I went into breastfeeding completely blind. I didn’t feel the need to prepare as I just thought it would come naturally to me but it didn’t turn out that way. It definitely wasn’t the easy experience I was hoping for and it left me fearful about trying to breastfeed again. Little did I know breastfeeding the second time around would be a completely different experience, and that I’d end up donating milk to so many babies in need.
Breastfeeding first time around
To be honest, I went into my first breastfeeding experience completely blind. I (wrongly) assumed that it would be “easy” and “natural,” as everyone says it is. I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes to help me prepare. My maternal instinct would kick in, right?
Once my son was born I was never able to get him to latch in the hospital and I left feeling very discouraged. I used a nipple shield for two months, and that seemed to help. But that entire year breastfeeding was a rollercoaster. Just when we’d get into a groove, we’d hit a speed bump. Getting mastitis about 6 weeks in was one of the worst parts, and made me question if I wanted to keep going.
As he got bigger I really struggled to make enough milk for him. In my mind, I thought I’d be a failure if I had to give him formula. I spent so many days crying, stressed out that my supply was dropping.
As he got bigger I really struggled to make enough milk for him. In my mind, I thought I’d be a failure if I had to give him formula.Alayna
After nine months of EBF, I finally supplemented with formula during the workday and I quit pumping. We made it to 13 months, and even though I was proud of myself for reaching the year mark, I dreaded ever having to do it again.
How I prepared myself to breastfeed again
When I got pregnant with my second son, I knew I needed something to mentally prepare myself to breastfeed again. I made an appointment with my hospital’s lactation consultant and we talked through many of the challenges I faced. She was so encouraging and gave me many practical tips and product recommendations for how to make this experience more successful.
It’s crazy how different each breastfeeding journey can be. I’m not sure if it’s that second-time mom confidence or the baby’s personality (or a combination of the two), but my second son was a DREAM when it came to breastfeeding. He latched in the delivery room and never had the same challenges my first son did.
It’s crazy how different each breastfeeding journey can be.
One product that my lactation consultant recommended to me was the Haakaa, and it was a game changer! This is a small silicone pump that suctions onto your breast to catch any drip. It’s low-tech and you can use it alone or you can place it on one breast while the baby nurses on the other side. I started using this three days after I came home from the hospital and was SHOCKED at how much milk I collected.
During every feed I’d use it and by the end of my maternity leave, I’d saved about 600 oz. just from using the Haakaa. I really think that using it early on helped to establish a strong milk supply.
I began looking into donating milk
Once I went back to work, I continued to pump and then breastfeed directly at home. Eventually, I realized that I had a huge oversupply of milk and so I started looking into donating milk.
I became an official donor with the Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida. What I love about this organization is that donated milk is sent to hospitals around the state for NICU babies in need. The milk is thoroughly tested and safe.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to donate much, but over the course of the year, I was able to donate 1,800 oz.! After my first experience, this is something I NEVER imagined I could do.
Over the course of the year, I was able to donate 1,800 oz.!
As we started to approach the year mark, I knew it would be challenging to get my oversupply to slow down. I tried stretching out the time between my pump sessions and feeds. Unfortunately, I got mastitis again. I didn’t realize it was even possible to get it so late into your journey.
After recovering from that, I was able to start weaning my son by cutting one feed at a time. We made it to 13 months and now I’m officially retired from donating milk and breastfeeding.
It’s been a wild ride!
It’s been a wild ride, with lots of ups and downs, but I would do it all over again. Our bodies are so amazing and I’m so grateful I was able to provide milk for my babies and other tiny babies across Florida.
After spending more than two years of my life breastfeeding, I’ve made it a point to reach out and encourage other moms in their journeys. So many of us feel overwhelmed and discouraged while breastfeeding, and it’s so important to have a support system.
The biggest piece of advice I have for other moms is: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Any amount of milk you can provide for any amount of time is incredible! Don’t focus on making it to a year because that can be overwhelming. Set smaller goals of one month at a time and celebrate when you make it there!
The biggest piece of advice I have for other moms is: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
I’m always happy to share tips and advice when it comes to breastfeeding and donating milk. Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram: @alaynajcurry.
What Alayna used to express milk
Alayna used the breast milk collector known as the ‘Haakaa’