This week, #MomLifeMonday and #WinItWednesday are colliding! A huge thank you to MommyCon’s MiLK Conference for sponsoring this post and providing the tickets to giveaway!
*Before I became a mother, I had how my babies would be fed all planned. They would be breastfed for at least 6 months, until they started on solid foods. I would make their pureed baby foods and they wouldn’t eat “junk.” Little did I realize, babies don’t follow the plan.
Aubrey was our first baby, born when I was still a kid myself. I hadn’t been around breastfeeding much before becoming a mother. However, I figured it was something natural so it should work out just fine. I purchased nipple cream, a breast pump, breast pads, and a boppy pillow. I thought I was set and ready to go.
After Aubrey was born, we had a difficult start. She didn’t seem to be interested in nursing and her blood sugar was a little low. There was a point in time that she didn’t nurse for over 8 hours. After nursing again, they let us go home as long as we followed up with her doctor in a few days.
Breastfeeding was extremely painful for me. My nipples were raw. They were cracked and bleeding. I was putting Vitamin E on them plus the nipple cream. I distinctly remember, and it almost sends chills down my back now, crying when she would start crying in hunger. My poor baby wanted to eat but I didn’t want to feed her. I would cry and ask my husband, “what kind of mother doesn’t want to feed her baby?!” It was hard for us. And I decided to somehow, stick it out.
I started pumping in preparation to return to work. I had a cheap breast pump that I picked out at Target just because it went along with the bottles we picked. It did nothing for me. It would suck and suck but nothing would come out. I could nurse her just fine at this point with very little pain but I just couldn’t produce enough milk to store and to keep her satisfied. We fell into a rabbit hole and decided that we would start supplementing with formula.
The start of our formula journey was when she was 6 weeks old. I had that “plan” of just breastmilk until 6 months old so I felt a little guilty. At this point, she was half breastfed and half formula fed. Within two weeks, I was too overwhelmed as a mother at 18 years old. I needed life to be just a tad bit easier. And then she became 100% formula fed.
Looking back now- I feel like I had a strong lack of knowledge and support. I *could* have successfully nursed her until she was at least 6 months old. I *could* have nursed her until a year. I *could* have nursed her until she naturally weaned herself. Facebook Groups weren’t so much a thing when she was born and I was the first of my friends to have a baby. I had no idea what I was jumping into and thought that the most natural thing in the world would just come….. naturally. The super sore nipples could have been caused by a number of things. And I really wish I would have known to find a lactation consultant to help me ASAP. Aubrey was my first little guinea pig, if you will, on this whole being a mother thing.
Before Baileigh was born, I started doing more research on breastfeeding and how I could be more successful with the next baby. She was born 18 months after Aubrey so things were still fresh in my mind. I knew to start lathering my nipples up with cream even in the hospital. I knew that I wanted to get a freezer stash started and that I was going to have a much better pump as my sidekick. I had made all these “plans” again. Afterall, I had been there and done that. It just had to be easier the second time around, right???
Wrong. Baileigh and I had a pretty good nursing relationship from the start. She had an okay latch and it most definitely wasn’t as painful as it was with Aubrey. I had the same goal of exclusively breast milk for the first 6 months. I didn’t have to return to work as I had become a stay-at-home mom but I still wanted her to take a bottle. Three days after having her, I started pumping with a Medela manual pump. My goodness- I loved that pump. Baileigh took to the bottle so whenever we left the house, she would have a bottle of breastmilk so I wouldn’t have to nurse in public.
Here’s where I think I went wrong. I was so worried about my supply dropping like I felt like it did with Aubrey…. That I started taking a supplement to boost my milk supply. Fenugreek. I smelled like a pancake house and not in a good way. I had such a strong letdown that I started to almost choke her when she would nurse. I just had way too much milk! This little baby was only 4 weeks old and I could easily pump 10 ounces in a session. WOW, right?!
