Breastfeeding, a Reflection

I hesitate to write this post.

I hesitate because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, make people feel uncomfortable, or pressure already over pressured mamas.  It has been sitting in my unpublished list for a while.

Here's why I am going to write it anyway:

  • I'm not talking about anyone else other than myself - this is my experience of what worked for me and my kids - just because it was what worked for us - doesn't mean it will work for anyone... but maybe it will help someone.
  • Sometimes over the past 4 years I have felt alone in my struggle... maybe someone reading this won't.
  • There are a lot of resources out there - maybe this will help someone find a resource they didn't know was an option
  • Because it's my blog and I feel like it :)
If you might get upset reading it - skip over this one!  Read a recipe or a popular post <3 

Ok... Breastfeeding reflection...

So... I have two very different breastfeeding experiences.  Let's start with D.

D's birth story is incorporated into my VBAC post... but the short version is - I was uneducated, misdiagnosed, induced, and given an unnecessary c-section 3 weeks early.

Big ShOcK!  Breastfeeding wasn't a breeze.  

I had been to the hospital class about it.  I had read a little about it.  I knew my mom did it.  I didn't have any friends who lived near me with babies at the time that were breastfeeding - but I was confident that I would.  I did have lots of bottles and formula samples as a backup at home.

D was tiny (although they told me he would be HUGE - they have been wrong twice about my babies incidentally - that whole under the sea measuring they do with the ultrasound... NOT ACCURATE) and losing weight fast (read here about how normal that is).  I was in the hospital longer than usual because of my complications so he was weighed more than a typical newborn (read here about why not to weigh your baby).  My milk didn't come in for days (read here about how normal that is).  So starting in the hospital I used an external nursing system.  We filled it with formula provided by the hospital and then when D was nursing I had to slip the little tube into his mouth - this way he was still nursing but also getting nourishment.  At the time I was unaware that milk sharing was an option.  Don't get all weirded out because I said milk sharing... it's pretty common, safer than you think, and there are lots of mamas out there that would help (read here about the risks of milk sharing vs. formula).  In any case I didn't know that was an option - so we left the hospital after 7 days with formula, supplemental nursing systems, and my milk that had just come in.

For three months D was exclusively given breast milk (by nursing or bottle) and then I had to get ready to return to work.  I love teaching - but pumping and teaching is near impossible - the mamas who do it successfully (often in closets and bathrooms) are AMAZING (here is one - read her tips!)!!  My first prep period of the day was 6th period (right after a 15 minute lunch).  So, while I pumped for 9 months I never pumped enough to even bring it to daycare.  At home, I wasn't in love with nursing - so I nursed, but mostly gave bottles of pumped milk and formula.  

On a whim, at some point in the formula isle of the store, I grabbed some organic formula... which began this research into living organically.  I am so thankful I did that - because honestly I don't know what the turning point would have been otherwise.  As I learned about the ingredients of formula (most of it being corn syrup, made with dangerous BT Corn) I was sad about my decisions and path, but what was done was done.  D was happy, healthy, growing and 1 year old - and we switched to organic whole milk and never looked back.  (by the way - making the switch from formula to milk was SUCH a difference in cost, I never even noticed that organic whole milk was expensive...).

Flash forward to baby #2!  Here is his birth story.

Since D, I had seen my sister and lots of other mamas successful (albeit not always EASILY) nurse their babies to their first birthday or later.  I was much more educated about our food system and what exactly formula was made of - and the thought of giving formula to E was almost out of the question.  I don't typically buy any food with ingredients I can't pronounce, don't know what they are and how they are made, or with a long list.  Formula is a big offender of all three.  With that said, if E needed it... I'm not sure what I would have done.

Most likely I would have begged my sister for milk :) or searched out some trusted, lactating friends.  If that was still too weird for me, I most likely would have researched making my own formula (more info on that here).  Yup... another option I never considered the first time around.  I make lots of things from scratch (almost everything) and don't buy processed foods with ingredients I can't pronounce, why would formula be any different?

