Postpartum, Pumping

The Pressure to Breastfeed: Feeding Choices of New Moms

Even in 2020, there is still a lot of pressure to breastfeed or explain how you choose to feed your baby. Phrases like “breast is best” and “liquid gold” circulate mommy blogs and instagram posts. Whether you are deciding between breastfeeding or formula feeding, deciding the best formula to give your baby, switching from breastmilk to formula, supplementing or mixing breastmilk and formula, or any other kind of feeding, the reality is there are a lot of opinions. If anyone talks to you about this by making you feel guilty for your feeding choices or needs, you have permission to ask

The Best Way to Feed Your Baby is the Way that Works for You

At Postpartum Together, we believe the best thing for your baby is taking care of yourself.
We believe in making choices that are informed and empowered.
We believe the pressure to breastfeed can damage new moms and families.
How you feed your baby is not the mark of how good of a mom you are (because there’s not a “better” way) and we believe that you deserve safe spaces to explore and make choices.

Below, 4 women have shared their stories about the feeding choices they made, the feelings they went through, and the ways they have taken care of their babies- all in different ways. If you are here for an answer on what you should do, you will not find that here. But what you will find are real stories, real moms, real choices and a ton of support for you as you take care of yourself and your baby.


Read More: How to Choose Between Breast and Bottle Feeding (My Zulily Blog Contribution)

Ashley’s Story: However You Feed Your Baby is Okay.
There Shouldn’t be Pressure to Breastfeed

What is the biggest thing I wish I would have known after having my son? That society puts way too much pressure to breastfeed or to feed your baby a certain way. That you don’t have to listen to what society thinks. ALSO…It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

At my son’s 1-week check-up the informed me that he had lost 10% of his body weight. His doctor said that this was because he wasn’t getting enough breastmilk and that I needed to start supplementing. In my head, I instantly blamed myself. “My body is failing me.” “It seems so easy for other moms.” “I am one week into being a mom and I already suck at this.”

Introducing Formula to a Newborn When You Planned to Exclusively Breastfeed

Introducing formula was devastating to me. I planned on exclusively breastfeeding. At this point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding every two hours. It was exhausting, my mental health was suffering, yet, friends and family STILL put an emphasis on how he needed my breastmilk. So, I kept on breastfeeding while I suffered silently with horrible anxiety and didn’t listen to my intuition.

At 4 months I decided enough was enough. We switched to 100% formula. It was sad but it was honestly the best thing I could have done. I wish I would have listened to myself earlier in the process. And, I wish I would have had someone say that it was okay and that I wasn’t failing.

Your Mental Health and Breastfeeding

Now, I wish that other moms who see this know that however they are feeding their baby is okay. That your mental health is also a priority. And that there is so much support out there to help you with whatever decision you make. Whether you breastfeed, pump, formula feed, or all of the above, you should never feel like a failure. You are doing what’s best for you and your family and nothing else matters.

Ashley Lyon
DONA Certified Postpartum Doula
Founder of
Bloom Mama

Devra’s Story: “Failing” as a Crunchy Mom
The Crunchy Pressure to Breastfeed

We had my first daughter in ’07, back when blogs were just beginning and there was no Facebook or Instagram. From what I’d been able to learn about feeding babies from books or talking to our midwife, I thought there were two options: nursing or formula feeding. Because I was in my crunchy-granola earth mother phase and thought formula was evil, I wanted to nurse so badly. But nursing was painful for me–like someone was pulling shards of glass through my nipples painful. Latch checks and weight gain all seemed to say she was getting enough milk but I was in tears at every session.

After about six weeks, I said to my sweet patient husband, “I feel like a failure but I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I’d already started pumping when I went back to work managing a live-performance theater, so he said “Why don’t you just pump more and we’ll bottle feed her?” And thus our journey with exclusive pumping began.

Turning to Exclusive Pumping

Jump forward 12 years and we were surprised with another precious daughter. Again, I longed to nurse, because that is what we’re built for, right? Thank goodness we now have Instagram and amazing people like @postpartumtogether, @exclusivepumping, and @pump_momma_pump. Along with Sarah Lester, my local IBCLC, when my second nursing try started to go the same painful way as my first, they were able to get me on a great exclusive pumping plan to keep LO thriving now for 10 months.

