Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and since I have officially weaned my third and final baby TODAY (insert tears), I thought I would share my story with all of you with hope that it can help someone out there. I also want to share my evolution of mothering and nursing my three babies and how my perception changed with each.
No, I am not an "expert" or a lactation consultant but I do have experience since I've been pregnant or nursing for the last 6 years and three months...and if my breastfeeding tips and experiences can help just one, it's worth sharing.
I will never forget the day after I had my C-Section when Philip (my first who is now 5.5) was born and I was nursing him constantly (and I mean constantly for hours because my body wasn’t used to producing milk and my close to 9 pounder was a hungry boy). I was in so much pain from my incision AND a spinal headache from my epidural, loopy because of the meds, so tired it hurt, and emotionally just a mess...I distinctly remember thinking:
“I’ve been doing this for less than a week. How the hell am I going to make it another 51 weeks…it’s never going to happen.”
Before I had him I said it was my goal to breastfeed him until his first birthday, but at this moment in time I was ready to quit. I was MISERABLE.
I was also in so much pain…which I didn’t realize wasn’t normal because the nurses did say I would be sore at first. I ended up having thrush and mastitis at the same time…and with his constant need to feed in the beginning, I remember crying every time he would latch. At this point we were feeding 12+ times per day.
This was definitely not the bonding experience I thought breastfeeding my first born son would be. I knew I could start to supplement with formula, but if I did that I knew I would lessen my supply and it would just make things harder, and I wouldn’t be able to produce enough for him…so I kept on going.
After thinking back on this time I’ve realized there were three things that got me through this time and I wanted to share my breastfeeding tips with you.
- My supportive husband. I know for a fact if it wasn’t for Phil’s constant support and encouraging words of how great I was doing, and how I was such a great mom to Philip, I would have most definitely quit. We were blessed to have Phil at home with us for 5 months when Philip was born because he got laid off right before he was born before he found a new job (scary at the time but such a blessing looking back). If he wasn’t there as much as he was in the beginning, I’m not sure I would have made it through the hard days.
- My sister-in-law. My SIL told me nothing I could find in any mom blog or "What to Expect" article. She simple said that breastfeeding was going to be the hardest first two months EVER and that if I could get through that it would get so much easier and absolutely so worth it. She was RIGHT…around month 2-3 it started to get so much easier and not as taxing as we started to get into more of a routine.
- My baby boy. I wanted so badly to give Philip the best nutrition possible in the beginning of his life and it kept me going on the hardest days when I was frustrated and crying.
- Mom groups. Yes the Facebook mom group scene can get a little crazy, BUT these ladies were my lifeline, especially the first few months of each child...it's comforting to know that other new moms were having the same issues that I was having and they supported me through SO much.
Once we hit the six months mark it got so much easier and convenient to continue breastfeeding because he started eating solids and our nursing sessions dropped to 4/5 per day. I didn’t have to clean any bottles AND middle of the night feeds were so much easier as I didn’t have to get up, walk to the kitchen, and prepare a bottle. Every extra second of sleep was so worth it.
I remember on his first birthday we dropped from three feedings to two and I replaced that with whole milk. I started to wean him then and we were completely done by 15 months. I was definitely excited to be done as I knew we wanted to have another baby, but Philip was not happy about stopping at all.
*I will say that I probably pumped the most with Philip as it helped with the pain in the beginning. I also liked to pump and bottle feed him when we were out as I wasn’t comfortable nursing in front of people. Philip also had a handful of bottles of formula..the most of all of my kids.D
My little Daniela was my first VBAC baby and our start to breastfeeding was SO much better. She latched immediately after I had her and she did so well.
However, since my body was used to producing a lot of milk for Philip who ate a lot more than Daniela, I started to produce way too much (a problem I was not used to at all), and by day 3 I had a bad case of mastitis. At first I thought I had the flu…I had a high fever, chills, and a horrible headache. It was December and right in the middle of cold and flu season so I thought it was that…but then I realized how much pain I was in as well and figured out that I had mastitis…for those of you who have had it you feel my pain.
My midwife got me on antibiotics right away and I immediately started to feel better…but nursing through the pain was so hard for about a week. We quickly got into a rhythm and she and I became quick pros.
I remember being up with her in the middle of the night remembering how miserable I was nursing my first at night because I didn’t see or know there was light at the end of the tunnel. With Daniela, I didn’t know if she was going to be our last so I tried my best to enjoy these moments even though it was still so hard and I was ridiculously tired all the time.
I ended up with mastitis twice more and multiple clogged ducts this time around but we made it until 17 months when I was completely done breastfeeding my girl and mostly because my body just slowly stopped producing milk.
As most of you probably know my pregnancy with Luke was a tough road being high risk, and then because he had a tight knot in his cord he had IUGR (Inner Uterine Growth Restriction) and had to be delivered early. We were so blessed to have our tiny baby and because of all the unknowns about what could be wrong with him, and because I knew this was most definitely my last baby, we had an entirely different breastfeeding experience.
Luke was born pretty tiny at 5 pounds, but barely had any fat on him. Luckily he didn’t have to spend any time in the NICU, but I knew that I needed to fatten him up as quickly as possible, and I felt a huge responsibility to give him what he needed to thrive.
Thankfully he was such a good nurser from day one, and it was my main focus to feed and grow our tiny blessing. He had to be weight checked every other day in the first few weeks of his life, and the doctor told me if he didn’t gain at least 1.5 ounces per day we would need to supplement with formula. I obviously would have given him formula if he needed it, but I also wanted to give him what his brother and sister had, so I was determined.
My postpartum experience was so much different with Luke. I had pretty bad anxiety with him because with all of his complications I thought something was going to happen to him. I would just watch him sleep to make sure he was still breathing among other crazy signs of postpartum anxiety. So I was so appreciative of our late night feedings instead of thinking how I will never sleep again.
I’m not even joking that during the first 3 months of his life he slept about 20 hours per day because he had so much growing to catch up on. He was my easiest newborn by far as I would feed him every 2 hours and put him back to sleep. In the early days I set my phone alarm for every 2-3 hours throughout the night to make sure he was getting enough.
It’s funny that once he turned 3 months old he decided he didn’t want to nap anymore
Luke is now 18 months and I nursed him for the last time yesterday. He is definitely not ready to stop, but just like with Daniela, my body is done.
I figured out the other day that I have been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 6 YEARS and 4 months and it is one of my proudest accomplishments in my life…and I almost quit two weeks in!
But now looking back at my experiences through each child, I really feel that it was so hard for me in the beginning so I would be a seasoned pro by the time little Luke came into the world where I didn't even have to think about it amongst the other issues we had.
Now, almost 6 years later I’m so sad to stop. The season of little babies is done for our family, and while that’s nice a lot of ways…it’s also really sad in others.
Now only if he could be out of diapers…on that day I definitely won’t be sad!
So if you’re still reading after my novel I will leave you with this: have the expectation that breastfeeding will be the hardest thing ever in the beginning…if it’s not…you’ll be pleasantly surprised…but if it is, you will expect the hard and it will help you to keep going. Look for support from your husband, significant other, family and friends to help you along the way. Finally, know that if you get through the beginning you will see how truly worth the hard days in the beginning will be.
If you are pregnant (CONGRATULATIONS) and have any other questions, or would like to share your experience PLEASE comment below or send me an email!