What made you decide you wanted to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding seemed like the most obvious choice when we decided how to feed our firstborn. Although I planned to pump and bottle feed for some meals after I returned to work, we wanted to establish a good breastfeeding relationship if at all possible. To be honest, most of it was laziness on my part - formula was expensive, and I didn't want to have one more thing to carry or prepare for. Breast was free, convenient, and had a lot of benefits for both of us.
What complications did you have nursing/bottle feeding? How did you overcome them?
With my oldest, we had a very smooth nursing/pumping/bottle feeding experience. I expected the same with my second child. However, in true mama's boy fashion, he decided early on he would only accept the breast - no bottle at all. In some ways, it made the whole process much smoother, as I wasn't having to pump multiple times a day or make sure there were clean bottles or stored milk.
However, it also made it much more difficult for my husband and I to go on dates or for me to leave for more than a couple of hours. If I had been returning to a job outside the home, I would have had to keep trying to get him to take a bottle, but as it was, we decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting for.
When he was little, he also had serious reflux. He would vomit 3 times a day, at least. Not only could no one else feed him from a bottle, but no one else was getting vomited on several times a day either. The reflux was aided with medication and with changing nursing positions (head more elevated). Eventually he grew out of it, but he never did happily learn to accept a bottle. Now that he is [older], he mostly nurses but can be supplemented with yogurt so I can have some time away.
Since you were giving some bottles, how did pumping fit into your life? Was there something that was particularly difficult when it came to pumping?
Thankfully with my son, I only pumped for a short time period. It was a different story when I was feeding my daughter. I pumped 5 times a day for her. Once right before I nursed her in the morning (my letdown was so strong it often made her vomit), 3 times during the workday, and once before I went to bed. That was a ton of bottles, a lot of time spent washing pump parts, and just a lot of added stress. Even after I stopped working, I still pumped for months - until she was a year old. At that time I decided to stop storing milk and let her eat just from me until she self-weaned (at 14 months).
How did you feel when your daughter self-weaned? I know a lot of moms have a harder time accepting that then they think they would.
It definitely made me cry when she decided on her own that she was done, but it was good timing. I was 10 weeks pregnant with #2 and my body had been struggling to sustain nursing and a new life. Plus, we were about to be apart for 7 days, so the timing was actually a blessing that I didn't have to worry about feeding her and being gone.
Where did you find support, guidance, and common ground when it came to nursing?
My husband has been my biggest support. He bottle fed both of our kids when I was too tired to nurse, but he would also make sure I had pillows and snacks and water and a comfortable place to sit. He knew it was saving us money and helping me shed baby weight, but more than that - he knew it was important to me to be able to do it. The very first night at home with our oldest, she wouldn't latch and I (tearfully) opened up some formula for her.
My husband supported each decision I made. Whether it was a one-time formula meal because I was so stressed about nursing, or whether it was spending lots of one-on-one time with each baby to make sure they had a good meal - he cheered me on. I never felt like he thought I was making bad decisions about how to feed our babies.
What do you love about nursing?
Each baby does funny things while breastfeeding. My daughter used to stroke her hand down my breast. Almost as if she was coaxing the milk out. My son likes to play with my hair and stare at me and have me kiss his hands. Since he began crawling, he also gets himself contorted in strange positions while eating. Even though it often hurts because he's tugging on me, it makes me laugh. I guess what I love most are the quiet moments with them to see their personality and to pray for them. I know this period in their lives is so fleeting, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity have this one thing that is OURS.
Was nursing everything you thought it would be? Or how was/is it different?
It was much better than I expected. I thought nursing would be so painful and that it would make my nipples incredibly sore and cracked. I'm really fortunate to not have had any of those issues. We've definitely had some trials (my daughter lost a ton of weight in the hospital, my son's reflux) but overall, it's been a great experience. My only regret is that if we have more children, we hope to adopt, and I will likely not be able to breastfeed them!
If you do adopt would you attempt to induce your milk again to be able to breastfeed?
I think if we adopt sooner than later, I *might* try and nurse, but it's probably doubtful. I'd have to do more research on what that looks like. Ideally, our adopted babies would be a little older (6+ months), so there wouldn't be as much impetus to do so. If we had a newborn though, I might be persuaded to try again, but at this point, I'm ready to have my body back when my son weans. Although he still nurses 6+ times a day at almost a year, so it could still be a while!
What is your opinion on nursing in public? And has anyone interacted with you while doing so?
I'm all for nursing in public. Personally, I almost always use a cover, but that's just my own body issues. It's so convenient to just have my cover and be able to feed whenever, wherever. I've had several older ladies approach me while feeding babies and congratulate me, talk about how cute the kids are, tell me to keep up the good work, etc. It's always been positive to my face :) I think because I do use a cover, no one has ever said anything negative. There have been times at tables in restaurants, etc., that I can tell it makes our waiter uncomfortable. They usually just avoid eye contact with me, but again, I use a cover, so I don't mind that extra "privacy," whether they're doing it for my sake or theirs!
What advice do you have for other families out there who are just starting out or having some difficulties themselves?
Have lots of pillows everywhere. Raising baby up to your [height] will help your back so much. If this is your first child, enjoy the solitude of being able to sit quietly and feed or binge-watch TV. Wear belly bands forever, because they cover your tummy if you're a shirt-lifter instead of a shirt-pull-downer. If your child won't latch but you know they're hungry, one formula meal won't ruin them forever. Do what you need to take care of YOU - baby's smiles and the milk will all come much easier if you're not freaking out. Talk to lactation consultants at the hospital or afterwards - they are amazingly helpful! Fennel essential oil was a lifesaver for my milk supply!
Feel free to comment below with how your journey is going. If you would like to share your story along with all of the beautiful ladies who already have please send me a message here. I would be happy to document your story both in words and in pictures.