Episode 2 of That New Mom Life dives into the science, the soreness, and the stigmas around feeding a newborn, with the woman behind The Milk Manual.

By Parents Editors
February 23, 2021
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One week after launching, That New Mom Life is going for liquid gold. That's right: it's colostrum time! In Episode 2, co-hosts Grace Bastidas, Editor-in-Chief of Parents Latina, and Desiree Fortin, @ThePerfectMom on Instagram, sit down with Erica Campbell, a registered nurse, lactation consultant, and writer of The Milk Manual.

They tackle the joys—and yes, the pains—of breastfeeding, the effectiveness of bottle-feeding, and the importance of mama's mental health throughout it all. From body changes, to goal-setting, this episode will take listeners from boobs, to bottles, and beyond!

And just like with episode 1 (don't worry, you can still listen), listeners will hear the feeding journeys of four moms in the That New Mom Life community. Grace and Desiree even discuss their own experiences. Can you guess which one needed a third boob?

Listen and subscribe to That New Mom Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. That New Mom Life will be back again next week with more postpartum insights. 

Upcoming topics this season:

  • The emotional ups and downs
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Mom friends
  • How to stay in the moment
  • Body changes
  • How to share the parenting load
  • Establishing routines
  • Preparing for what's next

If you have a story to tell or want to learn more about That New Mom Life, email us at thatnewmomlife@meredith.com. 

Listen to episode 2 right now: 

Plus, follow along here:

Grace: So you're four months into it, Desiree. Are you comfortable breastfeeding in public? How's that going for you? 

Desiree: Yeah. I just whip it out. "Well, here we go, you're hungry. Let's do it!" You know? I feel like I had to just have this breastfeeding confidence that, "I'm taking care of my baby. It's OK that I'm at the park, you do what you have to do!"

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Desiree: Hi and welcome to episode two of That New Mom Life, a podcast from Parents magazine. I'm Desiree Fortin, I'm a mom to two boys and two girls—triplets and a newborn— and a blogger The Perfect Mom on Instagram.

Grace: Hello and I'm Grace Bastidas, Editor-in-Chief of Parents Latina and a mom to two little girls. On this episode, we're going to be talking about feeding—Boobs, bottles, and everything in between.

Desiree: Whether you've taken to breastfeeding like a pro, are wondering why your baby won't latch and why your breasts are sore, or you've decided to formula feed, we've got you. 

Grace: Our guest this time is Erica Campbell. She's a mom, a registered nurse, a lactation consultant who helps moms get to grips with breastfeeding, and the creator of The Milk Manual, a great resource for all parents as they start their adventures in breast—or bottle—feeding. 

Desiree: Erica has worked with hundreds of new moms and is known for doling out non-judgemental advice about how to feed your baby with confidence, no matter the method you choose.

Erica: So the biggest positive for formula, in my opinion, is obviously it's nurturing for your baby if they need it! I would never say, "Oh yeah, I'm hungry, but I can't go to this one restaurant that I really love. So I'm going to stay at home all day and not eat." No, I'm going to eat the closest thing I can get because my body needs it! 

Desiree: Before that, let's hear from you: our That New Mom Life community, with your stories of breasts, bottles, and beyond! 

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Mom 1: I'd pump twice during the workday in the lovely mother's room at work, and pump in the car on the drive home as well. I'd have to sit in my car until all the neighboring cars were empty or gone to get myself set up for the journey home. Once everything was attached, it was quite embarrassing to see co-workers passing by, waving, looking confused, wondering what the heck that huge contraption was that I was hiding under a tent on my chest. 

I'm not the type of person to feel comfortable whipping out my boobs in public to breastfeed or pump, but I was determined to do my damn best to get as much breast milk into my baby for the first year of her life.

Mom 2: I breastfed my three kids, but with every breastfeeding journey, I did feel the pressure of society because I never truly enjoyed breastfeeding. I did it because it was the best for my child. It was just too much for me.

So, this time around, when I had my third baby, I stopped breastfeeding around 5, maybe at most 6 weeks after he was born. And I do truly believe that it was harder on me than it was on him. It's hard to say that I don't enjoy like other moms because it makes me feel guilty. This is just something that wasn't meant to be a long journey for me.

I loved our time while I was nursing because of the connection between him and I, and it feels kind of selfish to say, but I stopped breastfeeding for my own sanity.

