I remember the first day of our (husband and my) childbirth class the instructor asked “what most scares you about the upcoming labor/delivery/etc?” The majority of the mom’s in my class said breastfeeding. I on the other hand was more nervous about all the changes to come in our lives, breastfeeding I thought would either come natural or I would just formula feed, little did I know. I never created any kind of expectation of our breastfeeding experience.
Fast forward to the when Nicolas was born. He was a healthy little guy (6lbs 13oz) and I was in complete euphoria for about 24 hours. We were able to breastfeed within the first hour. He was a breastfeeding champ, had a good latch and wanted to nurse every 2-3 hours. My milk came in at 24 hours and the euphoria wore off. I cried, I was anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed and in pain. Although his latch was good, my breasts were very sore. He lost some birth weight but since my milk had come in, I knew he was going to be just fine.
The first night at home was exhausting; he nursed about 14 times in a 24 hour period. He was a hungry boy! I will never forget this, as I walked into the pediatrician (4 days since Nic was born), the receptionist said “oh, you look great”. Yet all I wanted to do was cry and tell her I was feeling like crap.
Nic had almost gained all his birth weight by 4 days and my lactation consultant was so encouraging. I don’t think I would have breastfeed for the year without her support.
I stuck with it; my sore nipples lasted about 5 weeks. It was painful but I knew if I could handle it for just a little longer it would eventually be 2nd nature. And by 6 weeks, the pain was a lot less and I started enjoying the breastfeeding experience.
Nic was thriving on breast milk and we were both happy. My baby blues finally subsided and at around 3-4 weeks and I started enjoying our time together.
I returned to work at 3 months and while it was very hard to leave him at daycare, I looked forward to the routine. I hated the uncertainty of each day. Nic nursed every 3 hours around the clock, so our day went like this, wake up 5:30am, nurse, shower and off to work, pump at 8:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, clock out at 3:30pm, pick him up by 4pm and nurse him at 5:30pm, nurse again at around 7pm and then try to get him ready for bed. He would then wake up around 9:30pm, 12:3am, and 3:30am. These were long days but they flew by.
We started to introduce solids at around 5 months and by 6.5 months my supply started to diminish. I tried everything to get it up, extra pumping, fenugreek, etc. Nothing worked and by 7.5 months my freezer stash was gone and we had to resort to formula. I was worried that he would refuse it but he was not a picky eater. The pumping stress sucked and I decided to stop worrying and let my body do what it needed to do.
I started to look forward to our nursing sessions. His little body would go limp and I loved feeling him so close. He was starting to become a little boy, no longer a baby.
I wanted to stop pumping by his first birthday but wanted to keep nursing morning and night and on weekends. I only pumped two times a day once he was about 10 months and then I dropped to once a day when he hit 11 months. I was barely pumping 2 ounces by this time. The last day I pumped was his birthday. I was sad because I knew this would be the beginning to the end of our breastfeeding experience. But I was happy to stop pumping, I hated it but I knew that my supply would not have held up if I would have stopped earlier.
We nursed morning and night for another month and then by 13 months he was down to one nursing session in the morning. He gave that up at 13.5 months. I don’t think he was ready to wean but my supply was not keeping up. So Nic had 13.5 months of breast milk. I never thought we would make it this long.
Those first few weeks were the hardest in my life. I thought I would never get time to myself again, I cried and mourned for the life I had and I didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into. We slowly feel into our new normal and no longer thought about life without him. Months passed and I cherished every nursing session because I knew in the grand scheme of life 1 year is a blink of an eye. He is the reason I get up in the morning and go to work; he makes me want to be a better person so that I can be a better mom.
The best advice I ever got was never quit on a bad day and to think about breastfeeding as a life style not just a feeding method. Once I embraced the new lifestyle, I started enjoying and really cherishing those moments. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. I don’t judge moms that did not breastfeed very long or chose not to do so; it is such a personal decision. I had a great support system. My lactation consultant was amazing, my husband was supportive, my co-workers never made me feel awkward, the bump was a great resource, and finally kellymom.com was amazing. I hope this doesn’t scare too many future breast feeders but at the same time give a true account of the hardships and joys.
Natalia S. Mom to Nicolas