Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Raw Thoughts on Breastfeeding

I always intended on exclusively breastfeeding my baby for a year. I've made it almost six months of feeding my baby breast milk. I've had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and all the articles I read could have never prepared me for this experience. 

Our story is more complicated than others, and our story isn't over yet. Charlotte was exclusively breastfed the first couple days, until I gave her a bottle of formula the last day in the hospital. I went home and gave her formula here and there until she was 20 days old. On her 20th day, she screamed for 8 hours straight. The screaming didn't stop for days and I knew something wasn't right.

I called her pediatrician over and over again and was turned away. I was told "I needed better coping mechanisms" and "I have a fussy baby." 

Charlotte would arch her back, projectile vomit, and scream... a lot. It was the evening after her pediatrician appointment where I was sent home and told that nothing was wrong that her diapers went from normal to not normal. Mucous came first. Then blood. 

I found a new pediatrician (who I love), Charlotte was put on Zantac, and I cut dairy/soy out of my diet. It was then I realized that formula was probably going to be out of the question. 

Her and I spent 2 weeks cluster feeding to build my supply back up. I spent hours pumping and I now finally make at least 10 ounces extra per day to freeze. 

I have sacrificed my time and every single food item I put in my mouth to ensure Charlotte's tummy is getting what she needs to heal. To this day, she still isn't healed, but I know I am doing everything in my power to make sure she gets what she needs. 

Also.. a can of formula for babies with infant colitis and allergies is $45.

1. It's a love/hate relationship
Breastfeeding and pumping is a huge responsibility. Being the sole source of nourishment is a lot of pressure, on top of recovering, sleep deprivation, and trying to be a human. It's extremely time consuming, especially in the beginning. I tried so many times to switch to formula and the mom guilt was fierce. I cried and cried about how selfish I felt for not wanting to feed my baby. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's the sweetest moments you'll experience with your baby. To this day, at 4:30AM when she wakes up and wants to eat, I find it to be the closest moments I have with her.

2. Lactation consultants are cheerleaders
In the hospital I saw a lactation consultant at least 5 times. They all gave me different advice but ultimately told me I was doing a fantastic job. I saw a lactation consultant a week after delivery and I paid $140 out of pocket for her to tell me I was doing a great job. She fit me for flanges and sent me on my way. 

After having mastitis twice and being scared to feed my kid, I decided to hire a new lactation consultant, who I paid $215 out a pocket to tell me that my baby has a lazy suck, needs to be seen by a infant chiropractor and needs infant massages twice a day. Have you seen her leg rolls? I don't think she has a lazy suck. I will say she did tell me my pump flanges were too big and causing all the pain, so she was helpful on that front.

I learned that sometimes, you just have to figure it out yourself. You know your body and baby the best. 

3. It can be expensive
Everyone always dotes about how breastfeeding is free. First, my time is not free. Also, lactation consultants that aren't covered by insurance add up quick. And if you decide to go back to work like I did, the cost of all the medela bottles, freezer bags, tubing, extra parts, an extra pump, etc. add up real quick! It's obviously still waaaaay cheaper than formula, but unless you have your baby velcro-ed to you at all times, it isn't free.

4. It doesn't get easier, it just changes
In the beginning it's a complete blur. I felt like I fed Charlotte every waking moment. Then we went through the cluster feeding phase. My mom would keep telling me it would get easier.. and it has but it's still hard. I think I have gotten used to my new lifestyle over time. I pump a total of 2 - 2.5 hours a day. I work full time right now. I manage to somehow do laundry, dishes, clean my house regularly, make my bed every morning, and exclusively nourish my mini human. 

5. Just wait to introduce the bottle
Everyone kept telling me to make sure I introduce a bottle or else she'll never take one. I was so stressed to make sure she got bottles regularly. I went back to work after 10 weeks. I used a newborn nipple for slow flow. Somehow she still has some serious bottle preference, so when she does happily nurse it's like a miracle.

6. Don't try to feed on a schedule
I made this mistake in the hospital and shortly after coming home. From day one I tried to nurse her every 2 hours. That's not how breastfeeding works. The first weeks are brutal and the baby may want to nurse every 30 minutes, but that changes quickly. 

7. Get the right size pump flanges
I ended up with mastitis, twice. I was fitted for pump flanges a week after delivery, but I had no idea that I may need to go down a size later on. What a difference the right size makes! I blamed Charlotte for the pain, but it was never her. It was the pump equipment. Also it makes pumping go much faster.

8. You'll always be hungry
I am starving. All the time. I make 40ish ounces of milk per day. That's 800 calories I am burning to make all that milk!

9. It's hard to be modest and it can make you feel very alone
If you have no problem nursing or pumping in public or around family/friends, then you probably will never feel alone. I on the other hand do not feel comfortable with that. In fact, my first weeks of nursing, I wouldn't even let my mom be in the room. That ended real quick but it was so hard for me to just not care. I have to leave gatherings or public places to pump in the car if we are out and it can feel isolating. I usually just call someone during that time though or catch up on Instagram. 

10. Not everyone leaks
I never have. 

11. It's empowering
Even through mastitis, hours upon hours of pumping, no dairy, no soy or soybean oil, limited caffeine, and limited alcohol, I look at Charlotte in awe. All her growth and chubby little rolls are thanks to me. That's a really cool feeling to have. I have sacrificed so much and I struggle to be optimistic and happy, but being a mom comes with so much unconditional love and sacrifice. 

12. You need a supportive spouse, teammate, and a support system
I wouldn't have made it this far without a hardworking and supportive teammate. Justin has supported whatever decision I feel is best for us. He supported giving her formula. He supported and has done everything in his power to make this journey easier on me. He does all the night time diaper changes. During his paternity leave, he would even stay up with me while I nursed so I didn't feel so alone. 

We also originally planned for Charlotte to go to daycare while I worked, which required separating all my milk into individual labeled bottles with the her name/date/time pumped. That's a lot of work on top of what I am already doing. My mom stepped in and offered to babysit Charlotte and now she makes all her bottles (bonus: she even does some laundry and dishes). My mom has made my life so much more seamless. 

13. Everyone has a different experience
My mom exclusively breastfed all three of her children. I never even received a bottle in my infancy. She always told me after the first couple weeks that it was easy and it was a beautiful experience. Two weeks passed, then a month, and my experience was vastly different from hers. Everyone I talk to feels so differently and experiences feeding their baby their own way. Do what works best, but don't throw in the towel too early. It can turn into one of the most powerful experiences you have. 

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