When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. It seemed like it was just the right thing to do given all the health benefits, the close connection everyone talks about, and it’s free and I’m cheap. Seemed like a no brainer.
When I was pregnant, I used to think about how amazing it would be. I imagined myself sitting in the rocker we bought, nursing my baby girl to sleep; imagining what a sweet and easy connection we would build through it.
At the time, I had two girlfriends that were pregnant. One chose to formula feed and the other ended up being an exclusive pumper due to her son never wanting to latch correctly. It wasn’t until then that I realized that exclusively breastfeeding your child might not be as easy and natural as I always thought it was. It made me so nervous but certainly Teagan and I wouldn’t have any issues, right?
Wrong. Teagan came out and did initially latch. Not well but she latched. Once we were moved from labor and delivery over to the postpartum room, it just never happened with ease for us. We would try to latch; we tried so many positions. We even had the lactation consultant come in. It was happening but not correctly and not long enough for her to get anything worth having.
Before I knew it, they were wheeling in the pump…the last thing I wanted to see. The nurse was very sweet and explained to me how to use it, how often I should be pumping and provided us with a bottle to get her going. My milk took 10 days to fully come in and I was getting very little colostrum while at the hospital so my baby was basically starving. Not a single person told me I had the option to supplement her with formula while we were there. Not the nurses, not the doctors, no one. Looking back, I feel so mad at the hospital for not telling me and equally mad at myself for not asking. Teagan lost over 10% of her weight by the time we left and had I’d known formula was an option while there I would have 100% supplemented her.
When we got home, latching was still not going well so I resigned myself to being a pumper until I could see a lactation consultant in a few days. After all, my friend had done it for 2 months at the time and she was a trooper…it couldn’t be that bad right? Again, wrong. Exclusively pumping is a special club that really no one should ever want to be a part of but I tell you those mothers are by far the strongest because it is so hard and mentally/physically exhausting.
Lactation didn’t go well for Teagan and I. Getting her to latch for longer than 30 seconds required syringing milk through a small tube into her mouth while also holding my boob and her. Somehow the consultant expected me to grow a third arm while trying this at home by myself. Since that was impossible, I finally said screw it. It was so stressful for me, it was stressing Teagan out; it just wasn’t worth it. I was pumping and still giving her breastmilk and it gave Cary a chance to help and bond with her too. So I tried to see the positive in a very sad situation for me.
I pumped every 2-3 hours those first 2 months…even through the night. Just to add a bit of information in, Teagan started sleeping through the night at 10 days old so there I was pumping away at 3am while Cary and her were fast asleep. It’s comical to think back on. I remember sending so many snapchats to friends in those early hours saying how I was the only one in my house that didn’t get any sleep.
Another one of my friends gave birth to her daughter 6 weeks after Teagan was born and she latched perfectly and they had the experience I always dreamed about. When that happened, it gave me hope that maybe Teagan and I could have that. So, I gave it a shot. After 8 weeks, I attempted to breastfeed figuring it would be a lost cause. SHE LATCHED PERFECTLY. I swore it was a fluke but since that day she has nursed like a champion. I still pump since I was working and her going to daycare but we would nurse during the weekends and every night after we got home from daycare.
I still pump every 4 hours because I like building my freezer stash and she nurses or has a bottle in between just depending on our day. This way if I want or need to stop before we hit the year mark, I have enough to get her there. At last count I had about 800 oz. of milk in our deep freezer.
Teagan has two bottom teeth now and our most current breastfeeding issue is her biting me. You hear stories but never really expect your child to do that. Some days she nurses like this sweet little angel and looks at me with those loving eyes and some days I swear she is attempting to win an Olympic gold medal with how far she can pull away while still attached. Other days, she’s bites me; multiple times each session.
On those days, she makes me question my sanity and why I continue to do this. Breastfeeding is really hard, whether you pump, nurse or both…it rules your life. I spend at least 3 hours each day nursing or pumping. I have to interrupt time with friends or family to go pump, I have to bring that thing with me everywhere. Every day since I started this journey I think about quitting. I think about how much easier my life would be if we put her on formula. I think of all the freedom we would have and how much more sleep I would get.
I know plenty of babies that are formula fed and they are happy and healthy. I know Teagan would be just fine but for some reason I cannot let go. I have this guilt that because I physically can that I should because as everyone and every article continues to remind me, it’s the best nutrition on the planet. I secretly wish I would dry up so I’d have an excuse and I would know I did my best. But then I think about how sad I would be at the same time, how much I would miss those sweet moments alone just her and I nursing. How special our bond has become through breastfeeding. So I keep on. I wake up early and stay up late to make sure she has a full belly and a stocked fridge of milk. I am tired everyday. I honestly don’t remember the last time I wasn’t. And not just in the way that my baby woke up early; in a way that my body is working in overdrive and has been for 8 months.
I tell myself every day that it is a labor of love and a privilege that God has given me to nourish my child with the same body that grew her for 9 months. Teagan is 7.5 months old now and our goal is to breastfeed for a year and then slowly wean. I know we will get there and I know I will miss these days.
To all the other mamas out there who have breastfed, who are breastfeeding now, and the ones that will breastfeed in the future, my hat is off to you because breastfeeding is really hard.