January 22, 2015

The TMI Post on Breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This is just a post on my experiences with breastfeeding. I'm pro breastfeeding and pro formula feeding and pro give-your-kid-whatever-is-best-for-you-guys-feeding.

When I was pregnant with Cale I had planned to breastfeed. I honestly hadn't done much research on the topic, but just knew it was something I wanted to at least try to do initially. When I was still laboring with him, a nurse told me that my milk would come in and I started to cry (again/more) as it just seemed so unfair. Shouldn't my body know that there would be no baby to feed? And sure enough a few days after giving birth my milk came in and I dealt with the very painful and emotional task of stopping it. But getting a glimpse of what my body was capable of helped solidify my desire to breastfeed when/if we had another baby.

Fast forward to Finley's arrival - breastfeeding proved not to be as natural as I had hoped. He struggled to latch, which stressed me out. Having half a dozen different people in the hospital squeezing and grabbing my boobs and trying to adjust the baby didn't help either. When we got home I ended up using a nipple shield for a couple weeks to get him to latch, then would take it away until he gradually didn't need it. It was a life saver, but I remember before leaving the hospital the lactation consultation who recommended it, also told me not to use it too much as the baby might not get enough milk. It was conflicting advice and caused further worry, when in the end it ended up being a great help. It took about two weeks for us to get the hang of it and in that time there were a lot of tears (mostly from me). It was painful and very emotional time for me. I would read things like, "if you're doing it right, it shouldn't be painful" and that's just a bunch of crap. Breastfeeding IS painful. At least initially. Like nipple cracking, toes curling, agonizing pain. And then it gets better which thank God it does, otherwise no one would do it!

When I went back to work Finn was two month's old, I was able to pump enough for the bottles he needed at daycare, but eventually he started drinking more and I was unable to produce more milk despite nursing him before and after daycare and on weekends. I had a freezer supply built up, but around 4 months I was gradually dipping in to it more and more and knew it wouldn't last long. So I started taking fenugreek and did see a small increase in my supply, but eventually that wasn't enough. I started drinking even more water, upping my calorie intake, eating more protein and consuming foods considered supply boosters (like oatmeal), pumping more (to include in the middle of the night if Finn was sleeping), drinking tea made for nursing moms, etc.  I even downloaded an app of a crying baby and looked at pictures of Finn while pumping as that is said to help trigger let down. I would try my best to relax and visualize my body making enough milk, but even with all that, it was still was really had to keep my supply up. I was really happy when we made it to six months of Finn being exclusively breastfeed, but new that I would most likely have to start supplementing.

I had contacted the local La Leche League (via phone and email) and sadly never heard back, but read about a prescription, Reglan, that helps produce more milk, so got a prescription filled and while it did help, the side effect (at least for me) was that it made me SO tired. Not really the greatest thing when you are working full time! But I was grateful for the increased supply and we were able to reach seven months until I had to start supplementing with formula.

Formula is not a bad thing, but this was really hard for me. I wanted to have enough milk for my baby and just didn't. While it was far less extreme or devastating than losing Cale, it was another way my body had failed me and it felt so defeating. Even when I would nurse Finn, he would cry and get antsy waiting for let down and when it did occur he would try to get more milk and there simply wasn't enough and he would cry some more. He became far more satisfied after a full bottle than he would after nursing. His bottles were a mixture of breastmilk and formula, but more and more formula as time went on. When I would pump, I would produce less and less and by ten months I, very reluctantly, threw in the towel. By eleven months he drank the last of my freezer supply and was solely on formula (and table food) until switching to whole milk shortly after he turned one.

When Mary came along my goal for breastfeeding was not necessarily to go longer than I had with Finn, but to stress less about it and to stop breastfeeding on our terms - not because I had no choice. It's been a little over thirteen months and I'm so happy to still be nursing her.