Much to my surprise E stopped nursing at about 14 months.  I had planned to nurse as long as he wanted to - certainly hoping to continue to nurse when I go back to work in the fall at least in the morning or at night... but he stopped asking for it, and refused it when offered (I even snuck into his room in the middle of the night...).  I wasn't going to chase him around with my boobs... and this is the kid that was eating 2 full sandwiches at 10 months... but I have to admit I was a little bummed and sad when it was over.  

Despite it's surprising (at least to me) end... my second go at breastfeeding was much more successful than my first.  I think there were lots of things that contributed to this success... here are the top ones - I so hope they can help someone out there, worried about breastfeeding... 

  1. Just relax.  I think the most important thing was being relaxed.  By that I don't mean that breastfeeding is always relaxing.  What I mean is NOT obsessing about time, amount of milk, and sleep.  I didn't write down when E ate, I didn't keep track of how long it had been since the last feeding, I didn't look at the clock or count how many times I was up at night.  I didn't attempt to measure how much he was getting.  I watched him for cues, and pretty much fed him whenever he fussed - as a first resort.  Also, as the result of having another child - this was easy... I didn't have time to keep track of anything - feeding him first was always just easier than thinking about what else might be making him cry...  <note: there are a bazillion apps for counting feedings, times, sides... you don't need them.  resist the urge.>
  2. No formula/bottles in the house.  ok... just a few.  So with D we had no less than 30 bottles before his arrival.  With E we had maybe 2 (the ones that went with the pump).  We had no formula, no samples, nothing.  The good thing about formula and bottles is - if you need either - you can get them at any grocery store or pharmacy.  If they are in the house- you are more likely to use them - better to keep them at the store and grab them if you do need them.  With that said... this was not intentional on my part... it was more a result of being busy with another kid... I never thought to stock them before I had E.  
  3. Stay close.  Easier said than done right?  I truly believe I was more successful the second time around because I stayed home.  I found pumping stressful.  Even thinking about pumping was stressful.  When you're stressed, you're less likely to be successful pumping... it was a vicious cycle.  So... with E - I was home... for more than a year.  We also co-slept/room-shared for the first 7-8 months.  I know this isn't an option for everyone, or even MOST everyone... but I just want to put out there that I attribute much of my success to actually being around to nurse.  Because I was around... it was just easier... rather than cleaning and making bottles... I could just take my shirt off.  With that said - I leave... all the time... sometimes as soon as Adam walks in the door... but E probably had less than 20 bottles total in his first year.
  4. Breastfeeding buddies.  Just wanted to use some alliteration :) Honestly - I think that having people around, breastfeeding, comfortably, really helped to convince me that I could too!  With that said, obviously don't go around stalking people nursing on the street!  Knowing that I wasn't alone, that my struggles were normal, that things would get easier - from the experience of successful mamas - really helped me.
  5. When the going gets rough... explore other options.  Things for E and I were NOT easy.  I know that there are mamas out there for whom breastfeeding is a breeze from day one.  I wasn't one of them.  E SCREAMED for 18+ hours a day for the first months of his life.  Only when I did a total elimination diet for a few months did the screaming end, and I got to meet the real, happy, content, comfortable E I know now.  I ate turkey legs for breakfast.  I drank pear juice for weeks... I even ate lamb... it was the worst... but I am happy I knew this was an option.  This doesn't work all the time - some mamas do need prescription formulas and medicine - but I was happy I tried an elimination diet first (more info here and here on elimination diets and breastfeeding).
  6. You Need a Doula.  Get one.  They are well worth the money you pay (and more).  Not only are they available 24 hours a day by phone/text before you have the baby, there for your entire (3 day) labor, there for the first time you breastfeed... but they are available AFTER you have the baby, and you're home, engorged, in pain, overtired, hysterical, and needing advice and help.  They also... if you have the best one ever... continue to respond to your constant breastfeeding questions long after you had your baby (can I take benedryl? how much wine can I drink? what about nyquil? coffee?).  Get yourself a doula.  Immediately.
  7. Get out.  If you're at the hospital get out ASAP.  Get out of the hospital.  I know this sounds insane, and maybe it's not for everyone, but for me this was important.  At the hospital, however long you're there, they are constantly interrupting you, waking you up, and weighing your baby.  Many times things that are totally normal, are presented as dangers.  It is totally normal for breastfed babies to lose weight - but sometimes this is presented as something that is NOT normal and needs supplementation.  Unfortunately, most doctors at the hospital haven't successfully breastfed (I mean just logistically... the men haven't right?).  They are not experts in breastfeeding.  Get yourself out.  "What do doctors learn about breast-feeding in medical school? “We learned that it’s what’s best for baby,” said my own pediatrician. “But that’s it.” They’re introduced to evidence that prolonged breast-feeding reduces the possibilities of obesity, SIDS and allergies, but the science of it, what’s happening at the anatomical level? Not so much." (more from the TIME article here).  If you can't get out, get people in!  Bring in mamas who have breastfed to sit with you.  Chat with the lactation consultant.  Call your doula.
  8. Get out.  Get out of your house.  Sometimes it is isolating in your house - feeling alone in your struggle.  Get out, even just to a friend's house to talk to another adult.  Try to find some new mom groups around you -- if there aren't any -- start one (it should be a prerequisite that moms arrive unshowered, in their pajamas - this way you all are on the same page :) - honestly just have some moms over your house- don't worry their houses are messy too).  Find a group of moms online in your area - ANYTHING that lets you know that what you're struggling with is normal, and that it will pass.    
  9. Don't weigh the baby.
  10. Don't beat yourself up.  Breastfeeding isn't easy - it also isn't all or nothing (for many months D got formula and breast milk before he got all formula).  Sometimes supplementation is needed (I donated lots of milk to mama friends in the area) - sometimes it's not - this doesn't mean you have to stop nursing.  Don't obsess over your mistakes - surround yourself with the things necessary to succeed, find some supportive friends, and move on.  If you're using formula research the ones that are the best to use, humor me and look into homemade formulas and milk sharing, talk to doctors who have alternative ideas and that are not working with a specific formula company.  Find out what else is out there - but don't beat yourself up - I didn't!!  My best mama friend told me once that a 'good mom feeds her baby no matter what it takes.'  This doesn't mean that what was right for me, what worked for me, will work for you.  Being a mom is hard enough - quit beating yourself up for choices you made - move on and enjoy your time with your kiddos :)
If you've read to the bottom of this - thanks!  I hope I didn't make you angry.  

