My Breastfeeding Journey — It’s Not What I Thought It Would Be
- Making Our Backyards and Parks Safer for Our Kids - September 24, 2018
- Change Play Sleep: The All-in-One Playard for Babies & Tots - September 20, 2018
- How to Formula Feed Baby on the Go - September 17, 2018
This post is sponsored by Kindred Bravely but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
All photos by Creative Clicks Photography.
I think most of us assume that, when it comes to breastfeeding, everything will come naturally and that your motherly instincts will kick in and tell you what to do.
Fortunately, I knew better and knew this usually isn’t the case. I’ve supported hundreds of women as a postpartum doula and have personally helped them with breastfeeding. I know all too well that breastfeeding doesn’t always go as you plan and that it can be much more difficult than you might have imagined. Luckily, this isn’t every woman’s experience, but it happens more often than you think.
I hoped that when it was my turn to breastfeed that my experience would be easy and natural. I knew that if I wanted to increase my chances of reaching my one-year breastfeeding goal with my son that I would have to be prepared and persistent. But still, our breastfeeding journey is not what I thought it would be . . . Here is our story — the ups, the downs, and the things that have helped me along the way.
Our Breastfeeding Beginning
I’ve always been secretly excited for the day when I could breastfeed my future children and experience that incredible bond. It may sound strange, but I knew that it’s a connection that is unlike any other. When I became pregnant with my son, I couldn’t wait to meet him and have him lovingly look up at me as I held him and nursed him. When he was born, I felt excited and nervous all at the same time when we worked on his first latch. It took a few tries and then he was on! I was so relieved.
His first suckle was strong, but not uncomfortable at all. It was sweet and I was ecstatic and so in love! However, with each feeding the first two days his suckle became stronger. My milk had not come in yet, and eventually my nipples felt like they were on fire and so sore since he had developed the strong suck of a vampire and was trying to drain every bit of colostrum out of me.
Thankfully, on the third day when my milk came in things got better.
He was getting more milk and was happier with his full belly. I was lucky enough that he did not have a lip-tie or tongue-tie or have acid reflux or colic. I know that these things can make breastfeeding difficult or stop a breastfeeding relationship all-together.
We both picked up the whole breastfeeding thing quite quickly, which I am very grateful for. It was going smoothly and I thought to myself, “No problem! This is going to be great!”
Things that helped me in the beginning:
- A good bathrobe. Days and nights would blend together since feedings were every two to three hours, so a bathrobe was a must. It was nice to be able to cover up no matter what I was wearing just in case someone would stop by to see me and the baby. I really liked this robe since it has large pockets, which allowed me to carry everything I needed, it has two ties (one inside the robe and one out) so it wouldn’t open up unexpectedly, and it’s very soft, which was great for snuggling the baby. 🙂
- Nursing pajamas. I lived in my pajamas in the beginning and it was so helpful that they were nursing-friendly. As a new mom with a newborn, you’re tired whether it’s daytime or nighttime. The days and nights begin to run together so pajamas were a constant. I really enjoyed these and these. The easier it was to get “the goods” out for baby to nurse, the happier we both were. Definitely recommend!
If you are interested in any of these items that I list in this article, Kindred Bravely is offering 20% off on their website through July 31st with code BC-JULY20. (1 use per customer, exclusions may apply.)
My Breastfeeding Highs
These were the moments that I envisioned and dreamt about. The quality time, the skin-to-skin contact, the oxytocin running through me. It was all so wonderful. They are some of my absolute favorite memories with my son. It was everything I thought it would be, and it felt so good to know that I was providing such wonderful nourishment for my baby. I was giving him the best food and it was something that only I could supply. Looking down at him suck, suck, suck and swallow, filling up his little belly was so satisfying. My body was doing this incredible thing and I felt like a rockstar.
After several weeks, he learned how to quickly latch on his own no matter what breastfeeding position he was in. He also learned how to quickly and efficiently empty my breasts. This made feedings fast and extremely convenient. It was also great to be able to feed my hungry baby without having to prepare anything or clean anything up afterward. And, of course, it’s soooo nice that it’s free. 🙂
I am proud to say that we were able to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months successfully. That benchmark was a happy day!
