I’m done breastfeeding now. Good timing, since I am starting a new job and that’s one less thing I have to deal with. There certainly are enough people sharing their bfing experiences online, but I wanted to share mine as well. Just like with the birth story (Ainsley’s here), I ate this stuff up when I was pregnant, so I may as well add my story to the billions out there.
I was kind of surprised by the lack of help in the hospital. They asked if I would be breastfeeding at some point, then after she was born we cuddled for a minute, they took her and cleaned her and fixed me and whatever they do, then brought her back to eat (they want the baby to eat within 30 minutes of birth). They had me sit up, stuck her on me, said “oh good! she has a good latch! you’re lucky!”. Then basically said to do this every 3-4 hours and not to nurse for longer than 20 minutes per side. Annnnd so I did. And it was fine. It hurt, but it wasn’t excruciating until I did get a crack on one side (apparently her latch was A+, but she was a “very strong sucker”…greaaaat). I asked a nurse about it and she gave me some cream and a shield and that was it. So by the time the lactation consultant saw me the next day, I felt like an old pro. (She did give me the extra tip to soak the hurt side in some warm salt water solution for a few mins before nursing to help it heal.)
The initial soreness went away in less than a week. The hurt side also healed and (after being frightened about it for a day or so) I was able to nurse sans-shield no problem. I was concerned that side would have to go through another painful period, but I guess the shield eased me into it.
So when I got home, I was still dealing with an injured side. And even though it wasn’t too painful altogether, it still didn’t feel awesome. My neck tensed up like crazy every time. So I had this whole elaborate thing. When I was ready (when it was time or when she woke up or whatever), I would get up, put a neck rice pillow in the microwave for a few minutes, soak some gauze in saltwater and stick that in my bra until the neck thing was ready, then put the neck thing on, put the shield on the one side, grab the baby, set up the Boppy, and sit in the glider. I also had a little breastfeeding tracker on my phone that I used obsessively to keep track of stuff (this would later be replaced by Words with Friends or Kindle reading). It was quite the setup, and the first time I nursed on-the-go (in the back of the truck at her 1 week photo shoot) or while moving (Will was having some computer issue so I walked in to help him while nursing), I was all kinds of proud. I was glad to be finally rid of all that crap once I finally got comfy, and didn’t really use the Boppy after the first 3 months or so (though I guess it was kind of invaluable during those 3 months…and I got mine for $5 at a thirft store, so score!).
I really wanted to breastfeed for a year, but it didn’t work out. We had a great little symbiotic relationship the whole time I was home with her. I was never engorged (other than those first couple days when my milk came in), and in those days didn’t really have any under-supply issues, either. I wish I had started pumping earlier to build up supply – both in the freezer and in myself. But I was totally freaked out by the pump (for no good reason. It’s annoying and totally unsexy, but doesn’t hurt), so I think I waited until like a month to try it.
Once I went back to work (at about 8 weeks), my supply dropped a little (which is common). When she started sleeping through the night at 3 months, it dropped more (she went to bed at around 7, and I’d pump once after that before I went to bed). I had a bit of an “I can’t feed my baby, I am a horrible mom, what is wrong with me”-type breakdown when my husband said it looked like we were going to have to supplement. It was like an evil word to me. I took fenugreek like mad, drank Mother’s Milk tea, and pumped some extra. I kind of hated pumping, though, so I didn’t pump as much extra as I could (plus, if I was actually going to feed the baby, I just couldn’t do that much or she wasn’t getting enough). Some people set an alarm and get up at 1-2AM every day to get an extra pump in…but yeah no. I was just not willing to do that. When we both got very sick at about 4 months, it dropped more. At this point we had to start heavily supplementing (we did occasionally before) with formula. And eventually it got to the point where I was only getting 1-2 ounces at work all day (not per pump), while she was eating 3 6oz bottles while I was gone. Even when I nursed (the baby always gets more than the pump), she wasn’t getting enough and I’d have to give her a small bottle. At that point I reluctantly decided that it just wasn’t worth it and we went to formula full time. (Not awful timing with the new job and all; I won’t even have to broach the subject with them.)
I currently still have about a day or so of breastmilk in the freezer that I want to save forever or something. Just like when I buy a really cute new piece of clothing and wait for some ‘special’ day to wear it. I just need to use it, but it makes me sad. My baby is growing up! (Now I’m making her baby food instead of breastmilk.) Oh, and in addition to missing that little connection to my baby while breastfeeding, I also toooootally miss my breastfeeding-sized boobs. I felt like a real woman! I had cleavage! oh well.
So anyway. While I am kind of bummed I didn’t make it to my goal, I still did about 6 months (and about 4 months of only breastmilk with only very occasional supplementing). And I think that’s damn good. I saved us some money and made my baby just a bit healthier and happier. But I also know that she is fine now that she’s on formula. I was an 80s formula baby and I turned out more or less OK. So whatever you decide (even if it’s formula all the way), your baby will be fine and it’s the right decision for you. Good luck!