My Breastfeeding Journey

I hate using the word: journey. It makes me feel like I'm on the Bachelor. Is adventure a more appropriate word? Haha. In honor of National Breastfeeding Week (Month?), I wanted to break down what it was like for me because I do get questions and I've never talked about it in it's entirety. I was inspired to write this post by Nikki Butler, so click to read her breastfeeding journey. 

Let's preface this: no matter how you feed your baby, fed is best. When you're pregnant, you're bombarded with the notion that breastfeeding is best, but you also see the negativity and shaming that comes along with it. I don't even just mean the nursing in public, but the way it can make moms who can't (or choose not to) breastfeed feel. Just like with most mommy type things, I went into the idea of breastfeeding with an open mind. If I could do it, I would and if I couldn't, or if I didn't feel like it was the best fit, I wouldn't. I'll be sharing the best products for me from clothing items, accessories, pumping supplies, etc. This is what worked for me and I wanted to share my experience in hopes that it might encourage or help someone else.

I officially breastfed for over a year. I didn't go into it with a specific goal in mind. When I made it to three months, I thought okay maybe to six months, then six months turned to nine, and then at eleven months I started researching weaning. (More on that later.)

Before C was born, I purchased a breastfeeding class, put supplies on my registry, and ordered a free pump through my insurance. But as far as preparation, I didn't do much beyond that. (And to be honest, I didn't even start the breastfeeding class until after she was born haha and never finished it oops) I genuinely decided to breastfeed because I didn't want to pay for formula and I knew there were a lot of health benefits for her and selfishly me.

When she was born, I was so overwhelmed with how fast everything happened that I didn't even think to have her try to latch right away. I ended up waiting a little bit to try and once I did, it was such an odd sensation and super painful. In my head, I was already feeling like the Randy Jackson gif saying that's gonna be a no from me, dawg. But I decided to ask the nurse for the lactation consultant once her and I both got settled into recovery. In the hospital, you are required to track and time all of your feedings, so they can make sure she's eating enough etc. I could not tell if she was getting enough because she would pass out after what seemed like 5 minutes every time. The lactation consultant showed me how to position her in the football position instead of cradling her. It still didn't seem to be working that well, so she got me a nipple shield. (Spoiler alert: it's great for one or two feedings, but it's a pain in the ass as another thing to clean and it can make them not want to latch without it.) I finally was able to feel her eating and see the cues that I had googled to make sure her latch was deep enough etc.

I loved the feeling of having her sweet body so close to mine and looking up at me even from the first feeding. I thought I was getting the hang of it with the nipple shield until she started cluster feeding. The second night in the hospital, I didn't sleep at all because she was literally eating like every 30 minutes. It was exhausting. She also was spitting up a lot and I for real thought she was choking so I stared at her in between feedings and probably called the nurses way too many times for them to reassure me she was okay. The day we were supposed to go home, they called the other lactation consultant and she taught me how to function sans nipple shield. This was super helpful and it was about the time it finally clicked for both me and C.

Unfortunately, at her first doctor's appointment the next day, she had lost too much weight and was a little jaundice. The doctor said I would have to bring her back the next day for a weigh in and if she hadn't gained weight back, I would have to supplement. A switch in my head flipped and I was like there's no way after the pain and exhaustion of cluster feedings, that I would be supplementing with formula. I went home, sanitized my bottles, and I just started pumping sans any sort of real instruction hoping my milk had come in. Every other feeding that day, I would give her a bottle of pumped milk. I said a lot of prayers before that appointment the next day. When they weighed her, she had gained a whole 8 oz, I cried because the doctor applauded me and said she was good to keep exclusively breastfeeding. It felt like my first mom victory.

I continued to sporadically pump at least twice a day (for a few months) to not only build up my supply, but also to give her bottles while I was out. She never had an issue with nipple confusion and easily transitioned back and forth from the bottle to nursing. (Honestly, pumping was the most annoying and frustrating part of this whole "adventure." I hated feeling attached to an outlet for even 15 minutes and then the constant sanitizing and cleaning of the parts. It was never a goal of mine to have a huge freezer stash tbh.)

