When I first became a mother, I had no idea I would be so passionate about breastfeeding. I intended to do it, personally, but didn’t think much more about it until after I was in the thick of nursing my first baby…
Pregnant with my first baby, I had every intention of breastfeeding. It seemed obvious, natural, convenient, and inexpensive.
It turned out to be none of those!
Let me be frank – breastfeeding my first baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken as a mother.
On Day 2 of life, he was a very sleepy little man. I didn’t know any better, and let him sleep instead of waking him to feed.
By Day 5 of life, he wasn’t gaining and my milk hadn’t come in.
By Day 14 of life, nurses were using the term “Failure to Thrive.” Still wasn’t gaining. Still not a good milk supply. I started pumping, and taking herbs, and drinking dark beer, and overhydrating, and pumping and pumping and pumping.
Day 16: Nipple shields, and a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System – essentially a tube supplying formula at the breast.)
Day 18: Supplementing with formula
Day 20: Nipple confusion. Refusing the breast unless half asleep. Commence exclusive pumping.
After exclusively pumping (but baby still needing half his intake in formula) I finally got him back on the breast at four months.
I was also working full time as a teacher in a small school. I had no legally mandated breaks. I power pumped every night (for hours!!!) and never did have a good supply.
But we soldiered on. Finally, for my sanity, we switched to all formula during the day and I put away my pump. I nursed in the wee hours of the morning and as he fell asleep at night, and treasured my ability to do at least that. We kept it up until two weeks shy of his first birthday, when he suddenly and completely weaned himself.
So, it isn’t necessarily easy, or natural, or convenient. What an eye opener!
When I had my second baby, I made some changes. Most dramatically, I put my teaching career on hold and became a full-time, professional mother.
Secondly, also extremely importantly, I had a wonderful midwife and birth center during my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. She guided me in exactly the natural methods I was hoping for, and encouraged my nursing in a much less clinical fashion.
I undertook the theory that I would nurse no matter what. Any time this baby fussed, I let him nurse. I ignored the clock completely, and offered the breast any time he cried or rooted, even if he had just stopped nursing five minutes before.
We nursed round the clock. I didn’t sleep train, I didn’t offer a bottle. Ever. (As it turns out, it’s not all roses – he never did take a bottle, ever, and he was up constantly until almost a year. Exhausting!)
But we succeeded. By his two week checkup, he had not only regained his birth weight (the goal), he had GAINED a POUND AND A HALF. What?! He was almost 20 pounds by six months. A hulking, happy baby. Suddenly, nursing was convenient and easy and natural and wonderful.
I’ve had a complicated journey. I’ve experience personal failure, and success. I had a skinny baby who had a hard time nursing, and a fat baby who was obsessed with nursing. I have nothing but empathy for anyone trying to feed their baby in any way. Through it all, I’ve enjoyed public nursing (yes, enjoyed!) sometimes covered and sometimes not. I have an arsenal of wonderful breastfeeding memories that I will share in another post. I’m invested in helping other mommas be successful in nursing, if that’s their desire, and hope someday that our culture can get fully behind normalized breastfeeding.
But not every pro-breastfeeding hippie crunchy momma has had a sunshine-and-rainbows experience! It’s a rollercoaster sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade any of those precious nutritional snuggles despite the struggles.
Share your journey below, or link to your own story! I love to hear from other nursing mommas!