Please note... that I am not a nurse or doctor... in fact, in my opinion, I am not even a great mother... so don't take my words as the rule or law or advice.  I am simply writing what worked for me.  It might not be for you and that's ok.  If you know me... you know that I honestly don't judge.  In my opinion, as moms things are pretty hard.  I promise I'm not questioning your way of doing things - I am just sharing mine <3
Below are the resources linked to in this post as well as places I went for information.  I hope they help you too!

Read this first: If you're looking for tips and advice on breastfeeding - this is an amazing resource compiled by one of my favorite mommy bloggers - Mums Make Lists - Everything I Wish I Had Known about Breastfeeding:

The Breast is Best Policy and Why Breastfeeding Should Receive the Same Kind of Medical Attention as Erectile Dysfunction:


Breastfeeding - So Easy a Doctor Can Support It: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3192361/

Should Breastfeeding Workers Have Successfully Breastfed Themselves? http://www.thealphaparent.com/2012/04/should-breastfeeding-support-workers.html

Is the Medical Community Failing Breastfeeding Moms?  TIME Magazine: http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/02/is-the-medical-community-failing-breastfeeding-moms/

Elimination Diet - Kelly Mom: http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/food-sensitivity/

Elimination Diet - Ask Dr. Sears: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-infants-toddlers/food-allergies/elimination-diet

Kelly Mom: http://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/newborn-concerns/c-section/#milkcomein

Milk Sharing and Formula Feeding, Comparative Peer Reviewed Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3395287/

Using ultrasound to measure weight is not accurate: 

Corn Syrup in Formula:

Tips for Pumping and Teaching:




Carrie C said...

