S1E15 Caroline’s Story | New Little Life Breastfeeding Podcast

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In this week’s episode, I am joined by Caroline– a military spouse and mom of two boys. She discusses both of her breastfeeding journeys and some of her struggles including food intolerances, anemia, and mental health.

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Episode Transcript

Allison (00:06):

Hey everyone. It’s Allison here with New Little Life. I’m an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a nurse, a doula, and a mom of three little boys. Here on the New Little Life podcast, we’ll talk with real moms about their breastfeeding experience– the good parts and the bad– and share real and practical advice about breastfeeding. Connect with and learn from other moms and professionals to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Hey everybody, I’m glad you’re back here on the New Little Life podcast. Today’s interview is with an old friend, Caroline, who is a military spouse and a mom of two little boys. We first met in Oklahoma where I got to know her as her doula, and I’m sad the military took us apart too quickly because she is a wonderful and fun person. We could have had a lot of good times together. That’s military life though. I think I’ve said that before on the podcast that takes me away from wonderful people too quickly. She talks with us today about her breastfeeding experience, mostly with her first son, where she had a few, to say the least, difficulties– food intolerances, anemia, and she opens up about some mental health struggles that I think you will really relate to. I always appreciate it when my guests answer questions in a real and vulnerable way. I know it’s not always easy for them. And sometimes it’s hard for me to ask the difficult questions, but I think that this is part of us all kind of being in this together. It takes a village to raise a child, and I think it also takes a village to raise a mother. So I hope that you can relate a little bit to her. If you’ve had some of these same feelings, especially when times are hard, just know that you’re not alone and that we’re all here to support you and many moms have felt very similarly. So let’s jump over and chat with Caroline. Caroline, I’m so excited to talk to you today. I think I say that every time, but I really am looking forward to this chat. It’s been a few years since we’ve connected.

Caroline (02:15):

It has about three years. Yeah. Good old days back in Lawton, Oklahoma. So many memories. Good times. Good memories.

Allison (02:32):

Yes. For me as well. You’ve got to start out and tell me what you’re doing now. Tell us about your family. Give us the quick Caroline in one minute.

Caroline (02:38):

I don’t have a whole lot day-to-day going on these days, just hanging out with my babies. So I’m a military spouse and that means traveling a lot and lots of deployments, lots of time parenting alone, et cetera. We have two boys, a three-year-old and an eight month old. And so I am staying home with them and that’s kind of what is filling my time right now. Traditionally I’m a teacher, but just decided in the lifestyle and with all the deployments in the past couple of years, I needed to be staying at home. So that’s basically it for right now.

Allison (03:19):

Especially with young kids. I feel like it’s so hard to… sometimes it’s just easier and more cost-effective just to stay home with them.

Caroline (03:23):

Exactly. And Thomas actually, that’s my husband, just got back from a deployment a couple months ago. And so he was gone through the end of my pregnancy with our youngest and then for the birth and everything. Cause like with COVID and everything, he just wasn’t able to come home. So I actually moved back home with our parents for a while. And so just not having a job during those big transitional phases was helpful as well because it gave me the flexibility to really see what we needed to be taken care of.

Allison (03:59):

So he wasn’t home for the birth. Did he get to come home and meet the baby or was he six months old when he met him?

Caroline (04:04):

He did get to come home in July I believe. So I think Nate was about two months old at the time. That was a unique challenge, I would say. But then we were able to go visit him again one more time before he came back. He came back in October. So it was definitely a unique experience to have a toddler and a new baby and the new baby hadn’t even like ever met his dad before. So that was weird.

Allison (04:39):

Was he able to FaceTime in for the birth or anything like that?

Caroline (04:42):

He did FaceTime in for the birth. But as you know, because you were in my first birth, Tom’s super squeamish. So he wanted the camera up further, like just her face. So he was able to watch, but I don’t know that it was a really impactful experience cause he could only see me.

Allison (05:03):

Such a weird thing. I interviewed like last week, same thing. Her husband, he missed it by two days. He was coming home for his little 10-day leave or whatever. And was a little bit late and just so weird. She’s like, “Yeah, he was watching it on FaceTime, like in the common room.” And it’s crazy. It’s weird.

Caroline (05:20):

Yes. Luckily he had a private room to watch, and it was a very like gentle labor. There was not a lot of drama or anything. So I think I pushed for like 10 minutes and so there wasn’t like a whole lot to watch long-term kind of thing. So literally, we called him when the doctor came in and was like, “All right, let’s push girlfriend.” And then hung up a couple of minutes after he was born.

Allison (05:50):

Crazy military life. You just don’t know until you’re in it.

Caroline (05:55):

Yeah. It’s definitely unique.

Allison (05:57):

We did not grow up knowing anyone in the military when my husband joined the military. That was not the plan either. He was a music teacher and our families were just like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And it was scary for us too. We had no experience. Did you come from a military family– you or Tom?

