Sunday, August 25, 2013

Breastfeeding: Year End Review

*WARNING: This blog contains a lot of references to breasts, nipples and what they go through when nursing, so if you don't want the detail, I would recommend not reading any further:)

So WOW! It has been a YEAR (actually a little bit more than a year)!

If you had asked me one month, two month, or even three of four months in I would have said that there is NO possible way I could make to nursing for an entire year! But here I am one year of breastfeeding under my belt and I wanted to share my experience with the whole process:)

Now during pregnancy I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. My mom breastfed all of us kids and I also saw my aunts nurse my cousins, plus both of my sisters had breastfed their babies, so it is safe to say that I was more familiar with the breastfeeding process than the average person. I wasn't too apprehensive about nursing as it seemed like it was a natural part of life and having a baby. I was aware that some people had harder times nursing than others, so I was prepared for engorged painful breasts, sore nipples and difficulty latching. I tried to educate myself more on the subject of breastfeeding in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I went to a breast feeding class where they taught me about how to hold the baby, how to get a good latch, how long babies should nurse for and basically things to do and not to do. I also attended a few "Meals on Heels" groups (a local breastfeeding support group). At one of these meetings I remember saying to a girl next me " I hope I am one of those women who breastfeeding is easy" she replied back saying " I don't think it's easy for anyone."  That statement made me think and become a little nervous about it.  I have to say nothing prepares you for breastfeeding beside just doing it.

So about 30 minutes after Max was born I started my journey with breastfeeding. Basically a nurse just kind of gave him to me and put him to my boob. Max didn't know what to do and with help from my mom and a nurse he kind of was able to latch for a second, but wouldn't suck. I had previously heard that babies just know what to do and nursing comes natural for them, so I was a little confused. No one seemed too worried, they said just to try for 15 minutes on each side and then try again later. Well, we did that and he still wasn't nursing despite help from several people. So I ended up pumping a little out and having to feed it to Max through a syringe. The nurses try and discourage giving babies a bottle right away as it may confuse them so for a few days we were forced to do the syringe feed. This process is quite time consuming as it requires me to
1. Pump as much as possible (which in the beginning was maybe an ounce)
2. Suck up the milk into a tiny syringe
3. Attach a little tiny tube to the syringe
4. Put the tube, and your pinkie finger in the babies mouth
5. Slowly squeeze the milk through the syringe and tub into the babies mouth when he starts sucking on your finger. ( This is supposed to teach the baby that he gets food when he sucks)
6. Wash out all the equipment used to use again

This isn't a picture of Max, it is just a photo I found online, but here  is what it looks like to syringe feed a newborn
Well, Max was a very slow sucker and this entire process took nearly an hour from start to finish so that gave me maybe an hour until we had to do it all over again. Plus before I pumped every time I would try and get Max to nurse normally, but every time he just wouldn't do it! Well, as you can tell it was a very time consuming process so needlessly to say we only fed him like this for a few days before we gave up and went to a bottle of expressed breast milk (which he ironically sucked on just fine!) The next week or two I tried several times a day to get him to latch and suck, but with no success.  I did see a lactation consultant and all she said I was holding him fine and he would even latch correctly but know one seemed to know why he wouldn't suck. The given advice was just to keep trying. After nearly two weeks of trying and puzzlement from consultants and my mother (she has nursed 6 babies and said she had never seen a baby not suck before) I had almost settled to believe that I would be forced to pump and feed in a bottle forever. Then, after doing some research online I found my breast feeding savior, nipple shields!
Apparently these things are some what slightly frowned upon by the pro-breast feeding community, because they can confuse the baby, but for me, they are awesome and the ONLY thing that kept me able to keep breastfeeding. They do what they look like and just cover your nipple and make it more like a bottle nipple. Well, the first time I tried these it worked! Max was able to nurse and he got milk and I can't tell you how good it felt to finally be able to to nurse! These were kind of a pain as you do have to wash them out and keep them sterilized and take them with you every where you go, but for me it was better than nothing. I used these for a solid month (occasionaily trying to get Max to nurse without them with no luck) until I decided to really try and get him to not use them. The only down fall to the shields were that I think they gave Max an incorrect latch and I pretty much suffered from constant nipple tenderness and pain. Especially on the right side. But, honestly I thought the pain was just something I had to live with while nursing.