And while it has gone immensely better this time around, and I'm sure a large part of that is because I am not working, I still have had to take efforts to keep my supply up - extra pumping, fenugreek, and lots and lots of water. I started building a freezer supply early on and at its' peak I had 240 ounces frozen, something that gave me a sense of security should my milk supply dry up as it did with Finn.

I do feel my supply is dwindling a bit, but I have introduced milk, so don't stress about Mary's calorie intake the way I did with Finn. The only thing I stress about at this point is that I won't reach my goal and I'll have to stop breastfeeding because I run out of milk, not because Mary or I lose interest. Only time will tell, but for now I'm taking it day by day and grateful we've gotten to this point.

I miss the sweet hand clasps during nursing. Now there's usually a leg in my face.



  1. Thank you for this. It's a daily struggle and at times I want to throw in the towel...bottom line is he's getting fed and doing well! He's still on bm either by bottle or boob and supplementing organic formula when it don't have enough that day...

  2. Oh my gosh. Yes to all of this. My mom finally convinced me that I wasn't a bad mom for supplementing. It was the best decision because Marie was losing weight, but oh the guilt and sense of failure. The worst.

    240 ounces, Holy crap! They gave me Reglan for morning sickness the first time around, I didn't know that it boosted supply too. Interesting.

    You are amazing and this post just proves it all the more!

  3. You and I are the same people... except I didn't work while B was a wee one, otherwise your story? Also mine. I'm pretty thrilled to be less stressed about supplying all of the calories and also liquid. I will miss breastfeeding, but I'll never miss how nervous it made me to be the sole provider in those early months. I have to wonder if losing Andrew caused that insecurity. I'm sure.

    Proud of you, friend. And that Mary with those adorable hands. Man.

  4. I nursed G for 16 months and the moment it became a comfort thing and not a 'required for your baby to live' thing was like a hundred pounds lifted off my shoulders. With a dairy intolerance coupled with GERD, feeding was never joyous for us.
    Do what you can mama. Forgive what you can't.

  5. Wow so much of this I didn't know about your experience with Finn. Mainly that you were working when he was an infant.

    I think you did so well. I was pushed up against a wall around the 8-12 week mark (poor painful latch, burning nipples, suspected thrush - and an eventual vaso spasm diagnosis in which caused my nipples to ache and my milk let down was slow, I was stressed, Theo was fussy [from my stress and slow milk no doubt] and I felt like I had no choice but to stop nursing) and almost switched to formula and was about to fall into a deep depression because I just.couldnt.do.it. Thankfully - after a very expensive appointment with a private, highly recommend LC - we slowly started to figure things out. But you know what??? 21 months in, and it still hurts at times!!

    I'm happy to hear your BF relationship with Mary is still going strong. It's just the best when it's all comfort but the added plus factor of liquid gold is the cherry on top.

    And 240 back up ounces!?!? Sweet lord that's a lot! I bet a huge weight is lifted from your chest with that added support. Way to go mamma!

  6. Our stories are also very similar. When Addalee was born, we struggled so much. She was so tiny, and couldn't latch. The doctors started supplementing with formula at the hospital. We were told that since she so desperately needed the calories, nursing was actually COSTING her calories. I struggled with supply issues, then thrush, and by 4 months, my supply was completely gone. I really struggled with depression and guilt.

    Then came Abigail. The girl is a natural eater. She turns 2 this week and we still nurse before nap and bed. We'll stop when she's ready. And I'm thrilled!

  7. Yes, the people who say that "if you are doing it right then it shouldn't hurt" just cannot be referring to newborns. I remember texting you with Elizabeth and you coaching me that the first two weeks are terrible but it does get better. I have passed that wisdom on to many friends and I needed it again with Joseph. I would have to bite down on a rolled up burp rag during each feeding because it hurt so bad! I often wanted to cry out in pain but I only wanted the words from my mouth to be "music to my baby's ears" so I decided to say "music" as sweetly as I could every time I felt the urge to scream or cry. Nutty? Yes.