Our Feeding Journey

Friday 2 October 2020

Feeding Ellie has been far from simple (though in talking to other mamas, I realize that feeding babies is rarely simple). Many of you who follow me on Instagram know that I formula feed Ellie, but don't know the specifics of how, when, or why. I wanted to tell our story on the blog today.

Our feeding story starts in pregnancy. I was not the "field of daisies, breast-feeding is a dream" kind of future-mama. Honestly, I thought the idea of breastfeeding was strange and unnatural. But I had heard all the benefits of breastfeeding. Actually - let me rephrase - I couldn't NOT hear all the benefits of breastfeeding. When you are pregnant, every app, article, and expert repeats over and over the benefits of breastfeeding. So, I figured, "let's give this breastfeeding thing a shot and if I can make it to 3 months, I will transition to formula then."

That was my loose plan - breastfeed until Ellie was 3 months old. If breastfeeding didn't work for us and I would call it quits early. I did not want to work for breastfeeding. If it came easy, great! If not, I would go straight to formula. 

Then, I gave birth to Ellie and my entire world changed. I looked into her sweet eyes - soaked from tears because she is never not crying - and I knew that I would do anything for her. Anything. All of me and all of what I had was hers. I would try anything, pay anything, do anything that was best for her. And all the people and all the things said, "breastfeeding is best".

Ellie latched on right away. She was a champ. A hungry little champ. But I felt like a wimp. I had just pushed a baby with a proportionally gigantic head out of my vagina. That baby sucking on my nipple shouldn't hurt in comparison, right? OH MY GOD, WRONG! Who knew that such a tiny little peanut could suck so damn hard?! My poor nipples were mashed and mangled by this hungry little human who really had no idea what she was doing. I asked the various nurses in the hospital to help us with latch. They all told me I was doing a great job - a model mama. But I was still in so much pain. I then asked for the in-hospital lactation consultant to help me. She spent a grand total of 5 minutes in our room, shoving my nipple into my daughter's mouth and told me that all looked good. She was not concerned in the slightest that I was crying in pain every time Ellie would latch on. 


"Everyone experiences pain at first."

"Give it two weeks. You will develop calluses."

"Breastfeeding hurts". 

'What you are going through is normal."

"Just keep nursing." 

I came home from the hospital in *rough* shape. I was very slowly recovering from an episiotomy (turned out I had an infection at the incision site), I hadn't slept more than 5 hours in 3 days, and there was excruciating stabbing pain radiating from my nipples.

But that little gremlin of mine was hungry and I had to feed her. She had to gain back the weight she had lost since birth, and the only way to do that was to feed her round the clock. My boobs were engorged, my nipples were cracked and sore, and the pain when my daughter would latch on was unbearable. "Just keep nursing," the nurses and doctors said. "Just keep nursing," said my friends who had been through it before. "Just keep nursing," wrote all the experts online.

About a week in I couldn't handle it anymore and reached out to a lactation consultant. I cannot stress enough that connecting with a lactation consultant was the best decision I have made in my parenting journey thus far. Emma was a dream (is a dream. She is still my mama guru to this day). To my shock, her advice was not to "just keep nursing." Instead she told me that it was not ok that I was in such terrible pain and that she would do what she could to help make it better. Honestly, I could have french-kissed her when she said that to me. I was so thankful someone cared about what I was going through. Someone cared that I was in pain - it was not all about my daughter.

With Emma's help, Ellie and I worked on latch and other strategies to make nursing more comfortable. Unfortunately, none of what we did relieved the pain. It turns out there was a lot going on - I had vasospasm, possible thrush, nipple trauma, bad latch and an early clogged duct. I also now know that my daughter has a tongue tie which also may have played a part. It was a bunch of small things, and fixing any one of them was not enough alleviate the pain. 


In the meantime, I was suffering physically and emotionally. About 3-4 weeks in, I developed a feeding aversion. Ellie would cry and cry, clearly needing to eat, and I would do anything to delay feeding her. Just the idea of breastfeeding made me sob. I cannot quite express to you how low of a point in my life this was. I was a shell of a human - anxious, angry, and depressed. Looking back, I am so sad that the pain I was in robbed me of the joy I should have been experiencing. I am not angry at myself - anyone in that much pain would be upset. It is just sad thinking back at how low I was.

