Monday, September 24, 2012

My Breastfeeding Journey

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about my breastfeeding journey with LL (it might be helpful if you go and read it to know where I'm coming from).

When I got pregnant with Cooper, I knew that I would breastfeed him again.  But unlike my pregnancy with LL, I knew I was facing a "difficulty" ahead.  With LL, I just assumed I would like it and it wouldn't be a big deal.  Wrong.  With Cooper, I knew from my experience that I might be facing a mental battle with breastfeeding.  I very very very much wanted to enjoy breastfeeding this time.  I wanted to have that "connection", to have no issues, and to enjoy it.  I also knew that I was going to be home MUCH longer with Cooper (13 weeks) than I was with LL (6 weeks) - giving me a chance to breastfeed him for much longer.  I can honestly say that I came into breastfeeding this time with a very positive and hopeful attitude.

When Cooper was born, my goal was to breastfeed him very quickly (just like I did with LL).  I got to do that again, and Cooper nursed on and off for an hour the first time the we tried it.  Um - that's amazing for a new baby.  He latched on with no issues and we did just fine.  Then, he wouldn't feed again for almost 24 hours.  That was SUPER stressful for me.  He had gotten his fill right after he was born, and he was way more concerned with sleeping than eating.  In fact, I had them re-check his blood sugar level about 12 hours later just to make sure that it wasn't low (it wasn't - he was fine).  When he FINALLY started eating again, he was still pretty efficient with it.  We did have some latch issues, but with the help of the lactation consultant at the hospital, we got them worked out.

We got home, my milk came in, and things kept on rolling.  This time, I had a few more issues than I did with LL.  Just like with her, when my milk came in, it was in.  For some reason, my body always thinks that I need enough milk to feed a small country instead of just one baby.  While it is great to not stress over having enough, oversupply can cause issues itself.  My let down was SUPER fast and hard, causing Cooper to gasp, choke, and not want to eat.  Um - that's not cool.  It also meant that I dealt with a LOT of engorgement.  To top it off, nursing was extremely painful for me for the first week.  Way more than I remembered it being with LL.  

When Cooper was a week and a half old (on July 4 - his due date), I had had enough of the mental and physical parts of breastfeeding and I told Matt that I wanted to give up.  It was too much.  I hurt, he didn't like it, and it was becoming very stressful.  Matt has always been EXTREMELY supportive in whatever my breastfeeding decision has been, so he said it was fine.  I had a HUGE cry about it (actually, more than one), and we decided to start weaning.  

For about a million different reasons, I actually didn't start weaning that week.  I decided I would wait until the next week.  I can't really explain it, but it was just as if a huge weight had been lifted off of me just because I had made the decision to stop.  I felt like the pressure was gone, and that made it easy to continue.  That sounds super crazy, I know.

The next week, (Cooper was 2 weeks old), I started weaning him towards the end of the week.  I got up to two bottles of formula a day and just kind of stalled there.  It seemed to be working for us and I didn't feel a huge rush to continue.  When Cooper was 4 weeks old, I actually stopped the formula and went completely back to breastfeeding.  I thought the formula was causing him some sleep issues (turns out it wasn't), but then I just never went back to formula.

After that, I continued to breastfeed Cooper exclusively until he was 11 weeks old.  At 11 weeks, I had no choice to start weaning him because I would be returning to work soon (when he turned 14 weeks).  I needed to give myself enough time to wean both of us slowly and to give my body time to dry up before I went back to work.

To say that I was upset about this is an understatement.  I cried about this endlessly.  I was SO UPSET that I had to start giving him formula.  It was a complete turn around for me.  Don't get me wrong - I had never come to "like" breastfeeding.  I didn't think it was "fun".  BUT it had become super easy (we're talking 10 minutes from one side per feeding), it was no longer painful, I no longer got engorged, and (again) it was just EASY.  Plus, I didn't have to deal with the hassle of how much he was drinking, etc.  He just ate until he stopped and then we went about our day.

I started weaning him the day he turned 11 weeks old.  I picked a feeding (his 10:30 one), and started giving him formula.  Every 2 days, I swapped another feeding from breastfeeding to a bottle.  The day that he turned 12 weeks old, I nursed him for the last time (right before bed).  It was SO emotional for me and I was truly not happy about it.  I had made a complete turn around in my feelings about breastfeeding.

We're still making an adjustment in his bottle feedings.  He doesn't really love it, but he's tolerating it (but - he really doesn't have another choice).  I had a lot of milk frozen, so he's still getting 1 bottle of breast milk a day.  It has effected his night time sleeping some, but we're trouble shooting that to figure out what works best for him.  It's all a guessing game with bottle feeding: I have to figure out how much he needs at different times of the day, and that takes some trial and error.  

