August 1-7 marks World Breastfeeding Week and I thought I would take the opportunity to share my own breastfeeding story.
With the recent birth of my son, I have bounced back into the world of breastfeeding. Some women love breastfeeding, but I have always thought of breastfeeding as a chore, like the laundry. It’s just something you need to do because it has to be done.
With my firstborn, I nursed her for 3 years. Honestly, I never thought I would make it past 6 months. I remember feeling trapped in a chair for an hour while I nursed her and I resented it. I resented the on-demand feeding cycle I had become trapped in. Even though I understood the health benefits and the bonding that would develop from breastfeeding, I still became very depressed. I also remember taking it one day at a time. If I can just make it to 6 months. If I can just make it to a year.
As Allana grew older and solid foods entered the scene, breastfeeding seemed less of a chore, however, at 18 months, she still nursed twice in the middle of the night. Around that same time, my husband lost his job and I decided to seize the moment as a chance to wean my toddler from her middle of the night feedings. I believe that was the first time Dad actually understood how frustrating it can be trying to function on very little sleep due to nursings.
I always thought I would stop breastfeeding by the time my daughter could talk, but at three years old, Allana still nursed 3 times a day: early morning, naptime and bedtime. Basically, I was her pacifier and her security blankie. Nonetheless I embraced these comfort nursings as an opportunity to reflect and talk about the events of our day together.
When Allana was three, Allan and I decided to have another baby and I felt it was a good time to slowly wean her off the breast. I eliminated the bedtime nursings first. I delegated bedtime routine to Allan to help transition Allana off the breast and to begin preparing for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. If I was feeding a newborn, I would be unable to nurse Allana. The plan worked beautifully.
When I became pregnant with baby #2, I decided to stop nursing Allana cold turkey, even though we were only down to two nursings a day: early morning and naptime. I explained to her that mommy had a baby growing in her belly and if she still drank “mommy milk” it could hurt the baby, because the baby needed the nutrients to grow inside mommy. My little Allana seemed to except that idea.
After nursing Allana for 3 years, I thought I was a breastfeeding pro. When Emmalynn was born, I felt confident with my lactating ability. However, Mother Nature and my baby’s personality threw me a curveball and I struggled nursing with her. Emmalynn was not a proficient nurser, like Allana. The hour I spent in a chair nursing Allana as an infant proved that she was patient and knew how to work the breast to get the hindmilk. Emmalynn was the opposite. She latched poorly but even when she latched properly, she nursed for less than ten minutes on each breast and never drank the hindmilk. However, it wasn’t until her 4 month wellness visit and I began pumping that I realized what was occurring.
From two months to four months of age, Emmalynn only gained half a pound. She was labeled “failure to thrive” and our pediatrician ordered me to start supplementing with formula. He advised me to keep breastfeeding and pumping, but Emmalynn needed regular bottle feedings. However, once the bottle of formula was introduced, little Emmalynn wanted nothing to my breastmilk. I continued to offer her the breast for night feedings, but eventually she refused that too. Whereas constantly breastfeeding once depressed me, ironically I felt sad that now my breastfeeding days were short lived with Emmalynn.
Since I have always followed the “demand feeding” schedule, I never had any breastmilk stored. Now, I found myself pumping continuously. As I pumped, I learned a little about my milk production. I only made 4 ounces between the two breasts and I had a slow letdown. Plus, I realized that it took 20 minutes for the hindmilk to come.
When I delivered baby #3, I learned that Liam has acid reflux; therefore, the hospital staff recommended little feedings. Since little feedings seems to be my natural lactating style, things may work out wonderfully. *Fingers-crossed*
With the arrival of baby #3, I feel less like a breastfeeding pro, but a bit more knowledgeable. So far, it seems that Liam latches beautifully and he nurses very similar to Allana, which also means if I want to breastfeed my baby, I have to commit to an hour feedings once again and taking it one day at a time again. However these days, it feels less like laundry but more like cooking dinner. It’s just something I need to do to sustain a happy, healthy baby.