Came Through Drippin’

No one tells you shit about breastfeeding.  It’s all “natural” and you’ll just figure it out, except you just don’t.

You picture this:


But instead you get this:

IMG_8576 (2)
(I laughed so hard at this gif I cried.  I probably was also just crying at the accuracy. But it’s so damn funny).

I always pictured myself breastfeeding my baby.  Maybe because I was breastfed, not sure really, but it was just what I pictured.  I had this vision that the baby would be born, they’d put them on my chest and voila the baby eats.  I’m sure a tad naiive, but you don’t really hear about people’s trials and tribulations until you’re in the trenches having them yourself.

I also had the added challenge of having a preemie and one that was in the NICU, so that does throw a monkey wrench in things. I am sure I would have learned some of what to expect had I taken a lactation class.  Oh wait, I signed up for one but it ended up being was AFTER the baby was born while we were still in NY.  Not exactly helpful.

Still.  Aside from knowing I needed to get a breast pump through my insurance (which I thought I would only use when I went back to work-HA). That was basically all I knew. I had what they called “meet and greets” in the NICU where Liam would test out breastfeeding for about 5 minutes or so a couple times a day just to kind of get the hang of it.  You had a specialist there helping you position and giving you tips.  But it was more important that he ate so he mostly had expressed breastmilk from a bottle.

When we got home though, I was supposed to work our way up to breastfeeding by adding duration and frequency each day. Well, instead of that, we had mostly episodes of us both sobbing-him in starvation and me in failure and disappointment.  We just couldn’t get it no matter how hard we tried.  But, I didn’t want to give up, I felt that for us, breastmilk would be the best nutrition for him if we could make it work.  Some choose not to breastfeed at all, and luckily there are some great formula alternatives out there.  But I can see why some who do want to breastfeed end up stopping for so many reasons.  It has not been easy for me.  It has not been fun.  It’s not some warm and fuzzy bonding experience for us. It just isnt. Some people do have this magically easy breastfeeding journey.  Baby gets right on there, knows what to do, supply is good and they’re off and running. But, nay, not I.

For those of us who didn’t/don’t have that, here are some of the things I experienced so we know we’re not alone.

