This is my breastfeeding story.
It's long, it's hard, it will make you angry and maybe a little sad, but it does have a happy ending I promise.
I have talked in the past about my decision to breastfeed Natalia for as long as we both want.
Her second birthday that’s coming up in tomorrow, marks the goal I had set in mind as I took on this breastfeeding journey. Actually the two years mark was my super, duper, I’ll-be-the-happiest-mom-ever-if-I-pull-this-through goal. So as you can guess I am super duper happy!
But I didn’t start out that way.
Anyone who's been a mom knows how difficult, frustrating and exhilarating all at once, breastfeeding is. Regardless of whether you made it work effortlessly or something didn't go as planed, of whether you did it exclusively or you used supplements, or whether it lasted a couple of months or a couple of years, it was a challenging experience I am sure! For me it was the one thing I stressed most about from the moment I gave birth.
Well not exactly that moment but the next day when the doctors told us she's lost a lot of weight (a lie), she's having an elevated jaundice (another lie) and then finally when they said she's hypoglycemic (yet another lie). I stood my ground and refused a formula supplement when they said about her weight and jaundice but I gave up when they told me that hypoglycemia could make her seizure (not a lie but not a truth either with her test results).
You see I thought I was very well informed. I had read everything I could get my hands on about the difficulties of breastfeeding, about doctors pushing hard for formula and all the things they could say to convince you, but I missed the hypoglycemia lie. So, when Natalia was born a bit on the small size (just 2580grams) they said she was too small to nurse effectively (the biggest lie of all, since she latched on as soon as I held her and never let go!) and she should have some formula. I ended up giving her a bottle (30ml) in order for them to let me take her home. We stayed an extra day in the maternity hospital and left after giving her 3 bottles of formula and her gaining 100grams in one day (talk about sugar, right?).
When we went home I breastfed her exclusively for a couple of days but then her doctor told us to give her some more formula since she wasn't gaining the 30grams per day she supposed to. Needless to say I have changed doctors after a couple of months.
That was the downhill for us. That, and a wrong decision on the part of the lactation specialist we hired to help us with my milk production. She was right when she told me to buy a supplemental nursing system (SNS) but she was wrong when she told me to use it in every feeding! I should have used it in half the feedings and give her the boob alone for the rest.
Long story short, I used an SNS for 4 whole months. My life consisted of writing down how much she ate and how much I could cut of off her formula so that she could exclusively breastfeed someday. For those of you not familiar with a SNS it’s this bottle thing shown in the photo that has two thin tubes that end up on your boobs.
The logistics of using such a thing have a learning curve as wide as a pregnant belly (see what I did here?). You are supposed to fill the bottle with the formula, close the tubes, wear that thing on your neck as a jewel, and tape (yes actual tape) the end of the tubes on your boob just below your areola. The goal is for the baby to latch on your breast and drink from the tube too. Easier said than done. Honestly, I look back and I am amazed I didn’t kick the thing to hyperspace after so many fails, plugged tubes, baby not latching, baby crying, me crying, both of us crying and so on.
Oh and you should have seen me trying to use this thing outside! Oh the fun we had!!! Nick said I look like a modern tribal woman wearing the SNS like a necklace. I didn’t find that funny to be honest. Then again I didn’t find many things funny when I had a human parasite attached on my boobs!
I also rented a very expensive hospital grade pump and tried really hard to pump but it wasn’t happening. I am not sure if my breasts weren’t responding to the pump or the small amounts I was able to get (10-15ml of milk from both breasts each time) was all that I had.
So exclusively breastfeeding Natalia never happened!
There was never a day in the first six months after taking her home that I managed to cut of her formula and just give her my milk. The one thing I am grateful for is that she never drunk more than 200ml of formula a day and that Nick, being Nick researched high and low and found an organic goat milk formula but that's not much to be grateful for is it? I mean I know I could have breastfed my baby exclusively, I just know it!
Natalia was a happy infant but I personally think now in retrospect that she was never really full. She used to cry every one and half hours and wouldn’t sleep for more than that. I feel sorry if the reason for that is that she was hungry. That all changed when I introduced solids at six months old.
She went from a thin little thing to a little on the chubby side in a couple of months. She now has a pretty cool relationship with food and that’s partly because she’s a cool kid and because we let her eat when she wants and how much she wants without any pressure. That’s the fun things about attachment parenting!
Anyway, by the time her first birthday came around, I stopped the formula and gave her small amounts of fresh organic goat milk. She drinks really small amounts like 50-100 in the morning and before bed too and she breastfeeds on demand.
The second year of our breastfeeding journey was really easier on both of us. She nurses when she wants to but also listens when I say I am a bit tired after she’s gone boob surfing all night long.
We did have some ups and downs when I got breastfeeding aversion (I wanted to scream GET OF MY F*CKING TIT!!!) due to lack of sleep but we are past through that now. And I did suffer when she started biting me but I used the gentle method and asked her not to because mommy is hurting. She got the message but not until some months (and a lot of pain) went through.
Recently I participated on a gentle weaning seminar in order to find the way to night wean her gently in hopes of sleeping better. It hasn’t worked yet but I hope it will soon and it will improve our sleep.
But I am not looking to wean her totally. Ideally I want her to naturally wean on her own time but I am not sure I am ok with waiting for a year for this to happen. I am so grateful that I was able to continue nursing her till now!
So here’s to me and my lovely Natalia for managing this wonderful journey for two whole years! I am high fiving myself and no, that’s not weird. We need to celebrate our achievements from time to time!
And if I did it YOU CAN DO IT TOO!!!
If you really want to breastfeed your child here are some things you need to know beforehand.
- You can do it. All women -with no medical reason not to – can.
- You need help. All women do.
- It will hurt. It will stop hurting after 3-4 months. Then it will hurt again when they start to bite. It will stop hurting again.
- You will feel trapped. It will go away.
- You will feel overtouched. It will go away.
- You will feel euphoric that you made it! It will never go away.
- You will feel hunger. Use your husband or your loved ones to feed you.
- You will feel exhaustion. Every mother does. Bf or not!
- You will get bored. Here’s a list of things you can do while breastfeeding to keep sane.
- You will be tempted to give formula. When that happens wait a day. Use that day to educate yourself and talk to a lactation specialist. Then go ahead and do what you decide is best for your child. Do not listen to anyone else! You are the mom, you are the decision maker.
- You will not be able to easily lose weight. Doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you are going to be lucky on this. Maybe not. It’s ok, you will lose it later on.
- You will never feel more connected to another human being. Ever! Enjoy the feeling, you got this mama!
- You may or may not experience trouble when you nurse your kid in public. I didn't. Other than one time when an older lady gave me dirty looks in a high end restaurant, I bf Natalia EVERYWHERE and I was never mom shamed. I hope you won't too!
A note for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed their kid(s). You are still a good mom, you can still be my friend. This post was not written to shame or offend you. This is my story and I would love to hear yours!
Lots of love