CONFESSIONS OF A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER
Read Olivia's heartfelt and honest account of her motherhood journey. She shares her personal story about how she overcame obstacles breastfeeding her first son Conor, pumping while traveling for work, her philosophy on possessions and how she came to own half our collection!
CONFESSION #1:I was Conor’s mom when he was born. I was Sean’s mom when I found out I was pregnant with him.
I am an anywhere nurser and breastmilk pumper.
My husband says I found my bleeding heart – being a mama, being a breastfeeding mama. My mom says I have always been such a hardass, but being a mom softened me. My friends say they never thought I would be that kind of mom – the mom who melts when her baby cries. My mother-in-law was incredibly impressed at my dedication to lug my pump and express milk through so many cities and airports to ensure my son was exclusively breastfed when I traveled for work.
When I went to the hospital to deliver my first son Conor in December of 2014, I still did not know if I was going to breastfeed. I had mixed feelings about it and I was a person who was fairly indifferent to pregnancy – meaning I didn’t love having my son kicking inside of me and wholly changing my body through pregnancy. When he was born, I was so happy the delivery was over. I did not instantly smile at my son. I cried the pain over. But the nurse put my son on my abdomen immediately after delivery and he inched his way to my breast to nurse. ALL BY HIMSELF. It was amazing.
In the next two days at the hospital we struggled to get a latch, and my nipples were chaffed and bloody. It was painful. I had doctors and lactation specialists come in to watch us nurse and provide advice to no avail. Finally, when I was about to get released to go home, a final consultant came in to watch us. She took one look at our latch and said ‘Baby is a strong full-term baby and mama is strong, you can control that baby onto your breast and he will be fine. Get that big bird mouth and whop him onto your breast’. All I could think is you are right – I am a strong woman. I lift weights at the gym. I can put my bag in the overhead bin on a plane. I can win over this baby to get the latch. And we did. And breastfeeding became easy. It was lazy. No bottles, no cleaning, no prepping to hit the road.
When I went back to work, I diligently pumped three times a day. I was away from Conor over 50 days and nights over the first year of his life and I was a dedicated pumper to ensure he had enough breastmilk. When anyone would remark in awe that I stuck to a pumping schedule for all of my work trips – I would tell them I have a lot of mom guilt when I leave every time but providing breastmilk is the one thing I can do to connect with my son, even when I’m away. And I, who did not even know if I would breastfeed in the beginning, found myself incredibly sad when at 13 months Conor fully weaned himself. I will do it all again for my second son, Sean.
I went into labor with Sean a full 3 weeks early. This delivery was fast and easy and I smiled at the end. But since he was so early or pre-term, he was a lazy sucker. I had to hand express milk in his mouth for the first week or so when he stopped sucking. I had to pump after every nursing session for a period of time to establish milk supply since he was not taking much those first few weeks at home. I’m so glad I had confidence in my body to provide for Sean from my experience with Conor and that helped me ensure breastfeeding would go well with Sean. I went to see a lactation consultant with Sean to make sure everything was ok – I did not have to do that with Conor since he was so quick on the breast from delivery. But with confidence and reassurance from the lactation consultant, we were well on our way to positive weight gain and a good nursing relationship.
Since I am an anywhere nurser and an anywhere pumper, I find its easiest to just be very open about what I am doing. A friend told me that she hid whenever she nursed and said she thought I was so successful breastfeeding because I was comfortable nursing wherever we were. When I nurse, I do not flash my breasts like I’m at Mardi Gras, but I do not hide what I’m doing under a nursing cover (it gets hot and I can’t see the latch well – and who eats with a towel over their head?) – I prefer to strike a discreet balance to nurse. It did not occur to me with Conor to find nursing friendly clothes or that such a thing existed. I would desperately wiggle out of a sweatshirt as he cried. I had an awful nursing bra - it fell apart and didn’t hold up my newly established DDs. I was cold all the time. We went to a wedding when he was 3 weeks old and I realized when we were there the only way to nurse was to take off my entire dress. So I had to strip down to my bra (that didn’t hold up my breasts - dance to that ladies!) and undies to nurse on the toilet. Who wants to sit on a public toilet in their undies to nurse? Not me.