Caroline (06:13):

I did not. Tom did though. So that’s how he ended up in our hometown. There’s a military base there as well. So he grew up in the military. His dad retired probably when he was in like seventh grade, maybe. So the kind of those middle teen years. But I did not. And I honestly, I knew nothing about it until I was a little bit older and then it’s been it’s an experience, so yeah.

Allison (06:42):

It’s a unique lifestyle for sure.

Caroline (06:45):

Yes. And Tom’s been deployed like four times.

Allison (06:48):

I know. Every time I see a homecoming picture, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, he was gone again?!”

Caroline (06:54):

It’s been a unique challenge. I would say I’ve spent a lot of my parenthood years doing that kind of solo. But also not. Like totally supported, but also solo physically. And so that’s been an interesting and unique challenge in itself, which is special.

Allison (07:18):

Wow. All right, man. Well, let’s dive into your breastfeeding experience a little bit. Let’s start with your first– little Luke– and let’s just start at the beginning. You can start with the birth if you want or just kind of those first few days, first week, wherever you want.

Caroline (07:33):

Okay. Well, so just a little bit, maybe of background. I always knew that I wanted to at least attempt to breastfeed. I just kind of grew up around it and I was the youngest in my family of many kids, but then I had a lot of older siblings and so I grew up getting to witness them do it.

Allison (07:55):

So you’d seen breastfeeding before?

Caroline (07:57):

Definitely, yeah. I wouldn’t say that I had like necessarily seen it actively a whole lot because my sisters weren’t sitting there with their shirts up or anything. So I didn’t witness it a lot, but I witnessed it.

Allison (08:15):

That was just like the way you feed babies kind of thing?

Caroline (08:18):

Exactly. And all of us were breastfed by my mom. So when I got pregnant with Luke, I knew that I wanted to at least attempt to breastfeed. So with him, I went ahead and took a breastfeeding class at a local hospital. Which was an interesting experience because when you take a breastfeeding class, you don’t have a baby yet. So you’re trying to figure out all of these things, but yet you have no experience with how little babies actually move and act. But I went ahead and took a breastfeeding class and then I worked with you a bit as well. And yeah, just started nursing him after he was born. There weren’t a lot of issues. I had the typical stuff like cracked nipples, a little bit of bleeding, stuff like that. But nothing too dramatic and nothing that didn’t clear up in a couple of weeks. But then when he got a little bit older, then we ran into some issues. But at first, it was just kind of an assumption that I wanted to do it and it just wasn’t super dramatic or anything.

Allison (09:24):

Yeah. Do you remember, did you see like a lactation consultant or anything like that to help you in the first couple of weeks get over some of those just learning curves?

Caroline (09:32):

Yeah, absolutely. I did. I saw one in the hospital. Oh, well, so that’s the other thing. I think it was his first night, he actually was taken to the NICU for breathing– something with breathing. And so that was kind of a hard thing at first because I was exhausted, so a little bit I was like, yeah, yeah. But then at the same time it kind of hindered that connection and being able to see his cues and stuff. But when I went into the NICU, a lactation consultant actually came with me because I wasn’t able to get him to latch at first. So there was not an instant, like he latched and it was great kind of a thing. But she came in and actually did the whole took the boob and got it in there. And that was like a game-changing moment where I actually saw what I had learned in the breastfeeding class then translate to what it looks like with an actual baby. So they helped me then. And then I actually went back for a follow-up a week later at the hospital as well. And they did like a weigh in and they watched him eat. And I think that was standard at that Oklahoma hospital– to try to have every breastfeeding mom come back a week later. Which I really appreciated and enjoyed because it’s lonely that first week and it’s difficult.

Allison (10:59):

Yeah. That’s great. So about when did you start having some of these other problems that you had with your first one? So you got the latch figured out and then it was kind of smooth sailing. When did you start hitting some bumps?

Caroline (11:12):

Well, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m like I guess it wasn’t like perfectly. With Nate… So with my second one, it was smooth sailing. Like it was the natural breastfeeding journey that you picture in your mind, that’s how it was with Nate. And I think part of that was experience and part of that was he just latched and didn’t have any problems, anything. With Luke, it was not as much. And also I was in a much more difficult place with Luke. I had had a pretty severe postpartum hemorrhage. And so I was very anemic, very tired and was really struggling with my emotions with that too, just because it was such traumatic physical event. So I actually remember with Luke, that first week was so hard emotionally. And there was one night when I was breastfeeding him alone during the night. And also as a new mom, you don’t know how much you should be waking up to feed them or how much you should let them whine, stuff like that. And so I went in to feed him one night. I hadn’t slept in days. And I just remember, this was probably the lowest point of my journey where I was like, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I think that I need to give him a bottle.” It was like probably two or three in the morning. And I literally was thinking to myself like, “Do you think fire stations actually take babies?” Because I just was so overwhelmed and so done with it. So that’s when I actually went and woke my mom up and then she came in and helped me. And luckily I had that support. But that was probably the lowest point of that journey in the first week. And then after that things got a little bit better and then he had some food sensitivities and so then things got hard again. I don’t know if that answered your question at all.

