Lila has been one for nearly over a month, which means it has been nearly a month since we ended our breastfeeding journey. Yes, we made it one year of breastfeeding. I really am proud of myself and Lila for making it a year; it really was something I envisioned doing. I thought I would share about our breastfeeding journey because we did make it a year, but it definitely was far from easy. In my opinion, breastfeeding is somewhat glamorized, and while it is so great it can also be so so hard. For me, it was so so hard, all while being so worth it.
Our breastfeeding journey didn’t begin how I had planned. I planned for an all natural birth with an immediate begin to breastfeeding. I wanted that skin to skin contact while the umbilical cord was still pulsing; I felt it was crucial to make sure the baby was immediately offered the breast. This didn’t happen. Not even close. I plan to share my birth story another day, but the first milk Lila was offered was formula from a bottle. I had been given too many drugs during a last minute C section to even try to nurse her for 24 hours. Thankfully those 24 hazy hours passed and a lactation consultant came by to help get us started. And we were successful. We went home only nursing with no need to supplement.
Shortly after coming home I realized how isolating nursing can be. No one told me that no matter your personal comfort level, there will be times when you need to or are encouraged to go sit in a room alone to nurse. Everyone else will be eating and socializing and you’ll be alone with your baby listening to distant conversations. It was all I could think about when we went somewhere. Wyatt will be off having fun and I’ll be alone in a silent room staring at my phone as Lila nurses. It honestly sucked and made me was to stay home forever, where at least I could sit on my bed or my couch and watch my TV if I was going to have to nurse alone.
Our next challenge came at about 2 months, and is honestly hard for me to write about or even really think about. I felt like I was nursing constantly. All day and all night. And Lila never slept. Never. I didn’t know what to do. But I did get a lot of comments about my precious baby.”She’s so tiny” “Was she a premie?” “She’s too small” “Normal babies are bigger than that at her age” Any time we left the house we were bombarded by stranger’s comments. I just kept thinking that all I do is nurse, how can she possibly not be eating enough? But she wasn’t. She was hungry. My milk supply was terrible, and I didn’t even know it. And the people I was closest to, didn’t want to say too much. They didn’t want to imply I was a bad mom. Only strangers wanted to do that. My mom came in from Alabama, and she told me it was time to try supplementing. That while Lila was happy and beautiful, she was hungry and probably tired from being too hungry to sleep.
(This is from around Halloween)
I had failed. I had failed my baby, and she was starving. It still kills me to think about it, and even more to look at the photos. She was so tiny. She had no fat on her arms and legs. I didn’t understand how I lost my milk supply to begin with if I had a baby constantly attached to my breast. So we started to supplement and I turned to google. I wanted to increase my milk supply so I could keep breastfeeding. In the back of my mind, I felt like it was the only way to be a good mom. So I did everything and took every supplement the internet told me to. And it worked. I got it back up. And in the end I had to. Lila needed breastmilk. She would spit up entire bottles of formula. Any brand I tried, which in turn led to her rejecting bottles altogether.
(This is from early October)
I kept fighting for my milk supply. Chugging water and eating oatmeal were my preparations for the war against losing my milk supply again. But then I did. I lost my supply again. This time supplementing wasn’t an option because Lila rejected everything. Every bottle, every cup, every formula. Everyone had advice and something else to try. A different bottle to buy that was exactly like the breast. I bought everything. We spent a small fortune on bottles, cups, vitamins, cookies. And I got my supply back again. I started to resent breastfeeding. It consumed my time and energy and our finances. Breastfeeding is the free choice for feeding a baby, but it wasn’t for us. I wanted to stop, but it wasn’t even my choice anymore. The thought of having Lila be hungry ever again killed me. And it forced me to keep nursing. So I kept with it.
(This photo is from around Valentine’s Day)
Breastfeeding which is promoted as free, natural and beautiful had become my opponent in a war. A war that while others sympathized with and offered advice, was mine to fight alone. My weapons were pumps, powders, and pills. The casualties were our finances, energy and sanity. This war escalated my anxiety to new heights. I have no regrets about choosing breastfeeding and it was the best choice for Lila. I would do everything one million times over for her. But I am glad it’s over. I thought I would be sad for it to end, but I wasn’t. When I started my journey, I thought I would consider extended breastfeeding, but I didn’t. I fought long and hard enough.
I don’t say any of this to discourage breastfeeding. I just want to show another side of it. A side that isn’t talked about. A side that doesn’t lead to the false expectations that I had. And also to encourage people to talk to their loved ones who are nursing. Ask them if it’s going ok. Ask them if they feel ok. Ask them if they’re happy. Offer to go with them into the other room when they nurse. They might say everything is great and that they’d rather nurse alone, but keep offering because there might be a day when they need you. Breastfeeding is so much more than the photos and articles promoting it. I am proud of my breastfeeding journey. I am proud to have won the fight, to have brought my milk supply back time and time again. But man am I thankful we are done!
This photo is from this week and Lila is enjoying her new special milk! I’m going to do a post about the weaning process soon, but I feel like we are still in the midst of it. Thanks so much for checking out my post! Looking back at these photos is so emotional for me, but I am so happy to have a healthy and happy baby who always has a full tummy!