We introduced formula and as long as he was eating, he was fine. A happy mom is truly what your baby needs.

Mom 3: As soon as we found out that we were having twins, people asked a lot of questions—some of them super personal. But one that came up a lot was whether or not I was planning to breastfeed the boys.

I always answered, "Yep." When the boys were born, I learned pretty quickly what a tall order this was going to be, but I was so committed to breastfeeding them. It took about four months for both of them to be able to nurse efficiently.

That was a ton of nights of 3 a.m. tears for, honestly, my whole family. My husband must have told me a hundred times that I didn't have to do this if it became too much. 

After several lactation consultants, lots of conversations with my friends, and a trip to the pediatric dentist for their tongue ties. We finally got it down. Once we were there, it was a pretty well-oiled machine. I ended up nursing them for about 15 months. I'm convinced that a lot of my mental toughness today honestly came from those couple of years of our lives. None of it was easy, but I would absolutely do it all over again.

Mom 4: I am a mother of five beautiful children, ages 9 and under. I am currently pregnant. 20 weeks, expecting our sixth baby. I have been breastfeeding nonstop for the past nine years, ever since my daughter was born. 

We struggled at the beginning with breastfeeding. We supplemented with formula; we tried all the things, but we never gave up. And when she was 6 months, I got pregnant with my second child and breastfed all throughout my pregnancies. I even tandem nursed my second and third baby for about six months. 

And so, yeah, breastfeeding to me is second nature. It's just part of our routine. Come June, when my sixth baby will be born, I'll be back at it every two and a half hours. And I'm really looking forward to it.

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Grace: Let's hear from someone who has helped hundreds of mom's get their babies fed right —nurse, lactation consultant, and the woman behind The Milk Manual, Erica Campbell. Erica, thanks so much for joining us today. The first thing we'd love to know is: Why is breastfeeding considered to be so important?

Erica: Obviously, it provides antibodies and immunity for babies. We know that it's like chock full of vitamins and minerals, but I also just think it's beautiful how your body can respond to another living thing. Like how your body, all of a sudden, starts to change to support something that you created. To me that's just, I think what makes breastfeeding super cool and it's super beneficial, and it teaches you a lot about your body. Just sitting there, you're just making a meal inside your body, so that's pretty cool too.

Grace: It's amazing really.

Erica: It really is.

Desiree: What would you say is the biggest misconception moms have about breastfeeding?

Erica: There are two very big misconceptions. The first one being that, you have to choose breastfeeding or bottle feeding. That if you choose to breastfeed, it's the only thing you can do, and you can't switch it up at any time. 

And then another misconception that I've seen a lot lately is that it's supposed to hurt. Like it should be painful and that's normal. There's like discomfort, you know, in the beginning, but it should never be like, "I'm bleeding; I'm crying."

Grace: So Erica, before we get too much into the pain, which we will. Let's talk about milk supply. Can you explain what happens when a baby is born?

Erica: So your body is in the process of making milk—in pregnancy it's happening. We can't always see it. And some people leak, some people don't, but your body is doing like a lot of amazing things during pregnancy. So once the baby's born, you'll have the milk, and it's called colostrum

And a lot of people think like, colostrum is not milk or it's completely different than milk. One of the ways that I like to think of it is, you know, when you drink a milkshake for the very first time how thick it is, like instantly? And then as time goes on, mostly because it melts, but it gets a lot more like loose and liquidy as you're drinking it. That's kind of like what colostrum is—it's this thick, thick, thick beginning stages.

Grace: Also known as liquid gold, right?

Erica: Yes! because of its beautiful yellow, golden color. And some people's colostrum, won't be very gold and that doesn't really change much of it. Some people will think that their's isn't as good because it's not as yellow, but overall, still everybody's colostrum is still amazing. 

So over the span of days, your colostrum will transition into mature milk. So your milk just won't like, "come in." It won't be like drops, drops, drops, and then boom, you have milk. The colostrum's changing in like composition and size and volume every single day.

Grace: We've talked about setting goals for yourself when it comes to breastfeeding. This is something that you are very passionate about. Can you break that down?

Erica: With feedings, I always feel like it is good to start off with short-term goals. I work in the hospital and I work in private practice, but in the hospital, a lot of people instantly say, "I want to breastfeed for a year." And I think that is so great. But I think we got to get to baby steps first. 