I very much based my schedule around her feeding schedule. I was diligent from pretty early on, tracking everything down to the minute and the ounce like a psycho. I used the Sprout Baby app and it told me how long it had been since her last feeding, changing, nap, etc. I could even track how long I pumped on each side and how many ounces I got. It also has a growth tracker, memory keeper and more.

I was extremely lucky to not have many breastfeeding issues beyond the thoughts of feeling like a cow or general new mom tiredness. She caught on to breastfeeding very quickly and we got into a really good routine. C was sleeping through the night at around a month minus maybe an 11 PM or 4 AM feeding. I know I'm very much the exception and not the rule. I was very worried about having a crazy oversupply or developing issues because of this, but my body regulated itself so much quicker than I expected, so I didn't have to pump during the night very often. I relied heavily on the Boppy Pillow for the first 6 months or so, until I was able to try different positions that felt more comfortable for both of us.

Speaking of my comfort levels, I hated nursing bras/tops, so I very much relied on the NursElet which held any non-nursing top up. Unpopular (maybe?) opinion, but I also was not a fan of nursing in public. (Neither was C) I can actually count on one hand, the number of times I actually did it. At the office, where C was with me day in and day out, I nursed her in the back seat of my SUV. Now you're probably shaking your head, like how could you spend 30 minutes in the car multiple times per day per week in Arizona for months, but I did. I just never felt comfortable with the idea. C didn't like being covered after so many months of nursing freely at home together and I didn't like the idea of having my boobs out. I know I'm opening myself up to a lot of criticism because breastfeeding is a completely natural thing and it should be accepted, but my feelings were all personal ones, not because of any stigma.

Breastfeeding was such an unexpected joy over the past year. I loved the feeling of closeness it brought me and knowing that if I fed her, it brought her comfort. I never planned on how much I'd love nursing, but I genuinely did. I did have moments where I felt tired of feeling like my body still belonged to another human even without being pregnant and considered quitting. I even highly considered it once I started getting bitten around 8-9 months. Talk about the worst pain I've ever felt. She literally bit a hole THROUGH my nipple, so that was cute.

I did wrestle back and forth with the idea of letting her wean herself or deciding one year was it for me, for us. I was in a few Mom Facebook Groups and one specifically with Moms who had Summer 2018 babies. Someone had asked a question about who was still breastfeeding and when/if they planned on stopping. After a few responses of all moms who had said they were still nursing and had no plans to quit, I replied saying that I was planning to wean at one year in a few weeks (hoping to get some advice honestly), but I was met with messages and replies from random strangers telling me how horrible of a mother I was for choosing to make that decision for my child instead of letting her decide that. I didn't reply to any of them. I had never felt so shamed. This was my decision, my child, and these judgmental strangers were being for lack of a better term: a**holes to me. Who are you to tell me what I should and should not do as a parent? Yes, I answered the question, but I had no idea what a shit show that would cause. If you want to breastfeed for 3 years, for six months, for one day, or not at all, THAT'S YOUR CHOICE. *climbs off soapbox* I did indeed leave the group and sought out better resources. One of which was Nadine's post here. At around 11 and a half months, I started removing one feeding per week and giving her a bottle (and eventually sippy cups) of organic whole milk. I first mixed it with breastmilk, to get her used to it and see if she reacted weird or anything. Once I knew I was in the clear, I switched to just the whole milk in the cup or bottle. She didn't resist it. It was pretty seamless, so not long after one, I was free.

Our adventure came to end one night as the night feeding was the last one I dropped. I soaked in the last time of her looking up at me with her sleepy eyes as she played with my hair as she had done thousands of times before. It was bittersweet. I worried for a little prior to weaning that I'd miss the closeness or the constant shirt pulling (just kidding haha). I found that I have new forms of closeness with her every morning and night as she still nuzzles in close with her sippy. I feel so grateful to have had such an incredible experience with her as I know that is not always the norm. I am finally closing the chapter on this time together.

My Breastfeeding Must Haves
-- Boppy Pillow
-- Medela Pump In Style
-- NatureMade Milk Saver (YOU NEED!!)
-- Boon Nursh Bottles
-- NursElet
-- Favorite Nursing Bras
-- Medela Steam Bags (Lifesaver!)
-- Favorite Shirts
-- Milk Storage Bags

You can shop the rest of my Amazon faves here. 

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