Jokes on me, too: dried up naturally at six months with the first and we won’t quite make it to a year of frozen milk with the second, so formula still made an appearance. I’m fully committed to “fed is best” and I know we’re doing everything we can to make sure our girls are healthy.

Katherine’s Story: Fairytale Motherhood Plans Changed
No More Pressure to Breastfeed

I believe most women imagine an idealized fairytale version of childbirth and motherhood. So many resources encourage developing a birth plan or at least thinking about your preferences. Unfortunately, so few resources tell you that your plans will change. The more prepared you are to go with the flow, the more at peace you will become.

Child birth and motherhood are so unpredictable. The birth of my son did not go the way I always envisioned it, but many of the decisions were my own. I didn’t realize how not getting any part of my idealized birth story would affect me. It manifested in an “obsession” to breastfeed. Thankfully, once my milk came in, breastfeeding was relatively easy. I had a dreadfully slow eater; most feedings in the beginning lasted an hour; but he steadily gained weight. This motherhood thing is definitely a marathon. 

I exclusively breastfed (and pumped a few times a day due to an oversupply and the desire to build a freezer stash) for six months. During this time, my husband and I had several conversations about timing around a second child and what it would take to get pregnant again. We needed the support of a reproductive endocrinologist to get pregnant with my son.

Weaning and Pregnancy

Many of these conversations got quite heated because I would have preferred to breastfeed for the entire first year. There was an ultimate compromise to start weaning when my son was six months old. I did not want to wean. But marriage is all about compromise, or so they say. The spacing between our children has always been extremely important to my husband. He is ten years older than me. We did not rush into marriage and we did not rush into starting our family (fur children excluded). Deep down I knew future me would appreciate our children being close in age. I know how much it means to my husband; he has a chronic illness and is overtly aware of his mortality.

Weaning was slow. And deliberate. Although extremely anxious and uneasy about weaning, I convinced myself that starting around six months made the most sense, as I was also starting solids with my son at this time. I could not stand the sight and smell of the first formula I started to supplement with, and so the research began. I was quickly able to settle on a much better looking and smelling formula that my son didn’t mind. 

Adding Formula to Breastfeeding

I was convinced my son would hate me forever. I felt the pressure to breastfeed. Cue the extreme mom guilt. I have no idea what I did to deserve it, but I was blessed with an angel from above. After about a week of my son being unsure about formula, we fell into a weaning routine. Every week or two, I would cut out a breastfeeding session and replace it with formula. At the same time, I slowly cut down on the duration of my pumping sessions. It took us two months to wean completely. My son then got frozen breastmilk twice a day until my freezer stash was gone, which was a little after his first birthday. Thankfully my son never really pulled at my shirt or chest. And there were never any real meltdowns about taking a bottle instead of my breast.

I hated having to deal with formula. Breastfeeding was easy while I was on the go with my son. If there wasn’t a private, quiet place to feed, there was always the backseat of my car. I found formula feeding annoying. Did I pack enough formula? Do I have extra if we get stuck or our plans change? Do I have enough water? What about a way to warm it up a little bit? Do I need to bring a hot water bath, or can I get something while we are out? This continued to feed my guilt and angst.

Shame, Guilt & Breastfeeding

My shame and guilt eased up as I saw how adaptable and resilient my son has become. His personality really made weaning easier on me. Cue Covid-19. All the shame and guilt came rushing back. Why didn’t I keep breastfeeding? My son would benefit immensely from the continued antibodies. How can I comfort him without breastfeeding? Then our fertility office shutdown. Cue even more guilt and frustration. Why did I even stop breastfeeding?! My son is going to get sick and I can’t even get pregnant now. Again, my son remained my anchor. Everything about him remained cheerful and resilient. He was growing and developing perfectly. With everything going on in 2020, this was starting to feel right.

Katherine A. Barbieri @kbarbie85 / @sahm.learning.to.thrive

Sarah’s Story: We are Both Alive Because She Formula Fed

I knew very quickly that something was wrong. My baby couldn’t latch and had earned the nickname “Miss. Chomper” from the many lactation consultants we saw. But I was determined. My mom is a big breast feeding advocate in the community, everyone knew my name and always asked how breast feeding was going. There was such an intense shame that it wasn’t going well. To top off my experience, no one warned me that let downs can come with this horrible sense of dread and overwhelming feeling of just nastiness. Let downs were few and far between, which at the time I was thankful for because it meant I didn’t get this overwhelming desire to just get my kid off me instantly.

