Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three – Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 4

It’s time for Vol. 4 of the Real Breastfeeding Stories part of Uniquely Fed – where I share real stories, from real moms with you!!

If you’re just joining me here, don’t miss the stories shared in Vol. 1Vol. 2, or Vol. 3 or the first two parts: My Journey and Common Breastfeeding Issues! To get updates each time I post in this series, just sign-up here or follow me on Facebook or Twitter!

Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three - Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 4

Today, let’s take a candid look at breastfeeding struggles, successes, and times when it’s just not very enjoyable.

Volume 4 – Heather, Jessica, and Sandra

Click on the links (or images) to read today’s stories:

 Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three - Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 4  Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three - Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 4  Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Three - Real Breastfeeding Stories, Vol. 4

Heather’s Story

Jessica’s Story

Sandra’s Story

Heather’s Story

I am so proud of Kristi for talking about this and bringing many different perspectives together! It can be risky to talk about online because of the tendency of so many to criticize and turn an innocent conversation into a blood bath. Or a milk bath. 😉 Solidarity, sisters!

I have birthed two boys. I have breastfed two boys. I have hated every second of breastfeeding two boys. Okay, not every second. I was feeling pretty cool for, like, the first day in the hospital. And relieved. Really relieved that it seemed breastfeeding was going to work out (because I thought if the nurse told you it was working then that meant you would have a successful six months {at least} of breastfeeding-earth-mama-our-spirits-are-one bliss). Ha. I was so cute when I was dumb.

It has been a couple of years since I have had one on the teat and I don’t do well with sleep deprivation. So the details may be a little fuzzy and I may leave out big chunks of the story…but here’s what I recall.

I brought Bouncing Baby Boy #1 home and breastfed him for eight months before he self-weaned. It hurt basically the whole time. I assumed this was normal because when they checked his latch at the hospital (and our follow-up appointment a few days after we came home), they said everything looked good and was working right. That’s all I had to go by and I had heard that my nipples would have to adjust. Plus, pumping also didn’t feel very good, so in my mind I was either a wimp or this was just an excruciating process for everyone. Either way, I pretty much just needed to power through.  Notice how I give myself such grace.

In the hospital, my wonderful nurse gave me a nipple shield and suggested using it right from the start because my nipples are “flat.” And then I felt guilty, of course, because I wasn’t supposed to use a shield. It wasn’t the perfect way. But, it definitely helped my little guy latch on. I used that for several months.

I am a stay-at-home mom so we were able to breastfeed most of the time; I just pumped to have extra on hand so my husband could give him a bottle sometimes. I do have to say, I loved not having to wash any pump or bottle parts when the baby breastfed. I also liked not having to take formula or bottles with me everywhere. One weird thing that happened was my night chills. Randomly when I was sleeping, I would get chills so bad that I could barely walk or hold anything. I was so cold but I would try to get up and move around to work the shaking out. I talked to my doctor and he prescribed a muscle relaxer, explaining that it was a side effect of the breastfeeding hormones in my body. At the time, I was too overwhelmed to question anything but it didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t going to work. For one thing, I couldn’t predict which nights the chills would happen. For another, I couldn’t take a muscle relaxer and then get up and take care of a baby…der… So, basically that just continued for a while until it didn’t anymore.

I think I gave him his first formula when he was around four months old. He did fine on it and transitioned between formula and breast easily. Eventually he started getting more and more bottles and I started pumping less and less and by the time he was eight months old he was mainly just nursing for his nighttime feedings. When he began sleeping through the night around that time, he stopped taking the breast and I didn’t push the issue because, in my opinion, I had suffered enough!

Two years later when I had my next baby, I expected everything to be the same except easier since it was the second time. HAHAHA! Actually, the opposite happened. Like Kristi, my reality was soooo far off from my expectations!

This baby love was more difficult in every way. He weighed three pounds more than my first baby and so pushing him out was about 300x harder (seriously, I begged for a c-section after pushing for 137 days and when they wouldn’t do it, I tried to make myself pass out). Feeding him was much more complicated, too. I thought if I had a big huge baby he would sleep longer because I had heard some dumb myth about babies being able to go longer between feedings once they weigh 12 pounds. WRONG! He wanted to eat every ten minutes!

Though my first baby took a long time at each feeding (40ish minutes), he could go longer between meals. This hulk wanted to eat for ten minutes every ten minutes. So, that was exhausting. And, I guess because he was feeding more frequently, it was more painful. The nips had no down time. The uncontrollable night time convulsions returned. I got mastitis (which feels like the flu so that’s cool). It was harder breastfeeding an infant when I also had a two-year-old. I felt like I was glued to the couch the majority of the day. (I know some people can carry or wear their babies and breastfeed them but I have to assume these people’s babies were not two feet long when they were born. Either way, I was never too good at that.) This guy self-weaned at about five months old and once again, I let him. I didn’t want to go to a consultant and make a big deal and fight to keep it going when I didn’t enjoy it in the first place. That is why I have the utmost respect for the women who go to experts and change their diets and try all the things! That’s more dedication than I could muster!

Looking back, I now suspect both of my kids probably had some sort of lip and/or tongue tie. But I didn’t know about those things when I was breastfeeding. I was just trying to remember which pedal was the gas and which was the brake and where to put the instant oatmeal versus the instant coffee.

I wanted to breastfeed my boys, at least through the newborn stage because of all the hype about benefits for the baby. And because I could save money on formula. And sometimes it was more convenient. But, I have to be honest.

