My breastfeeding journey (like many first-time moms) began long before my little J was born.
It began with a question we all ask ourselves (and get asked by many). Breastfeed or bottle-feed? For me, I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. While I know that there are plenty of mothers who want nothing to do with it, I think breastfeeding is a challenge most moms are up for. Either way, it is a choice we are blessed to have.
What I didn’t know was what an emotional roller coaster I was in for.
From the beginning, I was against using formula. I only wanted to breastfeed. Mostly for health reasons. Breastfed babies are less likely to get sick due to the natural antibodies in breastmilk. Breastmilk is also more easily digested than formula so breastfed babies tend to be less gassy. That being said, my goal was to breastfeed for one year.
I really did believe that breastfeeding my child was going to “just come naturally” so I never bothered with the breastfeeding 101 classes that the hospital or my OBGYN offered. I thought to myself “they’re boobs, they make milk, I’ll just stick ‘em in his mouth!”
Ignorant, I know. And wrong!
I did, however, read a few books in preparation. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which you can buy on Amazon here and Breastfeeding Made Simple. You can also buy that one on Amazon. I highly recommend reading these books, I picked up some very useful information from both.
Still, I knew in the back of my head that the real journey would begin once that sweet baby was in my arms and that no book could ever completely prepare me for what was about to come.
IN THE HOSPITAL:
My personal goal of breastfeeding my son for 1 year began in the hospital where I delivered, which was great in terms of supplying lactation consultants whenever I needed one. All I had to do was pick up the phone and a nice woman was there to help me within 30 minutes. She was very knowledgeable and could answer any questions I had, including showing me different nursing positions. I have to give a shout out to Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, FL. They were great, everyone from the nurses and PCT’s (patient care technician) to the staff!
By the time we were finally ready to leave the hospital (4 days after arriving, due to complications from a cesarean section) I thought to myself, “I got this”.
MY NEW HOME LIFE WITH BABY:
Once we were home and settled, J had trouble latching on to my right breast. When he did latch, he would pull away after just a few seconds. When he was latched on to the left side he would almost immediately fall asleep, so I was never sure if he was getting any milk!
Strictly following a feeding schedule of nursing every 3-4 hours, I would cry in frustration when baby J didn’t want to nurse at all. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to eat when it was time. When he would finally latch on, he would cry out almost immediately if my let down wasn’t fast enough. This would go on sometimes for almost an hour. These prolonged nursing sessions led to chapped, chafed, and sore nipples!
After weeks of this, I decided to make an appointment with the lactation consultant at my OBGYN’s office. She gave me some tips on positioning and words of encouragement from one mother to another. I felt that she seemed to genuinely understand my frustrations, which was help in itself.
Turns out I also wasn’t wearing a suitable nursing bra. Who knew my $40 Motherhood bra was crap! Small breasts and too much underwire she said (in not so many words) could be causing J’s latching issue. That night I spent about $100 on 4 new stretchy, seamless (sportsbra-esk), and far less attractive nursing bras!
I don’t know that my new nursing bras made any difference. Yes, they were more comfortable than my former lacy demi underwire. But as the days and weeks progressed I still struggled with just about every nursing session.
Bottom line, I was uncomfortable while nursing. I was insecure and I felt like I was never doing it correctly. In the early weeks, I even found myself pumping and then giving baby J the expressed milk through a syringe (a tip I picked up in the hospital) just to make sure he was getting milk.
My husband and I rarely went anywhere. We lived like hermits for months because everything revolved around J’s nursing schedule.
Not only was I struggling with breastfeeding, I also refused to give J a bottle in fear of the over-exaggerated concept of “nipple confusion”.
This became emotionally draining for me and my husband, but mostly me! So, eventually, I succumbed to letting my husband bottle feed J my expressed milk. I still exclusively nursed him throughout the day and reluctantly let my husband feed him 1-2 nights a week so I could have some time to myself.
Doing this allowed me time to regroup, and soon I began to realize how important this “me time” was to my mental health, especially during this fragile time. After a while, I also realized that supplementing a few bottles here and there was not going to compromise our breastfeeding relationship. Thus, day by day, things began to get a little better.
