We always hear about how natural breastfeeding is, but what we don't always hear is that for everyone, it doesn't come quite so naturally. For me, breastfeeding was a lot like my new found role of motherhood overall. It was really tough at first. It took a lot of time to transition and get used to my new schedule or lack thereof. It was tiring; it was painful; and it was a lot of work. It was also one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences in my life.
I am a first-time mother and had no clue what I was doing. I still have no clue what I'm doing. I'm not sure if that ever changes, or if it just gets a little better over time. I had so many unrealistic expectations about breastfeeding and didn't know what to expect or where to start. I remember going back to work at 7 weeks with my breast pump and bag. After that first day back at work, I thought, what did I get myself into? I just wanted to be back home with my baby nursing her instead of hooked up to this box of plastic that moos at me all day.
It was tough going back to work while breastfeeding and pumping, but I did it for 14 months, and I just took it 1 day at a time. Initially my goal was to make it 1 week, then 2, and so on. I know most people set monthly goals, but I needed the mini-goals so I could celebrate every single small milestone. The first 3 months were the hardest. Tongue tie, lip tie, mastitis, clogged ducts, only one producing breast. It was no walk in the park unless that walk involved a baby or a breast pump attached to my chest. But just like everything with motherhood, it does get a little easier over time. You settle into a routine, the pain goes away, and you start feeling like a human again instead of a zombie or a dairy cow. And then you realize, wow, this is pretty amazing. I brought this tiny little 6lb 11oz baby into the world, and then I nourished her and turned her into a 25-pound toddler all on my own milk (and some solids after 6 months.) If that's not a superpower, I don't know what is. It was the most amazing bond I had ever had, and I am so, so grateful for that experience I had with her for 14 months. It was the most peaceful, sweet, rewarding time. I knew one day she wouldn't need me as much as she did , but in those moments, I was all she needed.
Leighton is 17 months old now, and because of all my pumping at work, we still have enough breast milk frozen for her to use until she is about 19 months old. When I stopped pumping at 14 months, I had 2,000 ounces saved up, and I'm so happy to have been able to give her the perfect milk for her for as long as I have been. Any amount of breast milk is so good for your baby. Sometimes it works for moms, sometimes it doesn't. Just do what is best for you and your family, and know that your child is being loved, fed and taken care of, and above all, that is what matters.
For those who do choose to breastfeed, I wanted to provide some of my best tips I've learned along the way.
After giving birth, your milk might actually take about 2-5 days before coming in. But, babies' stomachs are tiny when they are born, so they don't need much at all. Even if your milk hasn't come in yet, your body started producing colostrum around the second trimester of your pregnancy, and that is all your baby needs until your milk comes in. Some mothers worry they aren't producing enough and start supplementing at this time. This usually does more harm than good because the way to produce more milk is to remove more milk from your body. It is all about supply and demand. When I was at work during the day, I would pump every 2 hours. Anytime my baby got a bottle while at daycare, I would pump to replace that feeding. Removing milk from your body by nursing, pumping or hand expressing is what triggers your body to produce more.
Pumping is not a good indicator of your supply. Some people respond to the breast pump well, and others don't. I was an over-producer and was able to pump a good amount, but not everyone is. So many mothers pump and only get an ounce or two and worry thinking they aren't making enough, they are starving their baby, etc. This shouldn't necessarily be your first worry. Does your baby seem happy and content? Are they gaining weight? Are they having plenty of wet and dirty diapers? Even if they are low on the infant growth chart, are they staying on their own curve? Some babies are just small, and that is normal for them. That doesn't mean that anything is wrong with them. It means they are exactly like they were meant to be.
Trust your body. I know there are situations where some moms can't breastfeed, or they can't produce enough, but just remember, our bodies were made to do this. If you want to breastfeed, then definitely try. If you're having problems, call a lactation consultant. They are amazing, and can usually help solve most problems.
However you feed your baby though, just remember all moms are rockstars; be proud of yourself that you brought a tiny little human into this world and are growing them into an amazing adult.
What was the best and hardest part of breastfeeding for you? Do you have any tips for breastfeeding you would like to share with new or expecting mothers?
If you're looking for more great breastfeeding resources, make sure to check out the Facebook group Breastfeeding Moms of Memphis and the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline at 855-4BFMOMS.