Sharing our breastfeeding journey thus far- the highs, the lows and everything else!
Breastfeeding is one of those things you read up about prior to giving birth but no amount of reading can really prepare you for it.
You can hope and pray that all those tips from those motherhood blogs work for you. That the baby latches well, feeds well and that you have that magical breastfeeding journey that a lot of us women aspire to have.
But until that first time you actually try to breastfeed, you have no idea how hard it is. How painful (it can be for some). How tiring. And yes, how magical.
When I was pregnant I (and I still do!) decided that a Fed is Best motto would be the one we would go with. Meaning that formula or breastmilk, whatever ended up working out for Aren is the approach we would take. In my mind though, I really hoped breastfeeding would work out and I wanted to hopefully last six months. Here’s how it has all played out:
First Few weeks
I was lucky that Aren had no immediate breastfeeding issues and despite some extremely cracked nipples after those first few days, we commenced our breastfeeding journey together. Oh but by the way, those first few days?! So hard. I remember thinking in my head how on earth am I going to make it to six months. I want to stop now!
As I’ve mentioned before, Aren had a very aggressive suction and that resulted in a lot of pain for me. After a nurses visit around day four, we decided to try the ‘laid back’ breastfeeding angle. It helped alleviate the pain a little but it was still not pleasant. I relied heavily on a doctor prescribed nipple cream to give me some relief and I honestly dreaded feeding time. Which in the beginning is every two hours. It was tough. I really mentally didn’t know how I could do this for a prolonged period of time. I would literally wince in pain every time he latched on. I did have a several nurses watch us and we had no problems like tongue tie or latch issues-he just literally had the strongest suction ever.
Aren also had that ‘baby witching hour’ syndrome in the evening. Luckily this lasted only about 4 weeks or so, but it was brutal to get him to feed around 7/8pm. He would essentially just cry and cry when it was time to feed. So I ended up pumping and on the nights that he was inconsolable we would just give him a bottle. Which he actually took quite well. The first time I gave him a bottle I did cry- I felt like he preferred the bottle to my boob and although I was gungho about fed is best, it still stung. (even though it was pumped milk. we are so tough on ourselves mamas! we’ve got to stop!)
It was around month three that I felt things immediately get easier. It took a good full 2 months to reach this point. It just magically happened one day. I was feeding him and had that aha moment when I realized how special this was becoming. Mind you it was more in those quiet evening feeds that I felt this. When the baby is half asleep, relaxed and it just finally gets to be this peaceful moment.
During the day it was a bit harder still. I was also developing an overactive let down which had problems of its own. Sometimes Aren would choke on the milk because it was just coming out too fast and he was sucking too fast. It was tough! I would feel so bad because once again, this is supposed to be magical. It’s supposed to be natural! And here is my baby literally choking on milk, sometimes crying- heck I was crying. And TMI for those new moms reading (veteran moms will totally get this) but there was a lot of milk being sprayed around during these sessions. He would unlatch and literally milk would fly around everywhere. I’d be wet, he’d be wet. It was a disaster. In the evenings this was a lot easier because he was calmer and the feeds were just way more seamless
At the time I was pumping whenever I could to fill the freezer. To help alleviate the overactive letdown problem, I ultimately stopped pumping extra milk. That being said I would still pump if I was missing a feeding and he was taking a bottle of my milk. But I wouldn’t pump if I just felt like my boobs were full or had extra milk in them. This ultimately helped regulate my supply even more. That along with Aren getting a bit older resulted in us finally overcoming that breastfeeding hurdle.
I’ve only now started to pump for the freezer again. I’ll be chatting more about pumping and getting my milk supply up in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!
So finally I had made it to my goal of six months. What had seemed impossible at times had finally been realized. Without hesitating I decided to keep going with the breastfeeding. Aren was gaining weight well and on his current percentile projection (he was usually above 75-80 at each check in!). Plus we were going to start solids so he’d have another source of calories as well. At this point I even had to give a friend a box of formula that I had stored as back up as it was going to expire.
I’d say this is the point in time where all the stars aligned for me and I really started to enjoy my breastfeeding experience. It took six months guys! Six months. I did not think for a minute that it would take this long. That it would be so hard, so painful. But it’s true what they say in that it’s really magical to watch your child nourish themselves just through you. It’s a bond I will always cherish. Evening feeds were and still are my favourite ones because he is the most relaxed and quiet. No distractions. Just us. At six months day time feeds started to get a little quicker because he was just so distracted with his surroundings. TBH this probably lasted a good 6-8 weeks.
At just short of ten months, I am still breastfeeding Aren with no immediate plans to stop. If we are out for the day I will always have a bottle of pumped milk with me because he is a distracted baby. I learnt this the hard way when we were on a road trip to Boston and he wouldn’t nurse because he was way too stimulated by the rest areas. I luckily had my Haaka pump with me and I literally had to pump milk as Ara was driving. He needs pumped milk when we are out, otherwise he won’t feed till we get back home.
But if we are home it’s strictly nursing which works for us. And I now can say that I love breastfeeding. I love watching him curl up on me and relax with milk. I love watching him play with my hair with one hand, and hold on to me tight with the other. And I love how amazing breast milk is. Do you know that when you’re sick, your body actually produced antibodies in your breastmilk to protect your baby against illness? MAGIC.
Someone asked me when I was going to stop- apparently the sooner you wean them the easier it is. But to be honest I have no plans to do it anytime soon. Until he’s a year old he will definitely be breastfeeding (unless I can’t keep up my supply). And at that point we will take a look and see what is best for him.
I am still a Fed is Best advocate and am actually planning on buying some formula soon to keep at the house for emergencies and in case my milk dries up sooner that anticipated. To be honest I’ve contemplated topping him up with formula sometimes to ensure he has enough milk but until now there hasn’t been a need. His doctor said he is getting enough. We have another appointment in a few weeks so we will check his weight and once again make a decision on what is best for him.
Breastfeeding definitely isn’t easy. It isn’t immediately that magical for everyone. And even though there are countless guides on how to nurse your child easier, along with tips and even pictures, no manual is really going to prepare you for it. Every child is different and every relationship between a mom and her baby is different. All that to say, don’t be discouraged if you start off hating breastfeeding. Like I said above, it took me 6 MONTHS to actually enjoy it.
If you are set on doing it- wait it out and those enjoyable moments will come, I promise. And if those tough moments are really eating at your soul, there’s nothing wrong with ending your breastfeeding journey. A happy mom is better than a stressed mom any day of the week.
Ps can we discuss these photos!? I so desperately wanted to capture ‘that magical moment’ in picture form but it’s like Aren just knows what I am trying to do and wants none of it. This was I believe the third time Lisa Renault tried to photograph us breastfeeding. And guys, this is the best set we have 😉 I love them though because it’s pretty much Aren in a nutshell! We’ll hopefully give it a go one more time, but I guess there’s always future baby #2 to try with!