When Ellie was about 4 weeks old, I confided in Emma what was going on with me mentally. Her advice was to introduce bottle feeding and to approach each feed as my choice - Do I want to breastfeed? Do I want to formula feed? Do I want to pump and bottle feed? The choice was totally up to me. This was a game changer. It put me back in control. It was my body again and I got to choose what I wanted to do with it, while of course caring for Ellie. Bottle feeding also fixed my feeding aversion. For the first time in a long time, I got to experience the joy of feeding Ellie - those little gulps and sweet cooing sounds - without pain. 

By the time Ellie was 6 weeks old I was breastfeeding her 3-4 times a day and bottle feeding her 3-4 times a day. Most of the milk Ellie was getting was breastmilk. I was pumping each time we bottle fed her. At night, I gave Ellie formula mixed with breastmilk. This filled Ellie up more at night and allowed me to freeze some of my breastmilk.

It was at this point, though, that Ellie's latch went to hell. To this day, I am not exactly sure what happened. She was totally fine for the first 4-6 weeks of her life , and then all of a sudden I couldn't breastfeed without her crying bloody murder. Maybe my let down was strong and it was hard for her to keep up? I am not sure. But I was still in pain when I breastfed, so once she stopped enjoying it, it was easy for me to let it go. I began exclusively pumping and feeding her breastmilk by bottle.

I did this for about 4 weeks. Mamas, if you are exclusively pumping, please know I feel your pain. Even if it is better overall than breastfeeding, bottle feeding + cleaning/sterilizing bottles and pump parts + pumping + caring for a baby, all on different schedules, is tremendously difficult. Especially if, like me, you have a high needs baby that does not like to be put down. The worst moments were when I was forced to put Ellie down in order to pump on schedule. She would start wailing, but I couldn't go get her because my nipples were being yanked in and out in rhythmic motion by my super sexy breast pump - talk about feeling like a horrible mom.

I want to briefly interrupt this story to answer the question that you may be thinking - "but Jess. You had said you weren't going to work for breastfeeding. That you were ok with formula feeding. What gives?" Great question. I DON'T KNOW! There was for sure fear of the unknown - FORMULA. How could I feed something to my perfect little angel that came from the same aisle in the grocery store as the cat litter? That had 'corn syrup' as one of the first ingredients? That smelled so funky I would gag each time I cleaned her bottles? How do I even prepare formula? And how do I introduce it to Ellie? The most important question - how do I not feel like a fucking failure every time I give her  formula?

But I do think there was more going on than that. If we are being honest, motherhood is a total mind fuck for those, like me, who crave control. I think getting to the 3 month mark of feeding Ellie breastmilk - what I (loosely) wanted to hit pre-pregnancy - was my way of trying to control a part of uncontrollable, messy motherhood. 

At 10 weeks, I had had enough. I was exhausted, pumping 6 times a day including twice in the middle of the night. I decided I wanted to cut back to 5 pumps. I did, and I got a really bad clogged duct in my right boob. It was horrible and so painful. As a long-time hypochondriac, I was terrified of getting mastitis, so I spent all my time trying to work the clog out. The toll that this took on my mental health was overwhelming and I finally decided it was time to begin the process of weaning. 

Believe it or not, the only thing that worked to remove that horrific clogged duct was breastfeeding Ellie. I hadn't breastfed her in 6 weeks, but in desperation and pain I decided to try (because the solution to clogged ducts? You guessed it! JUST KEEP NURSING!). She latched right no problem and cleared it in a matter of minutes. I am still emotional about it (tearing up as I type). I cried as I breastfed her and kept whispering a combination of, "thank you" and "I'm sorry." I felt really selfish for continuing to wean off of breastfeeding after that. But listen - a mother balling her eyes out whispering "I am sorry" to her daughter while she fed is not healthy!!! I very clearly was NOT ok. At the end of the day I trusted my gut which told me that Ellie having a healthy, mentally stable momma was better for her than getting breastmilk. I totally stand by that decision.

Elle is now 17 weeks old. I no longer pump and have very little milk left. I breastfeed her, pain free, twice a day - once in the morning and once after her last nap of the day. During those sessions, I breastfeed first, and then follow with a bottle of formula. We have 4 bags of frozen breastmilk left and go through 1/day, so in less than a week she will only receive the breastmilk that she feeds from me (I think maybe an ounce or two per day). Otherwise, she will be fully formula fed. 