Allison (13:05):

Do you remember what day that was?

Caroline (13:10):

So we were discharged from the hospital I think at 11:00 PM, which was 10 out of 10 would not recommend leaving the hospital in the middle of the night with your first baby. Don’t do it. If they tell you to do it, say no. Don’t do it. So it was not that first night, but it was the second night that we were home. So he was probably three or four days old. And I hadn’t slept in those three or four days. So that was a uniquely humbling experience as a mother, just being totally overwhelmed and being like “I can’t. I don’t know that I can do this.” But I could, and I did.

Allison (13:51):

Right. This is motherhood. We just do it. But I’m glad that you asked for support. And I don’t think it’s uncommon on that day three or four is typically the meltdown day– where like your milk’s not all the way in and transitioned yet and your baby’s hungry and you’re freaking exhausted and that’s really commonly the hardest day for a lot of moms.

Caroline (14:11):

Right. And you just have left the hospital, so you are scared cause you’re not supported anymore, but you’re also not rested. And so, that was a difficult one. But things got better very quickly after that, which is nice.

Allison (14:32):

So when did you start noticing some other problems with Luke?

Caroline (14:35):

So he was born right after Thanksgiving. So we went home to my parent’s house for Christmas and he was just a little dude. But he just was so fussy and he was my first baby. So I didn’t know. It was like, “Is it normal? Maybe this is just what babies do or maybe this is just his disposition.” I wasn’t sure. But I started noticing he was screaming when he was trying to go to the bathroom. So if he was trying to poop, he would just be screaming, screaming, screaming. And I actually think I contacted you and you were like, “Yeah, that’s not.. Babies shouldn’t be like really screaming when they’re using the bathroom.” And he was having some trouble latching. So at first I thought maybe he had thrush. So I was trying like an infant probiotic. But ended up really, nothing came of that. I don’t think that’s what it was. And then I started to notice mucus in his stool and the stool had like a particular vinegary smell to it. And when I researched it, that was definitely an indication of a food intolerance. Didn’t really think a whole lot of it.

Allison (15:49):

Can you tell us what mucus poo looks like? Cause I know some moms would be like, what does that even mean?

Caroline (15:54):

Yeah. I’m trying to even remember fully a lot at that time. But it was almost like an electric green color. So if you picture like newborn poop, make it a more like pea green color. It’s definitely like if you open the diaper, it’s got like if you blew your nose and mixed it in some electric green poo. That kind of consistency, it’s like very, very notable. And Nate had it a couple of times, but nothing abnormal. According to his pediatrician and everything, that was totally normal. But with Luke, it was so present. And the smell, I will never forget that like acidic, vinegar smell. It was terrible.

Allison (16:41):

You just knew something wasn’t right. Newborn poop should be like yellow, mustardy, seedy. It should not stick together. Yeah. So that’s a great sign that something wasn’t right.

Caroline (16:52):

Yes. And people would always talk about that yeasty smell and it was not that. It was definitely not that, so I knew something was wrong. But we were at home with my parents, so it was going to be a couple of weeks still before we could see our pediatrician back in Oklahoma. So we waited, we just continued on our journey. The other thing that was going on at the same time as I was having some trouble getting him to eat. And I would try to latch him– this is part of why I thought he had thrush– I would try to latch him and then he would just scream and he would pull off and he would cry and he was like not interested in it. And later once I got to know him a little bit better, I figured out it was because I was trying to feed him too frequently. So I was feeding him little bits very frequently, but he was always the type of nurser who he wanted to eat on a schedule. And he wanted to eat a large feeding at once. So he would eat a feeding every three or four hours. And there would be no snacking, like as a pacifier or anything in between. Otherwise he would just scream. So that was an interesting discovery.

Allison (18:03):

Actually my third one has been a lot like that too. We just worked with a sleep consultant actually. And she’s like, “Can you space out his feedings?” It was related to sleep, but he has done way better when I’m not just like, “Oh, you’re crying, here’s some milk.” Right. My other two would take milk any day or night you give them milk. Yes. But yeah, I’m with you. Some babies just, they don’t like that.

Caroline (18:26):

I think he just didn’t like being messed with either. He was like, just put me down and let me relax here. And so I think that was a lot of our problem too, is just kind of trying to get to know each other and learning that it is possible that a baby doesn’t want to eat, even if offered. That was a revelation for me. So I did not expect it.

Allison (18:47):

Yeah. So did you wait a couple of weeks and then go see your pediatrician when you got back to Oklahoma?