  • Supply and Demand
    • After I gave birth, the NICU sent a lactation specialist to my room to explain the pump they were lending me.  They ran through the parts, how to use it, how to clean and sanitize, how often to pump (every 1-3 hours) to get your supply up since I didn’t have the baby with me to creat the supply. When you start breastfeeding with a full term baby or one not in NICU, every time they eat your body makes more milk.  But if you don’t have the baby with you, you have to fake that by using the pump very often.  I was “allowed” one 4 hour break at night (YAAAAY) but otherwise 1-3 hours and I needed to get hooked up to the machine and watch as after 30 minutes only tiny droplets came out. But I still filled out the labels and brought them down the hall because something is better than nothing.  But 30 minutes, 8 times a day for DAYS on end to get drops into a tiny bottle was brutal and felt fruitless.
  • Manual Expression
    • This is when you give yourself a handcramp “massaging” the milk out of your breasts.  In the hospital I had more luck with this than I did with the ginormous pump machine.  When you’re only getting drops, every drop matters, so watching as they painstakingly drip into a mini bottle was exhausting and satisfying at the same time. Plus, bonus, my hands are ripped now.
  • Hospital Grade Pumps
    • Because I was going to have a delay on actual breastfeeding the nurses recommended I get a hospital grade pump so that I could have a stronger machine to get the supply up. But you have to rent them weekly or monthly, they legit are not for sale, it’s so strange.  Felt strange paying $80 a month to rent a pump when I already got one for free.  But, when I returned my NY rental and drove home with my own small pump and had to wait several days to get a MA rental, I learned why.  My supply dipped significantly and it was so frustrating. Pumping the same amount of time for the same number of times a day and getting half as much was so maddening that I actually lost my mind on the phone with a durable medical equipment company who was the 5th from the list I received FROM MY INSURANCE company to tell me they don’t rent those. After many phone calls we finally found one nearby and I (thanks to my mom’s quick thinking) called my cousin who lived around the corner begging her to run over there before they closed at 4:30.  Life. Saver. This thing is a beast but I kind of don’t want to return it so I’m still paying the monthly rental fee. I’m afraid, if I am being honest, that the other one just won’t do the trick.
  • Fenuwhattttt?
    • When you’re trying to breastfeed directly, and your supply isn’t enough to feed your baby, your baby gets very frustrated. On top of any mechanical issues that might be present, a supply problem will leave the baby hungry and frustrated.  The only way to get it up, feed more and pump more.  But sometimes that just doesn’t cut it.  In comes Lactation “treats”: Cookies, bites, smoothies, tea, supplements.  And I’ve tried them all.  The teat tastes like garbage, FYI. Turns out the magic trio is oatmeal, flaxseed and brewer’s yeast.  All of these lactation snacks have the three of these ingredients camouflaged by other things to make them taste good. You can also take herbal supplements like Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle.  What are they you might ask?  I have no freaking idea.  But I am taking 3 of each 3 times a day like a champ anyway. If you want a good cookie recipe tho, hit me up.
  • Lactation Consultants are Angels
    • They are weird experts in breastfeeding that totally deserve the $300+ a pop per visit (most are covered by insurance thank GOD).  I went to three appointments in an office in the first couple weeks we were home.  Problem is, apparently Liam is a performer.  Every time we went he would somehow eat a full feed with basically no issues whatsoever.  The consultant was like, boom, you’re good to go.  Send me home with confidence only to have him snap his jaw down on my nipple like a crocodile or just root around like a weirdo while crying but definitely not eating.  Then I got one to come to my house and thank goodness for her.  Her expectations were realistic and she focused on my comfort first, because if you’re miserable you’re likely not going to want to keep doing it.
  • Nipple Shields
    • These things.  Thank goodness for them.  Some people are anti.  And I can say it is difficult to transition off of them.  But when my in home consultant came over she gave me absolution for trying them and they worked wonders. Especially when you’re in so much pain!
  • PAIN
    • Everything you see or read says breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you’re doing it right.  Cool.  But what if it does hurt?  What if you get excited he finally latches, but it hurts so bad you cry, but also don’t want to stop because it took so long to get there. What if you cry in the shower when the water hits you or if you accidentally graze your boob with your elbow.  When I went to my 6 week appointment I pointed out the cracked redness and she said “yeah it kind of just comes with the territory”. GREAT. Highly recommend coconut oil before pumping btw.
  • APNO
    • Luckily the same day as my 6 week appt the lactation consultant came to the house, took one look at my milk devices and said those are infected, you need APNO (All Purpose Nipple Ointment).  I was so annoyed my doctor didn’t pay attention to me, but so grateful she did. You have to get it done at a compounding pharmarcy.  Won’t get into the annoying-ness that is my insurance trying to tell me I had to get it done at a send away pharmacy only to find it wouldn’t be covered regardless.  Luckily I could swing the $44 because it saved me.  Within a few days I learned I could actually not want to chop my nips clear off.  What a novel concept!  APNO 4 LYFE.
  • Flanges
    • What the eff is a flange you ask?  The cone-like things that act as a funnel for your milk and simultaneously make you look like 80s Madonna.  There are different sizes and a super vague description of how to tell if they fit properly. Even if it hurts you do kind of get numb to it, so it was weeks of using the wrong size before I was corrected and given the right ones. Amazing.  If you’re interested, check out Pumpin Pals, they’ve worked much better for me than the ones that come with the pump.
  • Let Down
    • The feeling you get when you try to breastfeed again and it doesn’t work.  Or…when the milk comes down from your glands and gets ready to come out.  I use the former definition more often, but you know, to each their own.
  • Latch
    • Before this when I heard the word latch, I thought of a good jam feat. Sam Smith.  But now the word latch was the bane of my existence.  The consultants have you form your nipple/areola area into a “sandwich” and then super quickly push the baby towards it all while holding the baby horizontally with knee, hip and shoulder in alignment, making sure your hand isn’t too close to their mouth, that their nostrils are exposed (cuz, you know, breathing), that their tongue is down and the nipple is facing towards the roof of their mouth.  And while you’re doing this you should be relaxed and enjoy this 1 on 1 time with your baby.  Wait, where in this itinerary is the relaxation supposed to be?  Picture this line up of tasks for 45 minutes while never latching.  That was the first few weeks of our breastfeeding attempts
  • Leakage
    • You will drip milk all over things.  Also, breastmilk is very fatty aka oily aka it stains things.  Also things that stain, Lanolin (the cream you can put on for comfort post feeding). You should just know this, exhibit A:
    • IMG_8402
  •  Storage
    • Two months into pumping I found out there are storage bags you can pump directly into.  Legit life changing.  I had been washing and sanitizing 16 bottles a day NOT including the ones I was using to feed the baby. Pumping directly into storage bags has honestly improved my quality of life. 10/10 Highly recommend.

