7 min read
BREASTFEEDING & POSTPARTUM
Caroline Vreeland and A Pea in the Pod editor, Callan, continue their conversation. We talk about what it’s really like breastfeeding & being a new mom—no filters needed.
Callan Russo (CR): What did you think when you first saw the baby?
Caroline Vreeland (CV):I demanded that I had 10 minutes of skin to skin with the wax on before they cut [the umbilical cord]. But I was like, I can't see this baby’s face. I can't turn. I couldn't see anything. But you see these pictures and they're lovingly staring into each other's eyes. I was like, No, no, no. I'll wait until they're done with the stitches. I didn't really see him until we got into the recovery room. But even then, I was so out of it, and when you're coming down off an epidural and you're shaking...
Read Caroline’s Birth Story here
CR: I totally understand. I was on so many drugs when I met my daughter that I can barely recall what that experience is like. Breastfeeding for the first time: did you try to immediately latch?
CV:I tried to, and it was so painful. I had just been through the trauma of birth, so I think maybe that's why I was extra sensitive, but it was way more painful than birth itself for me. And he's a really strong sucker. It was just so painful and he would feel me recoil, and I think that would upset him more. It was dark days in those beginning times, and then I would just have to pull out the colostrum and try to rub it in his mouth. And it was hard, but we did have some formula in the beginning. That's how we got through it. And then once my milk arrived…which how long do they usually say - it takes like five days?
CR: Mine was a week or longer.
CV:Yeah, mine took longer than they said. And it's frustrating when you have a benchmark of what is right for women and then you're later than that. You already feel discouraged. So finally, when it came in, I was like, OK, here we go. I'm filling up those bottles left and right, like flinging them at the club. Now we have a back stock. It’s like a wine cellar.
CR: I think having this huge stock of frozen milk is such a misconception because of Instagram, people are like, Look at my freezer.
CV:It's fine to do that. But they should also talk about the fact that it doesn't always happen like that right away. I mean, you know what I'm working with? [My boobs] have been called village feeders so I thought I was going to be good, but that's just not the case. That's why I felt like that [Instagram] post was important, too, because everyone tries to glorify it and put their baby in Anne Geddes positions with a little flower coming off, which, good for you, but it's not always like that.
CR: Was there any tips that blew your mind when you talked to the lactation consultant? I know when they told me I could unlatch my daughter if it hurt, I was like, I can't because once she's on, she needs to eat, so I have to suffer. And they're like, No, just take her off and reattach her.
CV:In the beginning, you're so desperate to get it to happen that you're crippling your body in any kind of position. I remember one time that we had a good latch when we were in bed and I was completely hanging over him. And I think now I'm getting more into the groove of, my comfort matters too. You're so worried about the baby. Trust me, I live for the vanity, always. And this is the first time I've not been the center of attention, but it's true, you don't think of yourself immediately.
Definitely the tickling of the nose helps. And I've been starting to try to have him with Nico too with the bottle feeding. I think that's so important because I want them to feel that closeness.
CR: Can you talk to me a little bit about your breastfeeding expectations versus reality?
CV:I've just always felt really confident in my own skin as a woman with the curves, the boobs and enjoying my femininity and loving myself with my flaws. But I just didn't think that something involving motherhood and femininity and being a woman would not come naturally to me. And it didn't. At first, it was super painful and we weren't latching, and now things are better. It was the first time I really felt disconnected from my body. And obviously, you're thrust into this…you've never done it before. And then you have literally one job which is keep the baby alive and feed it. I felt like I couldn't do it. The inadequacy of that was really disheartening. I had to stick with it, and now things are better.
You have lactation specialists and the nurses and they stand by and they watch, but you can't really have them show you how to do it for you. And that's frustrating, too, because I thought, Oh, I'm going to have the specialist. It's going to be completely clear to me after one session how to do it better. And that’s not the case.
CR: I think that's important to share because I had a very similar experience like, Yeah, I'm going to breastfeed. I'll figure it out. But there's so much to it that you can't even comprehend until you're like, Oh my god, how is this tiny mouth getting on this enormous boob?And the baby has to participate, too.
CV:It feels scary. That's a depressive feeling that I had not known. I had to reset my brain, but I kept thinking like, Fuck, I'm behind and I'm doing it wrong. And every time we do it wrong, every time I have to supplement with formula, he's not going to want to take the breast. I'm glad to talk to someone who kind of had a similar experience.
CR: I definitely had some baby blues, which again, I was not expecting. But, oh my God, the hormones.
CV:I'm happy I went through it, and I feel proud that I got through it, but like you said, I've never really had dark thoughts. I've never been feeling out of control like that. Day three, after we got home from the hospital, I had a breakdown.
I have the most supportive partner, I have a cozy home and we have a place for everything. He has a room now finally. And it was still so fucking scary and so fucking hard. I think coming off of those drugs and everything, it was just like, I didn't know myself, I was terrified. Of course, I slept one night and it got better. [Laughs]
CR: I don't think anything can prepare you for what it's like. I always tell people, give it six weeks and then I swear it's easier, but it's very hard on you emotionally and physically.
My issue was just being assertive and being like, this is what I want to do. I'm the mom, this is what I'm doing. This is what's healthy for us both.
CV:I'm in a group chat with friends and a couple of them just had babies and they're like, No, this is what we do, and this is what you do. My husband's really good at reminding me that we're doing things our way. The nurses would be like, you need to be breastfeeding at least half the time. And I would be like, today I could only try twice. And that was what I needed for my sanity. I had to take it at my own pace. That’s so important to remember that you have to go at your own pace and not anyone else's. And that's fine.
CR: Absolutely. Do you think you're going to be someone who is very strict with the baby's schedule or are you going to be more go with the flow?
CV:He was born really big. When you leave the hospital, the baby’s weight goes down. So you spend the first two weeks trying to get the weight back up. As soon as he got back up to his birth weight, we now let him tell us when he's hungry. I do pump every 2-3 hours if he's in a 4-hour nap. But that's been working great for us, and his weight is still steadily increasing. Once we realized we didn't have to keep waking him up to feed him, it got less stressful.
I'm trying to stick to the 2-3 hours in terms of getting the milk out, but I'm not strict on which method. Although with discipline, I think I will be the stricter parent.
CR: I feel like one thing I didn't really think about was just seeing my parents become grandparents and the addition that a child brings to a family.
CV:It's very eye opening. I have not had a close relationship with my dad my whole life, and he's coming here in a week. And for him to make the effort to come all the way here to see me—he lives in Germany—is huge. Even with Nico's family here, everyone's coming by and meeting the baby. The baby is really putting the family back into orbit. My mom and my dad are going to be in the same city at the same time. I've never seen them ever once be in the same room since I was two. It’s a big, monumental thing that makes a shift.
CR: Yeah, my mom always says my daughter’s birth was her spark of joy. Do you have any advice that you would give to someone who's pregnant right now?
CV:My advice that I got that I liked was, you're not going to break the baby. I would also say, and I don't know what everyone’s journey is with breastfeeding, but to get a good breast pump. I'm attached to it all goddamn day. And I think it was really worth it. I have the Medela (the Sonata) and I would recommend, if you have to spend a lot of money on something, to spend it on that.
And I know that I'm just harping on how supportive Nico is, but he was really present for the prenatal classes—we did it all together and that was helpful. I read a book called Origins by Annie Murphy Paul that talks about how important the stages are while the baby's in utero...like the different things that can affect them. That was interesting to read.
CR: I think some of the best advice that a new mom can get is to be kind to yourself.
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