pull out my pump was when I’d eventually want a glass of wine so I could do the old pump and dump. That entire thought sequence is false on just about every level.
Your milk doesn’t “come in” for a few days so while you are in the hospital you are pumping to get things going. My hospital provided me with a breast pump to use which I believe most hospitals do, but at first there was little instruction so I was winging it and doing it totally wrong. Maddox was born via c-section and was in the Nicu for a bit before I got to feed him myself so I just hung out super drugged up trying to operate this pump while I waited for him. We didn’t really succeed with the whole breastfeeding thing the entire time we were in the hospital. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake since I was already leaking a little weeks before Maddox’s birth. That was not indicative in any way of what our breastfeeding experience would look like.
When Maddox was discharged from the Nicu to us, they let us know he had already been given formula and a pacifier. They told me as if I was going to lose my mind that they gave my child these taboo things instead of just being so damn grateful that got him well after our rough birth. The formula and pacifier were literally the last thing I was worried about. From this point out we got a lot of mixed messages about the whole breastfeeding vs formula thing. The nurses, especially his ones from the Nicu, said that he needed to eat and get his weight up and not to worry if we had to use formula because he was early, therefore probably not a strong feeder yet. Since I was producing next to nothing at this point I started filling him up on formula. I went into motherhood just assuming I would exclusively breastfeed, but I was never against formula at all. The nurses even gave him formula when he went for shots because he was getting cranky. They apologized when they returned him, but said they really thought he needed it. I did not think this warranted an apology at all. They knew what they were doing way more than I did so if they thought he needed formula, go for it! They also handed me back a calm baby when they left with an angry one so I really owed them a thank you.
Due to Covid, it was more difficult to see a lactation consultant, but eventually I was able to. Her opinion was to very much shy away from the formula. She said that my body knew what to do and so did Maddox. The notion sounded great, but I could not get Maddox to latch. We worked on this a lot and eventually compromised on a temporary solution. If he wasn’t able to latch, I would pump into tiny little cups and syringe feed him the little bit of breastmilk I had produced. We did this even when we got home. If he got really agitated and I was out of breastmilk, I would give him a bit of formula, but I was really leaning into the whole breastmilk only thing.
When we took him to the pediatrician a couple days after we brought him home, our doctor let us know that he had dropped a significant amount of weight since he was born. She was awesome and walked through my whole feeding routine with me, which yielded the advice to add in some formula so he could get a consistent supply and get back up to his birth weight. The way she explained it made a lot of sense to me. He was early and small so it might take him until he gets older and bigger to become a stronger feeder. For now we supplement as much as we need to and that will only help us toward our endgame of exclusive breastfeeding.
We did this and my life got a whole lot easier. Before I was having to pump every few hours and then syringe feed him. Now I had the freedom to pump while Matt gave him a formula bottle and then I could give him the breastmilk at his next feeding. Of course he immediately gained weight and we were thrilled as was his pediatrician. We continued to do this for three weeks while I still tried to get him to latch. This whole process was excruciatingly painful for my breasts as we worked on getting a good latch. On top of that, I was growing more anxious as we approached the one month mark when Matt had to go back to work and I wouldn’t have the extra set of hands to give a bottle while I pumped. This whole feeding process was extremely time consuming, which after talking to other moms I’ve realized feels like the case no matter what your feeding scenario is.
I finally decided to take the pediatrician up on an offer to see their lactation consultant. I went into my appointment saying, “I just want to know if he will ever be able to latch or if I should give up and get my mind around the fact that I would be exclusively pumping.” After a few very simple and quick adjustments, Maddox was latched and eating very well and I had renewed hope. I started being able to breastfeed him a lot more. We still were supplementing with formula as my supply stabilized as I started to feed him more. Cue another round of extremely painful, I mean toe curling, breast pain that brought me to tears and made me dread the next feeding time. We got through the initial pain after a few weeks, but then came clogged ducts, mastitis, and bruising. It has never actually gotten easy like I thought it would. I spent a lot of time feeling uncertain about supplementing with formula, which my pediatrician helped me through with an explanation that resonated with me. She said that if I am giving him breast milk a bit in some way he is receiving the benefits and by having formula included too he is just getting those added benefits as well. She made it into a positive for my baby instead of a failure.