RELATED: DMER: Weird feeling while breastfeeding

While still in the hospital, I knew something was wrong with both my baby and myself. I could not sleep and was having obsessive and intrusive thoughts within hours after birth. Baby couldn’t latch. I remember her screaming as the LC attempted to just jam her face into my breast. Crying and crying until this sweet nurse ask me if I wanted to try SNS. I said yes, and for a brief moment I felt relief as I knew my baby was getting something. Then, I had to sign a waiver to give my baby formula in the hospital. Unfortunately, postpartum OCD took away SNS feeding from me. Cleaning those tiny tubes is a pain and no matter how hot of water I ran through them, I was convinced they were not clean.

Trying a Bottle After Struggle to Latch

They held me a few days due to the fact my kid couldn’t latch and the LCs made follow up appointments so I could be discharged. The sweet nurse who saw my struggle asked me as I was being discharged if she could show me how to give her a bottle. I cried so much in that moment and the nurse showed me how to just pop the bottle in her mouth. Cue instant mom guilt but my baby was fed. I tried really hard to only give her one or two bottles a day and I honestly had no idea how much she needed to have per feeding. She was drastically underfed by both my body and by my lack of knowledge in formula feeding.

The next weeks were a blur but the highlights are:
1) being told that I am giving my baby a burger instead of a salad and I shouldn’t have such a problem breastfeeding because I was well endowed
2) a swarm of LCs and doctors appointments, including having to give my week old baby a suppository because she wasn’t getting enough from me to get the merconium out
3) a trip to the ER at 3 weeks with the official diagnosis of feeding problems.

At this point, 3 weeks into my daughter’s life, we knew breastfeeding just wasn’t for her even after had felt the pressure to breastfeed. And I tried exclusively pumping for a week. These feelings of just being out of my body and feeling just generally distraught with let downs just being came worse and worse as I tried to pump. Not understanding why I felt like this, I began to dread the pump. My postpartum OCD just spiraled out of control. No one ever mentioned D-mer. Never.

Mental Health and The Pressure to Breastfeed

I assumed that I just hated this experience so much that it was manifesting in physical symptoms. It felt like my mental health was slipping away 30 seconds at a time every pumping session. Finally, I snapped. My mental health was deteriorating to the point that I did not want to exist. That I regretted this choice to have this very much wanted and loved baby. I even thought about fleeing the country and starting a new life. I’m serious. It was a full fledged plan. That is when everyone told me to just stop. And I did.

I gave the baby to my husband, I slept 6 solid hours, pumped once for relief that day, and that was it. That was the end of my breast feeding journey.

I was able to start medication for my postpartum OCD and depression without fear of impacting my breastmilk. And, I was finally able to bond with my baby as she happily drank her bottles of formula and smiled.

Anyone who tells you bottle feeding hurts your bond, slap them for me. This can absolutely improve your bond. It can save your life. This can save your baby’s life. It is not this demon or great shame.. It is there for a reason. And in a heart beat, I would formula feed my child again. She is healthy, strong as an oxen (just as stubborn too), and our bond is strong and beautiful because of bottles of formula.p

My life and her life is better because she was formula fed. We are both alive because she was formula fed. The pressure to breastfeed could not take that away.

A Reminder To You, Momma

This motherhood shit is beautiful and it’s hard. No matter how you feed your baby. No matter what diapers you choose. If you stay at home or go to work… it’s beautiful and hard all at the same time. The pressure to breastfeed or bottle feed is just that, outside opinions and pressure. Really, it is a choice. It’s a choice that you are equipped to make. It is a choice that does not define who you are. It is a choice that you can use to prioritize your health and wellness and that of your baby. Feed your baby in the way that works for your family and do not let shame sneak in.

Read More: How to Choose Between Breast and Bottle Feeding (My Zulily Blog Contribution)
Feeding a Baby On the Go (My BabyCenter contribution)

dr browns feeding system bottle for colic
Postpartum, Pumping

Boost Milk Supply: 5 Ways to Make More Breastmilk and Feed Your Baby

manual breast pump for better milk supply

As a new mom, one thing I found myself feeling stressed about often was breast milk supply. I was constantly looking for ways to boost breast milk supply. There is a lot of pressure on new moms when it comes to breastfeeding choices. From “Fed is best” campaigns and “Is she breastfeeding?” as a question that comes up more times than you can count in the first few months, a lot of moms carry heavy feelings around breastfeeding and their breast milk supply.