I'm still in the process of drying up, and let me tell you, this is no joke.  I remember it being a painful process with LL, but I think I hate it even more this time.  Overall, I just feel like I've been hit by a bus.  I'm doing all the tricks (cabbage, ace bandage, cold compresses, ibuprofen, etc), but the only thing you can *really* do is give it time.

One thing that has really shocked me this time around is how nosey and opinionated people have been about MY journey.  And breastfeeding in general.  I know that breast milk is the *best* thing for a baby.  Duh.  That's why I've overcome my issues to do it as long as possible for both of my children.  But I also know that LL was on formula for waaaay longer than she breastfed, and she has turned out to be a wonderful, beautiful, healthy, SMART preschooler.  She is no worse for it.  

I can not tell you how many people I have had ask me if I was breastfeeding Cooper.  Even men.  And while I have no problem talking about it (because I feel it's something that shouldn't be taboo), I'm still shocked by how people feel that they have the right to ask that question.  I mean, no one comes up to me and asks if I'm giving LL vegetables every day.  No one every comes up and asks, "are you formula feeding your baby?".  I just feel like there is a LOT of negativity out there around formula feeding - and that's not fair.

Another thing that shocked me is all of the negativity in the online community.  I'm a member of a birth board (where we were all due in July), and there are around 2,500 members from just that month.  There are posts all the time about women who are having to stop breastfeeding for one reason or another, and there is ALWAYS judgment about their choice.  Why are you stopping?  Can't you just make it work?  It's the only health choice for your baby.  You're not sacrificing enough.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Judgment.  

While my opinion on breastfeeding did change over the course of my journey with Cooper, I also know what it's like to be on the other side of the fence.  To hate it.  To dread it every feeding.  To want to give up.  And you know what?  That's okay too.  I truly believe that being HAPPY with how you feed your baby is just as important as WHAT you feed your baby.  

There were even questions presented to me when I posted on Facebook about starting to wean Cooper.  Why are you stopping?  Why don't you just pump at work?  Why don't you still nurse him in the evenings?  Why can't you make it work?  Again - judgment. And you know who it comes from every.  single.  time?  Breastfeeding moms.  Never have I seen a formula-feeding mom ask, "why aren't you formula feeding?  it's the best way.  you're not willing to do enough.".  

Basically, this is what I'm getting at.  I think that breastfeeding is wonderful.  I think everyone should try to do that for their babies.  But I also know that it doesn't always work out.  Some people don't produce enough.  Some people have a lot of pain.  Some babies never "get it".  Some people just plain don't like it.  And you know what?  All of those scenarios (and more!) are okay.  Either way, your baby is going to be fine.  I just really wish that all the judgment wasn't out there because that's not fair.  

To end this, I am going to say that I am SUPER proud of myself.  I never thought that I would make it to 12 weeks.  Or that I would get over all of my "issues".  And I'm so happy that I have a freezer with a ton of milk, so that I can still give Cooper breast milk for a while.  But I also know that he is going to be fine on formula.  And that he will still grow to be a wonderful, charming, healthy little boy.  :)



Emily said...

I am so happy to read this post! I felt so much guilt about not breastfeeding Amelia. When I was pregnant with Hazel I told myself I wouldn't stress out about it and I pumped what I could with her and she ended up having some donor milk. I feel like there is so much judgment with breastfeeding.... unneeded judgment. As new mothers we need support and not judgment about something like how you feed your baby!

Good for you and Cooper!

Amanda McD said...

It's obvious from all of your posts that you LOVE your kids. Formula or breast, your kids are WELL taken care of and LOVED. Shame on any other momma out there who judges you and makes you feel like less of a mom for not doing x, y or z. Emily is right- new mothers (and all mothers!) need support and not judgement.

Recording Megow Adventures said...

man you're so right, breast feeding people can be nazis! for.real.
I have breastfed all of mine for at least 6 months, some longer. good and funny point about people never ask about LL's veggie intake.
we were at a wedding recently with Olive and so many MEN asked me if I was breastfeeding her, it was so unreal! I had no clue why they kept asking me that, I finally decided to just nurse her there (which I had to anyway), but OMG so many people acted like it was a magic trick or something, lol! AND these were all young college aged men, I'm telling you it was the weirdest thing

Emily said...

I must be a hermit haha b/c no one has asked me if I'm nursing britt???? i guess it's because i don't go many places??? i find it SUPER strange that people ask you that. I never ask anyone that question!!! And men especially!!! since when do men even have a clue about that kind of thing??? so so strange!!! i'm eager to hear how long it takes you to fully dry up and be comfortable as i wanna figure out my own plan of weaning when the time comes. I do NOT want to be miserable at chrstmas like i was when i weaned kye!!!