Caroline (18:51):

I did. So I think he was about five or six weeks old then when we went to see the pediatrician. And she was like, “Yeah, that’s concerning. Definitely.” So they ended up having me do a stool sample, which if you’ve never done a stool sample on a newborn, that is a unique experience because there’s not a lot of stool to take. It all absorbs into the diaper. So you’re like trying to pick off dried bits of like mucousy nastiness. So yes, it was very exciting. You have to like fill it up to the line. Definitely took awhile. So I did that and we took it in and then we went back into the pediatrician. She was like, “There’s definitely something going on.” And it was at that point, it was starting to affect his weight gain because he wasn’t able to absorb the nutrients that he needed essentially. So she ended up having me cut all dairy from my diet. So dairy and soy I think was the first thing that we tried. He also at this time was starting to break out in pretty severe eczema on his face. And then maybe behind his knees, a couple of different places on his body. And that was like, “Oh, it looks so painful for a little guy.” That continued and actually, neither thing got better as we cut dairy. So then we were like, “What are we going to do next?” And through the couple of months we worked with them, we tried cutting everything. I mean, I was eating meats and vegetables exclusively there for a while. And that was very hard because then I actually was not getting enough food. So I was starving and was losing a ton of weight. And truthfully, it was like I could not get enough fat in my body without whole dairy. Which is a large part of my diet normally. So I actually think looking back that, I mean, this is all just speculation. But I think looking back, because he was nine pounds, three ounces when he was born. And then by the time we went to his six month checkup after we moved here, he was in the first percentile for weight. So he completely stopped gaining weight, which was very scary. But I actually don’t think I was producing enough fatty milk. I think it was almost all foremilk essentially, because I don’t think that I was taking in enough fat and calories. I mean, that’s all my speculation, but I was doing the best I could to eat as much as I could. But when you’re eating mostly vegetables, you can only get so much in.

Allison (21:36):

Did you ever find out what it was that was bothering him?

Caroline (21:39):

No. We know now that he has a walnut allergy, so it could have been that. I definitely was eating a lot of nuts in that time ironically, because I was trying to get fat wherever I could. So he definitely has a walnut allergy now and he actually still can’t drink milk. So he’ll drink A2, which is a special… They sell it at a normal grocery store. But basically cows produce an A1 protein and an A2 protein. And A2 protein is much more digestible for humans. I think, don’t quote me. But basically if people have milk intolerances, a lot of times it’s specifically to that A1 protein structure. So he can drink this A2 protein structure with no problem. So this milk only has the A2 protein structure. And so he drinks that without a problem, but if he drinks normal milk constipated, he’ll get that rash again. All the same things.

Allison (22:39):

But you didn’t notice that cutting dairy out of your diet while you were breastfeeding made a difference?

Caroline (22:43):

Not at all, like not at all. And I think that part of that was because it can take so long for that to get out of your system and then to get out of their system. I think if I remember correctly, it was like eight weeks almost. A long time, something like that. And especially for me, that was such a prevalent part of my diet, that eight weeks was a massive undertaking too. And I mean, I did it and I was looking at every ingredients label. If there was even a milk byproduct, it was gone. I cut everything for months. And I never noticed a difference, but I think in those eight weeks then I lost so much of my fat intake that then that also started to affect things because my milk was just, I mean, I would pump and it was like, there was no separation almost.

Allison (23:41):

So was that hard to modify your diet so much? Did you ever feel any resentment towards your beautiful, perfect little baby?

Caroline (23:48):

All the time. Yeah, I know. And it’s terrible to say that, but I was miserable. I was miserable and you know, when I look back at pictures from those times, it’s very scary sometimes because I was so thin. You just could tell that I wasn’t healthy. And so then he wasn’t healthy either because you know, it was starting from me and going to him. But it did make it very, very hard. I was very unhappy for a lot of that time, which was unfortunate because a lot of it was focused around the fact that I was just really hungry. So sad, but yeah.

Allison (24:30):

Gosh, that’s so hard too, because I mean, especially where you saw very little change in him, do you keep going this way? Or how long did you do that?

Caroline (24:44):

That’s what I was going to say. I continued until he was about six months old with this. And we moved in that time from Oklahoma, here. Went to his new pediatrician. His new pediatrician was like, “I guess, probably just keep doing what you’re doing. Let’s see.” Cause it was the weight gain thing. “Let’s see what happens, give it a few more weeks.” But then they referred me to an actual allergist. I walked in and I’ve never like been so relieved in my life because the allergist sat me down. He was like, “You need to add every food back into your diet immediately.” He was like “First off, babies outgrow allergies as they get older.” So he was telling me like with milk a lot of times they’ll outgrow it. And we obviously have seen that we’re not there yet. It’s gotten better through time. His reactions, not as like crazy, it’s just constipation at this point. But he’s definitely still got like a little reaction. But he just was like “Add everything back in.” And as soon as I did that, life was better again. At the same time, Luke also was a frequent spitter. Like he would spit up all the time. And so we started feeding him solids around four months just to try to weight that belly down a little bit and keep food in. And that was very helpful because it took some of the pressure off of me to be providing a hundred percent. You know, it was like so much in those first three, four months was on me and I felt like a failure. And even now, I still carry residual guilt because I’m like, “I didn’t know it, but was maybe starving my baby in those times.” Which is very sad.

