Breastfeeding is beautiful. It’s also hard, tiring and unexpected—if you’re able to do it, it’s so worth it. But unfortunately, not all moms can. In fact, one fourth of moms don’t make it past the first 21 days of exclusively breastfeeding due to lack of support, resources, or other issues that arise. Medela wants to change this statistic. We want to give all moms the opportunity to breastfeed as long as they want to do so.
We followed the journey of two new moms, in real-time, as they faced the ups, downs, and realities of breastfeeding. Along with the entire Medela breastfeeding community, we provided them with the support, encouragement, and resources they needed to conquer the first three weeks of breastfeeding—when breastfeeding becomes a little more second nature and a little less challenging.
You can see MJ and Carolina's updates below, and in our Instagram Stories Highlights. Now, no matter if you’re a first time breastfeeding mom or a seasoned pro, we invite you to share your victories using #22Victories, and offer your support and advice to other moms as well! Together, we can help mamas everywhere make it to day 22.
The World Health Organization defines "exclusive breastfeeding" as a breast milk only diet for babies - no matter the way the breast milk is delivered. So, any breast milk - whether it's directly off the breast or pumped - is considered exclusive breastfeeding.
Day 1 Victory: She Has Arrived!
Our first mom, Carolina just gave birth to baby Sofia! Over the past 9 months, Carolina has been looking forward to meeting Sofia – to see her face, hold her in her arms, and finally get to know her. Carolina is originally from Cúcuta, Colombia, and is now based in Denver, Colorado. We’re excited to offer her tips and advice as she goes through her breastfeeding experience as a new mom.
Day 2 Victory: Breastfeeding After a C-Section
Carolina has been spending the first few days of her breastfeeding experience in the hospital due to an unplanned C-section. The good news is, she’s been successful with the latch and feeding Sofi so far! But we know how tough it can be to recover from a C-section and breastfeed simultaneously. We recommend trying the under-the-arm position (also known as the football hold) for some relief during feeding! Here are some more tips for nursing after a C-section.
Day 5 Victory: Overcoming Sleep Deprivation
Coping with sleepless nights (and days) can be tough, especially in the beginning of a mom’s breastfeeding experience. Carolina is now back home from the hospital and without the help of hospital staff and lactation consultants, she’s faced with the challenge of continuing to breastfeed and getting used to an entirely new sleep schedule. Carolina mentioned her husband has been a huge help, so we encourage her to make the most of it! Even if that means asking him to bring her things like water or an extra pillow while she is nursing or taking on burping and diaper changes when she’s not breastfeeding. That way she can get some well-deserved rest, even if it’s a few minutes at a time! Here are some other ways partners and family members can help support breastfeeding moms.
Day 7 Victory: Learning to Deal With a Growing Supply
When she imagined how her breastfeeding experience would be, the last thing Carolina considered was dealing with the pressure of over-full breasts. Now that her supply is growing quickly, she’s taking steps to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis–which can be caused by leaving too much milk in the breasts. We recommend that she empties her breasts often to help prevent clogged ducts and mastitis—whether it’s by pumping or breastfeeding. For example, if your breasts still feel full at the end of a nursing session, go ahead and pump right after! It’ll help relieve leftover pressure from the breasts. Here is some more information about preventing and treating plugged ducts and mastitis.
Day 9 Victory: Managing Full Breasts
Carolina has been feeling discomfort and pain caused by fullness in her breasts. Many moms deal with this in the first days of breastfeeding. It’s just your body learning how much milk baby needs! That’s why your breasts might produce more milk than needed at first, but it will almost always level out after a week or two once your body has adjusted. To help avoid over-full breasts, Carolina started switching sides less often and emptying the breast first before moving on to the other one. Letting the baby finish the first breast before switching to the other also helps baby get more of the fat from the “hind milk” (the milk at the end of the feeding, when the breast is less full). For more information on the composition of breast milk, check out this link*. If you’re dealing with over-full or engorged breasts, you can also try these prevention and treatment tips.
*link may contain products not available in the U.S.
Day 13 Victory: Eat, Sleep, Breastfeed, Repeat
Little Sofi has been waking up around 2:30 am over the past few nights, and between feedings and trying to put Sofi back to sleep, Carolina’s sleep deprivation is at its peak. She’s been trying to create a routine and letting Sofi sleep for 4 to 5 hours at night, but she wakes up fussy and doesn’t want to go back to sleep again! To help, we recommend keeping the crib in the bedroom to cut down the amount of time it takes to fall back asleep between feedings! Here are other ways you can manage breastfeeding at night.