Wondering about the safety of drinking while breastfeeding? Learn more from my post on the Zulily Blog here.

At Postpartum Together, we believe there is no perfect way to feed a baby. We encourage you to find the way that works for you and we support your choices to honor yourself and your baby. If you find that using breast milk is what works best for you and your family, these tips are for you. If you decide that breastfeeding is taking a mental and emotional toll on you, we encourage you to evaluate other ways of feeding (Formula is not a bad word!)

Like every part of motherhood, what works for one mom may or may not work for another. Our bodies are different. We produce breastmilk differently and respond to supplements differently. For example, some women swear by Fenugreek to boost milk supply, while others experience a decrease in milk supply from the supplement Fenugreek.

Tracking Your Breast Milk Output as you Boost Milk Supply:

One way to evaluate whether the methods are working is to measure your breast milk output. For many women, though, this is very stressful. If you are directly nursing, you can watch feeding times and windows between feeds to see if baby seems satisfied and full. If you are pumping, you can measure the ounces during each session. Remember, though, your worth is not measured in ounces! If you are pumping, a favorite tip of mine is to put a sock over the bottles so you are not constantly watching the measurement on the bottle. That kind of stress does not help anyone!

5 Tips That Can Help You Boost Low Breast Milk Supply

 1. Lots of water

When you are making milk and liquid is leaving your body, you need to be putting that hydration back into your body! Many new moms find themselves struggling to get in enough water due to the busyness of the days. Make a commitment to drinking more water- aim for at least ½ of your weight in ounces (and then some). In one of my recent New Mom Growth and Empowerment Groups with Postpartum Together, all the moms ended up with this huge water bottle to keep them on track!

2. Feed/Pump during the morning (between 1-5am)

Your body tends to produce the most during the 1-5am hours. Many women do not take advantage of this time because, well, it is early and inconvenient. However, if you are looking to increase your output to build a freezer stash or plan for the day ahead, an early pump session can be very beneficial. If you plan to go back to sleep after this session, keep the lights low and do not spend the time on your phone so that it is easier to fall back asleep.  If you are getting up at 4 or 5am and staying up for the day, get to bed early enough!

3. Lactation Cookies

You do not have to convince me to try cookies for helping anything. So when I learned about lactation cookies, it was a no-brainer. Popular lactation cookie recipes are heavy on the oats which are galactagogues. Some also include brewers years, another galactagogue many believe increases milk production. If you want to skip the baking you can send the recipe to a friend or family member when they ask “What do you need?” or you can buy them pre-made. (I never used pre-made so I cannot recommend a brand or type, but I can say that the ones I made myself were heavy on the chocolate chips because… why not!?) Here is one of my favorite cookbooks for breastfeeding (or not!) mamas. It’s a must!

4. Dark stout beer

Want to learn more about the safety of alcohol while breastfeeding, learn more from my piece on the Zulily Blog here.

Some research links lower cognition to alcohol usage, though the usage researched is typically numerous drinks. Dark malty or stout beers have galactogogues and for many, increase milk production when used in moderation (1 drink).  Personally, I had one dark stout beer right after a pumping or feeding session and could see the output increase in the following sessions. These types of beers have the same components as oatmeal and brewer’s yeast and so it makes sense it would have the same impact. Drinking out of moderation can have a number of negative effects, so keep to a moderate amount.

5. Power pumping session

In order for the body to make milk, it needs to be told that milk is needed. When we want to increase milk output, we can increase the “request” we make on the body. Power pumping is a way to tell the body that more is needed. It is not something you make a long-term habit, but something you do for a couple of days. Whether you are exclusively nursing, exclusively breastfeeding or a combination, power pumping can be a helpful way to stimulate your breasts for more milk.

Example Power Pumping Schedule:

-Pump 20 minutes

-Rest 10 mintues

-Pump 10 minutes

-Rest 10 minutes

-Pump 10 minutes

Do this 1-2 times a day for a day or two to give your breasts a “make more” signal.

Tips for power pumping

1. Don’t sit and watch the ounces. Use a sock to cover the bottle and do not take it off until your session is complete

2. Drink lots of water

3. Do something to relax

4. Do a warm compress and/or massage before starting.

Related: Maximize your pumping output

Do You Really Need to Increase My Supply?