Allison (26:30):

And you were just following the advice of the professional gave you. And honestly, it’s good advice. If your baby has the signs and symptoms that your baby had, that is also what I would advise a mother to do. Right. So that’s a really hard place to be in.

Caroline (26:44):

And I can look back and tell myself that, but it’s that motherhood guilt, you always feel like you sometimes just didn’t do as much as you could have or whatever. But they even had me off of my prenatals for awhile. So I wasn’t even taking prenatal vitamins. I wasn’t taking… Probably like nothing. No, it was a lot. But it’s been much easier with Nate, which is nice.

Allison (27:10):

So after you introduced foods again, what happened with Luke? Did you even notice a difference there?

Caroline (27:19):

I’m trying to remember. I was definitely happier, healthier, et cetera. And so he was about six months. So he was definitely eating solids at that point. And nothing severe, no. His belly was fine, everything. I didn’t go straight to cow’s milk. So I started introducing like Greek yogurt and then I would do cheeses and then I would do goats milk, stuff like that. So I kind of kept it off the pure cow dairy. And he actually could eat those things without a problem too. So I could feed him Greek yogurt, no problem. I could feed him cheese. No problem. It was actually just milk. So once I figured that out, life was peachy because there was so much more that was an option for both of us to eat. And suddenly he was getting enough fat and stuff. So he started gaining weight again, which was really nice and reassuring. So we were no longer in the first percentile. Thank goodness.

Allison (28:32):

That’s a bad place to be. Isn’t it? It’s stressful.

Caroline (28:34):

It’s not a fun place to be. Yeah. It’s not a fun place to be, especially when you’re doing everything you can to try to nurse your baby.

Allison (28:42):

Did that allergist do any testing? Or they did just say put it back in your diet and let’s see what happens.

Caroline (28:48):

Yeah. That’s basically what he said. He was like, “We’ll watch it, but add everything back in and let’s just see how it goes. Let’s see what happens.” I’m regurgitating things from three years ago, so I might not be totally accurate, but the allergist did say that testing on babies is very, very inconsistent and very unreliable.

Allison (29:17):

I think it’s like before age one or something, don’t quote me on that either. But before that, it’s kind of a joke. Really inaccurate results. Yeah.

Caroline (29:26):

Right. So the first time we actually took him to the allergist, he was over two. And that was because I had noticed a reaction to walnuts specifically, so they tested for that. But but the milk one, it didn’t even come back as an allergy.

Allison (29:42):

He’s definitely sensitive to it though, huh?

Caroline (29:47):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He definitely has a intolerance to the protein, but it did not show up on any of the, any of the tests or anything. So we’ve just kind of been taking that one as parents, like doing what we can to watch when we’re home and see what the reactions are. But as far as like actual allergic reactions, nothing. So that was fascinating. Yeah.

Allison (30:11):

I think there’s also some difference between a true allergy and sensitivity and intolerance and I’m not an expert there, so I couldn’t even tell you. It doesn’t shock me that something didn’t come back on the allergy test, although it does affect him in a negative way. And I think you’re right on, like you said, doing the parent thing and just trusting your own gut. You know your kid best and just going with it.

Caroline (30:35):

And you’re around them enough to see reactions to different things. Oh, his grandparents maybe gave him a cup of milk and interesting the next day he can’t go to the bathroom. Or just, kind of that like by life data that we can gather. And so that’s been super helpful and has worked for us through the older years I would say.

Allison (31:04):

Good. Let’s see. How long did you breastfeed Luke? Were you still breastfeeding when you got pregnant with Nate?

Caroline (31:11):

I breastfed Luke until 13 months. He self-weaned. So like I said, he was a very– still is to this day– he liked a schedule. So I would feed him five times a day for the majority of his little breastfed journey life. And it would be a seven o’clock feeding, a 10 o’clock feeding, a one o’clock feeding, a four o’clock feeding, another like a bedtime feeding basically at seven. And then he would sleep through the night. And we did that probably up until about nine or 10 months, but then he started not wanting some of the daytime feeds. I think it was the four o’clock went first, maybe? He just didn’t want it anymore. And then the 10 o’clock went, didn’t want it anymore. So eventually we got down to just the three feedings and then by like 10 months, I could not get him to nurse more than morning and night, which was kind of hard because I was like, what am I going to give you to drink? So I ended up actually… I can’t remember. Because also I couldn’t give him general formulas or anything because of all of these issues. And I didn’t have enough milk to pump well. So I can’t remember actually what I ended up doing with him. I think my pediatrician maybe had us do some goat formula or goat’s milk stuff. And would give him that during the day, just when he was like having a meal, he would have that in a sippy cup.

