The Highs & Lows: A First Time Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey

I’ll be honest, I’ve had this post written for about 3 months but was too afraid (since when, right?) to share – although breastfeeding is natural, common, and well-perceived, I still do feel like it’s a very personal topic to me. I now know that’s stupid because most of my readers are Moms who have been through this same experience of trying to figure out breastfeeding for the first time. It’s actually crazy to me now that I haven’t spoken publicly on my blog at all about breastfeeding, yet it was such a big part of my 2016, I needed to share. By not sharing, I’m adding to the stigma and not doing my part to “normalize” what is one of the most remarkable things we can do as women.
Through a series of conversations with other moms, moms to be, and friends of moms, I came to the realization that I should share my journey in hopes of relating with even just one more mama. (Also, I’m feeling super nostalgic since I will officially have a 1YO this weekend!)
 Yes, I am calling it a journey because that’s truly what it has been – long, windy, with ups & downs, positives & negatives, a rewarding hardship that I would do again and again if given the chance.
The decision to breastfeed is a big one for new moms, with such a stigma behind it. When asked if I would breastfeed my son, my answer was always yes, with no hesitation. At the time, I have no idea why my answer was yes. I think my unwavering yes was influenced by the fact that my mom breastfed all of us, I wanted to save some cash money and that I was subconsciously afraid that the BF’ing diehards of the world would mom shame me if I didn’t. This unwavering yes of an answer is also what allowed me to persevere, even when I thought I could no longer go on.
My goal here is not to offend anyone as I truly feel there are positives of both breastfeeding and bottle feeding your baby. In fact, you’ll see in my story that very early on, I had to start supplementing – this would classify Calvin as both a breast fed and bottle fed baby. I appreciate and praise ALL moms no matter what their decisions or abilities have been. You HAVE to do what is right for you. This post is also not a story of butterflies and fairytales, promoting the blissful experience of b’feeding – it is my experience mixed with the emotions, the advice, and my opinions that have come to fruition over my breastfeeding stint that lasted 9 months.
And alas, I’ll say it again: EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

@ the hospital

 Feb 18, I had Calvin and when the nurses asked me if I wanted to b’feed I said ‘yes, I wanted to give it the good ole college try.’ They try to get baby to eat right away, even though the milk hasn’t come in yet, but more out of developing the habit for the baby.

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Right away I noticed that Calvin’s latch wasn’t great. I know it’s supposed to hurt at first but this was horrible excruciating pain. I think I even said that same exact sentence to the nurse. After he would attempt to feed you could TELL he wasn’t latching correctly. I LITERALLY saw 10-12 nurses, lactation consultants, and doctors who all gave me different advice and opinions. This was really frustrating for me, and I remember being really annoyed with the differing advice from so many different healthcare professionals. Even if you are a brand-spankin new mom, at the end of the day, only YOU know what’s right and wrong for yourself, your body and your baby. I tried every position (normal, football hold, lying down) and all left me wincing in pain and tears in my eyes. One of the lactation consultants introduced nursing shields at some point, which were my saving grace and I had to continue using the entire time I was nursing Calvin. Tip here: there are several different sizes you can buy and I would say the smaller the better so that baby can actually put their mouth around it.
My milk came in so quickly/full force on like, day 2, which seemed really quick. I spent one day and night extremely full and thankfully one of my new nurses on morning shift said, “you have GOT to pump!” So she taught me how to use the hospital pump and I got several bottles out of just that one session. I thank god for her to this day. 1, because no one was helping me with the oversupply relief, and 2, because she taught me how to use the pump. Of course the doctor the next day had ANOTHER opinion and said I should not pump or my boobs would think I’m trying to feed multiples and have too much milk. Looking back, I honestly don’t think TOO MUCH milk is a thing – at least not a bad thing at all! But I get what she was saying.

Coming home 

^our first day @ home
By the time we left the hospital we were pretty much at the same comfort level as before. Calvin was able to eat successfully, but not without severe pain for Mom. I spent the next 14ish days in the same boat. Lots of pain, teary eyes, and thoughts on whether or not I could do this. I knew that if I could get through the initial struggles, I could likely make it for the long haul, pending milk supply. We continued to use the shields during feeding – pain slowly subsided and my body started to adjust. Weeks 3-6 were awesome – no problems, no complaints, just smooth sailing from here on out!
At 6 weeks, I had my first post-partum checkup. I passed with flying colors, gave an awesome report to my midwife on how things were going, I was cleared for exercise and thought this new mama thing ain’t so bad! The next day, I went to exercise at the gym we had just joined for the first time PP. I came home and my right breast was much more achy than normal.  I took a bath and was a BIT concerned just because I had been pain free for weeks. Craig and I googled breast pain as I had heard of clogged ducts, mastitis, infection, etc but didn’t think much of it.
That night, exactly 1 day after my perfect 6 week PP check up, I woke up in the night feeling so sick with flu-like symptoms. I woke up the next morning with a 102 degree fever and felt like I was going to die. That’s not an exaggeration. Having a horrible fever as an adult is up there with one of the worst moments of my adult life. I had every blanket on in our house, and was still shivering. I knew right away this was the dreaded MASTITIS (a painful infection of the breast tissue – possible causes are a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering the breast. It usually occurs within the first three months of breast-feeding.)
Of course it was Sunday, so I had to call the emergency line for my Dr. to call in an antibiotic prescription.  My doctor confirmed on Monday and said it could have been because I wasn’t emptying enough or because of infection caused from the breast shield. I spent the next 2-3 days in and out of high fever, Craig had to miss his soccer game and work because I was so sick I couldn’t take care of my baby.
Through Mastisis, you still have to keep feeding because the duct has to clear itself. Ouch! But not as bad as the flu-like symptoms. At a few points I was too sick so Calvin had to drink the stash I had frozen, which caused my milk supply to decrease during this time and I was unsure I would ever get it back.
Slowly I did, but over the next month or so I started feeling trapped in the cycle of breastfeeding. I couldn’t leave the house for more than an hour at a time in fear that Calvin would get hungry and need to eat. I didn’t have a large supply stored because we used it while I was sick – I was basically at Calvin’s every beck and call. I am an I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T woman, and I couldn’t do anything independently – and if I did I had to pump before, during after, etc. This became really difficult for me mentally. Again, during this time, I questioned whether I was meant to do this for the long haul but decided to keep at it while I had the milk supply to support it.