Things that helped me during the highs:
- A comfortable, structured bra. Whether I was working from home, playing with Liam, running errands, or meeting up with friends, it has been nice to have a bra that worked no matter what I was wearing. I really liked this bra because it provides great support, gives you quick access for nursing, as well as good structure and design that works with every ensemble.
- Sublime nursing bra. One of my all-time favorite bras is this Sublime nursing bra. This bra is magic and is the perfect every day bra. It has nice wide straps and the material is incredibly supportive and soft. This is a must-have! It really made my breastfeeding highs even higher.
- Nursing tops. It’s super nice to have several nursing tops like this one and this one hanging in the closet. Rather than lifting up my entire shirt or making sure that I am wearing a button down, these are cute, quality items, really comfortable, and are made very well.
My Breastfeeding Lows
Once Liam started sleeping for longer stretches, I would get up every night at either 2am, 3am or 4am and pump just to make sure that my body would not slow down my milk production. If I didn’t do that, my supply would be even worse the next day. It was exhausting.
As my son grew, I began to realize that he wasn’t getting enough milk. He was demanding more and more and my body wasn’t keeping up no matter what I did. Of course I know that breastfeeding is a “supply and demand” thing so I just kept giving him the breast. I would bring him to my breast and he would arch his back, pull his face away and scream at me as if he were saying, “Mom! Stop giving me your boobs. There is nothing in there. I’ve tried!”
It broke me. I cried and felt defeated. Then I would pump and just hold him as my husband prepared some of my frozen milk. This became a regular thing as the days passed.
These were the moments when I felt like my body was failing me and my son.
I was so angry with my body, but I also felt incredible guilt that I wasn’t keeping up. I made sure to do all that I could: drink more water, ate lactation cookies, took supplements, regularly pumped to stimulate my breasts letting them know that they needed to make more milk, etc. My boobs weren’t getting the message.
During one of his more recent growth spurts we had a tough time. I so desperately wanted to only feed him breast milk and solids (this was after the 6 month mark), but it wasn’t happening. I had to supplement. At first we supplemented only with the breast milk that I had stored, but then I had to use formula.
That day when I made his first formula bottle I cried. In that moment I was feeling guilt and frustration with myself because I thought I was failing and would not able to meet my one-year breastfeeding goal.
Things that helped me through the lows:
- Comfortable nursing & sleep bra. When things were getting really tough, the nursing & sleep bras were so comfortable and convenient. I honestly can’t recommend them enough! I suggest having three or more.
- Nursing tanks. Once I was pretty much exclusively pumping, the nursing tanks became so helpful. I could pump easily and quickly — especially while working — without having to show too much. I wear these tanks regularly to this day. They are also great to wear under tops for more coverage and support.
What It Looks Like Now
Ultimately, we ended up only being able to nurse the first thing in the morning — since that is when my breasts have the most amount of milk and he refuses to nurse if they aren’t very full — and the rest of the day I pump and bottle-feed. I’m still not able to produce the amount that he needs so I also have to continue supplementing with formula. It’s not exactly the way I thought our breastfeeding relationship was going to look like, but I’ve learned to be okay with it and have made peace with our journey.
I think we forget that our babies have minds of their own. They have personalities and preferences and will demand what they want. (At least my baby does.) And our bodies don’t always listen to us and our desires.
No matter how desperately I wanted to exclusively nurse him, my son refused because my body wasn’t giving him what he wanted — full breasts for every feeding. As mothers all we can do is our best, listen to our children’s needs, and be flexible with our plans. Now our feedings look like this — us sitting together on the couch with a bottle in our hands.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for the highs, the lows, and most definitely for the products that have helped me along the way.
Every woman’s experience is so unique, and I learned new things
from my own story, too.
I hope after reading my story that you can also embrace your breastfeeding journey with your child. Whether it was long or short, you did what you had to do for the health, benefit and well-being of you and your baby.