I did it. 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. Evan hasn’t had a drop of formula. I am so proud of myself for sticking to it because it wasn’t always easy. And it still isn’t easy.
First, a note: While I am proud, I would never think to judge anyone for their own personal decisions about feeding their babies. There were many times I wanted to give up, and I totally understand why people do. I also know that some people cannot physically breastfeed or do not have lifestyles that are conducive to nursing and pumping (I was adopted and formula fed myself). I am extremely happy with my decisions so far, but they are my choices. You all can make your own. We’ve got enough to deal with as moms without all of this competing.
I do want to share my breastfeeding story, though. For myself and for anyone out there who wants or needs to see that we all have our own struggles.
The Painful Beginning – The First Six Weeks
E had this breastfeeding thing down from the beginning and in that way I was very lucky and had it much easier than some other moms I know. My hungry little boy had no problems latching on. And boy did he eat. 45 minute feedings every hour and a half (so basically 45 minutes on, 45 minutes off).
I, on the other hand, was having some major issues. It HURT. Like, REALLY HURT. Worse than child birth. I dreaded feeding time because I really wasn’t sure how much more of the 60-seconds of intense latch on pain and the soreness that continued throughout the feeding I could take. And I couldn’t do anything to stop it. His latch was fine. Every position was painful. It seemed to be me that was just built wrong. I read that it would stop hurting at 2 weeks. It took 5 1/2.
Mentally, I was a wreck. I was, at best, uncomfortable. I still had those crazy hormones running through me, and I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life sitting on the couch, watching Friday Night Lights, and nursing this baby while crying.
While I was so happy to have Evan, I did a lot of complaining during this period. Thank you to all of you who listened and offered advice and shared similar stories. It helped me more than you probably realize.
The Honeymoon Period – Weeks Six through Twelve
Once the pain went away, everything else started to fall into place. Evan started eating faster, and, eventually, started going longer than 90 minutes between feedings. I was able to leave the house without experiencing massive anxiety. I got comfortable nursing in public. I began to enjoy the time I was spending nursing Evan. I was also able to pump after each morning feeding and start building a freezer stash.
Back to Work – Month Four
And just as we hit our stride, everything changed (I suspect this will always be the case with parenting). After twelve weeks of maternity leave, I went back to work full-time. This meant that Evan needed to have two or three or four bottles each day and that I needed to pump.
Many days, this isn’t really a problem. I have an office with a door that locks. I can pump and sit at my computer and continue to do my work. But there are days that I am away from the office at court, in deposition, attending mediations. These are the challenging days for me. I spent one whole week sneaking out of arbitration to pump in my car in a parking garage. The things we do for our children.
I am very lucky. My employer completely supports my decision to breastfeed. And I even have the opportunity to go to Evan’s daycare to nurse him at lunch most days. This has made it so much easier.
Struggling with Supply – Months Five and Six
Once again, as soon as I hit my stride as a pumping mom, things changed. In those first few weeks, I was pumping more than enough and banking at least a few ounces for the freezer stash each week. Then my supply suddenly dropped. And Evan started eating more. Simultaneously. I was pumping 2 ounces when Evan was eating 4. I started taking fenugreek, drinking that awful Mother’s Milk tea, and eating lactation cookies. I had to start pumping before I went to bed to make up for what I didn’t pump during the work day. I am just barely keeping up at this point, but I am keeping up and that’s all that matters. It might be extra work, but it’s for Evan so I can do it.
We are going to start solids now. I don’t anticipate that this will reduce Evan’s milk intake at all to start with so I am going to keep nursing and pumping. My original goal was this first six months, but my new goal is to keep breastfeeding until Evan is a year old. It is nice to know that I made it this far, and if I do have to supplement with formula at this point, it’s less of an issue.
My Advice to Future Breastfeeding Moms
- Surround yourself with supportive people. Find a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding group, and/or friends who have been through it (I found twitter to be full of encouragement).
- Do your research before you have the baby. I did not really do this and I wish I had. Instead, I spent HOURS googling “_____ and breastfeeding” during those first few weeks. Find a resource you like and can use as a reference (I like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and kellymom.com).
- Don’t let the breastfeeding nazis scare you. If you have to supplement, your child will be fine. I was formula fed and I turned out to be a healthy, intelligent adult.
- Talk to your daycare provider about your wishes. Or, if you’re obsessive like me, write a two page document about how to feed your child (you should see my pumping spreadsheet).
- Talk to your employer about pumping. If your employer is large enough, federal law requires that they provide you with non-bathroom space to pump (although they generally don’t have pay you for pumping breaks). Explain how breastfeeding will actually benefit them, since your child is less likely to get sick, requiring you to take fewer sick days.
- Pump while driving. I promise this is a lot safer than it sounds. And it saves so much time on days that you have to spend a lot of time in the car. I set it all up under my nursing cover with my hands-free pumping bra, turn it on, put on my seatbelt, and drive. After 20 minutes, I pull over and take it all off. Voila.