This was wonderful! Thank you. I had a very similar situation as you with my first (and only, so far). Emergency C, 5 weeks early, 4lb baby, no help learning to nurse - PICU said she needs more calories anyway and gave her formula. I'm a little sad about it, but don't feel guilty at all. She is a beautiful, thriving 3 year old now!

Unknown said...

Great post! I think people who have issues breastfeeding do not like to talk about it, there is a stigma or shame attached to it. Which sometimes makes it an all or nothing decision for some women when it does not have to be. I breast fed each of my three children for about a year and the only thing I would add to that is to have a plan for what your day might look like after you return to normal life, in my case a full time, high pressure, fast paced career. The first time I returned to work it was very stressful because I was not sure where I would pump, how/where I would clean my supplies, how long it would take, where I would store the milk during the day. By the time child two and three came along I had a game plan and that took a lot of the stress out. I would have been more than happy to share milk or talk to anyone struggling for support at the time. It was a blessing that I could do it, one I would want for everyone.

Ann said...

Great post! I too love to not be the only lactating Mommy in the room. I did have a job wear I could pump easily, but I hated every minute of it. I consoled myself thinking that I could eat extra calories! Our hospital has a great lactation support team who provided so much support.

Randi~Dukes and Duchesses said...

The whole subject of breastfeeding is so tricky and there's so much emotion caught up in it. This was a great post ... I think it's easy to get caught up in measurements and weight and everything that the doctors tell us and forget to just look at whether or not we have a healthy baby. Thanks for sharing at Project Inspire{d}!

Jennifer @ Every Breath I Take said...

There is such power in sharing our story! I'm glad you hit publish! And thanks for sharing it with the Tuesday Baby Link Up Community!

Unknown said...

This is fantastic information! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm featuring this tomorrow on the link up!

Moe said...

I also featured this post on the link up today! I love posts that give valuable information to new breastfeeding moms. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but also the one I am most proud of.

Unknown said...

Such a fab post ... I only got through the first few months with the help of formula but so wish I'd known more about alternatives or just had better / any advice about initial difficulties feeding after induction + c-section.

My now 3 year old is not a great milk drinker now but there's a great organic dairy firm over here that we love and she guzzles huge quantities of their natural yoghurts and cheese.

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Don't feel guilty at all! I wish I had known a little more with my first - but he is 4 and thriving :)

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Great advice! I tried to predict what it would look like when I went back to work - but even with the best of intentions - I had no idea. After number 1 - I knew more :)

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Haha yes! I loved justifying cookies with breastfeeding :) it's wonderful you were so supported!

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

I agree! It is a difficult line to walk - I debated a long time before posting this for that very fact!

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Thanks for hosting it! It's one of my favorite parties of the week - even if I don't have something to post - I always swing by to check out the other cool baby bloggers :)

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Thanks for the feature! You guys are so great :)

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

When it is so hard, I feel like it deserves an award :) Thanks for featuring me!

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Yum - Sounds like a great resource for local dairy!!

Liz said...

Great post. I was also surprised when my lil guy self-weaned at 11 months. I probably would've nursed forever, just because. Well not forever. That'd be wierd. But I loved the whole "Well I wasn't going to chase him around with my boobs". Thanks for the hilarious image!

Jeanie said...

Always nice to sit with someone and hear their story. That is what is is like in the blogging world. I think we should not worry so much about others that have a different experience (not able to breastfeed for this or that reason) . If it bothers them when people advocate breastfeeding then they should simply stop reading and do something else. Tell your story, all of them if you like. It helps people connect with their reality that might be similar.

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

haha thanks :)

KT @ OneOrganicMama said...

Thanks for your kind words :) it's just as easy to find a blog you agree with as finding one you disagree with - that's what's great about the internet <3

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