It was a long, hard road to get here. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d make it to 11 weeks exclusively breastfeeding, nevertheless 11+ months. It was quite a struggle – and looking back now, I’m not sure how/why I stuck it out. But, we did, and we’ve almost hit our goal of breastfeeding for a year.
I don’t take breastfeeding lightly. It am lucky to produce enough milk to make it through with both my babies. But, I know some women do not have the same experience. Other women may not want to breastfeed, or may try with no luck. Motherhood is tough, no matter which way you look at it. And however you feed your child is best. I truly believe “fed is best” and shy away from anyone/anything that says “breast is best”. You know your body and your baby best. So, in light of World Breastfeeding Week, while I’m talking a lot about my breastfeeding journey, please know that I admire you momma – however you chose to feed your baby. Our journeys are all different, and that’s what makes them beautiful.
So, here’s a bit of my journey. I share this in hopes that other breastfeeding/pumping mommas perhaps know that whatever you’re going through, you aren’t alone.
Wyatt was born just over 9 lbs. Because of this, his blood sugars had to be monitored every 3 hours for the first 24 hours. He passed every test with flying colors… even the one just around 21 hours, which the nurse said infants tend to fail. The sugar levels tend to drop off at this point. Nope, not Wyatt’s – his numbers actually increased. We were in the clear. Or so I thought…
I had pain while nursing at first, but thought soreness/pain was pretty standard if I remembered correctly. Note: soreness is normal… pain is not. Having your nipples crack and bleed is not. At his first checkup, he was almost back to birth weight and gaining like a champ. I met with the lactation consultant at our peds office just to check his latch but everything appeared mostly normal. It was still so painful, but he was eating and gaining like a champ, so I figured things would eventually get better.
Gel pads, lanolin, nipple creams, and way too much money later (I’ll share my “breastfeeding essentials” tomorrow), things just weren’t fixing themselves. At his one month check up, I mentioned the pain I was still having. The pediatrician said I shouldn’t be in pain or have damage at this point. Up until then, I kept thinking it was normal and pushing through. I took breaks here and there to pump and offer a bottle, but other than that, I didn’t stop nursing. I attended a mom meeting held by the lactation consultant, where she once again checked latch. Things looked fine on the outside, yet she suspected something going on inside his mouth. She thought she saw a minor tongue tie and referred us to an ENT. Luckily, I’ve had my own share of sinus issues, so had a relationship with a local ENT and was able to get Wyatt in the next day. Sure enough, he had a very minor tongue tie that was clipped immediately. It was tiny, but would make a big difference in the long run. I could immediately see his tongue movement had improved. However, our nursing did not.
I should also mention that most people in this process (whether they meant to or not) led me to believe he’d have his tongue tie fixed and things would be great. That was not the case. So, for any of you moms struggling with tongue tie/latch issues – just know it takes time. It’s also okay if you decide it’s just too much. I look back now and think perhaps I should’ve given myself a little grace and not pushed forward so hard. I can say that now on the other side, though. At the time I was simply determine to breastfeed as long as we possibly could.
We still had a lot of work ahead of us, which I wasn’t mentally prepared for. He was just over a month old when the tie was diagnosed and clipped. It took us until about 10 weeks for me to exclusively nurse without pumping bottles. 6 more weeks for him to re-learn the proper way to nurse. Honestly, to this day, it’s still not perfect, but it’s 90% better than it was.
About a week after the clipping, I ended up with my second bought of mastitis. If you’ve never had it – consider yourself lucky. I never experienced even a clogged duct with H, so to have clogged ducts, two rounds of mastitis, and nipple damage… it was a lot. We still weren’t nursing great, so I planned to attend a breastfeeding support group at the hospital that morning. Lindsey and I had attended with H and L, and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d head there to see if they could help. Well, I woke with a 103 degree fever. I was determined and ended up at that meeting – 103 degree fever and all. Again, I do not recommend being as stubborn as I am. I sat in that room, swollen breast, light headed, and an emotional wreck. It was at that point I realized my breastfeeding relationship wasn’t mutually beneficial. Wyatt was doing great. However, I was not.
I owe the woman leading that meeting a lot. I truly think she saved our breastfeeding relationship. She took a look at what was going on and showed me something I was missing. It was really simple, but he wasn’t placing his tongue over his bottom teeth (or where teeth will eventually be). So, that’s whay I had so much damage. She helped me course correct, and eventually things began improving. This was around 8-9 weeks.This was also right around the time Logan and H contracted hand foot and mouth. Yea, so that happened. Now can you see why I’m amazed we’re here? LOL. Logan had been helping immensely in the middle of the night up until that point. I would pump and he would feed Wyatt a previously pumped bottle while I pumped. Once he got sick, I was on my own for night feedings. Logan was too nervous to touch him for fear of passing HFM on. I didn’t have the time to do both, so I learned to trust that we could both work through it, and we did. Right around 10 weeks, began to be able to nurse him without pumping. You know… a whole two weeks before I went back to work and would have to pump 2-3 times a day any way. But hey, better late than never.
I share this with you all because I want you to know that all journeys are different. All babies are different. Looking back, I realize I put myself through hell to continue to breastfeed. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. Pumping is okay too. As is formula!
Give yourself grace. I wish I had. It took a toll on my mental health (I talk about it in this post) and me being able to also be there for H. Perhaps if I had supplemented with formula or even given myself more breaks to pump, I would’ve been in a better place. (Side note: I think I was terrified of exclusively pumping because the one, full day I did it was when I came down with another case of mastitis…) Just know that whatever you chose to do and however you feed your baby, you should feel supported 110%. If you’re struggling, I’m happy to share any more details or answer any any questions you may have. I was lucky to have a few good friends who shared their experiences with tongue ties, which helped me through it all.
That being said, Wyatt has been exclusively breastfed for over 11 months now. 11 months of learning, pumping, and countless bottles to wash. But also 11 months of providing him nourishment and watching those rolls grow – with my body. Women are amazing.
He turns 1 in a few short weeks and I’m basically in denial. Our breastfeeding journey is definitely coming to an end. He has self-weaned much like his big sis. He isn’t super interested in nursing much on weekends, and I’m cut down on pumping sessions during the work week. It’s enough to make sure he’s getting the nutrients he needs, but honestly, he’s just SO into food. I can’t blame him! We’re using the last bit of my freezer stash (which I am grateful to have), and will begin the gradual switch to whole milk.
I am thankful for the resources to continue our journey. I also know many women and families are not as fortunate. I definitely think society in general is mostly supportive of breastfeeding moms. However, I believe we still have a ways to go in terms of awareness and resources for those who do not have it. There are some phenomenal groups doing just that. If you’re interested, I’d start with WABA’s World Breastfeeding Week website. So many amazing resources in one place – depending on what you’re looking for.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of breastfeeding?