It’s World Breastfeeding Week, so some of the ladies of RMB decided to keep it real and share our stories with you. The health benefits for your baby are undeniable and who doesn’t love a good calorie burn…but the truth is while breastfeeding comes naturally for some (pun intended), for others it is a struggle or just plain doesn’t work at all. We want to recognize and support every mama out there for feeding her babies – the best way she knows how.
Breastfeeding didn’t come natural to me, but I was convinced I could do it and be awesome at it. I read several articles, I scanned Kelly Mom, I “pinned” several posts on foods to improve milk supply and how to pump and store a year’s supply of milk, I talked to my girlfriends…I was ready! I was also personally convinced that my uber healthy diet at the time was likely producing some sort of super milk that would put some sort of invisible forcefield around my baby.
At the hospital, after I had my daughter we put her on my breast and it worked! Victory was mine. And then…it wasn’t.
She wasn’t gaining wait. It seemed like we were on schedule, she would wake every 2-3 hours to eat, but she was very cranky and never seemed to be getting enough. At our 2 week appointment, the pediatrician asked me if I felt comfortable supplementing formula. As a first time mom, 2 weeks post-pardum with a cranky hungry baby, I was ready to try anything. So home with out formula we went. I cried a little bit when I gave her the first bottle because I was disappointed, but then she was full and happy and as a mom I think that is what we want. Fed, happy babies.
She stopped being interested in breastfeeding after she got the quick satisfaction from the bottle, so I started pumping. That was went I realized how low my production was. I would pump for 30 minutes and produce 3-3.5 oz total. I ate oatmeal, I drank beer, I ate a cheeseburger, I took fenugreek (which made her angry and gassy). Still my most victorious pump was 3.5 oz. So much for pumping out a year’s supply! I kept it up for a while, but eventually we transitioned to straight formula. I saved a few pouches in the freezer and gave them to her the week she started daycare, so I could drop her off with her invisible forcefield.
Like a genius I decided not to listen to the lactation consultants at the hospital and strictly breastfeed for the first two weeks. I started pumping the day we got home instead and, obviously, wasn’t producing much. That night my husband was sound asleep and my baby was screaming crying. I painfully pumped for one hour and produced one ounce. I was so proud of my “liquid gold”! I went to give it to the baby and noticed it was draining very very fast. Turns our the cap wasnt screwed on correctly and it was dumping down his pj’s!!!! I just broke down crying. Literally cried over spilled milk.
When I became pregnant, the plan was always to breastfeed. It was free, convenient, and a healthy option. I was bombarded with stories from other moms about what a beautiful experience breastfeeding was. Tale after tale told about this amazing bonding experience where you stared at your baby and cried. So, that’s what expected. Instead, I found that I really disliked breastfeeding. I looked forward to weaning. My boobs hurt, I was constantly covered in milk, my skin would itch when I became engorged, it was just so much more than the actual feedings. It was a 24 hour, 7 day a week commitment and for a full year, I didn’t have control over them. I wondered if something was wrong with me. Wasn’t I supposed to love this? I loved my new figure. It was nice to go up two cup sizes for the first time in my life and no longer look like I needed a training bra. I loved how easily and quickly the weight came off from my pregnancy. But I didn’t love the act of breastfeeding. Don’t get me wrong, I will totally do it again for the next baby, it was worth it…the cost, the convenience, the health benefits, but love, not really.
Breastfeeding Three Ways
Breastfeeding was an amazing experience for me, but also fraught with frustration and challenges. Rewind almost 8 years ago….I had just given birth (5 weeks early) to Baby Boy #1 and was not able to breastfeed in the hospital. We took our firstborn home with bottles and formula in hand. However, I was determined (and a lot of stubborn) to breastfeed. We met with a lactation consultant at the pediatrician’s office and came home with an SNS (the little tube thingy that you pour breast milk in while the baby supposedly figures out how to latch on). This was even more frustrating as we clumsily tried to work the thing while maintaining perfect breastfeeding position. It annoyingly poked baby in the face and made him cry. I know SNS works for some, but it just didn’t work for us. There were many days when I wanted to give up, but I kept up my routine…..baby wakes, offer breast unsuccessfully, feed baby bottle, burp baby, put baby to sleep, pump for baby’s next bottle, clean pump pieces and bottles and…repeat. I maintained this grueling routine for 7 weeks (palm to forehead, gasp, what!?!….like I said, “stubborn and determined”). Needless to say, I was exhausted and not the most enjoyable person to be around. Finally, it dawned on me to try using a small syringe (the one that comes with the baby Tylenol) full of my milk when offering my breast (same theory behind SNS). I put the baby on and dribbled a bit down my breast and it funneled its way into the baby’s mouth. Presto! It worked! We were blissfully breastfeeding!