Day 15 Victory: Decoding Cluster Feeding
Just as she’s starting to get the feel of breastfeeding little Sofia, Carolina has noticed a difference in nursing. Sofi is hungry often but doesn’t take much milk from each session. Don’t worry! Your little one may just be going through a growth spurt. Cluster feeding is common among young babies and is characterized by several feedings in a short period of time. Just nurse when your baby is hungry, and pump in the meantime to maintain milk supply. This way you can rest easy knowing your little one is getting the nutrition he or she needs. Here is some more information about cluster feeding and fussy evenings.
Day 16 Victory: Building a Breast Milk Supply
Carolina tried out pumping today! She hopes to pump once a day to start building a stash. This way, her husband can help with feeding and form a bond with little Sofi as well. Pumping is a great way to begin storing breast milk, but Carolina is concerned about whether she’ll have enough milk the next time her little one is hungry. Your breasts typically have more milk in the morning so it’s a great idea to go ahead and pump after your morning nursing session. You can rest easy knowing your little one is full and you have some milk stored for later! Here are more tips on collecting and storing breast milk.
Day 17 Victory: Figuring Out How Much Milk Baby Needs
Carolina started pumping breast milk so that her husband, Mauricio can also have some feeding and bonding time with her! The one challenge is understanding how much milk Sofi needs, and making sure she’s full and happy. Next time you’re pumping, remember this: At two weeks, a baby’s stomach is the size of a large egg—which equals to about 2.5 to 5oz of milk! Check this article for more helpful information on the first two weeks of breastfeeding—everything you need to know about frequency of feeding, length of feeding, weight gain, and more.
Day 20 Victory: Freezing Breast Milk & Learning How Much is Enough
After a few days of cluster feeding, Carolina’s breastfeeding sessions are going back to normal! Today, Carolina pumped 2.5oz of breast milk, which is actually the perfect amount for freezing! Since it’s a smaller portion, it’s easier to thaw and can help avoid over-feeding and waste. It’s also possible that Sofi is more efficient at nursing now, so she’s probably eating more off the breast and leaving less for the pump. Find some details on proper storage methods here. Now that she sees it after pumping, Carolina has also been wondering about the varying color of her breast milk! Check out this guide to see what causes your breast milk color to change from day to day.
Day 22 Victory: Meeting Milestones!
Congrats to Carolina for making it to day 22 of breastfeeding! The past three weeks have had their ups and downs for Carolina: breastfeeding after a C-section, adjusting to life with a newborn, pumping for the first time, sleep deprivation, and cluster feeding. We’re happy to have been with her through it all! What helped her get through was listening to her body and her baby’s needs and enjoying every second together as much as possible. Getting through the first 21 days of nursing is a huge victory for moms like Carolina, because it makes it more likely for them to reach their breastfeeding goals. We wish her success as she continues nursing for as long as she chooses!
Day 1 Victory: Hello, Lucky!
Our second mom, MJ just had baby Lucky! She’s excited to share this incredible world with her daughter and start seeing life from a new perspective. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada – MJ lives with her husband Zell and her two step-kids. We look forward to witnessing this special time in MJ’s life and to offer her help and advice as she goes through her first breastfeeding experience.
Day 3 Victory: Breastfeeding in the NICU
Recovering from a C-section both emotionally and physically while trying to feed your baby in the NICU is no easy feat—and MJ has been trying her hardest. She’s practicing nursing and pumping every few hours and spending some skin-to-skin time with Lucky in the NICU to help her milk come in and so Lucky can latch. Having an early birth and a C-section can cause delayed lactation, and that’s totally normal. To help initiate milk supply, we recommend that MJ nurses or pumps 8-12 times a day. It might also be helpful to pump while next to the baby in the NICU, where she can see and touch her. When not in the NICU, we recommend looking at a picture of the baby while pumping! Here are a few tips on how to express milk for a preemie baby.
Day 5 Victory: Breastfeeding Takes a Village
Today is a big day for MJ’s family. They brought baby Lucky home from the NICU! Coming home from the NICU can be intimidating, especially when you don’t have hospital staff and lactation consultants around you. Thankfully, there are many resources out there that MJ can use for support as she works on building her milk supply. Tools like Ask the LC and our Medela Family app can help with breastfeeding and pumping questions when in-person lactation consultation is not available. Our advice is simple: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family! After all, breastfeeding really does take a village. Here are some resources for breastfeeding moms!
Day 10 Victory: 1oz Every Pumping Session!
