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My Journey as a Mother: Breastfeeding (Part Two)

my two chunkers, with their buddy Styles, who refused to smile 🙂
  As a continuation of my breastfeeding journey with EK, my journey breastfeeding J was much easier. Already, I knew the pain I’d feel in those first few days – and I was prepared mentally this time. So that was less of an issue. He had a MUCH better latch than she did, and so we started off much better. My milk came in more quickly (while I was packing to leave the hospital, in fact!) and so he got the full effects of that more quickly.

However, he was a sleep-nurser, which in turn made him a little less efficient. Therefore, he didn’t gain as much weight, so the pediatrician was worried about him, so I was worried about him, and we went through everything we could think of to keep him awake, get him to eat instead of pacify, and get him to gain some weight. That basically turned into me pumping and giving him some bottles more often (he’d finish a bottle without stopping, just not nurse for very long without sleeping) and eventually supplementing formula.

He continued being a good nurser once he started gaining weight and we were doing bottles as well as nursing. It didn’t take him much longer to find a rhythm, get the benefit of breastmilk as well as formula, and be a chubby babe just like his sister was. He continued doing bottles with breastmilk and with formula while I was working, and nursing while I was home until he was 8 months, when I had stopped making very much milk (I had stopped working by then) and he just weaned himself. He stopped being interested in nursing and just wanted bottles, and my milk dried up. Since he was so old, eating food as well as taking bottles well, and was clearly not having any weight troubles anymore, I didn’t press the issue and let him make his decision.

I don’t have any regrets about this process. I don’t regret giving him bottles and formula to help his weight gain. I don’t regret letting him wean himself at 8 months. I don’t regret a moment of our journey. He’s a healthy, sweet boy, and we have bonded and have a wonderful relationship. I have loved every moment getting to know him more and more, and I know that our initial bonding with breastfeeding helped that along, but isn’t the only thing that mattered in our relationship. Bonding can happen without breastfeeding. Bonding can continue after you stop. Make the best choice for you and your baby, and whatever that looks like, good for you!

My Journey as a Mother: Breastfeeding (Part One)

I want to start a series. I don’t know often it’ll be added to, or what I might put in it, but I’d like to call the series of posts “My Journey as a Mother”. Instead of snarky things my toddler says, or cute things I’ve baked with friends, I want it to be honest and personal, about my unique journey as a mother. Since my kids are so young, I doubt I’ll ever truly run out of things to talk about, and I can add things as often as I feel led to write about them. 
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently (as I’m preparing for the birth of my third child) is something I don’t think I’ve blogged about at all – breastfeeding. This can be a really hot topic, one that many women/mothers/caretakers feel passionately about. I don’t want anything I say to be a “persuasive article” or “offensive rant”. I just want to share my story, my struggles, my successes, and my hopes for the next breastfeeding journey on which I’ll embark.

When I was pregnant will EK, it was a no-brainer that I would nurse her. It’s widely accepted as the healthiest thing to do, so of course it would be what I did for my daughter. Where her birthday fell during the school year  (mid-April), I knew I would have several months of potential nursing before I would have to go back to school in the fall and likely into a routine of more pumping than nursing. I was looking forward to April-August being able to mostly nurse, and introduce bottles and scheduling a pumping routine as I went back to work.

This, as you might imagine, wasn’t how my perfect plan worked out.

EK had trouble latching right off the bat. I know now that I didn’t do everything I could have, but she also had a few problems as well. I’ve already accepted this and moved on from it with no guilt, so I will suffice it to say that nursing, after a painful, tedious six weeks or so, just didn’t work very well for the two of us. However, being a mama who wants to do the very best thing for her children, I decided the exclusively pump. This turned into the longest five more months of my life. At first, my supply was good, I was even able to freeze some milk, and never worry about my baby being hungry. She never shied away from a bottle, and seemed very pleased to be fed by whomever offered the bottle to her (just an early glimpse of her hungry-hippo nature that still exists). I got more sleep when Hubby was able to feed her a bottle at some point during the night (or late night before he went to bed, as it often was) and we didn’t know any better than to think this was our best possible situation.

But after a couple of months of pumping several times a day (and sometimes during the night if I got too uncomfortable) for almost 45 minutes each time (looking back, I’m appalled by my slow letdown and need to go through several letdowns to get what my baby needed), I was growing tired of the chore. I was eating oatmeal everything, drinking water like a camel, drinking a dark beer a day, using warm compresses before I pumped, and everything else I knew how to do to up my milk supply and make it worth it to keep going.

It seemed like the harder I tried, the less milk I made. The more I tried to find times to pump at school or during the night, the less milk I got at each pumping session. It was truly disheartening to feel like I was failing at feeding my child the “natural” way. Finally, after a few months of “supplementing my milk with formula” I released myself from the pump’s shackles.

I cannot TELL you how this freed me! Pumping several times a day wasn’t bonding with my baby. It was hardly getting her anything she needed. She was eating enough by the time I stopped at six months that I was barely getting a bottle’s worth in an entire day. It had been such a struggle to force myself to keep going, when I wasn’t yielding enough to nourish her. I was becoming emotionally wrecked about it, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling I was failing. But when I finally let it go and switched to 100% formula (well, she had started purees by then as well) it was a load off of my shoulders and my heart.

And let me tell you – this gal was healthy. (Does the baby in that photo up there look like she’s not getting enough to eat?!) She IS healthy. She is smart, beautiful, well-adapted (as much as toddlers can be) and we do not have a lack of bonding in our relationship! I can confidently say that I made the best choice for her, the best choice for me, and the best choice for my poor Hubby who would lose me for several hours a day to the pump. We were all much happier when we made the switch.

So here’s a little encouragement: breastfeeding, while widely accepted as “healthiest” and “best” and “why wouldn’t you do it?!” isn’t for every mother and every baby. If it was easy, we’d all do it. If everyone was able to be with their baby 24/7 and was blessed with great supply and didn’t have any problems latching and was never treated as inferior by a lactation consultant (that happened to me, also) I’m sure that all mothers would breastfeed. But folks, it just isn’t that way. And that’s okay. Thankfully, there are many ways to have a healthy baby, just like there are many ways to deliver a healthy baby, and there are many ways to raise a baby. Let your mama instincts take over, and do what you believe is best.

I’ll post a little bit about my journey breastfeeding J soon. I hope you were encouraged by my experience with EK.

Did you choose to breastfeed? What was your experience?