When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted was going to breastfeed. It wasn’t even an option. It’s what’s recommended by the CDC, AAP, and WHO. It’s natural. It’s the best. It was going to be easy. Except it wasn’t.
Breastfeeding a newborn has been the most draining and exhausting parenting task I’ve faced so far. I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn’t have the birth experience I had hoped for. Related to that, I had a really difficult recovery and felt awful physically for about the first month of Ashton’s life. On top of my recovery challenges, Ashton had trouble nursing. He was described as a “lazy” nurser and would drink for a few minutes, stop and doze, then start again. He had trouble latching deeply enough. He would unlatch and act as if he couldn’t find the nipple that had been in his mouth seconds before. For the first few weeks, nursing required two people and extra “equipment” like a nipple shield, syringe to squirt milk into his mouth to coax him to open up and nurse, extra pillows to support him and keep his tiny body off my incision, and a milk saver to collect any precious drops that leaked out to be saved and used later. It took at least an hour each time, often longer, and I felt as if we were wrestling him to the breast each time. In the early weeks, he ate on average 8-10 times per day, which meant that a good portion of our lives revolved around feeding.
At one point in my hospitalization, I felt too ill to handle attempting to breastfeed, but I really wanted to avoid formula if possible. The nurse suggested I pump and Chris could feed Ashton a bottle. This was a game changer for us. Pumping took half the time of nursing in those early weeks, which was so critical in the middle of the night. We all got back to sleep within 30 minutes, allowing us extra sleep before waking up to do it again. I still nursed during the day, because I really wanted us to get better at that too. It took a long time and I strongly considered pumping exclusively or quitting all together several times. Pumping allowed me to keep up my supply and helped me feel confident that I was able to feed him enough because I could see exactly how much he was eating a few times per day. Introducing the bottle early while still nursing helped Ashton switch back and forth with ease and I knew when I went back to work that he would accept someone else feeding him a bottle.
As I write this, Ashton is four months old and nursing has completely changed for us. He has grown to be a much more efficient nurser and can finish eating within 20 minutes. Before, I wouldn’t consider attempting to nurse in public and we always traveled with a bottle of milk or scheduled outings around his feeding schedule. I am so thankful now that I didn’t give up in the beginning and am finally able to enjoy our breastfeeding relationship.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or none. If I had insisted that Ashton only feed at the breast, we would not have been successful. Moms have more choices now than ever before. You can give your baby some expressed breast milk or formula in a bottle while continuing to nurse. The most important thing is to FEED YOUR BABY. It really doesn’t matter how. It is a hugely personal decision that is sometimes out of a mom’s control. Don’t let anyone pressure you into feeling like you MUST feed your baby a certain way. That said, if you are determined to breastfeed your baby even part of their overall intake, you will likely need support at some point. Some resources I found really useful are:
GBMC Mommy Matters support group – meets on Fridays and is led by a lactation consultant/baby nurse
GBMC Nursing Warm Line 443-849-3428 – staffed by lactation consultants from 6am-9:30pm to answer a variety of questions