With consistent pumping and nursing, MJ made a lot of progress with milk supply! She is now producing around 1oz of milk during each pumping session. Sleeping through the night is a whole other issue, but she’s counting her victories where she can. She’s also received a lot of help from friends and family which has made her breastfeeding journey significantly better. We recommend MJ to pump a little after baby Lucky is finished eating from the breast. This will help adjust the body to a greater feeding need and continue to produce more milk! Here are 6 tips for increasing your milk supply.
Day 11 Victory: Trying Hand Expression To Stimulate Letdown
MJ has been trying to figure out how to navigate pumping, feeding, and sleeping as a new mom. She’s producing more breast milk and is having the most success during her morning nursing session. However, later in the day MJ has noticed Lucky is much fussier at the breast and thinks it might be because her milk doesn’t come down as quickly. This might be because MJ’s breasts are fuller in the morning or after a long period of not nursing or pumping which can result in a stronger letdown. To help keep fussing at bay, we recommend manually expressing some breast milk to stimulate letdown before latching baby to breast! That way, little Lucky won’t have to nurse as vigorously at the beginning of the session.
Day 13 Victory: Full Day of Exclusively Breastfeeding
Yesterday was a big day for MJ and baby Lucky! MJ was able to exclusively breastfeed little Lucky all day and her milk production almost doubled to an ounce per breast. There are still some challenges with getting Lucky to latch easily. Now that MJ is healing from her C-section and likely experiencing less pain, she doesn’t have to rely on the football hold as much, we recommend switching up breastfeeding positions to help improve latch. In the beginning of your nursing session, hold your breast and tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. When she opens her mouth wide (like a yawn) guide her head to latch onto your breast! You just need to find what works best for you and baby. Click here to read more on mastering the breastfeeding latch.
Day 15 Victory: Letting It All Out
Over the past few days, MJ has been feeling extra emotional. Focused on the physical changes the body goes through, women may not prepare as much for the mental and psychological changes that can take place after birth and while breastfeeding. These emotional changes are usually caused by your hormones fluctuating. After birth, your progesterone hormone drops quickly—which is what normally balances out prolactin (the hormone that’s responsible for milk production). At the same time, your prolactin hormone increases, which can affect your dopamine levels, the hormone that gives us feelings of happiness and euphoria. This is usually the reason behind moodiness, low energy levels, and slowed down metabolism that happen after giving birth. We recommend MJ to not hold herself back when she’s feeling emotional and to cry if she needs to. Reaching out to friends and family during this time is key as well. And don’t forget that many moms go through this exact same thing! To learn more about postpartum hormones and how they may affect you, check out our blog post.
Day 17 Victory: Dealing with Fussy Nights
Lucky has been fussy during the night and MJ has been feeding her more frequently than usual. This can especially be surprising when baby is happy and content all day, but once night-time hits, she’s suddenly fussy and seemingly inconsolable. These types of fussy nights and cluster feeding go hand-in-hand! We recommend MJ to soothe her baby back to sleep by moving around, rocking, or swaying her and singing or humming to her. Babies also get overwhelmed by what’s going around them, which can cause fussiness! Taking baby into a quiet, dark room away from loud sounds and busy environments can help. Keeping her soothed and restful is key when dealing with fussy nights and cluster feeding. Click here for more tips on how to manage.
Day 19 Victory: Having Family Over & Breastfeeding
MJ had family over today and had one of her first experiences covering up while breastfeeding. Although she’s all about nursing and body positivity, she feels most comfortable when she can cover up while nursing in front of others, and doesn’t want to feel awkward in public. We totally understand! We recommend experimenting with different loose-fitting shirts that allow for easy access to her breast. She can also try a nursing cover or keep her baby close in a baby sling to make it easy to start breastfeeding on-the-go. Here are more tips for breastfeeding in public and four ways to manage visitors as a breastfeeding mom.
Day 22 Victory: Reflecting on the First Three Weeks!
MJ’s entry into motherhood wasn’t as smooth as she expected. From a high-risk pregnancy and C-section complications to baby Lucky spending days in the NICU, breast MJ’s milk took longer to come in and she had to try twice as hard to keep at it and breastfeed her little one. For her, having this amazing community of mamas out there has made all the difference! People reached out with support, advice, and simple “you’re doing great” messages. It really does take a village to reach your breastfeeding goals, whatever they are, and we’re thankful that Medela moms were there for MJ through day 22! We hope this experience helps set her up for success over the next months—so she can continue breastfeeding for as long as she wishes. And whenever there’s a need for support or encouragement, Medela and our mom community is always here for her (and you!).