When you are looking to increase your breastmilk supply, ask yourself why you are doing so.
Are you feeling pressure to have a huge freezer stash?
Are you truly not making enough milk and want to try to produce more?
Are you afraid of supplementing with or using formula? Why?

Remember every body is different. Milk production looks different for every mom. Your worth is not measured in ounces. Your mental and emotional wellness is necessary.

Wondering about the safety of drinking while breastfeeding? Learn more from my post on the Zulily Blog here.

Postpartum, Pumping

DMER in New Moms: Anxiety When Breastfeeding by Pumping or Nursing

Anxiety When Breastfeeding: A Hormonal Response, Not Mood Disorder

D-MER is a physiological response to the release of breast milk. It can feel like sadness or anxiety when breastfeeding. It is a hormonal reflex and is not an indicator of a mood disorder. The feelings should not last more than a few seconds or minutes. I remember wondering if my body or mind was telling me I didn’t like breastfeeding or wasn’t connected with my baby. Research shows D-MER to have no link to mother-baby bond and to be uncontrollable by the mother.

RELATED: Myths About Motherhood

Many women learn about D-MER by searching things like “I feel sad when breastfeeding” or “I don’t know if my body likes breastfeeding.” According to d-mer.org, “Dysphoria is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.” In reference to D-MER we can see that the unpleasant or uncomfortable mood impacts the milk ejection reflex.

RELATED: Boob Issues After Baby

woman breast pumping and feeling anxious from DMER

D-MER is Not a Mother Failing

It is important for moms to know that D-MER is not a failure or a direct reflection of their ability to breastfeed. The anxiety when breastfeeding is not an active choosing to not attach to your baby or hold any negative feelings. This understanding can help moms to make an educated and supported choice on whether to continue feeding through the experience.

Some believe that things like nutrition, rest, exercise, reducing stress and cutting back on caffeine can impact the hormones and improve D-MER symptoms. (I know, I know, all of those things can be hella hard to do when you have an infant!) Remember, your maternal mental health is always an important factor.

10 Things Moms on Instagram Said about D-Mer

When we brought up D-MER on Instagram, moms had a lot to say about it! Maybe some of their responses will resonate with you too:

  • It was such a relief to realize I wasn’t alone. To love breastfeeding but experience that feeling of dread was so very confusing.
  • You just solved something I thought I was making up. I say to myself “I’m just sleep deprived” or “I had too much caffeine today” but it comes and goes with my let down 2-3 times a day.
  • I did not know this was a thing but have totally experienced this and wondered “What’s wrong with me?”
  • My mother recounts this with my youngest sibling. She switched to formula and internalized not trusting herself with the baby for months.
  • I had it through all three of my kids. Breastfed a total of 7 years. Deep breathing and mindfulness techniques helped.
  • Totally had this. It was like a mini anxiety attack just as I was getting set up to pump and it would go away shortly after letdown.
  • I felt this way sometimes and I felt so yucky! I couldn’t explain it because it almost came out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly.
  • With my first baby I would ball my eyes out the first 5-10 min of nursing her. I could be happy as could be, start nursing and tears would start flowing. I thought I was crazy.
  • It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s awful. That foreboding, sense of dread and anxiety. Someone said it’s a homesick feeling and that’s such a good explanation. Just dread.
  • I told my mom about how I was feeling and she thought I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

What to Do If You Have Anxiety While Breastfeeding

If you’re experiencing D-MER the first thing to know is that you’re not alone and you’re not doing something wrong. Our bodies have many changes and responses to pregnancy, birth and postpartum and it looks different for everyone. As your hormones are regulating, you may experience D-MER. If you do, remember it won’t last long and you can get through it.
1. Take deep breaths. (Almost like labor!)
2. Create a mantra Ex: This is only a moment and I accept this moment.
3. Stay connected
4. If it persists or becomes too much, talk with your doctor about

Postpartum, Pumping

Your Breasts After Pregnancy and Giving Birth: What You Need to Know

Engorged Boobs, Nipple Pain, Breastfeeding and More

I thought it was as easy as choosing whether I wanted to breastfeed or not. I considered things like how long I had off of work and if I would be comfortable breastfeeding in public. We considered the financial tradeoff, my family’s history, my friends opinion. What I didn’t know the factors could include so many boob problems like mastitis, thrush, insufficient glandular tissue, D-MER, nipple pain, engorgement and more. My breasts after pregnancy came with a number of surprises.

