Just as every baby and mother are unique, every breastfeeding journey is unique. I know some mothers who had no trouble breastfeeding one child but had a difficult time with another. Some have smooth journeys for all of their children while others have rough journeys with all of them.
I say this because I want to encourage you, no matter where you are in you’re breastfeeding journey—and no matter what that may look like. You are not alone, and you’re doing a great job.
I think it’s a wonderful thing that many more mothers are moving back to breastfeeding and away from the commercialized, less-natural formula. I agree with the statement “breast is best,” HOWEVER, I know from personal experience that breast isn’t always possible for all moms. And I believe the stigma that some circles attach to mothers who don’t exclusively nurse isn’t healthy and only exacerbates the mom guilt. Never feel guilty for feeding your baby—no matter what form that takes.
Let me share my unique breastfeeding journey in order to encourage all of the nursing moms, the formula moms, the pumping moms, and the moms who are any combination of those.
A Rocky Start
Every mother and child’s breastfeeding journey begins at birth, and ours began on a shaky note. I unfortunately had an unplanned C-section, which really distraught me. For the three or four days (I forget because I was so drugged up) that I was in the hospital, I also had trouble getting my newborn to latch, and the pain was excruciating. It got to the point that I had to call in the lactation consultant on duty to help me latch her every time I needed to nurse. Each lactation consultant at the hospital had her own strengths, but they each offered me different—and sometimes contradicting—advice. They eventually had me try nipple shields, and most of them told me they thought she was having trouble latching because of a lip tie. Because my daughter lost 9% of her birth weight (just 1 percent short of major concern), they ultimately had me try supplementing with formula using a supplemental nursing system (SNS). Even that didn’t really work because my daughter was so sleepy, she would constantly fall asleep while eating before she had a decent amount. I always had to stroke her to try to keep her awake.
Eventually we were sent home and went to visit her pediatrician. The pediatrician became very concerned with my daughter’s weight loss and referred me to a lactation consultant. I was sent to work with her in order to get my daughter’s weight back up.
My God-Sent Gift of a Lactation Consultant
To put it simply, my post-hospital lactation consultant was a saving grace. When my husband and I first went to her office with our screaming baby, she immediately made us feel welcomed and comfortable, even though it was close to the end of her work day. She explained that our daughter was very hungry because crying burns the most calories in little newborn bodies. She taught me different holds, tips, and latching techniques, and provided us with lip tie revision recommendations. My husband took pages of notes during that first visit. She even let us borrow a DVD that she highly recommended and thought useful. Most importantly, she gave us a feeding plan. About every two hours or any other time our daughter seemed hungry, I was to feed her, alternating between breastfeeding and supplementing with a bottle (she told me to get rid of the nipple shields and SNS). Anytime I bottle fed my daughter, I was to double pump immediately after in order to help build my milk supply.
After that initial visit, she regularly came to visit me in my own home to check my daughter’s vitals and weight and also to continue to help me find a good latch and feeding position. I eventually discovered and fell in love with the side-by-side position. I also really appreciated the My Breast Friend pillow, which I liked much better than the Boppy. She also recommended an effective saline solution for my cracked and bleeding nipples.
When we went back to the pediatrician for my daughter’s next appointment, her doctor was extremely happy with her weight and commended me and my husband for doing such a great job. The fact that my daughter was safe and healthy was the most important thing in the world.
Lip Tie Revision
After many recommendations and research, my husband and I decided to move forward with lip tie laser surgery when my daughter was two weeks old. It turned out that she had a lip tie, tongue tie, and buccal ties. Afterward, my husband and I had to perform special mouth exercises throughout the day for a month in order to prevent the ties from reattaching. Within a week after the surgery, breastfeeding became easier and a lot less painful. I felt like my daughter was eating more and at a better rate.
Milk Supply Issues
Despite the uptick in our breastfeeding success and working closely with my wonderful lactation consultant over the next couple of months, I still had a lot of trouble building my milk supply. I was drinking mother’s milk tea, eating all of the milk-boosting foods, regularly breastfeeding, regularly pumping, and I joined a few topical Facebook groups. Eventually I added a pumping power hour, which seemed to help boost my supply a little, but it wasn’t enough. In retrospect, I believe my stress and postpartum depression played a big role in my milk supply issues.
Our Breastfeeding Outcome
In the end, I was never able to completely drop the bottle and continued to do a combination of breastfeeding, pumping, and bottle feeding with formula. Granted, I was able to breastfeed a lot more frequently and easily with the help of my lactation consultant and the lip tie revisions.
Our breastfeeding journey ended when my daughter was around six months old. There was never a point where I told myself that we were going to stop. Weaning just started happening naturally, and I honestly don’t remember if it was me or my daughter or both of us who initiated it. I do remember that she started biting more frequently and then violently popping off throughout a feeding. I think she started getting bored with it, or maybe I started to grow impatient. Either way, we made it to six months, which was my mini goal (my main goal was a year).
Do I wish I could’ve exclusively breastfed and not have had to supplement? Yes. Do I wish I could’ve breastfed longer? Yes. Do I regret anything? No, not at all. I sincerely tried my best, and I did what was best for my baby. In fact, I am very proud of myself for not giving up entirely. Our daughter is now a happy and healthy toddler who eats well and has a strong bond with both of her parents. That’s all anyone could ask for, right?
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