This list is kind of all over the place, but it boils down to this: Breastfeeding is nothing like what I pictured.  The nurses in the hospital kept complimenting me for being dedicated to it, but I never felt like I had a choice. If you don’t get your supply up right away, you kind of can’t. So, I guess I was dedicated?

We’re still working very hard at this.  There is nothing that feels natural or relaxed about it, even though we’ve gotten much more of the hang of things, especially as Liam’s gotten older and his muscles are developing.  I envy the women and babies for whom this comes naturally. And I completely understand the women who decide not to keep doing it.  It is a whole damn thing. And people need to know it is not all gumdrops and rainbows.  For me, it was mostly tears and, well, tears.

Also, if you don’t get the title of this blog post, please look up Cardi B.


Groundhog Day

Bill Murray

Over the first week or two of being home with the baby all I could think of was the movie Groundhog Day.  Funny enough, several friends later on used the same term to describe the days after bringing baby home.  I’d say it is a pretty on point term, except for the fact that in the movie he sleeps in between reliving the same day over and over.  And in this sequel, sleep is not in the cast. LOL.  Except it’s not funny because you’re too tired to laugh.

I’m not sure anyone can really prepare you for what this is like. I’d want to be mad at my friends for not really prepping me, but I don’t think they could have. Obviously all of these things are specific to baby.  I’m sure some of them sleep more (JEALOUS), plus there are feeding factors (breast, formula, pumping).  But I think many can relate to this groundhog day feeling.

The days just merge and blend together when your baby is eating about every 3 hours.  There is no day or night.  There is no usual “wake up” routine because that would require actually sleeping.  The big question is…if there is no bedtime or morning time, and no meal times but you’re constantly starving then…when do I brush my teeth???  This is a serious question. This has really been stressing me out.

So, my weird blurred days included breastmilk (a post specifically about the wild rollercoaster of breastfeeding is coming next). But, since Liam was a NICU baby, he was a little immature to really take to breastfeeding directly which means I was primarily pumping and then feeding it to him via bottle. But, they also wanted me to do some breastfeeding trials at most feedings so he could get “used to it”.  So, this added an additional factor vs those who are exclusively formula feeding or breastfeeding.  But still.  Here is a sample of what a day in the life looked like (slash mostly still looks like now):


  • 5 minute diaper change paying close attention to avoid getting peed on or allowing him to pee on his own face. Only 50% successful on either end of that goal regardless of speed.
  • 10 minutes of attempted breastfeeding which is basically just him crying in frustration and starvation while I cry from feeling bad that it didn’t work.
  • 25 minutes of infant led bottle feeding (aka holding him sideways on my knee and feeding him with the bottle horizontally.  Totally not what I was used to). Meanwhile he aggressively resists burping by screaming like I am throwing him out the window. Don’t you know this will make you feel better, bro!
  • 5 minute diaper change because inevitably he decides to take a giant poop whilst he is eating even though I just changed his diaper. Gotta make room, you know.
  • 30 Minutes of holding him upright because he has reflux and we are trying to avoid choking in combination with milk shooting out of his nose which is VERY unpleasant for all involved.
  • 5 Minutes of swaddling him and putting him down to sleep. This part is actually pretty easy…most of the time.
  • 30 Minutes of pumping since he isn’t breastfeeding successfully I need to make sure I get out as much as possible to stash in the fridge.
  • 15 minutes of cleaning and sanitizing bottles and pump parts to get ready for the next time.
  • 15 minutes collecting diapers, burp cloths, poopy clothes and setting up laundry.
  • 15 minutes of staring at him sleeping in disbelief of his extistence and also putting my hand under his nose to make sure he is still breathing
  • And that leaves 25 minutes to sleep OR shower.




