I have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding. I love it because, well it’s the best thing for my baby, we get to bond and snuggle close, and I LOVE knowing that I am providing for that sweet little baby, resting in my arms.
Breastfeeding also gives me an opportunity to slow down. As a mama of 3 little ones, when it's time to nurse I go to the nursery, plop myself into the most comfy recliner and spend a sweet 10 minutes just resting with my baby. Honestly, each of those nursing sessions might be the easiest mom task of my day! (That is when my older children are not screaming at me. But generally they know, when mommy is in that chair, you're just gonna have to wait!) ;)
The hate part of this relationship can be summed up in two words: supply issues. I hesitate to call this “low-supply” although it’s taken a lot to convince myself otherwise.
Let’s start from the beginning… when my first child was born I was not allowed to nurse her in her first 5 days of life. My first experience with breastfeeding was through pumping. **cue horror sound** She had aspirated meconium, and among other medical symptoms, she was having trouble breathing. I was a first time mom with little knowledge of my options and simply did as I was told by the well-meaning nurses. By the time I was able to begin to nurse her, I was EXTREMELY engorged due to the pump expressing large amounts of milk that my baby could not replicate when nursing. To top that off, I was raw as a you know what!! The thought of putting baby to my breast was horrifying.
In those first few days, I was surrounded by far too many emotions to think straight, so I just fed her expressed milk from a bottle. When it was finally time to take her home, I was unsure how our breastfeeding relationship would go. We had some beginning latch problems and continued engorgement, but we made it through. After the hell of that first week, I was determined to do whatever I could to ensure my baby thrived!
Fast-forward six months later. My sweet baby girl, who started at 9lbs 8oz is now at 13lbs. Typically they say babies will double their birth weight in the first 6 months of life. This was not the case for her. I had been supplementing my baby with pumped milk here and there when it just seemed like she wasn’t getting enough from the breast, worrying my little heart out that I was doing something wrong.
When I was away at work, I worried I wasn’t leaving enough milk for her, only able to give her what I had pumped. Knowing little at that time about the differences between the efficiency of a pump and a baby.
At our well- visit, my pediatrician was understanding of the complications in which contributed to her large birth weight and encouraged me to keep the course with breastfeeding. She reassured me that if my baby was meeting her developmental milestones, still sleeping as usual and not showing “signs” of hunger, then she was getting just what she needed. She also told me that almost every mother worries about their supply once they get to that 6-month mark. **cue deep breath** I was hopeful!
That was, until month 7. Suddenly, my baby was refusing my breast.
The second my milk would come down she would open her month and let it spill out. Screaming, crying, failing! I knew this couldn’t be “normal supply worries.” This began a slow weaning process and the introduction to formula. **cue total meltdown** For some reason, I had an aversion to formula. I had told myself and my husband that it was “forbidden” and “my baby would never have that!” But what other choice do you have when your baby is crying in hunger? I gave in, but not without extreme heartache. I felt like I had let my baby down. Something was wrong with me and I had failed.
I later found out that I was pregnant, perhaps contributing to my baby weaning herself. However, this news set out the desire to get this breastfeeding thing “right” this time. I vowed to make it to the 1-year mark and to not allow supplementing at all. I researched like crazy how to increase supply, how much to expect from pumping vs. my actual supply amount. Learning that a breastfed baby does not eat the same quantity as a formula feed baby and that breast milk changes as your baby matures fascinated me. All this I was ignorant of, as a first time mom.
The research tells us that exclusively breastfed babies take in an average of 25 oz (750 mL) per day between the ages of 1 month and 6 months. Different babies take in different amounts of milk; a typical range of milk intakes is 19-30 oz per day (570-900 mL per day). ~KellyMom
When my second was born, I knew what mistakes I wanted to avoid this go-round. One mistake being letting all that precious milk during those early engorgement days go to waste. After nursing the baby, I pumped, sometimes getting 4-5 additional ounces. In the freezer it went, saved for the days of returning to work and foreshadowing to pumping only 1-2oz each time. My stockpile steadily grew and I was feeling confident I would make it to my goal.
That was until around the dreaded 6-month mark when my “great nurser” lost weight. **cue intense mom-guilt** I was instructed to start solids to aid in caloric intake and return in 2 weeks to see if his weight was heading in the right direction. Thankfully it did, in small amounts, but it did. Some days the guilt was too much, and I would fearfully supplement with formula, worrying I was stunting my babies growth and development in a way I could never repair. And every time I did, I slowly saw our breastfeeding relationship heading out the window. At 8 months old, my son weaned himself and once again my heart was broken. I had failed.
Baby three was soon on her way, and I had learned some important lessons from my first two “failed” attempts. My biggest lesson: I HAD DONE THE BEST I COULD! I hadn’t failed!! I had given my baby as much breast milk, for as long as possible and that was a GREAT success!! I needed to accept that nothing in my motherhood journey would probably look the same way I imagined, and that was okay.
I have run into the same supply-issues with my now 8 month old. We even had to fight through a possible dairy allergy through my breast milk. She too lost weight at the same 6-month mark as my son. But we are STILL nursing! It’s been a battle, but one I am DETERMINED TO FIGHT!
Now I see each day that passes as a success in breastfeeding. And that perspective, that gratitude for each drop is what helps me make it to the next day.
I see each day as a success in breastfeeding. That gratitude is what helps me make it to the next day. <--- Tweet this.
Did you have any breastfeeding struggles with your children? I know one of the biggest encouragements for me has been knowing I am not alone in this battle.