We talk a lot about how you choose to feed a baby. Nursing, formula, pumping, combination. But, we don’t talk much about all the issues that can be part of that decision. The breast issues that can occur after birth can be painful and isolating and they are often still taboo. This post is meant to introduce topics, not go deeply into each.

Breasts After Pregnancy are Not One Size Fits All 

By being aware of these, the goal is that we are more understanding of our bodies (boobs primarily), understand the complexity of feeding choices for ourselves and for others, and speak more openly about a part of our bodies that is often taboo.

 

Note: At Postpartum Together we are team “Take care of you and your family in the way that suits you. There is no one way to feed a baby.” With this in mind, we will refer to problems that can occur both while breastfeeding and/or in the process of stopping milk production. We believe in YOU and the choices you make. It is important for you to be informed and supported throughout your entire motherhood journey- with no one best way to mother.

 

mastitis, thrush, engorgement breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice, please talk with your providers about any issues or questions you may have. Also, this post contains affiliate links which means, at no extra cost to you Postpartum Together may receive a commission for items purchased from this page.

When Boobs Aren’t Sexy

Chances are, your breasts have been seen by yourself, your partner and/or others at some point in your life as a sex appeal. Breasts are part of the dominant sex narrative of our culture and are often deduced to an object of attraction. With the complicated meaning given to our breasts as we first form them in adolescence and all through our lives, the changes and function of breasts after pregnancy can feel confusing. For many women, it is unsettling to discuss difficulties related to boobs because of two narratives: 1. The sex appeal of breasts and 2. The “Natural” language surrounding breastfeeding.

Body Image and Breasts After Pregnancy

It is okay for you to explore how the changing function of your breasts after pregnancy impacts you as your consider body image and emotional response. It may take time for you to decide how you want your breasts to factor into your motherhood experience and how that impacts both you and your partner.

When we take into account how celebrated a bikini model picture is and how shamed a breastfeeding in public picture is, we can see that there is a general societal discomfort with the functionality of breasts. Whether or not you choose not to breastfeed, you still face the changes your breasts experience in form, shape and size.

RELATED: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

Some Boobs Can’t Produce Enough Milk for Feeding

IGT

An uncommon, but real and unspoken breast issue is Insufficient Glandular Tissue. This occurs when the mammary tissue doesn’t develop properly in adolescence. The lack of tissue results in the breasts no producing any milk or producing a very small amount. This is an uncommon issue, but very real and important for us to know as professionals, friends, and mothers. You can learn more about IGT on KellyMom

Endocrine System

Some health problems impacting the endocrine system may have an impact on the hormonal release necessary for milk production. Health problems like PCOS, thyroid (high or low), diabetes, hypertension may factor into the body’s ability to produce milk.

Boobs Can be Physically Painful

Regardless of your choices around breastfeeding (if you do, how you do, how long you do), the body producing milk in reaction to birth can be difficult. From planning to breastfeed to planning to dry up milk supply, there are things to consider as your boobs physically change. Your boobs after pregnancy can create painful situations you want to be aware of.

Engorgement:

Engorgement is the fullness of the breasts that can make the breasts hard and painful. This often happens when milk starts to come in (around day 3-5) and can happen throughout a feeding or weaning journey.

Engorgement can be tricky because you want to relieve the fullness and possible pain without stimulating the body to produce more milk. If you are choosing to not breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding, engorgement can be a painful part of telling your body to stop making milk. Engorged breasts after pregnancy can also lead to plugged/clogged ducts which can be uncomfortable or painful. This article from The Bump provides good information on engorgement.

Mastitis:

Mastitis feels like the flu on steroids. An inflammation of tissue, mastitis can also turn into an infection. Bacteria entering a cracked nipple or clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis. This is one of the issues that can require medication to heal. It can happen as your milk is coming in and your milk supply is not regulated, when baby goes through a nursing strike, when you begin wearing tight-fitting tops again, or any other point in a feeding or weaning journey (when weaning or choosing not to breastfeed, work with a professional to decrease milk supply and avoid clogged ducts). You can learn all about Mastitis in this Healthline Article.