SAME but also give him his vitamins and iron because #preemielife











Annnnnnnnnnnnd it’s the next day. My friend and former student who had a baby a few weeks after me posted a collage that pretty accurately depicts the line up I just described and she gave me permission to post it here:

groundhog kelly

How cute is her little nugget?!?! When I saw this on IG I laughed so hard because of the relatability and this post was almost complete so I had to throw it in there.

So, this is not a complaint post, believe it or not.  How can I complain when I’ve been waiting to be in this zombie fog for years?  But this is a level of walking coma I could have never imagined. I don’t know what day it is. I can’t remember whether I changed my clothes today or yesterday. Taking care of this little miracle is the most amazing, insane, exhausting thing I could ever think of. I’m sure many of my mom/parent/caregiver friends can relate to this and replace some of my things with whatever their own cyclical tasks are.

Thank goodness for getting through those first few weeks where it is 97% trial and error.  What is that noise? What does this mean?  Should we try this contraption where we suck snot out of his nose using our mouths? The answer is yes, it is so gross in theory but works wonders. And for me I was starting at week two given his NICU stay delayed our “start time” a bit. We also have made some strides in feedings and streamlined the cleaning process which has helped immensely. But, we didn’t even attempt to get the hang of things until about a month in.  And by get the hang I mean just being cool with being dirty, tired and confused 80% of the time.


All about milk post coming next!

Adventures in the NICU

I feel weird writing this one, but for anyone who hasn’t had a child in the NICU or a family member, it is really hard to understand that experience. I should also preface that in the general scheme of things we were EXTREMELY lucky.  There were babies in the NICU that were very sick and required a lot more care and intervention than Liam did.  But all the families and parents in there can relate to the overall experience. I think the biggest feeling I experienced in there was that this was just not what I pictured.  I pictured going to the hospital with my hospital bag packed.  I pictured the baby being born and put on my chest for bonding time and having him sleep in my room.  And having visitors to the hospital to meet him bringing balloons or flowers. And leaving the hospital two days later totally not ready to take this show on the road.

I did not picture driving feverishly to the hospital with nothing that I needed, or having him be born only to have the nurse hold him up in front of me and then wisk him away or sleeping (somewhat soundly) in the hospital room with only the sounds of other people’s babies down the hallway to wake me up. Or leaving the hospital in a wheelchair with an “It’s a Boy Balloon” but with no baby in my arms and random people asking me where the baby is…

It’s just not what you imagine and it is so emotionally taxing. Even for those of us lucky enough to have a relatively short stay and relatively few complications.  My friend who had a daughter born with a health condition called CDH and had surgery at just a couple days old, posted this video on Facebook from Motherly Media that shows a little about what it is like to have your babe in the NICU.

I sort of compiled a list of some of the craziness related to having your little one in the NICU.  I’m sure it doesn’t include everything, and I wish I took more pictures, but this was the general gist of our experience for the first 10 days of Li’l LJ’s life.

