In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to share a little bit about my breastfeeding story.
When I found out I was pregnant, everyone had an opinion about everything, including breastfeeding! I heard stories from my sister, who has had 4 children, about how her milk never came in, she didn’t produce enough milk for the baby, and her children didn’t like it. Even my own mother struggled with breastfeeding. These kind of stories can leave you wondering if breastfeeding is always difficult? Although these scenarios created some nervousness for me, I was hopeful things would be different for me, and I was right!
Don’t get me wrong, there was some work involved with that first successful latch. We needed to really get comfortable, and relax for him to find his way. He loved being held in the football hold, which we both adapted to easily. I was so proud of myself and my sweet baby. We were defying the odds, at least the ones I had heard about, and we were breastfeeding. I had never felt more accomplished.
I tried to keep myself grounded. Reminding myself that we were still in the hospital, and going home could really change things. Even though he had already gotten back to his birth weight while we were in the hospital, the nurses were constantly reminding me that many moms give up at home and I may struggle with breastfeeding once discharged. They handed me formula samples on my way out the door even after I tried to refuse. I took in all of this information, but I really felt that we wouldn’t give up and we were in this together.
There were a few times during our ride home that I was second guessing myself.
I was reading the ingredients on the back of the formula samples the hospital provided, and I recall just crying. My partner asked me why I was so sad, and I told him I really didn’t want to have to feed formula to our son. He told me not to worry about it, lots of babies use formula, it doesn’t make me a bad mother to supplement. And, while he is right, nurturing my baby through breastfeeding was something I didn’t want to miss out on.
Bringing our baby home was such a relief. I know many parents may be anxious and worried when leaving the hospital, but for me it felt peaceful to finally be home. There were no machines beeping, no people coming and going all day and night, no interference. Although in the back of my mind, I kept replaying the nurse’s words.
I remember sitting on the couch for many minutes taking in all of the magnificence of this little person I was holding. When I positioned myself, and brought him to the breast, I could see he was a bit hesitant at first. Perhaps the change of scenery had an effect on him and our breastfeeding journey? However, when he found his way to the breast, and we got a nice solid football hold, he latched right on and nursed for over thirty minutes!
We were nursing, at home, on our first day out of the hospital, and it didn’t hurt! But how long could this go on?
Our first three weeks at home were wonderful. He was thriving at every pediatrician appointment. He was in the top 99% of babies his age, and I was so happy and proud of us. This time is also when my leave from work ended, and we now were facing another potential challenge. Thankfully, my mother was able to step in and help while I went back to work.
I bought the fancy breast pump, all the bags, every accessory, every bottle on the market. Quite honestly it saddened me that this could be the beginning of the end for our breastfeeding journey, but I knew the importance of having these things available for my mom to care for him. I did ALL the pumping. While feeding him on one side, I pumped on the other. I pumped every two hours like clockwork. I was producing so much milk that we couldn’t store any more.
However, my son did not take a bottle. He never used a pacifier either. This presented its own set of challenges.
I remember my mom calling me at work telling me she didn’t know what to do. The baby was refusing the bottle. Sometimes people struggle getting exclusively breast-fed babies to accept a bottle. Learn some techniques and tips about this in this blog post.
She tried every bottle and nipple I’d bought, but he wanted no part of that. We brainstormed about other ways to make sure he was being nourished. My mom mentioned the fact that she had already bought him baby spoons for when we were ready to begin mixing solids in. I asked her to grab one of those spoons and see if he would take the milk from the spoon and guess what??? IT WORKED! Although this created more work for my mom, we were feeding my baby! That was the main concern anyway.
A few months went by and we worked through spoon feeding, and ultimately cup feeding my son when he was away from the breast.
Our breastfeeding story doesn’t stop there though, as we continued our journey for over 15 months at the breast. At times, especially as he got older, started developing teeth, began pinching for comfort, I was ready to throw in the towel, but I didn’t. I have never been happier about my choice.
As he progressed to solids, his hunger for milk decreased, but my supply never did. I was still pumping regularly and had an abundance of safely stored milk that we were never going to be able to use. I reached out to my midwife and I asked her if there was anything I could do with all of it. She told me about a few organizations where I could donate breast milk. I had no idea that this was even a thing! I knew this was what I was meant to do. Two local families were able to benefit from the milk I donated. They both thanked me and kept me updated on their babies for some time. Both babies were thriving, and it was very rewarding for me.
My advice: don’t allow other’s experiences to create a negative impact on you and your vision.
I have two older sisters and a mother that were all unsuccessful with breastfeeding, but my journey was not the same. My body is not the same. My baby is not the same. Not everyone will breastfeed, and that is okay.
Breastfeeding is also not always difficult for everyone.
If you do choose to breastfeed, remember this is your experience with your baby. You never know, you and your child could have a wonderful 15 month journey, and you just may be able to donate your milk to families in need.
By: Alisha Vought