Allison (32:45):

Just for the extra calories.

Caroline (32:47):

He totally was just losing interest in it. And then even the bedtime feed dropped off around 11 months, 12 months. So I kept that morning feed. He would do that one well. And around 13 months, my grandmother passed away and I had to go to her funeral, but I left Luke with my in-laws for the two days that I was gone. So we just ended up weaning during that time. And he never looked back. He was like, “Alright, well, bye. See you later.”

Allison (33:15):

“I didn’t even want that anyway.”

Caroline (33:23):

So he was like, “I don’t need you anymore. Buh-Bye. I’m independent boy now.” So we’ll see with Nate how it is. We’ve eight months and he eats on a schedule, but he’s much more willing to be flexible with it than Lukey was. And he’s much more cuddly, I would say. So there’s a chance that he maybe will nurse a little bit longer, but yeah, that 13-month mark with Luke, he was like, “Bye. See ya.”

Allison (33:46):

Was that hard for you? Or were you kind of okay to be done with that part of your relationship there?

Caroline (33:49):

It was bittersweet, I would say. It had been a hard journey and so I was proud of myself for making it like I did. I was relieved to finally have my body back in a way that I could have autonomy suddenly over what I ate. Suddenly I felt like what I did did not affect him as much. So I could eat whatever I wanted and it would not negatively affect him. Whereas before, I constantly was carrying worry and guilt that what I was eating or what I was doing was going to negatively impact him. But suddenly I could eat whatever I wanted and I could wear whatever I wanted and I didn’t have to like have a dress that unbuttoned. And so it was like a relief, but also it’s always sad to move your child up in a milestone. It especially was sad for me then because Thomas was deployed again.

Allison (34:49):

Of course he was, he’s always gone.

Caroline (34:53):

He was gone then. He was gone from when Luke was six months old to 15-months old. And so it was hard for me a little bit. Like those first six months we would all lay in bed together on the weekends while I fed Luke and we’d cuddle and it was just that sweet family time. And so suddenly it was like a little sad to realize that we would never have that in- bed nursing experience again with him and that Tom had missed so many of them and then he’d come back and he wouldn’t even be a breastfed baby anymore. He would just be like a normal 15 month old toddler running around and doing his little thing. So it was bittersweet for those. But mostly I was like, “Whew! We made it.”

Allison (35:44):

There’s some really awesome things that come with the weaning process. What you say, I feel a hundred percent too. That I can eat whatever I want and I don’t care anymore. And the clothes– to not have to stress that you can get in there.

Caroline (35:57):

Yeah. Nobody prepares you for the reality that breastfeeding… I joke that I have clothes I haven’t worn it in years because I’m either pregnant or breastfeeding. And there are certain dresses or certain tops and stuff that you just can’t wear, you just can’t wear. So I’m like I’ve given so much of that stuff away cause I’m like, “I’m not going to be able to wear this for the foreseeable future. I’m either pregnant or nursing.” So it’s a challenge. It’s definitely its own experience in that regard too.

Allison (36:34):

So how was Nate? Was he a little bit easier for you from the get go?

Caroline (36:38):

Oh, so easy. So he was born. And so both of my babies were induced also and super late. And they’re both very big and they’re just, I don’t know if it’s their personality. But Nate was born and that kid latched himself within 10 minutes of being born. I’m not even kidding. Yeah. He was like hanging out and then he worked his little way over there and just latched on instantly. And it was a great latch and I still had the same issues as far as like tender nipples and sore. Stuff like that.

Allison (37:16):

You’d think that was better the second time around, but it’s really not. Your nipples go back to normal pretty quickly. And then you have the next one.

Caroline (37:25):

For sure. You still have those two weeks of like cringing a little bit when they latch on because it hurts. But it gets so much better so quickly. But he latched on, he ate really well. He gains weight really well. He’s maintained basically steady percentiles and stuff the whole time. I haven’t had to cut any foods, which is nice. So I got to have the experience of what it feels like to be able to nurse while you feel really healthy. Also, I didn’t have the blood loss after he was born that I did with Luke. So I think I started in a little bit of a better place as far as like health and nourishment too. But it’s been super like by the book, I guess I would say. Met with a lactation consultant once in the hospital. But beyond that, especially with COVID, we just didn’t, we couldn’t. And then we also just didn’t need to as much this time around, which was reassuring as well. But with me, I had the first experience of being able to pump very fruitfully, I would say, when he was younger. So I would do a pumping after he went to bed most nights. And I could usually get like six to eight extra ounces. I have since stopped that. But that was such a confidence boost for me because after Luke, when I was just struggling to produce and everything, it was so reassuring to able to see this nice, fatty milk in excess that then I could put in the freezer for a rainy day kind of a thing. So that was very reassuring. And I loved my breast pump this time, which was nice compared to last time. I had the Elvie.

