*Disclaimer: I know the topic of breastfeeding can turn into a huge debate of who did or did not breastfeed, how long did you do it for, we only formula fed, etc. etc. etc. If you nourish your baby by feeding them with a bottle or by nursing, I support you. There are various reasons for why you should and shouldn't, and some women are able while others are not. This post is simply a reflection of my own journey, and I happened to breastfeed.
Nursing. This topic would evidently come up because it's something I have been doing for almost 3 years now (minus a 7 month break while I was pregnant with Max). I honestly did not give breastfeeding much thought prior to being pregnant the first time, and I am thankful for my two sister-in-laws who both nursed their kids. It was through them that made me curious enough to go down this path when I had kids of my own. So I read all the books and took a breast feeding class, talked to a few moms and felt semi-prepared to breastfeed.
All of my preparations could not prepare me for my breastfeeding experience with Calvin. I had no idea that you could nurse for over 8 hours in one day. I also felt like I had mommy brain and couldn't remember one technique or piece of advice on how to nurse once he arrived. Engorged, bruised, ripped, torn, and in pain, I was now the milk maid for this helpless and sweet little boy.
Contrary to what some people might believe, being blessed with an extreme oversupply of milk is not desirable. When you have enough milk to feed triplets, it's hard to walk into Target without having a drenched shirt (thank you crying babies and freezer departments). My biggest hurdle with breastfeeding has and is still my oversupply. I am thankful that I can donate milk and that I don't have to pay for formula, but I am daily in pain from engorgement.
Getting Calvin to latch properly without mutilating my body was another one of our biggest difficulties, along with him having horrible acid reflux and refusing to nurse on one side. I had formula in my pantry and bottles ready-to-go, because my whole life I had been a quitter, I couldn't stick to anything (hopefully that isn't the case with this blog!). Nick knew how much I desired to breastfeed, and he gently encouraged me to keep trying. Without his support I probably would have been done on Day 2. I also reached out to my sister-in-laws and some friends who kept telling me it gets better (Again, I know this isn't the case for everyone. Sometimes it only gets worse.).
I waited for over two weeks before getting professional help... Don't ever wait that long!!!! My lactation consultant fixed my issue within minutes and once I had Calvin latched properly, we only went up from there. I still had a lot of healing to do, but after leaving her office with a new confidence and proper technique I thought that maybe I would be able to do this breastfeeding thing.
Calvin nursed for 17 months, he never took bottle. Like never. He went straight to a sippy cup. I am not a mom who is super proud to have breasted for that long, but I am glad that I didn't quit when I wanted to. Breastfeeding is one of the few things that I ended up being able to do that I didn't think was possible. In the end I actually loved nursing Calvin, I cried during our last nursing session because I knew I would never again be able to care for him in this way.
Fast forward 2 years and now Max is 6 months old and he also refuses a bottle. Go figure... Nursing did come pretty easily to me the second time around. I did go see my lactation consultant again because of some small issues but overall it has been a lot better than the first time around. I enjoy nursing, not because it is euphoric for me in anyway but because both my boys are very outgoing and it is the only time I can get them to sit still for a few minutes, and cuddle with me (Calvin is no longer breastfed).
Breastfeeding is a huge commitment and sacrifice, well for me it was and is. I can only wear tops that allow me to nurse. I can't wear most dresses. I have to wear a cover when feeding my baby, which turns into a nightmare because he hates the cover and he gets hot. Max can only be fed by me since he doesn't take a bottle AT ALL. That means that I can't be away from Max for over 3 hours or without a pump (if on a date). You are not your own... I have to watch what I eat as to not upset his stomach. I am hungry a lot. I have to wear a nursing bra to bed, and even though it is great to get a lot of sleep at night I have a lot of engorgement pain.
Motherhood is full of surprises and difficulties. Even though breastfeeding is hard at times, it has turned out to be something I actually treasure and I know I will miss once Max is weaned in a couple of months. There is something special for me that only I can feed my baby, I know some bottle fed baby mommas feel the same way. If you breastfeed for one day or for one year, if you pump or don't pump, if you have only ever done formula, know that breastfeeding in itself doesn't make you a better mom than those who don't, etc. I fail at being a mom daily. Breastfeeding can't fix that.
Here's my two cents for new moms or expecting moms who want to try breastfeeding:
- take a breastfeeding class
- talk to other moms who have breastfed before
- have a lactation consultant's number ready (IBCLC Cerified)
- get help as soon as you have any problems, even if it is on Day One
- know that babies don't nurse 24/7 forever, each month gets easier
- have a breastfeeding buddy, (i.e. another mom who can text you during late night feeds)
- invest in quality nursing bras, they'll save you from public embarrassment
- get a good pump (Medela worked well for me)
- know that you are not a bad mom or a failure if it does not work out