So when it came time for Sean to show up, I knew there had to be something easier than a sweatshirt to stay warm and nurse in. Regarding possessions, I embrace the concept of minimalism. I started the great purge when I met my husband. I have so much less ‘stuff’ than 10 years ago. When it comes to clothing, I invest in clothes I love. I have about 25% of the volume of clothes I owned 15 years ago out of college. I’d rather spend $300 on an awesome top that I will wear once a week for years than $50 on a shirt I will pitch in a season. And I do. I have a handful of tops I wear all the time. I feel confident and pretty in them. I look good in them. My mom butt looks good in my pants because I have 3 pairs of work pants that fit my body well. However, I needed a few updates to my wardrobe that I would love to wear over years but that were functional for beautiful and discreet nursing. And that I looked good in.
I invested in two things for my time with Sean as an infant. I bought the Naya Breast pump. My husband learned about it from a NY Times article last spring and I pre-ordered it during my first trimester. Given how much I pumped with Conor I saw it as a worthwhile investment for Sean. The other item is functional nursing clothes that I feel confident and attractive in.
I discovered the Teat & Cosset line from my good friend. I purchased a few items two weeks postpartum that I knew I would use – the Mila PJs, the Zoe dress, and the Rachele Poncho and Eva leggings. I wear the PJs a few nights a week until they have so much milk (leaky boobs) on them it’s time to wash. They are so quick to open the top to nurse (snaps instead of buttons!). No wriggling out of a sweatshirt or yanking up a top to bunch around my neck to feed my baby. Although my toddler has learned to yank open the snaps and thinks it’s funny. My husband likes how easy the top opens too! (See Olivia in some of our tops below.)
I wear the Rachele poncho with the Eva leggings around the house all the time. The first time I wore the poncho out and nursed at a restaurant I was pleased to learn that even if you forget to drop the nursing tab down post nurse your breasts are not flashing everyone as it offers the perfect amount of access for the baby to nurse but to discreetly fold just over your breasts.
I wore my Zoe dress to a dinner I attended without my son and easily pumped without sitting in my undies on a toilet. My female friends said the dress was very classy and Jackie O. My male friends were intrigued by the accessibility of the zipper. The dress has the functionality for nursing but it’s fashionable and timeless for well beyond nursing.
When my husband was shopping for me for Christmas, he was looking for another poncho for me because he said that I wore mine every day. I decided that if he thought I should have more than one poncho, maybe I should! So I invested in the Vittoria Cardigan and two shirts – the Gaia and Mia - I’m wearing the cardigan as I type this. I go back to work tomorrow and will have to pump three times a day when I am at my office and 6-8 times a day when I travel. The shirts are perfect for business meetings with pump sessions sprinkled in! I can quickly open them, pump away, snap back up and continue at my desk. I throw a scarf or poncho in my pumping bag to stay warm while pumping.
I would tell any new mom to persist with breastfeeding if you are unsure. Be confident in yourself. Seek help and a support network. Be blunt about what you are doing. On one of my work trips with Conor, I traveled with 4 men including our CEO. We landed at the airport and needed to get a cab to a meeting. I told them to get a coffee because I needed to pump before the cab – no one complained and they had a coffee to go waiting for me. It has been worth every bit of effort to nurse my babies. I am proud of my dedication to pump when I’m away from my boys to provide them breastmilk and my confidence to nurse them wherever we are. To some, it may seem crazy to invest in an expensive pump or nursing clothes, but it is so much more than that. I consider the clothes I have purchased to easily nurse and pump for Sean a long term investment in fashion that is timeless and that I will enjoy wearing for years. I don’t want to hide and I want to look great and stylish when I’m providing nourishment for my baby.
Thanks for sharing your beautiful story Olivia! xoxo, Teat & Cosset