Allison (39:18):

So did you like it?

Caroline (39:19):

Yes, I did. And you don’t have any wires. I could go downstairs and clean the kitchen or watch TV or do whatever and I wasn’t attached to anything. So it was so, so much nicer than just having to be like stationary and hooked up. And it just would sit in your bra and it was great. I had my first experience using a Haakaa. That’s how you pronounce it, right? I never had a lot of like leaking or anything. So I never really needed to use breast pads. So I didn’t actually know if it was going to work for me at first because I was like, “Well, maybe I don’t have a strong enough let down. I don’t know.” But I did. And so at first, like I said, I don’t use it anymore. We’ve like stabilized so much in our amounts. But those first few months, I could catch an ounce or two each feeding and that was like a nice little added bonus.

Allison (40:19):

So were you able to leave Nate a little bit since you had some milk in the freezer?

Caroline (40:25):

I would have been able to, but I wasn’t as willing to with Nate as I was with Luke. And I think it was just because I was in a better mental place. I was much more willing to just take Nate on my adventures with me, if that makes sense. Like, I think I just adapted to what it means to be a mom. So if we are going to the grocery store, I just strap him to me. And Luke brings his Luke- size shopping cart and we just all roll out. Whereas with Luke, to do grocery shopping and stuff, Thomas had to come with me for the first six months. I wasn’t able to do it on my own fully. It just was too many moving pieces, too much chaos. But I did have to get some dental work done, early on in Natie’s little life. And so I was able to leave him and he stayed with my mom. She gave him the bottles, no problem. And it was fine. And then also they were like, “You should probably pump and dump for two days.” I didn’t do it.

Allison (41:34):

Yeah, I don’t blame you. A lot of the time, they’re usually way overcautious. I don’t think they realize how much of a burden that actually

Caroline (41:40):

Yes. Especially with a little teeny tiny baby and, and I didn’t want him to like lose interest in nursing in those couple of days. So the dentist was the one who told me “You probably should pump and dump”, but then I checked in with a lactation consultant and his pediatrician and everything, and they all were like, “No, you don’t need to at this age.” So I didn’t just decide not to, but I tried to do my due diligence to make sure that that was an okay choice. And and they were like, “No problem, you don’t have to do that anymore.”

Allison (42:10):

I think that’s great because mom’s here, that’s a lot. Especially from an anesthesiologist or a dentist or something who’s not really trained in breastfeeding. And they want to be cautious and they should be. But if you get a second opinion, if you’re not comfortable with the advice given to you, from someone who’s trained in lactation and you may avoid yourself a lot of right struggles and heartache.

Caroline (42:32):

Yes, and I’d much prefer them to be overcautious versus under cautious. I totally agree. So I appreciated the dentist looking out for me, but then also I was glad that I had those people I could reach out to and be like, “Do I need to do this? Is this safe?” And so that was helpful. Also just being willing to reach out and advocate for yourself and say like “I have this going on and I need some opinions.” So I think that is something that you just have to get really comfortable doing too.

Allison (43:01):

Yeah. Well said. Can you tell us while we kind of wrap things up here, I would love to know what you thought the hardest part of breastfeeding was for you. And then I’m also going to ask you what the best part was. Let’s start with the hard stuff.

Caroline (43:14):

The hardest part for me definitely was that food insensitivity. It consumed me for so long. And like I said, even to this day, whether it’s justified or not, I just harbor some guilt over it because I feel like I was starving my baby for so long. And whether or not that’s accurate or not, it just it’s that motherhood thing. You just want to do the best for your babies that you can. I’m going to give you a couple of best parts actually. The best part obviously is the bond. Like you can’t recreate that. You know, there’s nothing sweeter than when I’m like feeding Nate in the morning and then he just smiles while he’s eating. You know what I mean? They look up at you and they smile and they stroke your face. And it’s just such a sweet little bond. Also the convenience, it is so easy. Once you get the hang of it, it is so much easier to just be out and pull your shirt up than it is to have to have bottles, have to have formula. When you’re not breastfeeding, it’s just one more thing to forget to me. I can’t forget my boobs. So they come with me everywhere.

Allison (44:33):

Do you find it’s also easier at nights? What’s your night schedule like?

Caroline (44:35):

Both of my babies have slept through the night very early on. So I don’t do many night feedings. I think both of them before they were one month old would sleep in long stretches. But if on the occasional night they will wake up. It’s super easy to just go get Nate and chill and feed him.

Allison (44:58):

Oh, you’re so lucky they sleep so well. That’s not the norm. But I mean, if they’re just doing that and gaining weight, it’s okay.

Caroline (45:08):

They both were so big when they were born and then they claim that is part of it possibly. But I didn’t ask questions. I just took it and was like, “This is good for your mental health.”

Allison (45:20):

I’m not going to wake you up.