Thrush:

Thrush can happen in different areas of the body throughout life- it is not exclusive to boobs after baby. However, thrush can come along with milk and feeding choices. This is another issue that can require medication and special treatment. You often can feel thrush on/in/around your nipples and with a stinging pain throughout the breast. This is from candida yeast and can be passed between you and baby (if you are nursing) or you and the pump (if you are pumping). Learn the signs and treatment of Thrush here.

 

Breasts after Pregnancy Can Cause Emotional Reactions

 


Why do I feel sad when I start breastfeeding

With D-MER, we are not talking about the kind of emotional reaction you felt when you walked by a frat house in that sexy top you bought in college. We are talking about DMER- Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. DMER is the onset of negative emotions, sometimes describes as depression, anxiety, anger, annoyance, upon a let down. DMER is physiological, not psychological. This is not an indication of a direct feeling towards feeding, but a hormonal reflex (quick drop of dopamine). Some women say it feels like a pit that hits the stomach and a wave of sadness. This usually only lasts a few moments at and following a letdown. You can learn more about DMER here.

RELATED: What is Maternal Ambivalence?

Making Boobs Less Taboo

On the quest to make boob issues less taboo, it takes a group effort. It takes professional who prepare women for birth and postpartum bringing up these topics and potential struggles. It takes professionals, such as lactation consultant, postpartum nurses, etc., being educated in and openly discussing the issues that may arise during the choice of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. This requires us, as women and the collective of mothers, sharing our experiences and stories without the fear that our boobs are “broken” or a “failure.”

Can we commit to normalizing the conversation around breasts way beyond swimsuit magazines, push up bras and sexual desirability? What if instead we made room for the conversation around the many changes that happen to and within the boobs and how that impacts us mentally, physically, and emotionally? This is the way we make breasts and specifically breasts after pregnancy less taboo and a more natural part of our lives.

Related: Finding Counseling Support for Perinatal Mental Health

Resources for Breastfeeding

If you are choosing to breastfeed and are looking for resources, you can find some of my favorites here:
Pumping/Back to Work Class

Exclusively Pumping Class

Breastfeeding Cookbook

Breastfeeding Planner

Get Your Free Pump through Insurance

Pumping Must-Have

Beaugen Breastpump Cushions

Postpartum Stories

Inducing Lactation and Being Postpartum as the Non-Birthing Mom

Inducing Lactation but Not Giving Birth

In a transgender relationship, both Chris and Amy carried babies for their families. Amy shares her journey of inducing lactation and the experience of motherhood both as the birthing and non-birthing partner.Inducing lactation as the non birthing parent in transgender birth

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PARTNER: TTC TO PRESENT

My name is Amy and my husband’s name is Chris. We met while working together about 10 years ago. We got engaged about 2 years after we started dating and moved to start our life together from Kentucky to Ohio.

Chris and I struggled with infertility and after about 5 failed IUIs decided to switch to Chris and see if he had better luck (Chris was born female ). After 5 more failed IUIs and a miscarriage, Chris became pregnant with our first child, Hayden. I induced lactation in order to share in the nursing bonds with Hayden.

When Hayden was about a year old we decided we should start trying for a second because we knew it could be a long road. I desperately wanted to carry a baby so I was going to give it another try. We got pregnant with Milo on our first IUI.

Hayden is now almost 5 and Milo is 3. We feel like our family is complete and feel so blessed to have been given these two little amazing beings.

WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM PRIOR TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?

I didn’t know much about postpartum before Hayden was born. I had heard of it but mostly in the negative ways we all hear about postpartum.

Our experience was unique in that I experienced postpartum from a non-carrying and carrying parents perspective. We don’t talk much about the non-carrying parents perspective but it’s definitely one to consider. 

Back then, I was one of those “We will never…” pre-parents that everyone knows and loves. You know the person who thinks that getting pregnant, birthing a baby, raising a child will be like a scene from a picture-perfect movie?

Due to this fact, I really didn’t prepare or give postpartum much thought because everything was going to be rosy!

Quote about non birthing parent experience

FOR YOUR FIRST CHILD, YOUR PARTNER BIRTHED- HOW WAS HE REGARDED BY OTHERS THROUGH THE CONCEPTION THROUGH POSTPARTUM TIME?