Baileigh then started having some belly issues. Well, more like spitting up issues. She had always spit-up just a little bit. But this was like, projectile vomiting. I specifically remember a middle of the night feed and I thought her head was going to spin around like a horror movie. The amount that she vomited all over the bed was WAY more than I thought she could even have in her little body.
Baileigh also had some problems gaining weight. She was so tiny and petite. At the recommendation of our pediatricians, we started adding some cereal to her breatsmilk bottles. It helped to hold the milk into her belly, but just not enough for me to feel like she was nutritionally getting the milk she needed. Those pesky formula companies…. I had formula cans in my cabinet from the free samples they sent me. They won. I couldn’t see my baby not gaining weight anymore. And I couldn’t deal with all the spit-up anymore. I also was dealing with postpartum depression and I’m sure that wasn’t helping anything.
We quit breastmilk almost cold turkey at 6 weeks. At this point, I felt like a complete failure. How could so many mothers nurse their babies for so long yet I couldn’t seem to last more than 6 weeks?! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “bashing” formula moms at all- but this wasn’t what I had planned for my babies. This wasn’t the healthiest option I saw for them and it just wasn’t what I had wanted.
Jackson James- my little game changer. Before Jackson was even conceived, I found my support groups. Knowledge, power, support, confidence, and perseverance was what was going to get me to my goal for at least one of my babies. And with him, I even edited my goal to wanting to nurse him for one year.
When Jackson was born, we clicked right away. He was a boobie monster and loved mama’s milk. I decided to wait to really pump because being a stay-at-home mom, it wasn’t necessary for a bottle. There would be a minimal amount of times that I left him and it wasn’t going to be a for awhile anyways. It was just me and him- and that was A-OK for me.
Remember how I had hoped everything would just come naturally? I was waiting for a problem to occur: cracked nipples, bad latch, drop in supply. I was just waiting. Luckily, it didn’t happen in the beginning like it had with the girls. We were smooth sailing through our journey.
Months went by and he had only had breastmilk. My first *successfully* breastfed baby. I had support from family and friends. I nursed in public. I pumped when needed, and that was it. Everything was wonderful!
And then it wasn’t. Two things happened: Jackson’s weight gain seemed to have plateaued. And I needed to pump to leave him… And my boobs decided they weren’t going to cooperate anymore. I was worried that my supply had finally dropped. I was worried that Jackson wasn’t actually getting what he needed from me anymore. I tried lactation cookies, I tried increasing my water intake, I tried fenugreek again. Nothing seemed to be working. I even tried an electric pump and that got out less than my manual! I was so frustrated.
I had family pressuring me to try formula, so I did. After all, formula companies sent me formula while I was pregnant. Wouldn’t you know that a baby at 8/9 months old wouldn’t drink formula after only having breastmilk as their milk source? Yeah- I figured that too. Lucky for me, I have some amazing friends that knew my goal and knew my struggle. I now have an amazing supply of frozen donor milk in my deep freezer for when we need it. My supply has come back enough that I don’t wonder if I’m making enough.
We are just under a month away from his first birthday. I will have nursed my baby, with a little help from donor milk and a splash of formula, for one full year. I made my goal of 6 months of just breastmilk. I know there are many women that nurse for years and years and multiple babies. And compared to them- my story seems dull and silly. But it’s a part of my motherhood journey. And accomplishing this year makes me feel, well, kind of badass. My body has successfully nourished another human being though 9 months of pregnancy and almost 12 months earthside. <3
The second annual MiLK Conference will be held in Costa Mesa, CA November 11-12. It will be MommyCon’s final event in 2016. MiLK is an infant feeding conference for parents and parenting professional. It’s set-up to provide not only nutritional information, but support and an educational platform for the health of children. Want to go? There’s one of two ways from here- you can purchase your tickets using my promo code FLUFFBUM16 for $5 your ticket price OR you can enter to win the rafflecoptor below and win a pair of 2-day tickets! 🙂