Happy Monday! You guys! I DID it!!! It took me three babies to meet my goal to breastfeed at least one of our babies for a whole year BUT I finally achieved my goal with Lucas, even if it was 1 out of three babies. Third time’s a charm? This journey definitely has had its fair share of ups and downs, lots of tears were shed, some happy moments, but lots of struggles and so many trials and errors. Breastfeeding varies from one mom to another and definitely from one baby to another. So, let’s take a look at my three different experiences.
First born, Mason:
As a first time mom with Mason 6 years ago, I’ll never forget how excited I was to finally have and hold my first baby that I put breastfeeding on the back burner and didn’t really prepare myself. I knew the basics but not enough. I was so sure that breastfeeding was going to work out because I was under the assumption that it just automatically happens because that’s how our bodies are. But, nobody ever said how difficult it can be. Everywhere I turned, from posters to articles to social media, they just made it look so effortless and easy. I didn’t even own a breast pump - that’s how confident I was. So, moments after Mason was born, while still in the recovery room, the nurses place the baby on my chest to start nursing right away and expect to feed the baby to full. Needless to say, the baby has no teeth but those newborn gums and suction is painful AF. He cried so much and I would break down and cry because I wanted to feed him so bad. The lactation nurses would come in to help - they would massage my boobs and painfully squeeze out colostrum aka “liquid gold”, push the baby’s head down and he would start drinking like a pro. I was like “yup, I got this - thanks, bye”. As soon as I was left alone, I was back to square one and could not have him latch. A day later, I was bruised, chapped, and bleeding from the ongoing attempt of latching the baby. The thought of trying to latch him on for the next feeding made me so scared. It hurt so much! In order to heal, I took a break from breastfeeding him and had my husband go to the nearest baby store to pick up a breast pump. Long story short, I pumped for 4 1/2 months and bottle fed Mason while supplementing with formula. Towards the end, after trying so hard to increase my supply, it just didn’t work. After lots of tears and feelings of guilt, I knew that the end had come and realized that fed was best. Formula or breastmilk, as long as baby is fed, happy and getting all the nutrients that little body needs is most important.
Second born, Katherine:
The second time around, (4 years after Mason) in combination of my previous experience and the additional research I had done between the first two pregnancies, I was more prepared in terms of what to expect and what my options were, whether good or bad. As soon as Katherine was born and the nurses placed her on my chest, she just went at it like she had done it before. I was shocked and so were the nurses. They would come by every now and then to see if her little throat was actually swallowing and it sure was. The experience was absolutely pain free. By being a tiny master she really made the whole process smooth sailing. I was on top of my liquid and healthy food intake from day one. By the end of the second week, the supply increased tenfold and I was so heavy and full that it hurt. I started pumping because I was making more than what she was taking in, which was so good. I had a good amount of milk stored in the freezer and I’m glad I did. When she was 8 months old, I found out I was pregnant with our third child. My doctor had instructed me to stop breastfeeding so that it doesn’t interfere with the pregnancy due to being a high risk patient. The weaning process was so so so difficult on both of our ends. She only knew the breast and had never been bottle fed. So, introducing a bottle was a nightmare. And, I on the other hand, missed the closeness feeling you get from breastfeeding. It’s the most magical feeling between a mother and her baby. The thought of ending it would bring me to tears. But, I had to end it to keep my unborn baby safe and the pregnancy healthy. I’m glad I had 1 month of supply in the freezer. Katherine was the perfect breastfeeding baby that all moms dream of.
Third born, Lucas:
With Lucas’ birth came many obstacles. Moments after he was born, he was rushed to the NICU; he had water in his lungs and an abnormal breathing rate. I discuss his birth in detail here if you wanted to read. Since he was in an incubator for over 36 hours, I couldn’t breastfeed him. I was so sad and the thought of not having him skin to skin killed me. But, I pumped as best as I could to get him the liquid gold. And, the NICU nurses would feed him. I was so bummed because I thought that he got used to the bottles and artificial nipples and will no longer know how to latch to breastfeed. So, finally when he was out of NICU and after our initial introduction, I was surprised that he knew exactly what to do. Although, he was more of an aggressive eater than Katherine, which left me with some bruising every now and then, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. I think by the third time around, the boobs have toughened up and there’s not much feeling left in that area of a mom’s body. LOL. He was also the king of cluster feedings which exhausted me. He was so obsessed with breastfeeding and most nights would wake up to replace me with a pacifier. It was daunting and a long road of sleepless nights. I’m sure it was due to the artificial bottle nipples and also the pacifier in the NICU where he picked up on the pacifier sucking obsession. But, all in all, it’s been about one month since I completely stopped breastfeeding him. The decision was definitely not mutual. As Lucas neared his first birthday, I knew that it was time to wean him off slowly and introduce him to regular cow’s milk. It was a struggle since he was teething and was starting to bite really hard from the pain that would leave me in tears. I decided that it was finally time to call it quits. It took us about 3 weeks to wean him off completely but we’re safe to say that he no longer recognizes breastfeeding. I gave it a try the other day just out of curiosity to see if he recognized it - NOPE, nothing, turned away like it was nothing. I was so lucky that I was able to provide to him for as long as I did. My goal was to breastfeed for one year, and so I can say I have met this goal.
What I’ve Learned
So, if you’re currently a breastfeeding mom that is fed up and ready to throw in the towel out of frustration, pain, or the lack of supply, please understand that we’ve all been there. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second, third, or fourth child, each breastfeeding experience will be different. The milk supply with each child will vary and so will the baby’s interest and willingness. My first born didn’t’ even show an interest to breastfeed whereas my second and third were all they wanted. And, sometimes a little too much of it where I seriously was numb. In the beginning of days, the supply is low, and what I’ve learned is to focus on your well being and healthy diet - lots of greens and water intake. The nutrients you put into your body will help result in a better milk supply. Trust me when I say that the days I felt like I didn’t eat nutritious foods were the days that I did not have a good supply. So, nutrition is key. Natural superfoods like medjool dates, berries, nuts, salmon, leafy greens, legumes, eggs, and water, water, and more water should be your daily staples! Also, I swear by fenugreek powder - throw a pinch into smoothies, juices, teas, soups, etc. and you can thank me later. But, if you’ve tried it all and can’t seem to make breastfeeding work, don’t let it get to you. It’s OKAY! Be aware that breast is not always best - as long as the baby is fed, whether formula or breastmilk, then you’re doing a great job. And, sometimes, it’s ok to take a break from breastfeeding and perhaps switching to pumping for a while then introducing breastfeeding again in a few weeks might actually surprise you. You never know.
Motherhood is absolutely the most beautiful journey in life. Nothing compares to this journey. It’s hard work and there will be tears shed and beautiful sunny days. But, things like breastfeeding should not be about despair. At the end of the day, remember fed is best.