A tribute to my nine month breastfeeding journey
I remember the sound of his cry when he was first born just like it was just yesterday. His perfectly cute and sobbing face as he was handed over to me and I felt an instant connection. As I felt the warm umbilical cord on my legs as I held my son in my arms for the first time, it all felt so natural. Within an hour of his birth, our breastfeeding journey as mother and child officially started. I remember feeling the new parent high and watching my son latch on perfectly. This felt so natural. I was so glad breastfeeding was already working out. As many mothers will admit, breastfeeding can work out great right after the baby is born since it is so instinctual at first. I know I certainly felt this way and I honestly thought it was going to be smooth sailing from that point forward.
And to some extent it definitely was. Breastfeeding seemed to flow for us those first 12 hours after birth. The next day, my midwife came into my room to see how baby and I were doing with breastfeeding. I told her we were doing great and she stressed the importance of hand expressing to get the extra colostrum out for baby and to stimulate the breast milk to eventually come in. I remember really not liking that part but I knew it needed to be done. The first week was honestly pretty rough since my boobs were constantly full and the only relief was a hot shower and warm sandwich bags with wet paper towels stuffed into them. I was also dealing with the stress of the hormonal dip and adjusting to parenthood in general. To top it all off, breastfeeding started to hurt when we got home from the hospital. My sister in law recommended I see a lactation consultant so I called one up immediately.
This ended up being a lifesaver and the best $200 I’ve ever spent. The lactation consultant came out to our house and evaluated my son’s latch, feeding style, and she even weighed him after he ate to see how much milk he got. It turns out he was getting plenty of milk, I was just in so much pain as he nursed so it wasn’t a surprise when she said that she believed my son has a lip tie and a tongue tie which didn’t allow him to open his mouth fully to nurse. She recommended an excellent pediatric dentist who was able to quickly and painlessly laser my son’s lip tie and tongue tie within a few days of me seeing her. Once we got that taken care of, breastfeeding ran very smoothly for the next several months.
The entire summer of my maternity leave of absence was spent enjoying the nice weather outside on our walks, resting, relaxing, visiting family, friends and nursing my son around the clock. It was working out beautifully and I really enjoyed the bond we built from our nursing sessions together. All of the interruptions throughout the night when I’d rather be sleeping, awkward feelings of covering up when we were in public, and him falling asleep at the boob were 100 percent worth it. I wouldn’t trade that time we shared together for anything in the world.
I returned to work the day after Labor Day after weeks of anxiety and fear about returning to work. Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be since I knew his daycare took great care of him and I enjoyed the time at work to myself. It really allowed me to appreciate the quality time we actually spent together although I did still miss him. One of the things I wish I would have done sooner was pump. My body got very used to my son exclusively breastfeeding those first few months that I didn’t focus too much on the pumping. I also read that milk changes depending on the baby’s age, nutritional needs, and whether or not he is sick so I didn’t focus too much on building up a stash in our freezer. I also really didn’t like pumping so I figured it would be ok for me to wait until I really needed to pump to worry about it.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and sometimes we learn as we go and sometimes we do things differently with our second or third child and beyond. Knowing what I know now, I would have pumped at least once a day within a few weeks of the birth. I didn’t pump at all unless I knew I was going to be away from him (and that wasn’t often those first few months). I understand now that pumping (even for a quick five minutes at a time) will allow our bodies to produce more milk regularly while adjusting to the pump. I made the mistake of waiting to pump enough for only a few days about two weeks before I returned to work. I believe my body was not used to the pump only so this was a bit of an adjustment. I went from exclusively breastfeeding my son 24/7 to pumping 4-5 times a day and nursing him 1-2 times a day when I returned to work and I was gone from him for 11 hours a day. Luckily I was able to pump enough milk for him while I was away for three solid months and we hardly needed any formula during this time.
Once my son was about 7 months, I started to notice a decline in my supply. I went from pumping 5-8 ounces in the morning to 3-4 ounces in the morning. My daytime sessions dipped from producing 3 ounces to 2 ounces. During that time I tried everything from eating more breastfeeding friendly foods to drinking more water, taking a few different milk-boosting supplements, breast stimulation, changing pumps, pump parts and more. My lactation consultant recommended I wake up in the middle of the night to “dream feed” my son and adding in a night nursing session may boost my milk supply. It sounded great in theory but definitely not something I was willing to do as a full time working mom. I needed my rest more than anything and waking up in the middle of the night would not allow me to be well rested and functional so I decided not to do that.
I talked to my midwife during a wellness visit and she informed me even the smallest amount of breastmilk given to my son daily would be good for him so I kept it up. During that time I was in the process of changing jobs so I decided I would pump twice a day (once when I first wake up and once during lunch at work) and nurse my son after work. This worked out perfectly for about a month until I started to feel resentful about pumping. My new job was different and while I had a private room to pump, it wasn’t really discrete and my co-workers could hear me pumping. I realize I could have asked for another space but by that point I was only pumping a half of an ounce to 1.5 ounces per pump session and it no longer was worth it for all the stress. I also decided I wanted my body back to myself and I wanted more free time.
Right before my son turned 9 months I decided I would try just to nurse him before and after work (without pumping.) This was fine for a few days but I was spending more time nursing him, then topping it off with a bottle that it wasn’t worth it and felt like a lot of time. So I just surrendered and stopped nursing all together and surprisingly it was totally fine! Its been a week and a half since I stopped breastfeeding and he hasn’t really asked for it. We have a special bond time while I feed him his bottle of formula and we bond in several other awesome ways throughout our day, especially during his bath and bedtime routine! I was fearful the special bond we had during breastfeeding would be gone but it is just as strong as it ever was!
I am so grateful I gave my son nine great months of breastfeeding and all of the benefits that come with it. So many moms try to breastfeed and can’t or maybe realize it is too hard or that it isn’t for them but I am happy I was able to do it and stick it out through the challenges for so long. I am also grateful I was able to nourish my son with formula as well and that he took to it so well.