Pumping is not fun. There is no sugar coating it. There will be some days when you won’t want to do it. But if you can find a way to power through, it will be worth it!
Coming up with a good pumping schedule and STICKING to it is the key to building your freezer stash, thus getting out of the house! Whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom, there will be times when mommy has to be away from baby. A freezer stash of expressed milk will certainly ease any anxious mom who has to run to the grocery store.
My pumping schedule was minimal. Because I’m blessed to be able to take care of my son during the day (while at work), I nursed him around the clock. In the early months, I could pump in the morning after J’s first nursing session. This didn’t last but a few shorts months. As he grew, J consumed more milk, which meant I stopped getting as much milk from this pumping session. I gave it up after a while. I also pumped about an hour and a half after he went to sleep at night- 20 minutes on both sides. If J was with Nana during the day, I pumped every 3 hours to stay on his nursing schedule.
Sticking to this pumping schedule allowed me to build quite a freezer stash. Somehow it made me feel a little less guilty knowing that when I did have to leave little J, he would still get momma’s milk. Check out Lansinoh milk storage bags and the Medela Breastmilk Storage Solution! This system worked great for me.
MY MOMENT OF TRUTH:
As J grew, he began to consume more milk so it became harder to keep up with pumping enough milk. I’ve heard this to be a very common problem among working mothers. Still stuck on my goal of exclusively breastfeeding and no formula, it was very difficult to come to grips with the idea that I may have to supplement when feeding J with a bottle.
Sometimes I felt like I might be judged for giving up if I decided to use formula. Other times I worried that J might have a bad reaction or get sick more often if I switched. Mentally, I struggled for weeks with this decision.
It wasn’t until J was about 7 months old and my mother-in-law (an R.N.) said to me one day, “Meagan, it’s OK to use a little bit of formula in his bottle with your breast milk”.
These simple words, from this person, at the exact moment in time when I needed to hear them had made all the difference in the world. A decision that I had been struggling with for weeks, had suddenly become very easy to make.
After months of tearful nursing sessions (on my part and J’s), sore nipples (just mine), and arguments with my husband – one day it all seemed to click. It was like MAGIC! But it took many months for J and I to finally sync up. FIVE months to be exact!
Suddenly, I no longer had an irrational fear of nipple confusion so it became much easier for me to allow my husband to bottle feed our son. I no longer stressed about not pumping enough milk because I kept formula (I used Baby’s Only Organic Formula from Amazon) on hand. Baby J got use to my milk flow and we both became very comfortable with each other. I learned to embrace the god given gift of breastfeeding my son.
Once I had finally gotten the hang of breastfeeding, I was so proud of myself for sticking it out. I made sure to set and stick to my pumping schedule so that I could continue to build my freezer stash and even continued to pump when I had to go out of town unexpectedly for a funeral.
This reserve helped me feel more comfortable stepping out of the house by myself. We also began to step out of our shell more as a family. I felt more comfortable knowing that if I needed to, I could nurse my son or give him a bottle (I love Dr. Brown’s Options bottle) even if we were out and about.
Fast forward to the present time and I can proudly say that I met my one-year goal! I recently weaned my little J from breastfeeding at 13 ½ months old.
I found it to be unexpectedly more difficult to wean him than I originally thought. Once we had finally gotten into a grove, I often looked forward to our nursing sessions. It was our time to connect, our time to snuggle, and our time where it was just the two of us.
As this stage ended, I had to find new stolen moments to look forward to. Instead of our nursing sessions, I rock him a little longer before laying him down to sleep, I always find time for hugs and kisses, and we play a little longer outside on the swings.
I know that as J grows, even these moments will pass and I’ll have to find new ways to connect with my growing boy. All I can do is take it in one day at a time and cherish the moments we have as mother and son.
Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. How have you embraced yours? What kind of challenges have you faced and overcome? Tell me in the comments below.
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For more baby related posts- check out my Baby Boy Nursery Style- J’s Eclectic Nursery, Nursery Closet Organization, Nursery Dresser Organization, and Diaper Changing Table Essentials, and Pumping Essentials for Every New Mother.
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