As mothers, we have a lot of decisions that have to be made on a daily basis. One of the very first decisions we make is whether or not to breastfeed. When I was pregnant with my first, it was almost a no-brainer for me. I wanted to nurse my baby. To me, the health reasons seemed numerous: it builds natural immunity, it’s great for psychological development, it’s a bonding experience, etc.
Of course, it didn’t end up looking how I thought it was supposed to. So,when the opportunity came up to do a guest blog post about something to do with motherhood, I thought, “Why not share my breastfeeding experience with other moms who might need some encouragement?”
The First Attempt
I tried from the beginning to get my newborn daughter to nurse. But she had trouble latching on. She weighed just over five pounds, and I think that maybe she was just too tiny to get it going. I had the nurses work with me and I tried at every feeding, but she just couldn’t latch on. It was very frustrating, to say the least.
Here I was, a new mom, with all these images of how wonderful it would be to hold my newborn, nurse and bond with her. However, it just wasn’t working that way. She cried. I cried.
Click to read 7 Breastfeeding FAQ’s answered by a lactation consultant.
I was told to keep trying, and that eventually she would get it. But I didn’t have the patience. Everything was so new and overwhelming. You can read and read and listen to everyone’s advice—but your experience is still going to be just that: YOUR experience.
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After a while—a couple weeks, I think—I decided I would just keep pumping and give her bottles of breastmilk. I had rented a pump, and after about three months, I was still only getting a couple ounces of pumped milk each time. I had to supplement her feedings with formula. It really wasn’t the end of the world. At least I wasn’t frustrating my hungry, screaming infant by trying to get her to latch on every few hours.
Pro Tip: Rent a breast pump from your local hospital, as it is usually cheaper than buying one outright and you don’t have to find a new home for it afterwards.
We had settled into a nice routine, and she was a happy, healthy baby.
Around the four-month mark, I made the decision to return the pump and just go with formula. I knew a little bit of breastmilk was better than none, but at the same time, she wasn’t really getting much breastmilk at all from me. I felt like my time spent pumping would be better spent snuggling her, talking and reading to her. After all, fed is best. (She ended up being both an early talker and an early reader, so this paid off, in retrospect!)
Let’s Try Again
When my second baby girl arrived 15 months later, I tried the nursing route again. She was an eight-pound baby, the biggest of my three. It was still a bit frustrating for the first week or so, but she did eventually learn to latch on. I could definitely tell she was trying harder than my oldest did.
It was a lot easier to wake up and nurse than it was to wake up and have to go downstairs to warm up a bottle, like I had to do with my first. Although, with breastfeeding, that meant I couldn’t ask my husband get up with her in the night. I really didn’t mind, though. She would usually fall asleep while nursing and was pretty easy to get put back down to sleep when she was done.
Pro Tip: If you are using formula, keep the appropriate amount of water in the bottles and set them aside. This way, all you have to do is add the appropriate amount of formula powder when it’s time to feed baby.
I was still supplementing her with formula until she was eating baby food. During the day she would breastfeed, she would seem content, then she would start screaming a short while later. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. There were a couple times I had to just leave the room and let her scream for a few minutes, because nothing I did would make her stop.
Finally, one day, I thought, “maybe she’s still hungry.” Sure enough, a small bottle of formula contented her for a while. So I started giving her some formula in between feedings. I was so glad she wasn’t screaming anymore.
At eight months old, she bit me pretty hard, and my husband made the comment that maybe it was time to wean her. Since she was eating baby food pretty well, I decided to slow down on the nursing. She was easy to wean, and it didn’t take long to do.
I did miss the nursing when she was completely weaned, though. It was like the end of an era. And I wasn’t planning on having any more children, so it was sort of bittersweet, and I had wished I would have gone longer.
Third Time’s a Charm
Fast forward a few years, we decided when the girls were a bit older to try for a boy. And once again, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. He was quicker to get into a routine than his sister was. And he nursed like a champ!
Pro Tip: If you are embarrassed (not that you should be) to breastfeed in public, you can bring formula or expressed milk in the diaper bag.
I would still keep formula on hand, but it was mostly just used if we were out and about and I didn’t feel like stopping what we were doing to sit down and nurse. Usually, for him, I kept those small bottles of pre-made formula in his diaper bag. Rarely did I give him formula at home.
He was an easy peasy baby and it seemed like I always had enough to keep him content. I usually had a couple bottles of pumped milk in the fridge for my husband to give him if I wasn’t home, in the shower or sleeping. And boy was it nice to not have to make formula all the time!
This time, I decided I would let him choose when he was ready to be weaned. I remembered how sad it was when my daughter was weaned, and this was my last child, so I didn’t want to have any regrets. By the end, he was only nursing a few times a day and usually not for very long, but he was 14 months when he was finally done.
My breastfeeding experiences were definitely not “textbook” in any way. It certainly wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There was work involved and frustration along the way. Every child is different and has different needs.
It is important to adapt to your baby’s individual needs, just like you’ll have to do for the rest of their life. When I look back on the time of diapers and daily naps, I am certain that I did what was best for each of my three kiddos.