  • What is That Noise?
    • It is incredibly scary to see your baby hooked up to a million wires.  And like I said, we had a relatively “unplugged” baby compared to a lot of others.  But there are beeps and bells and things going off all the time and his leads kept falling off so all of a sudden it would be like RED ALERT no pulse, no heartbeat and I would panic and then a nurse would come over nonchalantly and just reattach them.  It would happen a couple times per hour at least.  The best is when it would happen when you’re feeding or burping him and you think you blocked the airway or something.  Mildly Terrifying.
First Pic
So many cords.  But look at that little butt chin!
  • Your Phone Is Disgusting
    • The NICU unit was like Fort Knox.  For good reason, but you’d have to buzz yourself in and then sign in and ask if you could see your baby.  You go into a super intense handwashing station, which, not gonna lie, I kind of wanted to buy to have at my house.  And there are signs everywhere telling you that your phone is dirtier than a public toilet-not surprised, but still.  Wipe that Shit Off ( literally).  They’re gross.  When you’re in the hospital you kind of just stroll down the hallway whenever you want, but once you get released you have to get a visitors pass and go through this whole process.  Glad it was secure but also felt like a whole thing to see your own child.  After a few days visiting , they start to recognize you.  You still feel like you’re trying to get into the hottest club and hoping they’ll let you past the velvet rope.HottestClub
  • No, You Can’t Come See the Baby
    • One of the hardest things is being so excited about your new arrival and not being able to share it with people.  The more visitors you have, the higher likelihood of infection so you have to keep it pretty tight.  You want to share this exciting moment with family and friends but you really can’t.  It definitely feels a little lonely and isolating.  You feel like you’re missing out on part of the new baby experience.
  • Bili-What?
    • When Liam was born, he didn’t need CPAP or a feeding tube which was great news.  I expected him to be in an incubator when we went to see him for the first time but he was just out in the open.  It was so exciting.  My mom and brother came down so we were excited to introduce him, but when we got back to the NICU he was in a NICU with a tiny eye mask under these bright blue lights.  It was kind of shocking because he wasn’t originally like that.  We were told his biliruben levels were high and he needed to be “under the lights” to keep the numbers low and prevent liver damage and worse. I was thrown off since he was out and we could hold him and then all of a sudden he’s in this tiny tanning bed sort of locked away from us.  I never even heard of biliruben but a lot of babies need this treatment, even when they’re not early. It was very scary to go from having full access to the baby to having them in glass.
I just needed a little tan!
  • Tiny Diapers
    • Do you know how small a preemie diaper is?  About the size of a maxi pad.  About half the size of the pad they give you after birth, lol. When the first nurse asked if I wanted to change the diaper, I was like umm sure. Then she just handed it to me.  Now, I’ve changed lots of diapers but none this small and not through two tiny holes in an incubator.  Needless to say, I failed miserably at this task.  I kind of thought she’d give me a lesson, but nay. She did not.  She was like sink or swim mama.  I sank.  But I got the hang of it eventually. Also, yes, boy babies will pee all over an incubator if you don’t go fast enough. Fun fact.
Very challengin to change a diaper through this hole!
  • Pump Station
    • When you have a preemie, if you plan to or want to breasfteed, they give you a hospital grade pump while you’re there.  If you have an on time baby, your milk supply is usually created by the demand of the baby itself.  But when the baby is in the NICU, there is no demand to be created so you need to essentially fake it and a regular pump you get through insurance just won’t cut it.  They had a lactation team that would come give you a lesson and it is brutal.  When you first start you are legit getting droplets.  Spending half an hour doing manual compression (yes it’s exactly as fun as you think) then strapping yourself up to the cones and getting hardly anything.  But the nurses want you to deliver it anyway because it’s full of antibodies and good stuff so they feed it to your baby in a syringe until you start making enough for a bottle.  It is emotionally and physically exhausting.  Kenny was doing late night deliveries from labor and delivery of thimble size milk drops.  Luckily the supply came in eventually and we were driving our little cooler of “the goods” to and from the hospital for the next week. The NICU even has a pumping room with little stations since most of the moms there need to pump every 1-3 hours. You’d walk by and hear a symphony of suction every hour of the day.
  • No Food Allowed
