Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My breastfeeding journey

Before we go any further, let's get an important disclaimer out of the way. Whether you choose to breastfeed, exclusively pump, formula feed, or a combination of those I support you. As long as you are feeding and providing for you baby I support you. Every woman's body and circumstances are different and I am not here to make you feel judged or like this space is not for you. Recently, I received a few questions about my experience with breastfeeding so I thought I would break that down into a few posts. Let's start at the beginning.

I always assumed I would breastfeed. It was just "what you do" and I never even thought about other options. It is free, women's body's are capable of doing it, and that's as far as my thought process went. I know now that thought process is very naive. When a few of my friends had their children they began breastfeeding but some were not able to produce enough milk, some had a lack of support, and some had to supplement. Seeing them go through that emotional process made me realize I needed to go into breastfeeding with an open mind. I could very well encounter the same thing. Hearing their stories of people giving them dirty looks buying formula or making the bottle made me sad. I promised myself going into motherhood I wouldn't put any pressure on myself, even if I knew deep down I really wanted to be able to nurse exclusively. 

I chose to breastfeed my daughter for many reasons. It is economical. There are health benefits for both mom and baby. It is convenient - you can do it anywhere. I thought it would provide a bonding experience for myself and my daughter, and it did! It wasn't easy, though. 

When I first gave birth, my daughter was in the 98th percentile. What can I say, we made a big baby. The nurses told me right away "you are going to have to make a lot of milk", asked me to set an alarm every two hours to feed her while at the hospital, and walked away. I didn't get very much assistance at first, often having to ask for someone to help me latch or if I was positioned correctly. I was so overwhelmed by you know, giving birth that I wasn't the best advocate for myself. Even so, things actually came pretty naturally to me once I figured out positioning. We struggled with latching at first, but with the assistance of a nipple shield for a few weeks we got the hang of it. 

Turns out I had the opposite problem nurses expected. I made a lot of milk. Too much milk. I feel a bit embarrassed telling other women I had an oversupply, because I know some struggle with producing enough. However I think it is important to share that side of things too. It is painful. You are constantly engorged, your baby seems to choke every feeding from your let down, and my clothes were always soaked. I actually had to lie down and use gravity to my advantage to have a "normal" flow. 

There were so many times in those first few weeks I wanted to give up. I cried from exhaustion and pain, tensing up and wincing every time I had to nurse. I remember one night I told my husband I couldn't do it any more, and he just sat beside me and listened to me cry over our feeding baby. "You are doing a great job," he told me. Having his support during that time was incredible. It was so nice to have someone on my side. Who was there to listen to my struggles without steering me away from breastfeeding. Who encouraged me not to give up. He couldn't begin to understand what it was like physically, but he empathized emotionally. Eric, I am grateful for that. 

Here's my advice to you: take one feed at a time. It took a few weeks, but we got the hang of it. People who tell you "it doesn't hurt if you are doing it right" are full of it. It is uncomfortable at first because your body has never done it before. I promise it gets better. I have never been more in awe of my body than I have been since I became pregnant, delivered a baby, and breastfed. I am so glad I stuck it out. I am so glad I was able to have this experience. Breastfeeding has healed so many wounds for me. I have had wounds where physical touch does not come naturally to me, and having that skin to skin time with my daughter has healed my heart more than I can ever express. Having her big gray eyes look up at me in the middle of the night with such trust and love made every night feeding worth the lack of sleep. Having her hold me and kick her feet with excitement when a feed is coming brings a smile to my face even now. 

I did start giving my daughter formula in her cereal and a little bit to sip on at night before bed (she barely drinks 2 ounces). Due to her past experiences with dairy I wanted to test the waters. I am proud to have made it ten months exclusively breastfeeding (I pumped for a brief time while working), and hope to make it a year. You never know what can happen in a few months, though. I know I will be sad when the experience ends. 

Breastfed or bottle fed, the important word is fed. If you are a new mama trying to get that latch just right, or crying over red and blistered nipples, I've been there. You've got this.

 I'll be back next week to answer specific questions you may have so shoot me a message if you would like. 

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