Back to work 

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Being a working mom who continues to pump/breastfeed is a serious task. It’s really difficult to keep up with finding time during the day, cleaning parts, transporting milk, and keeping up milk supply. {PS – LMK if you want me to do a whole post on pumping @ work and best practices, but won’t go into all the details of that here.} I wanted to stick with it as long as possible because I REALLY enjoyed the morning and night feedings that I had with Calvin. It gave us quality time before work, and then again at bed time. He would always fall asleep and then I could hold him as long as I wanted on my chest before taking him to his crib.
I did this whole process for about 5 months and when milk supply started dwindling, I decided to stop pumping at work and only feed him morning and night. Eventually, since I was not pumping to increase the supply all day, it was decreasing even more. I decided one random night after Calvin had bitten me a few times, and was flailing all over the place that something had to give and we would be done. This was right before Thanksgiving and I didn’t realize until several weeks after stopping that it was affecting me.
My mom always told me that once you stop breastfeeding, your hormones get f’ed up, and I think that is true. It brought out an increased phase of post-partum anxiety in myself particularly that I will talk about more on a future post about ‘self care’ Did any one else experience this post-breastfeeding hormonal shift?
So this all sounds like a lot – a lot of ups & downs, a lot of effort, etc….but like I said, I would do it all over again and will for future babies. There is truly nothing as precious as that quality time and bond you form because of spending all of that time literally attached to your babe. I really do like the ease of making a bottle, but I miss that quality time we had together every morning before work and every night before bed.
The only thing I want to leave you all with is the encouragement to not be too hard on yourself. Yes, I think everyone should try to breastfeed if they can. Yes, I think you should give it 1, 2, 3 tries and then make a decision if it’s for you and your baby. Yes, I think there are hardships you have to make the decision to push through if you want to continue. BUT making sure your mental & physical health is important too. If those things are lacking, it’s okay to say, “something has to give.” Making sure you’re on top of your game in those areas will be better for you both in the long run.
Lastly, you will see moms who post about continuing to breastfeed well over a  year, or who can pump 8 oz. from both boobs in one sitting – please don’t compare…you’re kicking ass and taking names in your own way.
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Know another breastfeeding new mama or someone who has been on this journey? Don’t forget to share this post!

7 thoughts on “The Highs & Lows: A First Time Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I’m a new mom as well and have had many ups and downs breastfeeding my little girl who is now 4 months. It is definitely exhausting, especially in the beginning, but I love the bonding time it gives my daughter and I. The one challenge we are having is giving her a bottle…she took bottles in the beginning and now when my husband tried to give her one, she fights it! My mother in law has been able to give a bottle (after she initially fights it) when we are not home, but it stresses me out because she won’t take one from my husband. We were trying to give her a bottle once a day to practice, but that didn’t work. I took a break from it this week because it was getting to be very stressful. It just confuses me because she took bottles easily in the beginning. Any suggestions or tips you have are welcome!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post. Thanks for sharing! Really looking forward to hearing more about the post breastfeeding hormonal challenges as I will soon be there. Happy birthday to Calvin!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had such a similar experience in the hospital. It was so beyond frustrating getting so many different opinions. I had two very different nursing experiences with each boy! My milk supply went away when bear was 6 months bc I was pregnant with Gavin. I tried supplements to keep my milk up while pregnant but eventually gave up bc I was stressing myself out so bad. Once I stopped it was such a relief, I felt so bad saying that at first but realized formula was great too! Now with Gavin and all his feeding issues I’ve been exclusively pumping since he was 1 month old (he loved nursing but the dr said they needed to measure all his feeds to ensure he grew properly) so we haven’t nursed for almost 5 months now. But, his system is so sensitive and doesn’t tolerate formula like he tolerates BM so I keep pumping. We will see how long I last! 😬 Thanks for your awesome, honest post about your breastfeeding journey. You’re such an awesome mommy!!! Good luck with the first birthday! It’s crazy how fast it really goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kristi! Thanks so much for reading & leaving such a heartfelt comment…I really appreciate it!! That’s awesome that you are still pumping for Gavin while you can…such a selfless act for your little one! How are the feeding issues going? Is he doing better? I love seeing your boys together!

      Like

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