It was tricky for Chris because he struggled with a lot of issues with his own body and he was pre-transition at this point (so not always presenting as male and he wasn’t on any hormones at the time).

Navigating the fertility clinic was rough. There are not currently a lot of doctors who understand trans men giving birth.

We were lucky enough to pair up with some amazing midwives who while they were not well versed in the trans community. They were amazing and super willing to learn. Between them and the help of a doula, we were really treated amazingly.

The hospital we birthed at was incredible and they followed our directives in the birth plan explicitly (pronouns, how he wanted to be addressed, assuring the desired level of privacy he requested during checks).

Chris has always taken a male role in things so I do know that through our first pregnancy people often forgot he was pregnant.

FOR YOUR FIRST CHILD, YOU INDUCED LACTATION TO BREASTFEED. DID YOU NOTICE HORMONAL CHANGES AND EXPERIENCE ANY POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS IN THAT WAY?

Yes! Part of the inducing lactation process is tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant (through the use of medication). This can definitely affect your hormones and then when you start pumping that kicks up hormones in your body as well.

There are so many emotions that you experience through infertility and then the massive emotions and responsibility that comes with preparing for a baby and parenthood. You add those things on top of the medical process of inducing lactation and it’s very difficult (but amazing at the same time).

When Hayden was born I had so many emotions that just come with being new parents. Navigating it was much harder than I imagined. I think this was because of the hormonal changes.

Related: Online Pumping Course (This can help you to induce lactation)

WHAT SURPRISED THE BOTH OF YOU THROUGH YOUR DIFFERENT POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCES?

We had very different birthing experiences and pregnancies. For Chris, there was a lot of emotions surrounding his own body and transformation when Hay was born. He has always said when she was born he knew he had to continue his transition because he couldn’t ask her to be who she was as a person and to stand up for what she believes in without him being true to who he was.

Because of this his postpartum, while hard, was empowering but also isolating. Being treated like a mom when you are a trans male can be very emotional.

For me, I never expected to be a non-carrying parent so experiencing this side first made my second postpartum experience just slightly different as I had experienced it from both sides.

WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE REALIZED ABOUT CONCEPTION THROUGH POSTPARTUM WITH A GENDER TRANSITION?

Oh so many things! Not just with assigned gender transition but also with each parent their needs, fears, and anxieties are not cookie cutter.

There are so many things that can trigger a person and preparing for a baby can really magnify emotions. When your emotions are also tied to your assigned gender at birth this can be really damaging.

If I had to choose *one* wish, it would be that medical professionals, friends, family, birth workers, everyone really, asked questions in a respectful way. If you don’t know, just ask! It really can go a long way. 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE HURTFUL? (EVEN IF WELL INTENTIONED?)

We were really lucky to have a super supportive family, birth experience, the community surrounding us during Hayden’s birth. Although there was a lot of learning, people worked very hard to stay respectful.

Where we really felt hurt was when I was pregnant with Milo and after. People seemed to be astonished that I hadn’t birthed Hayden (because we ALL know there is only one was to have children…cue sarcasm). We were often having to explain over and over our family.

WHAT ARE THE THINGS PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE MOST HELPFUL IN A DIFFICULT TIME?

Actual honest to goodness help. Having a community that is there for the parents and not just the cute babes (even though they are the best) is incredible. Making meals, folding laundry when they visited and making Hayden feel special was huge.

I think the biggest thing was when people would just listen. Not offer advice, just listen.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? 

A persons family makeup is different no matter what it might seem. It’s so important that we don’t ASSUME anything.

From conception to parenting methods every family takes a slightly different path so if you don’t know…just ask!

There are so many ways to be a family, none of them wrong and all of them amazing.

If you’d like to talk more, are going through a similar experience or just have more questions you can contact Amy here.

Thank you to Amy for sharing her journey of inducing lactation and the experience of motherhood both as the birthing and non-birthing partner.

Related: Postpartum with Chronic Illness

Blog about inducing lactation and transgender birth

This series, Postpartum Narratives, aims to bring awareness, normalization, and understanding to different postpartum experiences. No two postpartum experiences are the same, and as a society, we cannot have one view of what postpartum is or should be. By sharing stories, we diversify our own understanding and can then advocate for better support and resources for each person and space that affects a postpartum family- the home, the workplace, the medical field, social constructs, etc. if you have a postpartum narrative you would like considered for contribution, please contact me here.