Jackie and Ryder
My breastfeeding journey…the Good, the Ugly, and my Truth
My breastfeeding journey began when I was pregnant. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I planned on breastfeeding for at least a year. I researched, purchased all the products I needed and waited on my little guy to arrive so that we could start our beautiful journey together. I had an unexpected c-section birth, but my milk still came in without any issues. My first issue with breastfeeding came hours after my little guy was born. We had a consultation with the in hospital lactation consultant. She helped me latch my son and noticed that he was not getting a good latch and gave me a nipple shield to help him. He was able to latch then and nurse. Things were going great until a day or so later, another lactation consultant visited us and told me that I should not use the nipple shield anymore. I was a new mom, with no breastfeeding experience and knew I wanted to breastfeed for the long haul, so I took her advice. My son and I had a horrible day and night of breastfeeding. I could not get him to latch, he was frustrated and hungry and I was frustrated and exhausted. Finally, at some point that evening, my husband said to me, “Just use the shield.” Some damage had already been done as my son had lost almost 11% of his body weight. When his pediatrician checked him that next morning (she is also a lactation consultant), she told me not to worry about the nipple shield and that if it came to it, she would work with me and him to wean him off of the shield. We were released to go home, but we had to have a few extra weight checks, due to him losing so much weight at the hospital. After going back to the nipple shield, he started gaining weight immediately, and the pediatrician was not worried about our breastfeeding journey anymore.
The first three weeks of my son’s life were tough on me. I was recovering from major surgery and was thrust into motherhood and trying to figure out breastfeeding. He wasn’t taking a bottle yet so all the feeding were on me. When the pediatrician gave the ok to start introducing a bottle, I felt a weight lift off of me, finally a small break. Getting that small break meant pumping on top of exclusively nursing. So when I wasn’t feeding (which he cluster fed a lot in the beginning), I had to find the time to sit and pump. After the first 3 weeks, I started to get the hang of things, and it was actually pretty nice. I had to do a lot of sitting any way since I was recovering from surgery. I spent so many mornings and nights cuddled up with my son in the glider in his nursery. I think back now on those times and remember them fondly. I remember thinking to myself, people said this breastfeeding thing was going to be hard, but I think it’s kinda easy and I enjoy it. We were also co-sleeping, so it made life so much easier to just scoop him up and nurse him, versus having to go downstairs to make a bottle. But soon I was on the mend from surgery and life slowly got back to “normal” or the new normal.
I took 12 weeks of maternity leave, but while on maternity leave, my husband and I decided that it was best for our family for me to become a stay at home mom. I was excited to take on this new journey, to be able to witness all my sons first and to take care of him full time. As I took on my new normal, breastfeeding became more and more of a challenge for me. I felt like I was always sitting on the couch with my boobs out. If I wasn’t feeding, I was pumping. Either my nipples were sore or cracked or my boobs were engorged and painful. I had always been athletic and wanted to get back into working out. That also presented its challenges. I had to find a sports bra that fit, I had to make sure I was drinking and eating enough and the right things to not effective my supply, and try to fit in a workout around feeding times and nap times. Around 4 months postpartum, I began to feel touched out. I was still recovering from surgery, still carrying baby weight, and felt like I constantly had someone attached to my body. I didn’t want my husband to hug me or even kiss me, I couldn’t deal with the constant contact. I needed some alone time, that I felt I never got. But on the flipside, I also felt very lonely like breastfeeding had stranded me on a deserted island. I felt like I couldn’t go out, or if I did go out, I had to think about nursing in public or pumping, etc. and while I am feeling supportive of mother’s nursing in public, I myself had a hard time with it. My son hated the nursing cover and to be honest I did too, it was a pain in the butt.
So I was touched out but also lonely, and then I had changed my entire life, I became a mom, I stopped working, and I couldn’t work out like I used to. My life felt so foreign to me and while I loved my son and loved being with him, I also was very sad and felt like a horrible mom because of it. I would sometimes think to myself, “This is the way things are supposed to be. Mom’s give up their lives to have babies. You will figure it out soon.” But a few more weeks went by and I hadn’t “figured it out” yet, and I started talking to a few of my friends about my feelings. My husband and I had a long discussion and decided to start supplementing with formula. My son did great and the break was helpful, it helped us continue our breastfeeding journey for longer than I probably would have without it. The mommy guilt I felt was horrible. I put so much pressure on myself. “I am a stay at home mom, there’s no reason I shouldn’t breastfeed.” “You are so lucky you can breastfeed, so people can never do it.” “Breastmilk is the most nutritious for the baby.” I felt like a failure sometimes, I hadn’t even made it to 6 months and I was thinking about quitting.
We continued nursing until my son was 7 months old, we slowly increased the supplementing until my son was mostly on formula. He was only really nursing in the morning and at night and my husband and I made the decision to just wean him. And I actually think my son was ready because he really didn’t have any issues transitioning. He would (still does occasionally) pull at my shirt, but I think it was more out of comfort than anything else. When our breastfeeding journey was finally over, I was a little sad to think about all the time and closeness we shared that we wouldn’t have any more, and I was a little guilty, but truthfully, it was the best decision for our family. Ending my breastfeeding journey was a HUGE weight lifted off of me. I wasn’t resentful anymore, my boobs stopped hurting, I could get back into working out (something I truly enjoy), the baby weight began pouring off of me and I began to feel like my old self again. I know there will probably be some moms who read this who think that I am super selfish for wanting those things (to be able to work out and lose my baby weight), but the truth is I changed my entire life to be a mom and if working is the one thing that brings me joy and makes me feel good about myself, then I’m going to do it.
When I was preparing for breastfeeding, I never read any stories like this, I never read anything about how breastfeeding made the mother feel. I read about the benefits of breastfeeding, the how to’s and more, but I never read anything about the emotional toll of breastfeeding. So to the new mom who reads my blog post and maybe relates, it’s ok to feel how you are feeling and doesn’t make you a bad mom. One of my doula’s told me, “If it weren’t for formula, many babies on the earth would not survive.” It took me some time to be ok with ending our breastfeeding journey before I thought we would, but it’s the best decision I have made for myself, and really for our family, because we are ALL now happy and healthy!