So I always say like, "Cool. But when, like if you go back to work in four weeks, I think we got to focus on how are you going to get feeding when you go back to work?" So that is a short-term goal. Let's get to breastfeeding when you go to work and reevaluate if you still want to do it after that.

Goals definitely can be changed. However works the best for you. And I don't think people should feel guilty about changing their goals because that's who we are. We got to just adapt, you know?

Grace: Yeah, re-evaluating those goals really gives you that permission to change course if this isn't working for you.

Erica: Absolutely. 

Desiree: For myself, I've had two entirely different breastfeeding experiences. And both have felt really hard, and I'm like, "This is supposed to be natural and it doesn't feel natural," you know? When does it get easier? 

Erica: I think breastfeeding gets easier when you let go of society's expectations of what breastfeeding should be for you. 

You know, I've worked in postpartum and nursery for eight or nine years now. I personally felt like I had this knowledge already going into it, but when it was my own kid, I was like, "Okay, wait a minute. This is a little bit harder than I thought it was going to be."

So I try to do things by the book in the beginning and what I knew from all of the courses I've taken and done. And then one day I was like, "You know what? That's not working for me." And I can remember, like, in that moment when I decided, "My baby's not latching right now; I'm just going to give her a bottle of my pumped milk." Me thinking like, "Hey, this worked for both of us in this moment. I'm not stressed out about it. I can go back to breastfeeding later tonight. Everything will be fine."

But instead of putting myself in this box where it's like, "No, you are breastfeeding, you have to do it. You have to do this, you have to do that"—once I let go of all the thoughts that were put out there by like social media and society, feedings got a lot easier for me. 

Grace: You also said that it's not supposed to hurt, but for so many first time mamas, right out of the gate, it hurts! Your nipples bleed, you know, you get clogged milk ducts. When does it stop hurting? 

Erica: So the biggest thing in those cases where it is super painful is, and it sucks because not everyone can access certain things, but to get a second opinion—get somebody to double check. Because if it's to the point where you're bleeding, that means something's not going according to plan. And if you're getting recurrent clogged ducts, it could mean something else isn't going according to plan. So a lot of times we'll try and put a bandaid on a situation by saying like, "Oh, just use nipple creams or that type of thing," but it doesn't stop the pain from going away long-term. So the pain will eventually go away, if you can dig up what's causing the pain. 

Grace: Which can be a poor latch. What else can cause pain?

Erica: So a poor latch for sure. Whenever people are exclusively pumping, it can be like, if the pumps like cranked up too high, or if the flanges are the wrong size or if the suction is the wrong suction. If your baby has a tongue tie or a lip tie and isn't transferring milk well, it can clog up your ducts, it can cause your nipples to bleed. And they can all be fixed for the most part. If you know that it's a problem and are able to reach out for more help, they can be fixed. 

I will say though, in the beginning, it is quite common to have sore nipples, especially the first time around. So like I said, it shouldn't ever be like painful where you're like crying. And even if I see people that are kind of like let's stop and reevaluate this because you should not have to cry through something that's supposed to be somewhat enjoyable. 

If the pain's like soreness, that's pretty common, and that's the type of thing that you can work on, and eventually it'll go away. But if it's, you know, really bad pain, there's something deeper that has to be figured out. 

Desiree: Would you say there's like an average feeding time for a newborn? And how do you know when your baby has had enough?

Erica: Overall in the beginning, there's no right or wrong. Some babies feed for five minutes, some babies feed for 40. I really feel like it's one of those things that as you watch your baby, and as you learn your baby's norm, you'll figure out the timing that works for you versus what a book says a baby should feed.

A good way to know when they're done is really going to be that laid back, relaxed, completely soft from head to toe. 

Grace: I think they call it milk drunk. 

Erica: So cute. It's so sweet. I just love it when they're like that. They're just so precious. 

Grace: How do we know that your body is producing enough milk for your baby? What are the signs that perhaps it isn't? 

Erica: While we say that every parent can successfully breastfeed. That doesn't mean that every parent can exclusively breastfeed. There are lots of conditions where people are unable to make a full milk supply for their baby. And I don't think that's talked about enough, and I think that's another thing that puts a lot of guilt onto parents because they think it's their fault. When truthfully it is something underlying that we didn't even know about until the baby was born. 