The whole breastfeeding process has caused me so much anxiety from the start. I was convinced if I didn’t pump exactly when I was supposed to my milk would just dry up. I obsessively calculated how long to wait to feed him after a glass of wine and then would end up pumping anyway and testing my milk with testing strips three times to confirm. I was so frustrated because I felt like every time I was with Maddox it was just to feed him, which wasn’t an awesome experience for me so it made me irritated. Then I hated feeling irritated every time I got to actually spend time with him. Then of course there is the guilt that I am not doing enough as a mom because I have to supplement with formula. I won’t even start on that whole anxiety blackhole, but I’ll tell you it sucks and it is hard to get out off. I mention all of this in the past tense because I like to think I am making progress on the anxiety. Actually, I know I am (thanks to my mom group and group therapy) and I have been able to finally enjoy some feeding sessions with my baby. I have not yet gotten to the point where I can exclusively give him breastmilk and I don’t really think I will get to that point. I am fine with continuing to supplement with formula if that is what will keep him healthy and keep my mental health in check.
Breastfeeding has not yet felt easy to me. It feels like a job. Or a never ending item on my to do list that as soon as I cross it off it reappears. In my 10 weeks with Maddox, I have suffered quite a few painful incidents with clogged ducts and bruised nipples and I would not wish that pain upon my worst enemy. I feel a guilty pit in my stomach saying that it feels like a painful obligation at times, but I know I am not alone in this. I’m not sure how long my breastfeeding journey will last, but I am grateful that I have gotten to the point where I have been able to find some enjoyment with it. In the early morning when it is just me and my son sitting in the dark and he so sweetly nestles his head into me,I think about how I love having him so close and I am incredibly thankful for our special time together. I am happy that I have been able to give him breastmilk in some way, shape or form for the first 10 weeks of his life and I am also glad I can share my experience thus far in hopes of tempering expectations and validating the feelings of other struggling moms who read this.
I wrote this post with so much emotion at just 10 weeks postpartum. I wanted to revisit my breastfeeding journey because it has continued far longer than I had thought it would and I have come to enjoy it a lot more. I also went back to working at 12 weeks postpartum which added another layer to our breastfeeding journey.
About a week after I wrote my first update on breastfeeding, I had a breakthrough that if I was going to continue breastfeeding I needed to cut myself some slack. Breastfeeding isn’t an all or nothing game, or at least it wasn’t for me. This was so hard for me to wrap my head around, but somehow it happened. I stopped forcing feeds at my breast. If Maddox wanted a bottle of formula, then that’s what he got. If he wanted to breastfeed, then he got to. I let him decide what worked for him. He now regularly switches from breast to bottle depending on what he is in the mood for. I stopped worrying about my supply or producing “enough” and changed my view. Instead of breastfeeding to fully satiate him, I was breastfeeding him to provide nutrients and antibodies that I could provide and then the formula could handle his ever growing hunger. This took so much pressure off of feeding. Instead of obsessing over my supply, I actually enjoyed the time spent breastfeeding Maddox. It’s like as soon as I started to not stress about it, he sensed that and enjoyed breastfeeding a whole lot more.
For a while we were doing breastfeeding sessions about 4-6 times per day on average. My body got used to this and followed my little one’s cues on how much milk I needed to produce (it still blows my mind that the body does that!). The rest of Maddox’s feeds have been formula up until recently when we have started some foods. He absolutely loves trying new food so as we have explored that, our breastfeeding sessions have gotten to be a bit fewer.
I’ve grown to actually really enjoy breastfeeding and I think it’s because of the way we do it. Breastfeeding is a way for us to bond now instead of me feeling like an overtired milk production machine. I’m so happy and thankful I was able to get to this point. I truly didn’t think I would make it to six months still supplying him with any breastmilk. I’m definitely not saying everything is going off without a hitch now because we definitely have our speed bumps. We have days that we are just not in sync. We have days where I really need him to empty me out and he is set on having a bottle while watching Frozen. We have days that I wake up in puddles of milk. We have days where I am in pain (increasingly so as he is teething). I still don’t know how long our breastfeeding journey will last, but I am thankful for everything I’ve learned through it so far.
I do want to say I am lucky that I have had the flexibility to feed on demand due to working from home during Covid. I know this is a privilege and not everyone has that option. I also know that this journey is so different for everyone and we all deserve our situations and our stories to be honored. Whatever you choose to do for your baby is what is best for your baby. As I have progressed through my time breastfeeding I’ve done increasingly more research on the challenges women face trying to breastfeed their babies. There is a lack of support around breastfeeding and a lot of false information around what is “best”. I’ve become pretty passionate and look forward to sharing some feelings I have around our society and breastfeeding in the future.
It took me a long time to feel validated about the challenges I was facing both physically and emotionally around breastfeeding. When I finally opened up in one of my virtual mom groups, I finally heard other women share their stories and I felt seen. Especially during Covid, it is challenging to find moms to connect with who you feel safe to say “I’m not doing okay” around. One post can’t replace the beauty of speaking directly with other moms, but I hope if you are struggling my story can at least make you feel less alone and more comfortable reaching out if you need to.
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.