Breastfeeding is such an emotional topic. It’s not a walk in the park and I don’t share my story to brag or to ellicit sympathy, but rather because I hope it’s helpful to someone out there struggling or maybe sometime in the future I may need these words to look back on and be reminded. *The words boob and nipple will be used in this post; consider yourself warned.*
Day 1: A Rough Start
Layla has arrived, I’m incredibly grateful and exhausted and enraptured. As she lays on my chest I’m feeling all the good-mommy vibes and one of the nurses encouraged me to try nursing her. I did and after 5 minutes or so she asked me if it hurt at all. I replied “yes, a little bit” so she asked me to unlatch Layla and low and behold she wasn’t latched on my nipple at all, she had just given me hicky. Ha! In some sense this start sums up the beginning of breastfeeding for us.
Weeks 1-2: Pain and Confusion
Excruciating. Layla wasn’t latching properly and I didn’t know how to help her/didn’t realize it was as bad as it was. Layla was cluster feeding with a bad latch and I literally broke down. (Cracked and bleeding nipples will do that to you.) At about 3:30 am after non-stop feeding for hours, Nate gave her about 2 ounces in a bottle. I cried the entire time, certain that she would prefer the bottle, never nurse again, and I would be a failure as a mother. Actually what she did was sleep for 3 hours. The next day I saw a lactation consultant who was incredibly helpful. It seemed my supply had not yet caught up with Layla’s demand so she suggested pumping to help increase my supply as well as supplementing Layla with a bottle (from the pumped supply) when she was still hungry. I also bought a My Breast Friend nursing support pillow and that made a huge difference. One piece of advice she gave me that really stuck with me is:
“You are the parent. You know what she should and shouldn’t be doing, even now she needs you to lead and guide her. You have to fight for the good latch and be the parent.”
Somehow her words gave me gumption to reattach and retry time as often as needed in those early days. I also distinctly remember 3 experienced moms telling me that it was absolutely okay and I was still a good mom if I didn’t breastfeed. Somehow they knew I need to hear that giving your baby a bottle didn’t make you “lesser” and they all had healthy, happy, smart, attached bottle fed children. Also, Layla was a sloooow eater. It took her 40 minutes to eat. Hence, I watched a lot of T.V. shows and movies in those early days.
Weeks 2-10: Supply and Demand vs Stress
Sometime around the week 2 mark the latch finally clicked. My supply didn’t increase though. I took supplements, pumped a ton, ate lactation cookies and oats and still I literally got drops from pumping and Layla was still hungry. I was stressed out over it so I just stopped. I would do my best feeding Layla, eating healthy, but I wasn’t going to get upset over feeding her a small bit of formula. I ended up supplementing Layla with 2-4 ounces of formula after her late afternoon and early feedings. And then when she was about 10 weeks she stopped needing the extra. I think once I relaxed things just came together. I know it doesn’t always happen like that, but it did for me.
Weeks 12+: Easy and Natural
Finally, we got to the “this is easy and natural” stage! We took trips and Layla just ate along. (I used my Bebe Au Lait nursing cover most of the time or found a private room to nurse–I don’t know very many babies that enjoy nursing under a tent!) She has always been a slow eater, but she finally got a little faster, about 20 minutes, which was helpful. I had a small hiccup around 4 months when I was diagnosed with hormone-related eczema, which was a super-awesome rash on my breasts induced by breastfeeding. Fantastic. It cleared up somewhat, but I didn’t like using the cream they gave me, so once it was bearable I stopped using it.
Month 10-11: Ending Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has been great, but around 10 months I just felt tired and “done”. I’m proud of every moment that I breastfed Layla, but I was ready to stop. After our trip to Texas, when Layla was 10 1/2 months, I started slowly weaning her. The bottles she likes most are MAM brand. Although weaning her was bittersweet, I was able to really enjoy and be in the moment during her last times breastfeeding. I’m grateful for all the time we had breastfeeding, but I’m also thankful that this stage, like all good things, has come to an end.
Feeding Layla bottles for these last few weeks has gone really well. I had this silly fear that she would love the bottle more than me. For the record, she doesn’t. 🙂 I still cuddle her while she eats and whisper “I love yous” and press soft kisses in her hair.
Weight Loss While Breastfeeding:
I initially lost maybe 12ish pounds in the first two weeks after having Layla. I slowly added weight back on until in June I weighed the same as when I delivered. I joined Weight Watchers for a month, did MyFitnessPal and nothing really seemed to move the stubborn scale. So in late June I decided just to focus on what I could change. I tried to eat as healthy as I could and worked hard in the gym. In October I did the Advocare 24 Day Challenge (adapted for breastfeeding) and lost 10 pounds. That was so amazing! I have added back about 3 pounds, but my measurements are smaller so make of it what you will. I’m definitely NOT one of those women for whom breastfeeding helped lose weight. It has been stalled and painstakingly slow and I’m still not there yet. My encouragement is to take it one day at a time, this phase is not forever, and experiment until you find what helps you lose weight while breastfeeding. It might not be what has always worked before.
So to summarize:
- Breastfeeding is really, really hard. I know my challenges are small potatoes compared to some things others go through, so I just want to say it is hard and there is no way to really prepare for it. You CAN however seek help and support!
- Breastfeeding is rewarding. Really, really rewarding and I’m grateful that I was able to nurse her for as long as I did.
- Breastfeeding may not be the “magic weight loss pill” the brochures at your doctor’s office make it out to be. That’s okay; your body is doing something amazing even if it isn’t losing weight. I also asked myself if I’d rather be 20 pounds heavier or sleep 8 hours at night. Some people are blessed to lose their baby weight fast, some are blessed to have a good sleeper, and some are blessed in other ways. Don’t waste away your blessing, looking at someone else’s!
- Feeding a baby–no matter how you do it, is a nurturing act. It doesn’t make it more or less nurturing if you do it with your boob or a bottle. You can “check out” of both and you can be fully present in both.
- Be kind; just be kind. If you see a woman out breastfeeding, don’t be snarky, judge, or make a fuss. Buy her a freaking latte and say “good job”. Do the same if you see a mama out bottlefeeding. It’s a tough world and parents need to stick together! (Love THIS VIDEO)
- Take pictures and vidoe while nursing. I have some really precious and personal picture I took while feeding Layla and I know I’ll treasure them always.
Did you breastfeed or bottle feed? Do you have any “feeding” advice for new moms?