I hated the leaking and the breast pads and the nursing bras. Oh, the nursing bras!  I hated the swelling (I did not need any enhancement in that area). I hated the dehydration. I hated the need for nipple cream. I hated how I didn’t feel sweet and like we were bonding during feeding like I was “supposed to.”  I felt like a dairy cow.

These days when a new mama asks me, I say “Fed is best and that’s about as far as I have a right to an opinion in the matter of how you feed your baby.”  Sure, breast milk has its benefits but so does having a more relaxed mama whose nipples aren’t on fire 24/7.

About Heather: Heather Brown is a stay-at-home mama who says things on the internet. She loves Jesus, her family, casacara lattes and grocery shopping alone. Heather writes about life and shares the stuff that works at theheatherbrownproject.com

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Jessica’s Story

Overall, I think my breastfeeding experience went very well – but I say that knowing that I had realistic expectations of the situation at hand (boob):

  • I knew it would hurt in the beginning until my nipples toughened up – and the babe got the hang of it.
  • I was cracked and bloody and slathered in olive oil.
  • I knew it would be demanding – every 2-3 hours (exhausted doesn’t even begin to accurately describe my emotional state the first 6 months).
  • I pre-warned my friends and family that I was planning on nursing and to not be surprised by it. I would be discreet – but not hide – when out with them and, in my own house, my boobs would be freely visible. It was after all…my house.

What didn’t go so well was the stress of returning to work, pumping and having a baby. So much of having kids is interlaced – everything is connected and influences the other. I can’t mince words here. It was fucking hard.

I felt I was drowning. I felt I was being propelled through life faster than I could handle. And I felt like I was failing in all things, not just breastfeeding, when my milk supply dropped. Something as simple as a tube breaking on my pump felt like the Himalayas of mountains – something that could never be conquered.

When things got tough, I cried.

I allowed myself to experience all of the emotions – because there are A LOT postpartum. But I didn’t always share them with friends or family (or doctor) – which I regret a little. Depression, PTSD,  and anxiety are very real monsters.

But God Bless my Husband. Thank God we have a relationship where one mean statement doesn’t trigger a fight. Every night we told each other how thankful we were for each other. Every night we said “You are great Wife & Mother”, “ You are a great Father & Husband.” Every night. Even after a breakdown or failure or disappointment.

For now, I plan on nursing my second child as long as possible with a goal of a minimum of 9 months…a year would be spectacular. This time around I DO NOT plan on pressuring myself to exclusively nurse. The second time around has afforded me the luxury of self-awareness. I now have a baseline to what my personal limits are.

My advice?

  • Formula supplementation is NO BIG DEAL. You can do both – it is not an all or nothing scenario.
  • Kids are tough. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Remember to go easy on yourself.

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Sandra’s Story

I’m a 38 year old stay-at-home mother of 2 boys, Lewis (8) and Mason (3). I live in a small town in northeastern BC Canada called Fort Nelson – AKA mile 300 on the Alaska Highway.

I have learned that breastfeeding is a very personal experience and, like being a parent, it has been a big commitment in my life.

I had Lewis when I was 30 in a natural, unmedicated delivery. He was 6lbs 9 oz when he was born. I breastfed him for about 4 months and pumped for another 2 months. I didn’t have any big expectations on breastfeeding. I just knew I wanted to try and that it was best for baby. He was a small baby and I didn’t have the best support team around at the time. Some of the women in my family kept telling me to give him a bottle and that my milk was not good enough for him. But they had much different experiences than me, like unplanned c-sections and painful breastfeeding.

My husband was a truck driver and was gone all the time. I felt very confused and torn. I wanted to follow my instincts, the doctors’/ nurses’ advice, and the advice of family members. I felt guilty and alone all the time. Until one day I said “No more!  He is my baby and I will care for him my way!”  I felt guilty for not breastfeeding him longer but he was growing and healthy and that’s what matters.

Fast forward to 2012 when we moved from Penticton BC 1650km north to Fort Nelson and started a new life.

When I found out I was pregnant  with #2, I wanted this experience to be different. I had new friends who had successfully breastfed and I went to the library and got books and videos (I love Dr. Jack Newman!) on breastfeeding and parenting. I educated myself a lot more, unlike the first time where I just went with the flow and saw what happened. Since our little town’s hospital maternity ward is closed down (that’s another story), I went back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I had to deliver my baby. I had another natural, unmedicated fast delivery and Mason was 8 lbs. He latched right away and has been latched ever since he was born three years ago.

I think my success with breastfeeding him for three years is the result of a combination of things:

  1. Living over 1600 km away from my extended family helped a lot!
  2. Having a better support system: my husband home everyday after work, positive friends, and a low-stress life.
  3. Educating myself and getting prepared for this new baby. (Dr Jack Newman & Deepak Chopra)
  4. Co- sleeping (baby sleeping in our room.)
  5. (Especially when he was first born) I literally had my boob out all the time feeding him. My friend said to me “when in doubt pull’em out and feed that baby.”

It wasn’t always easy, but it has been worth it.

Now that he’s three, I think that I’m ready for him to be weaned. I guess I didn’t prepare myself for the weaning process especially since he is so attached to his “num-nums”. I enjoy sitting down and nursing him but, soon enough, our breastfeeding journey will be a memory.

You can follow Sandra on Instagram @MrsB1243 #TheAdventuresOfLewisAndMason.

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I hope you enjoyed reading these stories and that you feel encouraged if your journey looks like one of these! Stay tuned for more stories in tomorrow’s post.

What has your breastfeeding journey been like? Did it go the way you had planned or hoped? Let me know in the comments.

 

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