Grace: If we're not producing enough milk, or at least we think we're not producing enough milk, should we start pumping? And I asked because I was one of those women who in the middle of night would get up. Everybody was asleep, baby included, and I would get up to pump just to get that milk supply going. Is that a good idea?

Erica: I think it's a great idea. Especially nowadays when we just don't always know what's going on with someone's history. If there's ever a time where somebody's worried about their low milk supply, I always suggest, if they have the ability to pump, if they have the mental capacity—because I mean, waking up in the middle of the night to pump is hard work—if you feel that you can do it, go for it, but if you can't do it, do not push that extra pressure on yourself. 

Grace: I didn't stick with it though. I have to admit, it was good for my supply, it wasn't so good for my head space.

Erica: Exactly. It's one of those things where it's tough because sleep is so precious. 

Desiree: It sure is. You touched on this briefly, but what would you say about supplementing with formula? Is that something that is OK to do that with the baby? To do both breast milk and formula?

Erica: Absolutely.

Desiree: What would you say are the positives about formula? 

Erica: So the biggest positive for formula in my opinion is obviously it's nurturing for your baby if they need it! I would never say, "Oh yeah, I'm hungry, but I can't go to this one restaurant that I really love. So I'm going to stay at home all day and not eat." No I'm going to eat the closest thing I can get because my body needs it. And it's the same for a baby. 

And I just hate that there's so much shame and guilt and negativity around something as simple as feeding a baby, because at the end of the day, we all want to see these babies succeed. We all want to see these families thrive. And if that means you have to give a bottle of formula, sometimes it's necessary so your baby can breastfeed. 

In cases in the hospital, I've seen where babies are so exhausted and so tired that they didn't have that energy to breastfeed because it does take a lot of energy and effort. And just giving them like 10 millilitres of formula helped them to go onto breastfeed exclusively. And again, there are some women who cannot exclusively breastfeed. So even if they were to pump one ounce a day and give it with three ounces of formula, that's still a baby who's getting breast milk every single day. 

Grace: You mentioned guilt, the guilt that surrounds breastfeeding. Thinking you're a bad mom if you don't do it at all, or if you decide that it's just not for you after giving it a try. What would you tell someone experiencing that level of pressure and just being stressed out?

Erica: This also goes back to goals for me because what I've noticed a lot in the situations where the moms do feel bad, I'll ask them, "Well, what was your goal with the feeding?" 

And they'll say, "I wanted to breastfeed."

And then when I say, "Well, why did you want to breastfeed?"

They'll say, "I wanted to make sure I was bonding with my baby. I wanted to make sure I was giving my baby the best."

And I'm like, "You still are bonding with your baby when you give him a bottle. You still are giving the baby your best."

You know, like you tried everything you could, or you decided it wasn't for you. Your best is when you are mentally the best mom you can be. There's so many different ways to like nurture the relationship, and don't get me wrong, I love breastfeeding. I think it's so great. But I also hate the guilt that people feel when they think that maternally they'll be disconnected from their baby. 

I try and make sure that they remember, your goal was something that can also be broken down into other things. If your goal was to bond, you can still bond. If your goal was to breastfeed, you can try and pump. You can try and give a little bit, but you will still be getting the overall satisfaction with the baby that you want. 

Grace: So you've said that breastfeeding is not one size fits all. Can you explain what you meant?

Erica: What one family does is not what's going to work for you, and that's OK. And that's definitely how I feel about breastfeeding. Once you are able to just kind of let go, and live your life the way that you want to live it, knowing that you are literally doing your best for your kid, then I feel like just magic happens.

Desiree: That's so true. 

Grace: What's your best tip for a mom trying to get the hang of breastfeeding?

Erica: My biggest and best tip is to ask for help. We really do thrive as people when we reach out for help. And that can be just like talking to someone like a friend or a family member, talking to a friend who has breastfed, or talking to a lactation consultant. Reaching out for help really can be so beneficial, even if it's just for peace of mind. Even if you feel like things are going well, but you have a few questions, just reach out to whoever you can reach out to that will help you.

Grace: Another great tip that works for the whole journey that is motherhood. Thank you so much, Erica. Thanks for being with us and for all that great advice. 

Erica: Absolutely. 

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Desiree: Now Grace, did you find breastfeeding easy? 

