Breastfeeding: Our Story

Because pregnancy symptoms and becoming a Mom didn't provide me with enough anxiety pre-Charlie, I also had the added fear of the awful, traumatic journey of breastfeeding to add to my list. I read several bloggers' breastfeeding stories and fully anticipated the horrors that were cracked and bleeding nipples, latch issues, and the dreaded mastitis. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that breastfeeding...wasn't that bad?

Obviously, my experience breastfeeding is mine and mine alone. I cannot speak for other Mamas, I can only speak to my own journey. Please understand when I say that my experience was relatively easy that I'm not ignorant of the struggles that other women face. Nor do I take for granted just how great my experience has been in light of those other women's challenges. I'm simply sharing my story in hopes that maybe a first-time Mama out there will read it and feel relieved that breastfeeding is tough for a lot of women, but for some it's not. It's not always the horror story that I, myself, feared.

Charlie was hands-down the easiest baby ever. As a first-time parent, I didn't realize just how easy he was, but he made the parenting transition pretty painless. From the get-go, he nursed like a champ. When he was four days old, we took him to his first appointment with the pediatrician. They were concerned he wasn't gaining more weight, but he was healthy otherwise. Same story at his appointment a week later and then at one month. I had noticed that when I was done nursing him he would sometimes cry until I put a binky in his mouth, but I didn't think much of it. Finally, at his one-month appointment, his doctor asked me how I nursed. I told her what the nurse at the hospital had told me- nurse on one breast per feeding. You could practically see his doctor face-palming right then and there. I don't know for sure if the nurse gave me bad advice, or if in the confusion of childbirth and those first postpartum days, I just misunderstood her. When his pediatrician told me to nurse on one breast, burp him, and then nurse on the other breast, I felt like an idiot. I had practically been starving my poor little 6-lb baby! After that, breastfeeding went so much better with no more tears for Charlie. He still hung out at the bottom of the growth curve, but in time, my doctor concluded that he was gaining just fine- he was just naturally a little guy.

Around seven weeks, we gave Charlie his first bottle. My maternity leave was winding down and we wanted to make sure that Charlie was acclimated to a bottle before I went back to work full-time. We had heard that babies will sometimes refuse to take a bottle from their Mama because of confusion about why they're not getting a breast. We let my husband go first, and after Charlie screamed, cried and refused to take it- I gave it a shot. He continued to resist at first, but I think he just associated me with his breastmilk, so it wasn't long before he was chugging away.

Going back to work was, of course, heartwrenching, but Charlie continued to do great with his bottles and still nursed first thing in the morning and at bedtime. I didn't exactly enjoy pumping, but I was grateful to have an employer who supported working Moms and offered an on-site lactation room. The most difficult part of pumping at work was simply stopping what I was doing when my calendar reminder went off. It was much too easy to postpone my pumping session until after a meeting, or until I hit a good stopping point in my work. What wound up happening is that I would wind up inevitably postponing too long and only pumping twice at work as opposed to three times, and my supply would take a hit.

I was also on the road quite a bit which made pumping difficult. I'd have to remember to bring my pump and all accessories, a cooler to store my expressed milk, and a battery pack so that I could pump in my car if there wasn't a good place to stop. At one point, I had bi-weekly meetings nearly four hours away on the other side of the state. I pumped in gas station parking lots, in a nursing home kitchen, and at the sink of a few public restrooms.

Around nine months, after weeks of missed pumping sessions, I could no longer deny that my supply was seriously low. I could no longer fall back on my freezer stash and I started to take Fenugreek supplements and drink Mother's Milk tea multiple times per day. I was pumping just enough to get Charlie through the next day and not an ounce more. Finally, at 11.5 months, his pediatrician gave us the green light to being mixing cow's milk in his breastmilk and it was such a relief. He took to the cow's milk perfectly, and it was a pretty quick transition from breastmilk to "real" milk.

Unbeknownst to me, when Charlie was 11 months, I became pregnant. I didn't find out I was pregnant until Charlie was nearly 13 months, so I didn't realize at the time that pregnancy was also impacting my supply. I was still trying to nurse Charlie at bedtime, but he would be on the breast for minutes before I would letdown and was getting increasingly frustrated that my body was not responding quickly to his efforts. I didn't plan on stopping then, but it felt like it was easier for both of us to just stop hanging on by a thread and transition him to cow's milk before bedtime, as well. Once he was fully weaned, it felt amazing to have my body back again and I suddenly realized how much less stressed I was about Charlie's feedings now that I didn't have to force my body to continue to produce.

Of course this was just in time to discover...Baby #2!

Crosby has also been a great nurser from the get-go. When he was just about two weeks old, and as fate would have it, on the same day as our friend's wedding, I came down with mastitis. It was a Saturday and I knew quickly that was something was wrong. It wasn't the normal sore nipple pain that accompanies those first few weeks of breastfeeding. One of my ducts was clogged. Milk was going in, but it wasn't coming out. I left my husband with our boys and drove myself to Urgent Care where the doctor confirmed my self-diagnosis. I received an antibiotic, which would help get rid of in my infection in a day or two, but the wedding was HOURS away.

I posted a photo of my plight to Instagram. I realize this is a fairly ridiculous thing to do, but Mamas came out of the woodwork to offer their advice, and it worked! One commenter suggested alternating between heat and pumping the bejeesus out of it. For 45 minutes, I cried, held a heating pad to my breast, cried some more, pumped on the maximum setting (ouch!) and cried some more. It was miserable, but resolved itself in less than an hour and I was able to watch our two friends commit their lives to each other and even snuck in a Cupid Shuffle before sneaking out to relieve our sitters.

Crosby is now seven months old and nursing is going great. Having the ability to exclusively breastfeed as a stay-at-home Mom is a gift I do not take for granted. Crosby does take a bottle on occasion when he has a babysitter, but otherwise, it's just me and him. I don't have a timeframe in mind for when we'll stop. I figure, we'll keep going until his first birthday and just see how we both feel.

Despite the annoyance of pumping with Charlie, and that case of mastitis with Crosby, breastfeeding really has been a great experience for all three of us. However, I know that it doesn't come easy for every Mama and I will always be of the philosophy that fed is best. If you are able to breastfeed, there are so many wonderful benefits to it. But if you're not, Mamas need to do what is best for them and their babies.

I feel so flattered and encouraged that The Honest Company was interested in reading my breastfeeding journey. Please know that I was not compensated for this post. I genuinely love The Honest Company's diapers, wipes, and all-natural baby products. So when they expressed interest in my personal feeding story for their Honest Feeding Stories series, I was more than happy to oblige. The Honest Company takes a best for baby approach to feeding and offers a line of organic, non-GMO feeding products for breastfed and formula-fed babies. If you're a newborn Mama or a Mama-to-be I would absolutely recommend checking out their infant formula and prenatal vitamins. A company that not only prioritizes natural, organic, and safe products for babies, but also maintains a judgment-free stance on feeding is a company that I will gladly put my stamp of approval on.

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If you're a Mama, did you have a positive feeding experience?

1 comment:

  1. i am not a mother but i love this post. you definitely read a lot of scary experiences about how breastfeeding is very hard, and i don't want to go in ignorant, but it's hard not to get terrified, you know? how awesome you were able to relieve your mastitis! yay for internet friends. haha.