Caroline (45:25):

And so it was fine. And even with Luke, when he wasn’t gaining weight, the pediatricians were like, “He’s fine to sleep at night.” So on the off chance though that Nate wakes up. Like he was sick a couple of weeks ago, had a little fever. And so I would go in during the night and give him some medicine and check his temperature and all of that. And then it was just, it’s so easy. You don’t have to go downstairs, you don’t have to make a bottle. You’re just right there. You snuggle them in and give him a little top off and he’s good to go. So that’s definitely, definitely nice. It makes it a little harder to do things like leave. If you’re leaving them at daycare, if you’re having to run an errand or something or even like, if you have something to go to during bedtime, especially. You definitely either have to be able to pump milk or you have to be there kind of a thing, or formula. But that definitely makes it harder. You’re you’re on call more for sure. So

Allison (46:28):

Quite awhile. For a year or two or whatever. Yeah.

Caroline (46:32):

Yeah. So, yes. So that part is challenging. But for the most part, the good outweighs the bad.

Allison (46:38):

Right? I agree. Yeah. Mostly. On the, on the days.

Caroline (46:44):

And I’ve had some hard experiences. And I still would recommend it a hundred percent because those good things really are beneficial. Also it’s so nice when your baby is sick, you feel so reassured when they’re sick, that you have something you can do for them, especially when they’re so little and you don’t really want to, and you can’t really give them medicine. You have that way to protect them. Which especially was comforting during COVID, whether or not it really makes a difference. I don’t know, but I just always felt like he at least had that going for him and protecting him. And even Luke got sick once over the summer. And I actually pumped a little bit and gave him a couple ounces in a cup while he was sick. And number one, he didn’t know it was breast milk. But he drank it and he was like, “This milk has syrup in it.” And he thought it was like the best thing, but it also helped. I mean, he was sick, sick, sick. Then once I gave him the breast milk, he was better in a day. So whether or not it’s coincidence, I’ll leave up to the audience.

Allison (47:50):

But take it. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Caroline (47:52):

So that was, that’s an added little pro.

Allison (47:57):

All right. Last question for you here. Is there any piece of advice that you think would be helpful for a new mom, maybe who’s planning to breastfeed or maybe she’s right in that hard part? Anything that you’d like to share with with listeners?

Caroline (48:11):

I think that the best thing that I could tell new mom is number one, it does not come naturally necessarily. And it is hard at first, but it gets better quickly. So it doesn’t feel like it in the time when you’re at day four, you’re like, “Oh no, my life will never be the same again.” But you’re going to get two weeks in and your life will start to feel the same again, like you’re going to actually start to get in a rhythm and get in a routine. And it doesn’t take long. It takes a couple of weeks in theory. But the other thing is that I think education is really important. So before you get to night four, and you’re at home alone, trying to figure it out, crying, et cetera. Really advocate for yourself upfront and try to go in at least virtually get a breastfeeding class, speak to lactation consultants, have lactation consultant’s phone number to be able to reach out and ask questions. Like I think that stuff is very critical because it will make troubleshooting easier later, even if you’re taking those classes, never having had a baby before. So yeah.

Allison (49:21):

That’s excellent advice. I love that. I have an online breastfeeding course for anyone that needs one that isn’t able to find one locally. Especially now where we’re in COVID times and that stuff as well.

Caroline (49:31):

Like our hospital was not offering any.

Allison (49:34):

It’s been really common for moms. But the very last section of that course is how to find your resources. And I encourage you to make a list and get phone numbers because in the middle of the night, and you’re like, “I got to call someone at seven in the morning.” You don’t want to be trying to scrounge up. You’re exhausted.

Caroline (49:51):

And it will always happen at 2:00 AM.

Allison (49:54):

Oh, you bet it will.

Caroline (49:55):

The issue will always come up in the middle of the night. That’s the rule of it. So having those resources on hand to reach out, it’s critical. And having the knowledge, a little bit to draw back to. To be like, “Oh, okay, this is normal. And maybe this is what’s going on.” You can’t emphasize enough how important that is.

Allison (50:18):

So thank you so much, Caroline. I feel like your story is like a lot of moms. It wasn’t like overly unique, but I think, yeah, these are the real life things that moms are going through. And every mom has hard times in one area or another. And so thank you so much for sharing that.

Caroline (50:28):

Actually, when I would talk to my friends about it too, it was amazing to hear how many of them were like, “Oh my gosh, I actually had to go through that too. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t whatever.” And I don’t have the answers per se, but sometimes it is nice to know you’re not the only one. So that’s reassuring and that you can keep pushing forward through it. And it will be great. Thanks for having me. It’s so fun.

Allison (51:04):

You can find some links and helpful stuff down in the show notes of this episode, and I hope that we will see you on the next episode. Don’t forget to subscribe on wherever you’re listening. And thanks again, Caroline so much. This was so much fun today.

Caroline (51:17):

Thanks guys. Have a good one.

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