    • There was a tiny waiting room for family.  It was surprisingly small to me, but then again we weren’t supposed to have visitors.  But for us who weren’t from there, we basically treated it like a job, it was sort of our home away from home…away from home.  We were there from about 9am until 6pm every day.  That way we could participate in the feedings every three hours, change him, do skin to skin, soak in all the bonding time possible within the rigid schedule they were all on. You weren’t allowed to eat in there.  I was like wait, we are here all day and we can’t even have snacks?  Seemed outrageous to me.  There was a cafeteria and Au Bon Pain in the hospital on a different floor.  But when you’re pumping and cleaning parts and feeding and changing the baby by the time you’re done all that you have like 15 minutes to eat.  We broke the rules a few times.  I know, this is shocking.
  • NICU Nurses are Superheroes
    • Legit.  These nurses are amazing.  They had so many tiny nuggets to take care of with all kinds of issues, tubing, cords, specific needs.  They were throwing around these tiny beings so calmly and confidently, and providing emotional support and coaching to the parents.  They honestly got us through this ordeal. High five a NICU nurse if you know one.  They are the shit.
  • Infant CPR
    • In the waiting room, there were signs for support groups and classes and all kinds of resources.  They offered, sort of required, you to take an infant CPR class before discharge.  I’ve taken CPR a bunch of times for teaching fitness classes, but never with the intent to use on my own child.  I know a lot of people will take this class on their own before they have a baby. But the fact that it was kind of required was a scary wake up call to me.  As was the mom in the waiting room, awaiting discharge of her baby, who told us she took her little one home and then she stopped breathing due to infection and had to be readmitted.  “Good thing I took the class” she said.  Ok, lemme go sign up right now…
  • PUPP
    • The day or two after I got discharged I had this little rash around my waistline.  I thought it was just an irritation from the sexy mesh underwear the hospital gives you but over the next few hours the rash covered my whole body from shoulders down to my knee caps.  It was unbelievably itchy.  We thought it was an allergic reaction maybe but to what?  Everything I’m using is not my normal stuff so who knows.  It was AWFUL.  Sitting in the hospital for 9 hours a day wanting to rip my skin off.  Finally had to go to the doctor and was givin steroids, took 5 days but eventually went away.  I thought it might not ever go away.  Thanks to Kenny’s sleuthing online we ended up figuring out it was this thing called PUPP, a rash that often develops in pregnant women in the third trimester and can last until birth.  But sometimes it develops after birth, lucky me. Picture skin to skin or pumping on top of a full body rash. Hot.  Literally. If you’re feeling brave, look PUPP up on Google Image.
  • Just give it to me straight
    • I like information. I know that medical things change, and not everything can be predicted to the T, but we got all sorts of crazy info in Labor and Delivery and then different information in the NICU.  And then different information every time we got an update.  When you’re more than 4 hours from home, don’t have any of your stuff, dealing with hormones and fear and confusion, you just want to know what you’re in for.  Am I here for a few days? Weeks? Longer?  We were told on Friday, if he passes the carseat test you can probably leave Monday, then we were told mid week, then end of week, then we’ll have to see.  All based on whether or not he was eating enough, what his biliruben levels were, etc.  I know those things can change but the pushing back process was rough for my mental state.  I just wished they told me the longest time possible and then anything sooner would have been great.  I walked in one morning thinking we were leaving in a day or two and the nurse nonchalantly says maybe this weekend and I lost my shit.  Kenny was parking the car so I was alone.  It just through me over the edge to have it pushed back again.  We didn’t have clothes, we had to buy underwear at Target, like what the hell.  Then the nurse told me he can sense that I’m upset.  OK LADY, That is not helping me feel better either! Ugh.  All the staff was great, but I was like don’t tell me a date until it is a HIGH likelihood that is happening.  For the love of God.

Overall, like I said, we were incredibly lucky.  There were moms who went back to work because their babies were in the NICU for so long.  They would come in as we were leaving with their cooler of milk dressed in their work clothes.  There was another baby in our nursery who coded while taking his vitamins. After a couple of minutes of chaos, we hear the nurse say “Well, welcome back sir.”  Terrifying.  Can’t imagine what that mom was going through.  Another baby was readmitted after her and her twin were released, and the parents didn’t listen to the no visitors rule, ended up being treated for meningitis.  All in all our NICU experience was positive and on the low scale of risky.

But for first time parents, especially after everything we had been through to get to this point, that shit was scary as hell anyway.  As was taking him out of the hospital right into a 4+ hour drive back to Massachusetts.  NOT the chillest road trip I’ve ever been on.  But an amazing feeling to be wheeled out of the hospital 10 days later with baby in the baby carrier and headed home.  Who knew when we picked the name Liam, that the meaning Strong Willed Warrior would be so on point!

Up next on the blog, the first few weeks home, or as I like to call it Groundhog Day.