**I am not sharing medical advice, just my breastfeeding journey. Please consult a professional for breastfeeding support.**
There are many hidden mysteries about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting that you have to discover for yourselves. Honestly I do know why we don’t talk about them with others who don’t have kids, unless they ask: It can be a little scary and overwhelming. Having said that, I still don’t remember my friends having conversations about tearing, sitz baths, crying babies or teething, but I probably wasn’t paying much attention anyway. When babies are not on your horizon, anything people say simply falls on deaf ears. I don’t think I would have appreciated the stories and information that ladies were sharing (if they even were) before I had Oliver. Now I love to hear women’s birth stories, adoption stories and talk about the crazy wonderful life with a baby.
Breastfeeding is one of those things that I hadn’t heard much about before I had to do it. Of course I went to the classes and practiced with a little doll but you really just have to dive in and navigate as you go. I wasn’t breastfed as I am adopted (have I mentioned that before?) and so is my brother. Our only other family in SA was my aunt and uncle and they also adopted two kids funnily enough. We are all #formulastrong and were happy bottle feeders, but that just meant that I didn’t grow up where breastfeeding was an everyday occurrence.
Breastfeeding: Month 1 & 2
I remember nursing Oliver for the first couple times in the hospital and thinking that I hadn’t stocked up enough on nursing cream. Ouch! I did not expect it to be sore for as long as it was. Of course I was latching and unlatching him few times to try get it right, but I had no idea that breastfeeding was actually work. It required both of us to experiment and try all sorts of different things before getting it right.
Oliver took a while to latch correctly so it was uncomfortable for quite a while, but we adjusted where we could and kept going. I went to visit a Lactation Consultant in Matthews a couple times and it was great to see what I was doing right and what we could work on. I highly recommend getting professional help to give you one-on-one support. Of course, Oliver nursed like a dream baby every time we went (eye roll) so it was hard for them to really picture all the shenanigans (more about that later) but it was totally worth going to get some help.
When my milk came in on about day 4, I was shocked. I thought my belly had stretched, but was not prepared for the way my boobs were about to quadruple in size. Sometimes I was so engorged that it felt like I had milk all the way up to my armpit. Poor Oliver had to deal with the most intense let down (where the milk comes down from the milk ducts and is ready to flow) and oversupply, never mind the anxiety over Oliver was gulping and taking in so much air, I was leaking everywhere and it was just a mess. I was burping him for ages and it still felt like he had lots of air that needed to come out. I initially used a Boppy pillow to help prop Oliver up and give my elbow something to lean on but found that it was not as supportive as the My Breast Friend pillow so I switched.
I started block feeding which is where I would feed on the same side for two feedings in a row and then switch to the other side, not offering both sides at one session. I typically would do right-right-left repeat, as my right side had a much bigger supply. I did this on and off for a couple weeks and I think it helped but next time I’ll just offer both and let the supply work itself out. I did not want to go out anywhere during this point because feeding sessions were long (about an hour in total) and Oliver would cry, milk would spray and it was just easier to stay at home. This did make it lonely for me but luckily it was only for a season.
I hardly pumped at all during this time as I wanted my supply to regulate and calm down a bit, but I did pump once a day to give Daniel a chance to take over one of the night feeds. At about 8 weeks, Daniel started giving Oliver a bottle of my pumped milk so I could get a little bit of extra sleep. I still had to pump while he fed him but it was way quicker than breastfeeding him and holding him upright so I was grateful for the break. Oliver seemed to do so much better with the bottle that I almost quit breastfeeding to exclusively pump after a really tough few days, but I decided to give it a couple more weeks and sure enough things got easier and easier. I wasn’t going back to work so I didn’t have the pressure to pump more than that one feed to create a huge stash. I did pump a couple times for relief though because Oliver started sleeping a little longer and I would be awake with sore breasts. Oh the wonderful world of motherhood!
It felt like all I did in month 1 and 2 was breastfeed and change diapers. Oliver fed about every 1-2 hours during the day and 2-4 hours at night. I wasn’t prepared for how much my little guy was going to feed but tried to be grateful that I was able to feed him even though it was tiring and felt like a 24/7 job. If you are in this stage, hang in there mama!
Things got increasingly easier around the three month mark when Oliver grew out of his reflux and he took in less air when feeding. Suddenly I could breastfeed and do something else at the same time like drink a cup of tea. Feedings took about 30 minutes and he would drink from both sides. Burping was a breeze and Oliver seemed so much happier with life.
