In light of world breastfeeding week, I would like to take the time to share my short journey with breastfeeding. To be completely honest, I have never shared my breastfeeding journey because I don't feel like it is inspiring, and my journey is not exactly something that I am proud of. However, in hopes that there are other moms who can relate to my story, I am willing to share.
I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to breastfeed my baby, for as long as possible, being a nurse I knew all of the facts and there is no arguing that breast milk is best. Breastfeeding came fairly easy to us. Scarlett latched on well in the beginning but she was SO sleepy and I found it hard to keep her awake long enough to feed, after a couple of days in the hospital with a fussy baby I finally caved and agreed to give her formula when her blood sugar was low. I mean what other choice did I have?! She took the entire thing of formula and she was like a different baby, she slept so well that night. Later I would learn that this was my first bump in the road of my breastfeeding journey.
The next few months went relatively smooth. Scarlett latched and fed like a champ, the only issue we encountered was her keeping milk down after feeds, she would spit up so much after every feed. I mentioned it to the doctor but she didn't seem too concerned, it wasn't until now that I realize she probably had reflux or some other issue, I thought it was normal for babies to spit up a lot... apparently not.
Around the three month mark my OB convinced me it would be ok to go back on my birth control. I saw a significant decline in my milk supply when I started the pill and started supplementing at bedtime with a bottle of formula (mistake #2). At this point I felt that my breastfeeding journey was on a slippery slope, I had wonderful support from my husband but no real support from anywhere else and I definitely felt a lack of resources. We came across a thickened formula for babies who spit up a lot and it was a godsend. Every time we would feed her this stuff, it would actually stay down. So every night at bedtime, Scarlett would receive the formula instead of breast milk.
At about 5 months I was starting to feel really overwhelmed with brestfeeding. I had no time to myself and I selfishly thought the grass was greener on the other side (the formula feeding side). Little did I know formula feeding was a LOT more expensive, and a lot more work. I made a goal early on to breast feed for at least 6 months and I fell short of that goal at about 5 1/2 months when I breast fed my baby for the last time.
The weeks following that last feed were difficult. I struggled with my decision, knowing (for me) I made the wrong one, regretting and feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. I fell into a small postpartum depression and later realized it was directly related to the hormonal aspect of breastfeeding. This week every year is hard for me, I read inspiring stories of women who breast feed for a year (or more), women who tandem feed, and women who describe their stories as though it was the easiest thing in the world. I will never get over the guilt I feel for not giving my daughter more.
Breastfeeding is not easy. It is actually the hardest job I have ever had, you're constantly thirsty, hungry, tired from feeding non-stop (day and night) and you feel like your only purpose on this earth is to wait hand and foot on a fussy little babe. However it is the most beautiful job in the world, I never felt more connected with my little one than when I was feeding her. I think that is why I mourned my decision so much, because as soon as it was over I immediately wished to have those moments back.
I learned so much from my experience, mostly what could have helped to make my journey more successful. So a little bit of advice to my future self, and to anyone struggling to find the beauty in such a beautiful journey;
- Make small goals. In the beginning I had a least one year in mind as a goal, a few weeks in I realized that was a little ambitious because I was presently exhausted from my little one's breastfeeding demands, so I shortened that goal to 6 months. I refused to settle for anything less because I knew those first 6 months were important, however I think if I could have set my goals on a month to month basis I may have been more successful. Smaller goals are easier to achieve, period.
- Build a network of support. I had my husband, and he was incredible. He supports my every decision, but this is also what made it so easy for me to give up. Surround yourself with breast feeding advocates, other moms and most importantly professional support. I wished more than anything that I would have visited the breastfeeding clinic that we have here in the city, I know my journey could have been a lot different with the proper education and support.
- Make time for yourself. I think the hardest part of breastfeeding for me was being in demand at all times. With very little time in between feeding sessions in those early days let Dad (or someone else) take over and get away for some 'me' time. When baby get's older treat yourself, go get a massage or your nails done in between feeds. Most importantly, pump extra so that you can get away for date nights or even a night out with the girls.
- Invest in nice/quality nursing bras. I'm not even going to lie, I hated the nursing bras I had, I always felt so frumpy in them and they never fit right. I think having a well fitted/comfortable yet attractive bra makes you feel so much better. Next time I will be investing in a few good ones!
- Dink lots of water. I'm talking like more water than you've ever drank before. Buy yourself a new water bottle, or some straw tumblers to keep around the house and at your nursing station(s). You are going to be thirsty and your body needs it to keep up with supply and demand.
I am no expert, but I know all of the above would have helped me. It's hard not have regrets but in all honesty I think any amount of time breast feeding is better than none and I am proud that I gave my sweet girl what I was able to with the resources that were available to me at the time.
*Disclaimer* I am by no means a breastfeeding advocate, I believe it is NOT black and white and there are many shades of grey. I realize there are many moms who cannot breastfeed for whatever reasons, and some who simply choose not to. I know babies can thrive off of formula and grow to be just as intelligent and strong as a breast fed infant. I would hate for a mom to read this and feel any kind of guilt for choosing formula. I support all moms regardless of their choices.