My Breastfeeding Journey: I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent breastfeeding my little one. I set a loose goal of wanting to breastfeed for at least a year, and we are only 3 months away from that milestone! Breastfeeding, for us, is truly a bonding experience. Seeing my baby look up at me with her big brown eyes, and watching her fall asleep being nourished through my body, is the greatest feeling. I knew from the beginning that breastfeeding was something I wanted to do and I prayed that I would be able to.
Although we both have gotten the hang of breastfeeding, the road has by no means, been without its bumps and bruises. (I’ve literally been, kicked, scratched, pinched, pulled, slapped, and bitten.) Our breastfeeding journey has been challenging but well worth it.
My Breastfeeding Journey: The Beginning
I started breastfeeding Aven in the hospital, after she was born, with help and guidance from lactation specialists. They kindly and respectfully stepped in the role I wished my mother was alive to participate in. I had previously attended a breastfeeding class, but still didn’t understand completely how to breastfeed successfully. The lactation specialists taught me how to burp my baby, explained how often I needed to feed her, and taught me different feeding positions.
Getting support from the lactation specialists gave me much-needed confidence and assurance in establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship. I believe every mother should have access to this type of support, whether in the hospital, in their community, or even online through resources such as the Happy Family Infant Feeding Platform, which offers live chat support from a team of certified lactation specialists, or, “Happy Mama Milk Mentors”. Their platform also provides products and support for supplementing and formula feeding. I would have loved additional support through a program like Happy Family’s, especially at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey.
The feeling of nursing took a lot of getting used to. Aven’s strong suckling triggered contractions in my uterus, which, for me was the most painful. I felt strong waves of cramps each time I nursed her. This was my uterus’ process of shrinking back to its normal size. I endured the pain of nursing and held on to the hope that after the first few weeks the pain would subside. And it did, eventually.
Once we were home from the hospital, I fed her as much as possible to drain milk from my breast and keep my supply up. I eventually learned to allow her to drain one breast then switch to the other side. My body became synced with her need to feed, and my breasts would fill with more milk at the two-hour mark, just before each feeding. Talk about mother instinct….
My Breastfeeding Journey: The Struggle
Most nights I sat up in the bed to feed my daughter and didn’t get any real sleep. Round the clock feedings every two hours were so tiring, I was a legit zombie. I remember wanting to lie down to feed her but I worried that it could be dangerous for her if I fell asleep with her in the bed.
Eventually, I tried feeding her lying down and haven’t looked back since. It was the first step in restoring my sanity that was chipping away from sleep deprivation. I kept the sheets, pillows, and comforter away from her to keep her as safe as possible. Also, I didn’t beat myself up with guilt if I fell asleep. When I did fall asleep, once I woke up, I’d put her back in her bassinet. I was previously terrified to co-sleep (until I realized it was more dangerous for me to keep trying to function with no sleep) but it honestly helped to support my breastfeeding goals.
Also, I had trouble understanding pumping and wanted to avoid it because of all I heard about “nipple confusion”. I really didn’t want anything to negatively affect my being able to breastfeed. One night, I decided to pump out milk so that Aven’s father would be able to feed her. I pumped everything out. I was happy with myself until shortly after, it was time for Aven to eat. She refused to drink from a bottle. She cried at my breast as nothing was coming out and I felt so defeated.
This was definitely one of those moments where I would have loved to talk to a lactation specialist. Eventually, Aven fell asleep and when my partner came home I broke down. Fatigue, frustration, and the feeling of failure got the best of me. His reassurance that my milk supply would replenish, was a simple truth that I was in too much of a fog to realize on my own.
I was terrified that I’d have to give my baby formula and blur the ideal picture I had in my head of what I wanted feeding to look like for my family. Thankfully, I didn’t have to supplement with formula, and my milk supply was replenished. I think it is important to have some flexibility in your ideals. Things happen that are out of our control. A lot of the anxiety and frustration we experience may be due to holding too tightly to fixed ideals and wanting things to play out the way we see them in our heads versus how they may present in reality.
Each family has its own, unique dynamic, and faces its own unique set of challenges and victories. The same is true for each family’s approach to child rearing. Feeding looks different in many different family units and each family deserves as much support as they can get. Happy Family seems to understand that need for support and offers valuable resources to meet the needs of every family figuring out feeding, all while celebrating the uniqueness of each families’ approach.
My Breastfeeding Journey: The Victory
So far, we’ve been on our breastfeeding journey for 9 months. My daughter has been breastfed at home, while walking, at festivals, in church, in the car (countless times), in front of family, in fancy restaurants, covered, uncovered, really anywhere we have been and feeding time was upon us. I’ve been blessed to be able to stay home with my daughter since she was born. This has helped tremendously in making breastfeeding my little one this long, a possibility. I salute all moms who make it work differently. The struggle is real and I can only imagine having to do it and balance a traditional work schedule. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and excited to see all that the future will bring.
My Breastfeeding Journey: Moving Forward
Aven is now using a spoutless sippy cup with assistance and is eating solids in addition to breastmilk. She’s tried homemade mashed or pureed avocado, banana, mango (pictured below), blueberries, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli (pictured below). Feeding can definitely get a little messy, but it’s working just fine for us right now.
Despite its challenges, breastfeeding has been the most natural course for us. I have peace of mind knowing that I am doing what is best for my baby. She hasn’t been sick, she’s gaining weight appropriately and thriving overall.
Our breastfeeding journey has undoubtedly strengthened our bond and helped me connect with her. It has also has given her and I the reassurance that I can meet her needs at the most basic level and beyond.
TIPS and Truths from my Breastfeeding Journey
- Baby’s mouth should be wide over the areola versus just suckling at nipple.
- If baby falls asleep immediately at feedings, gently rub baby’s cheek with your knuckle to stimulate the sucking reflex and encourage baby to stay somewhat awake, long enough to continue eating.
- Once baby finishes drinking, try to pump remainder out into bottle to store.
- Breastfed babies often eat every 2-3 hours, it may help to use an app on your phone to keep track (baby’s doctor will ask about feedings and waste output at check ups).
- Check with your insurance, which should cover a breast pump (also check with your local WIC office about obtaining a breast pump if your qualify for their services)
- When pumping, many women get more milk in the morning, after baby’s first feeding.
- After frozen milk is thawed, it may have a soapy, sour, taste and smell …..(I hear you can avoid this by boiling milk prior to freezing, which reduces some nutritional value but may be more palatable for baby )
- Around 3 months my daughter became easily distracted while feeding, making it difficult to breastfeed successfully. It helped to keep the room dark and eliminate as much noise as possible.
- Aven wouldn’t take a bottle, so we tried spoon-feeding her. To my surprise, this worked! I’d pump then feed her the milk with a baby spoon.
- Drinking teas that support nursing helps my milk supply, as well as eating greens, like spinach. I keep the tea bags in my purse and get hot water, lemon, and sometimes honey, from local restaurants or drive throughs or keep hot water in my canteen from home.
- To combat nipple cracking and soreness, I used Shea butter and/or coconut oil, as well as my own breastmilk.
- Since I’ve continued breastfeeding, I haven’t had a menstrual cycle.
- Breastfeeding can help shrink mom’s uterus back to its normal size and help with weight loss.
- Having patience is very important in order to succeed at breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding is a sacrifice, of your body, time, and energy.
- Every woman’s breastfeeding journey will be different.