My little Ellie is growing on her curve and doing all the things she is supposed to be doing, with the sass and ferocity that I could only expect from a child of mine. I love her to pieces and am so thankful for this journey of ours. Because it really was ours. Hers and mine. It is something we got to experience together - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I look back at the entire thing with happiness and love. All the pain and heartache was worth it because it is a road I got to walk with her - the little love of my life.


Friday 4 September 2020

This is a blog post I did not expect to have to write! 

Before being pregnant, I did not think I would want to take maternity photos. I assumed I would feel huge and uncomfortable and swollen ... and huge. Turns out I was right, but I hit third trimester of this pregnancy and all of a sudden decided that I wanted some photos. I can't say I enjoy pregnancy, but there is something magical about creating and carrying the little life that will forever have your heart (clearly I am hormotional). 

So, (1) I didn't think I would want maternity photos, and (2) I definitely didn't think a global pandemic would stop me from hiring a photographer to capture said maternity photos I did not think I wanted. But here we are! 33 weeks pregnant and unable to hire anyone to photograph the big ol' belly. I was left to DIY the whole affair. Five hours later (no I am not kidding) and I have some photos I am super happy with. 

Full disclosure - I trained as a wedding and lifestyle photographer for the past two years, so I definitely know my way around a camera. But honestly, I think DIY photoshoots are something anyone can do! It can seem intimidating at first, but once you get started it truly isn't too bad. And remember - you do not need 100 perfect shots - you only need a few that you love - and in the age of digital, you can take as many as you need to get it right.

Here are my top 5 tips for taking your own maternity photos: 

(1) Get a remote control for your camera. Whether you use a phone or a DSLR, having a remote is key. In each of the photos you see here, I was holding a remote in my hand - usually the hand that is holding my belly (the remote is between my hand and the bump). This will allow you to take multiple photos without having to get up and click a button each time to start a timer. 

(2) Position yourself near a window. Natural light is going to be your best friend for any portrait photoshoot. You want to make sure you are taking your photos near a window. You do not need to position yourself directly in front of it, but it is helpful if the light is illuminating your face. You also want to make sure you are in a super light and bright room!

(3) Turn off all overhead/table lamps. Any light that is not natural light - table lamps, overhead lighting - make sure all of those turn off. It is better that the photos be darker in camera and you have to lighten them in post than it is to try and lighten things up by turning on lights. All light is not created equal. In fact, different light have different tones to them. Natural light is more blue whereas artificial light is warm. A mix of both in a photograph will cause skin tones and colours to look wonky, and it will be really hard to edit.

(4) Play with aperture. This is a bit more of a technical tip, but if you have a digital camera that allows you to manually manipulate the camera's settings, try playing with the aperture. If you have never done this before and your camera comes with a "aperture-priority" mode, use this. The smaller the aperture, the wider your lens will open, the more light will come in to the lens and the more bokeh (creamy gooeyness) will be in the backdrop of your photos. I shot these photos at a 1.8-2.5, depending on the photo. Be warned though, the smaller the aperture, the harder it is to get the subject of the photo in focus. That is why I say - try playing with aperture. The more you play, the better you will get and nailing that sharp photo with a blurry background. 

(5) Show off that bump. This one was hard for me. My pregnancy style can be aptly described as "mu-mu realness." I like loose, baggy clothes - pregnant or not. But a maternity shoot is different. The whole point is to show off the bump. I decided to do a bunch of the photos with the bump fully out - just underwear, a bra, and a light airy cover up. Please know that this is not my comfort zone, but somehow it just worked out! The photos of me with less on turned out to be my favourite. 


Ellie's Nursery

Monday 31 August 2020

Kitchen Updates

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Ellie's Newborn Photos

Wednesday 8 July 2020

It is totally surreal that I am posting my daughter's newborn photos on the blog today. My daughter! I am a MAMA. Man, I am still trying to wrap my head around that. This little Miss, on the other hand, has had me wrapped around her little finger since day 1. I am so obsessed with her and with these photos, taken by my incredibly talented friend Tamara Lockwood