Our Nursing Journey….
**disclaimer: this post is about nursing/breastfeeding, if you don’t want to read it and/or it totally seems weird to you, then this is my warning to move on and not read this post!**
I have been hesitant to write this post because I know some people get totally weirded out by nursing (whatevs!!), but when I was pregnant I read Sherry from Young House Love’s nursing story and I was so, so encouraged by it, so I thought I would share mine too in case there are any other new or expectant mama’s out there who read my blog! I think so often we read the horror stories of nursing (other blogs, Baby Center Message Boards, etc), I thought it would be good to share a positive experience with nursing…so,here we go!! I can’t say enough how thankful I am that nursing worked out for us and my heart breaks for the women who battle with feelings of failure because breastfeeding did not work out for them. I want to say, just because I nursed I have *no* issues with forumla feeding, by choice or because nursing didn’t work out for you - everyone is just trying to feed their baby!! (ahem…this is your last warning to stop reading if you don’t want to hear about this!)
I went into my nursing journey with Elliot with high expectations. My sister had successfully nursed 3 kids, my mom did the same, and I felt like I was (somewhat) educated to make this a successful journey for Elliot and I. Things started out GREAT as I had an incredible nurse in the first few hours with Elliot who helped me figure out latch, getting her positioned, what it should feel like, etc – I was so, so thankful to have her assigned to me (I wish I knew her name!!) as I think without her I would have been extremely flustered and frustrated. Elliot seemed to be nursing like a champ and I was thrilled with our progress….until the 2nd night in the hospital. In the middle of the night the night nurse came in and flipped the lights on, rolled our brand new (crying) baby in and sternly said “if you don’t give this baby formula she is going to end up in the ER.” Uhhhhhh….PANIC ALERT TO A NEW MOM!!!!!!! Seriously, I had been in a dead sleep and that is what I woke up to. As a new, very tired mom, I asked her what my options were and she said I needed to give her formula immediately if I didn’t want her to end up there…um, seriously?! So, I did what I was told – Chris gave her the amount of forumla she told us (I think it was .25 of an oz) AFTER she nursed for 30 minutes – we did this for 2 feedings.
The next morning we were able to see the lactation consultant and needless to say she was ANGRY at the nurses proclamation in the middle of the night! E had lost some weight (normal!) but nothing she (or the pediatrician) were concerned about, so the LC advised to stick to our original plan (only nursing) and get our girl on track with her weight gain! So we packed up (the ridiculous amount of stuff we had…) and headed home, which is where the journey really begins.
Elliot was an EXTREMELY slow nurser for about 6 months – for the first 3 months it would take her about 45 minutes to eat (seriously…I watched a lot of TV, read A LOT of blogs, and looked at a lot of Facebook statuses during that time….). Those first 6 weeks were like having a tiny piraña attached to my body – the first minute of so of each feeding was SO painful!! At week 5 I called a local lactation consultant and went in for a consultation - at that visit I found out 2 things 1) her latch was all wrong and 2) my girl could PACK IT IN! (she took 4.5 oz in a feeding which apparently was CRAZY for a baby her age!) That 90 minute visit was the best time and money I spent in my entire pregnancy/labor…seriously. She was able to help me fix her latch and continue on without any pain ever again (phew!!!) and gave me so much confidence as a new mom that I was doing it “right,” which is just what I needed! At around 10 weeks she started sleeping 10-12 hours (we do not co-sleep and she just started sleeping through on her own without waking up), and I am so, so thankful my supply adjusted on it’s own and didn’t cause any issues for us. We also gave her her first bottle at around 2 weeks (when I got mastitis…yeeeeouch!!!) and she took to that like a champ too – which I am SO thankful for, I gotta say, I feel for the mama’s whose babies don’t take bottles.
Around 6 months we dropped down from a 2.5-3 hour schedule to a 4 hour schedule and I felt like my world opened up! It was SO much easier to leave the house (I was not very good or comfortable at nursing in public!) and we were really down to nursing when she woke up, down for naps (2 of them!) and at bedtime…I loved it! I did nurse “on demand” (somewhat….), so there were days she would nurse a few extra times (if she was sick or having a bad day especially!), but since we followed a pretty regular schedule, her nursing just followed suit. This worked perfectly for us as it was just so much easier to plan our days! A lot of people think that if you follow a schedule you aren’t nursing on demand, but if she ever wanted to nurse, I let her…however, it was rare she ever wanted to nurse outside of wake up, naps and bed, which worked great for us!
We did have one “big” hiccup in this story….Chris and I had a trip planned in August of this year. Her pediatrician did not feel comfortable with us introducing milk yet (she was only 10 mos!), so the plan was to introduce formula to her since I didn’t have enough stored up in the freezer from pumping (my body did not love the pump). Welllll…after 2 or 3 times of giving her forumla we realized she was allergic to it (hives, horrible stomach issues, etc) and then started flat out REFUSING the bottle. After doing some research (and Elliot refusing any other kinds of forumla), I started freaking out that we would have to (a) cancel our trip or (b) bring her with us, until I talked to some other mamas and they suggested donated milk. This was a life saver. I contacted Human Milk for Human Babies and connected with some amazing local moms in the area who had an abundance of supply in their freezers and they graciously donated it to us and seriously saved the day. It took me awhile to not be weirded out by all of that, but then I realized….we drink cows milk and goats milk, that is WAY weirder than giving a HUMAN baby another human’s milk! So, it may freak you out, but…I don’t really care! It worked for us and I am so, so thankful for the women who helped us out.
Around 11 months I started the “Weaning” process and dropped the morning feeding. I always nursed E before going to sleep, but never nursed her TO sleep, which I think made this process a lot easier. So when we dropped that first nap feeding, it really wasn’t an issue! (in fact, she doesn’t even want to be rocked before naps or bed anymore, my girl LOVES to sleep – she just points at her crib until you put her in there!) We had pretty much gotten down to dropping all feedings except the morning one (which she refused to drop!!) …and then we hit a speed bump.
Elliot had chronic ear infections starting in July and in early October we were referred to an ENT and recommended to get tubes. We decided to move forward with the surgery (SOOOO thankful we did), but this put us back to nursing 4 times a day for about a month while she fought ear infections and then recovered from the surgery (she got a virus right after the surgery as well). So after her surgery we started the weaning process again! This time it was much easier and it took us about 2 weeks to completely wean. The hardest one to drop was actually the morning feeding – we had to have Chris get her (without her seeing me before she started her breakfast) or she would absolutely LOSE IT as soon as she saw me if she wasn’t eating yet and I would have to nurse her….hahaha! Thankfully that only lasted about 2-3 days though. I am SO thankful that this was such an easy process for her….no crying or staying up for endless hours, it was a seamless transition (I credit this to not nursing her to sleep!!). When we finally dropped the night feedings I had Chris put her to bed for 2-3 nights just so she didn’t expect to be nursed and after that she was all set!
The only other challenge we have is Elliot will not drink ANY kind of milk. We have tried almond (all kinds!!), goat, cows and coconut and she flat out refuses is. Thankfully she eats a super balanced diet, so we just have to be creative about getting calcium and vitamin D into her since she won’t drink anything other than water. Little stinker!
So that’s our (long!) breastfeeding journey. I am so, so thankful that we were able to have a successful nursing relationship for 14 months and I know that it is not an easy (or possible) journey for some mom’s so I don’t take our success for granted. If you are a new or expectant mom I really hope you consider nursing, and if you start and hit speedbumps, PLEASE contact a lactation consultant, they will really be able to troubleshoot and equip you with tools to succeed!!