Baby Boy #2 (born only 2 weeks early) was a completely different breast-feeder. Eight hours after birth I was holding him skin to skin on my chest and under a blanket. Amazingly, (I’ll never forget) this baby turned his head and latched on. No problems. No pumping!!!!! Give this kid a blue ribbon for breastfeeding! (This kid would have done well as a caveman. Survival of the fittest.) He only took a bottle once for the babysitter and my pump did great collecting dust in the closet.
Baby Boy #3 was similar in the beginning with a little more coaxing, but weaned himself at only 6 months!!! I was really bummed he preferred the bottle over me, but understood it was easier for him to keep an eye on his two big brothers with the bottle. Yeah – he tried to pull my boob over his outwardly turned face a few times. Ouch! Plus, it was a bit difficult for me to chase my very industrious and curious 4 year-old around while breastfeeding. I also decided not to pump after he was weaned. Our pace of life was a bit more hectic than those first few weeks of pumping for Baby Boy #1.
Three babies, all breastfed, and all completely different breastfeeding stories… just like they have three very different personalities. My advice to new moms……embrace and be open to breastfeeding, give it your best, seek assistance, but if it doesn’t work – know it is going to be okay. Life goes on. Feeding your baby, whether breast or bottle, is only a small fraction of the endless journey of motherhood.
I was pretty lucky in that I was able to breast feed both my kids for at least 10 months, the 1st might have been a year and it was great but it didn’t start out that way. The beginning was awful – the pain of a newborn latching on to a sore, cracked and bleeding nipple was something that I’m convinced was akin to mid-evil torture.
Moving on from breast feeding was the challenge of introducing a bottle so others could feed the milk that I had pumped – I remember buying every bottle available only to have my darling baby girl reject them one after another. I even bought a fancy bottle that was designed to look and feel like a breast! Perseverance prevailed and we got her on a bottle finally but not after trying absolutely every option and even coming home once to my sister’s grief stricken face as she was feeding her with a medicine dropper between screams. The doctors response to this madness – “once a baby takes to the nipple it’s hard to find a suitable replacement” – thanks doc.
I was always smallish in the chest but still a respectable ‘B’ cup – think Rachel on Friends. I’ll never forget right after having my 1st and the ‘milk came it’ I was elated feeling like I could definitely moonlight as a swimsuit model. What nobody bothered to tell me was what happened after you breast fed – picture a balloon loosing all it’s air. After breast feeding 2 I was defintiely a lopsided A. If I had known that I might have reconsidered and saved myself the $$ on implants later!
Jokes and complaints aside, breast feeding for me was great, I loved the time to just sit and relax and hold my little one – I’d say there has yet to be anything that fills that space in my heart. Treasured memories.
I was very excited to try to breastfeeding. I was prepared, had everything ready and my milk came in super early. I’ll never forget how rough the nurse who was the breastfeeding expert in the hospital was with me. I was engorged and having a tough time but I kept trying. I got my pump from the hospital and went on my merry way. If a c-section wasn’t enough, the back surgery on the horizon – now a struggle with this very natural thing? I finally got it! Got into a flow and everything was going great til one night I nursed for 8 hours with a screaming little 4 week old. I tried and I tried, every day I tried! I was crying with her at some points. Finally, my mom who was staying with me said ‘would you please just give this child some formula?’ She had had formula before in the hospital and here and there as well and we knew it satisfied her. Sure enough, I gave her a bottle and she fell asleep quickly, satisfied. I never turned back. I’ve had people say that if things were done differently I would probably keep going. I wholeheartedly disagree. I had all of the proper education and resources at my fingertips. My super busy and active lifestyle and the pure need for me to be certain my baby was getting enough nutrients to develop properly was enough for me to be extremely happy with my choice of formula. I guess the lesson here is to do what is right for you and your sweet little one no matter what!
If there is one piece of advice I can give first-time moms planning to breastfeed…..get your husband involved from the beginning. Make sure he is informed and understands why this is important to you and why it’s important to your new son or daughter. Your story probably won’t turn out like mine, but you never know when you’ll need his support and assurance along the journey. I am pretty certain our journey would have turned out very differently had I not registered for that class or insisted we sit in the back row. To read the story of Andrea’s full journey with breastfeeding, click here…