Happy World Breastfeeding week!
Updated: Aug 3, 2018
I would like to start by saying that I have the utmost respect for every mother out there. I think I can speak for all of us... Breastfeeding is hard! I have done formula, pumping and nursing, and my philosophy is: fed is best! A fed baby is a happy baby, and that's the goal here. I'd like to share my experience, and what I went through with my kids.
When you think of breastfeeding, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
Before I breastfed, I thought it was natural, instinctive, bonding, beautiful, rainbows and butterflies and birds chirping... While all of those were right, I just didn't realize or know how much it took!
I had my daughter Gaby, via C-Section. We weren’t able to do skin to skin right away because she had to be taken to the NICU for over an hour after she was born. When we were finally reunited, I attempted to nurse her, but she had no interest. She wouldn’t latch at all! There I was, a first time mom with no idea and no expectations. The lactation consultant at the hospital realized that she had a tongue tie, so we made the decision to have it fixed. After the procedure was done, she still wouldn’t latch. She would literally scream at the top of her little lungs, so I decided to start pumping and supplementing with formula - after all, fed is best! Well that lasted about 6 weeks. My milk supply was mediocre at best because I wasn’t pumping often enough (again, no clue), so I decided to quit altogether.
What happened after that was rough. Every time I saw someone breastfeeding their baby, a picture, a post on social media, campaigns for breastfeeding (breast is best!), I would be flooded with emotions. Anger, guilt, sadness, shame. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby. The one thing that I was supposed to do for her, I failed miserably on. Why didn’t my body work right? Did I not try hard enough? Everyone else seemed to do it without a problem! What is wrong with me?
A couple of years later I got pregnant with my son. This time I was determined to make it happen! I read blogs, articles, talked to people who were successful, followed pages on social media, pinned about a million different things, I did everything I could do! And so, my little boy was born, also via C-Section. Although he was very very sleepy in the beginning, he did latch, and when he did, it was perfect. It wasn’t painful or anything! I thought, “Yes! I got this!”. We went home as a happy little family of 4!
Then a few days went by and the pain started. Mind you, I had gone through 2 C-Sections at that point and the pain of breastfeeding didn’t even begin to compare. I started dreading feeding my son and resenting him for hurting me. The overnights were the worst. I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation, but I was extra sensitive and vulnerable at that time. I remember one time I called my friend Jacky first thing in the morning, sobbing…more like ugly crying, and she was so kind and encouraging, and understanding. She told me her story and told me to hold off until week 7, that everything would change then, but that if I just couldn’t do it, to do what was best for both of us. My friend Carissa referred me to Ashlee from La Leche League in Naples. I called her and the next day she was over at my house teaching me how. She too encouraged me and told me that it would get better, that my body would “toughen up” and that it wouldn’t hurt anymore, to give both of us time to figure it out and get into the groove of things. I would call my friend Crissy and she would tell me how incredibly difficult it was for her too, and how she would cry from the amount of pain she was in, but to hang in there, it would get better.
7 weeks went by. 8 weeks went by. The pain wasn’t subsiding, it was getting worse. Every single time my son would nurse, I felt shards of glass ripping through me. The pain was so intense that I decided to pump exclusively for about a week to see if things got better, but they didn’t. At that point I decided to call the lactation consultant at the hospital to make an appointment, if things didn’t improve I would once again be calling it quits. I was seen right away, and they taught me a couple of different hold and latch methods, but they also referred me to my OBGYN to get checked for thrush. When I went to the doctor, I was definitely diagnosed with thrush and put on medication right away along with Jackson (As I understand, that is one side effect of all of the antibiotics from the C-Section?). Within three days, things were improving! I couldn’t believe it! It took about 2.5 months, but we were getting there! Over 60 days, 7 times a day, of being in the worst pain I had ever been in my life, and somehow, I don’t know how, I managed to get through it. Right around that time, Jackson seemed to have an allergy to the protein in animal milk which meant a dairy free diet for me. Let me tell you something, Ben and Jerry’s dairy free ice cream does not do the trick for me, but if it meant that I would be able to continue breastfeeding, I was going to do whatever it took!
I had been following this page on instagram called Legendairy Milk. They make organic herbal lactation products (if you haven’t yet, please go check them out! They are a great resource and have so much great information). I started using their products and my milk supply was thriving!! I was slowly building a freezer stash while exclusively nursing Jackson. He was in the 90% for growth! I was amazed at what my body was capable of! Things were going so smooth, until he hit 5 months and decided to go on a nursing strike…what?…I only found out he was doing this because I made a post on one of my mom groups and a few moms had the same experience. Some babies came back…some didn’t. Here we go again. It was heart wrenching, I had actually grown to love nursing him and our time together and I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Not yet anyway. I went back to pumping, which is no easy task when you have a toddler that is still getting used to having to share the spotlight! Here’s even less time with mommy! I said to myself…"ok my initial goal was 6 months. I can pump for one month and then quit". The night before he turned 6 months I said to my husband, "ok this is it, I’m done. I can’t be hooked up to a pump 5 times a day, taking even more time away from Gaby. We raised her on formula and she is the most perfect little girl. We can do the same this time”. That night he woke up screaming. Nothing could calm him down. And then he started rubbing his head on my chest as if he was rooting. Could it be? I offered and he latched right away, as if the last month had never happened, and this time, the tears rolling down my cheek were some of the happiest I have ever cried.
Ever since that day, breastfeeding became second nature, and at 9 months, we are still going strong. I’m hoping that we will make it to 12 months and I am so proud of myself for that. I’m proud of myself for persevering and overcoming every single obstacle, and pushing through the pain. I am proud of myself because I always thought I was weak and unable to handle pain, but as I write this and remember everything that I went through for the past 9 month I realize that I need to give myself so much more credit than I do.
The amount of help and encouragement I received has been incredibly humbling. I would love to thank from the bottom of my heart, every single one of my friends who was there for me during that time and encouraged me, you helped me get to where I am today. Maybe I would have quit had it not been for you. And a special thanks to Legendairy Milk for making the most amazing products and helping me feed my baby this whole time.
In my opinion, breastfeeding (or pumping!) is one of the most difficult and most amazing things a woman will ever do in her life, so if you are in this situation, please GET HELP! You can do this! But it is a whole lot easier with a support system, and once you get it, the journey is more beautiful than you can even imagine.
So happy breastfeeding week to every single momma out there who is doing everything in her power to make it through this crazy journey! You are a freaking warrior beast and deserve an award, but instead you get used as a chew toy! :)