Grace: Not at all. It surprised me how difficult, how painful it was, especially in the very beginning. I just didn't know if I was producing enough milk. Was she hungry? Was she just sleepy? You know, just trying to read her cues. I was overwhelmed. Sleep deprived. Stressed out. 

We eventually got the hang of it and I did grow to love those moments with my girls, just listening to them suck and swallow. But it was really hard when my milk dried up and it ended. Yes, I got my boobs back, and I could wear my nicer bras, but I also missed it. 

How's it going for you? 

Desiree: Oh, man. I am nearly four months in and still have no clue what I'm doing.

I am trying hard to be vocal about my needs because breastfeeding is difficult. And you know we often hear the term that "this is natural," "breastfeeding is natural." And it's hard, and it takes time for us to get there and to learn. 

I've had two completely different experiences. With the triplets, my doctor told me, "You need to stop breastfeeding!" Whereas this time with Cambria, it has been amazing to be able to breastfeed and nurse her. It is an experience that is hard and requires me to be intentional, to learn for her and for me, but you ultimately have to do what works best for you. 

Grace: How did you feel when you started using formula? 

Desiree: My doctor recommended for me to stop breastfeeding because it was taking a huge toll on my mental health. I mean I was trying to feed three babies at one time for goodness sakes. It was absolute chaos!

Grace: You needed a third boob Desiree!

Desiree: I really did. Give me boobs, all the boobs—I just need more! 

I really had a hard time, grasping onto the idea of not breastfeeding. It was hard, and I had someone tell me that I was going to poison my babies if I gave them formula. And how are you supposed to feel as a first-time mom? There's so many thoughts coming through your mind when it comes to breastfeeding and how to care for your babies. 

And I had three to care for at one time, and I had to get out of the head space that I was in, and I decided to give my triplets formula. And I fed them, and I cared for them, and I provided for them, and I did exactly what they needed.

Grace: I saw it as this like life or death decision because I was so set on breastfeeding. 

And when I took my daughter to the pediatrician and the pediatrician said, "Oh, she's losing a lot of weight, you're going to have to give her some formula." I thought, "Oh no, my goodness. I'm going to starve my baby. I need to go buy some formula right now." And it was fine! It was perfectly OK. 

You're four months into it. Are you out there in public breastfeeding? How's that? 

Desiree: Yeah, I just whip it. Like, "Here we go. You're hungry. Let's do it!" I mean, I feel like initially I was a little bit uncomfortable, but I'm like, she's hungry and this is how we're doing it. 

So you can look the other way, but I'm going to do this right now. I feel like I had to just have this breastfeeding confidence that I'm taking care of my baby. I think that there should not be any shame in breastfeeding in public. Did you ever experience that? 

Grace: I'm not a boobs out kind of gal, and I remember carrying around what looked like a tent and keeping my baby and my boobs hidden inside. But you know what, my preferred mode of breastfeeding was always laying in bed, in a dark room, laying on my side, and that wasn't very conducive to going out to brunch, metting up with friends. I did do a little bit of the public breastfeeding, but never ever on the New York City subway, that was my one rule.

Desiree: I love that. 

Grace: What's your best advice to share about how you coped or are coping with breastfeeding? 

Desiree: I think that I'm still in the midst of that learning experience where I am practicing asking for help more because it has been a struggle with Cambria these last four months. And I still feel like, "Man, what am I doing? I can't get this latch right."

And so I've been using my resources and connecting with people. I need to learn, I want to learn, and if it doesn't work, it's OK. Trying to have grace for myself, I think is really important. I think that mamas need to do that. 

Grace: I completely agree. Get some help. 

I hired a lactation consultant, but you can also ask the nurse at the hospital. And I just remember as soon as she walked into my apartment, I had my boobs out. I was like, "Please, help me, and if you need to grab my boob, it's totally fine!" 

I was topless, ready to go. I just needed her help, and I needed her to show me how to do this and get this baby to latch on correctly.

So I think it's really key just to ask for help and be OK with that because we're all in the same boat.

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Desiree: That's all for this episode of That New Mom Life, a podcast from Parents magazine. To find out more, head to parents.com/newmompodcast.

Grace: Thanks to our production team, Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, and Sam Walker. I'm Grace Bastidas.

Desiree: And I'm Desiree Fortin ... hang in there mom, you're doing great.

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