The beginning of month 3, Oliver nursed between 1-3 hours from the start of a feeding to the start of the next. At the end of the month it was more like every 2-3 hours. He nursed a lot better but still made a clicking sound pretty often due to my forceful letdown, his high palate and borderline tongue-tie. I didn’t do anything about it as it was not affecting his tummy like in the previous months.
He cluster fed before bed, feeding three times on the hour for three hours before finally falling asleep at 11:00pm but would sleep for 10 hours without any night feeds, so even though I was exhausted, I knew I could get a good night’s rest. He did the same at four months old but his bed time was 9:30pm and he would wake up around 7:30am. I feel like we had a really easy time with Oliver’s sleeping at night, and I am so sorry to those of you who have struggled at night. We all have different struggles at different stages, but not getting enough sleep has to be the worst so I am sorry!
At four months, Oliver got a little distracted during feedings if someone was talking to me or there were loud noises around us. Feeding in public was a little tricky as he would try to look around and constantly pull the nursing scarf down. I had to go to a quieter room/place to nurse as Oliver was very curious about what he might be missing out on. Don’t get me wrong, he loved his milk though.
Oliver also went through a growth spurt and had days when he fed every 1½ hours, but typically at four months it was every 2-3 hours. It was around this time, when every single storage bag of my frozen milk was sour, that I realized I had excess lipase which is an enzyme that breaks down the milk fat early and causes it to taste sour. You can apparently scour/almost boil the milk before storing it in the freezer, but I was not going to do that for the 2oz that I was pumping after the morning feed. #whosgottimeforthat
Breastfeeding just kept getting easier and easier. Also quicker! Oliver took about 10-15 minutes to feed, unless we were in a new environment and there was a lot going on. He knows how to turn his little body and reach his arms around me before I’m even ready. He also knows our sign language sign for “milk” and gets all excited that it’s feeding time. He nursed every 3 hours and got a bottle once a week, which he still didn’t love. I had some trouble pumping since I hadn’t had to do it in ages but the more I did it, the better rhythm I got into! Feel free to comment below with some pumping tips if you have any!
Oliver nursed 4-5 times a day and had one bottle at 8 and 9 months, but then nursed only four times from months 9-12. He continued to be super distractible and I always had to find a quiet place to feed without any interruptions, but nursing was a dream. It was easy, I got some bonding time with my boy and it was my favorite time of each day (still is!). Daniel gave him a bottle in the afternoons after his nap and would have to read Oliver a book so he would relax and drink his bottle instead of throwing it or just playing with the teat.
Pumping everyday wasn’t ideal, but I liked that Daniel could get some bonding time with Oliver and I could have a long afternoon off when my mom took Oliver once a week. I struggled to pump when I was out an about (usually getting a wax) so when he dropped that feed to just four, I just stopped pumping and nursed him: morning, after nap #1, after nap #2, before bedtime.
Breastfeeding: Past one year old
I knew I wanted to breastfeed past one year, but I had no idea that I might encounter small bumps after the year mark. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two years old, and so did some of the vegan blogs that I had read, so I am aiming for two years but am letting Oliver decide when he wants to stop nursing. I know he will take a bottle after that so if it’s before two years then I’ll just pump what I can and give it to him in a bottle. If it’s not enough, we might look at a vegan formula but that’s not where we have to go yet.
Last week though, all of a sudden, I had trouble letting down to the point where Oliver would lose interest in nursing and skip the feed. He was becoming less and less patient and I was becoming more and more anxious. I think it also might have had something to do with us going down to nursing just three times a day (instead of four) when we tried one nap a day, but then went back to two naps after three weeks, and Oliver wanted “meeeew” (milk) after his naps (four times a day) like he was doing previously.
Anyway, it got all in my Googled what I could about helping my let down reflex and what I found out was fascinating. I’m going to put a short post together about the few things I did to help your let down reflex so stay tuned for that.
I hope you enjoyed reading my journey and I’m really glad I took the time to add to this post because you truly do forget things. Even re-reading my own writing was fun for me because I had forgotten so much in the short space of a year. I would love to know what months were tricky for you, or what your favorite part of feeding is.
I know that feeding your child can cause huge anxiety and stress, and I just want to say that you are a good mama however your journey turned out.