TWO to THREE MONTHS-  I finally was able to completely wean from the nipple shields by offering him the breast normally first before trying with the shield. Sometimes he would suck, and sometimes he wouldn't but I just kept at it. It was such an amazing feeling the first time I got him to nurse the right way with out the nipple shields! I felt so accomplished and proud of myself that I didn't give up!
I have to admit that I was pretty seriously considering going to formula for a while. In the first month or two it was so hard and I cried a lot. I even bought some formula and gave him a few bottles. Well, he didn't seem to like it all and every time I tried to give him formula he just seemed sad, and I felt like a failure, so we stuck with the breastfeeding despite it being pretty painful and draining (physically and emotionally).

Max also began spitting-up A TON all the time! It wasn't projectile, and it didn't actually seem to cause him that much pain, but the spit up was honestly pretty constant through-out a day. I'd say the average day he spit up at least 5-6 ounces of breast milk, no joke. So naturally, I was concerned that it was something I was eating that was causing him to get an upset stomach. For about a month, I tried to find out what was the cause of his horrendous amounts of spit-up by eliminating things from my diet. I went without dairy products, chocolate, and type of citrus fruit or drink, caffeine and much more. I could never find an answer and every day the amount of spit up he had was exactly the same not matter what I ate. After a month or so, I gave up and just ate whatever. I accepted that I would just be literally covered in spit-up for the rest of my life. The doctors weren't concerned about his spit-up because he was gaining weight pretty well, but they did put him on the medicine Zantac for a while (which did not help one tiny bit).

Things got easier. Max was more comfortable eating and the process was less painful for me, but I still got occasional nipple pain from improper latching. At this point I was still nursing every 3 hours or less because of Max's intense reflux. It was at this time that I started introducing solid foods. (well, solids for babies) Things like rice cereal, pureed sweet potatoes, bananas and prunes were Max's favorite. He only ate a little baby food once or twice a day for a a few months, so I was still breastfeeding pretty often. I know it is recommended now a days to exclusively breast feed for 6 months, but Max needed something with more density to try and keep down. Also, I must admit that it was nice to have someone else be able to feed him once in a while.
I still was not a pro at nursing even at this point. It was awkward holding while nursing him because he was getting bigger and squirmier. I couldn't quite hold him with one arm anymore, but he couldn't hold himself up either. It was a weird stage for me. But thankfully by this point my breasts were finally hardly ever leaking and I didn't have to wear breast pads all the time anymore. I think my milk had finally kind of regulated and my breasts weren't uncomfortable very often at all.

I can finally say that during this span, breastfeeding FINALLY got easy for me. I never had pain, holding Max was easy, he latched and nursed quickly, it all was really great. Yes, Max still spit-up at least 5 times a day and by this time I had serious spit up stains covering my furniture and carpets, but I didn't even care anymore. Max was eating his purred food great and nursing on a pretty regular schedule.

Right about 8-9 months old Max decided he didn't want to eat purred baby food anymore. We started giving him regular food (cut up of course) and he really loved it. He loved being able to feed himself and pretty much refused to eat anything from a spoon (except yogurt). I think this helped with his reflux because at about 9 months he finally stopped spitting -up so much. He still got the occasional spit up or little dribbles, but at 9 months I was actually able to go somewhere with out worrying if Max would drench the person next to us in spit up:) It was also at this point that nursing became more a chore for him. He was able to crawl at 7 months and by 9 months, had no desire to be or sit still ever! Trying to get him to nurse just got harder as everything would distract him, and he wouldn't sit and latch for more than  few minutes at a time. We tried sitting in a dark room, giving him something to look at while nursing, but none of it worked. He just had too much to do and breastfeeding was not on his schedule. It is recommended that at this age babies still nurse at least 4 times during a 24 hour period. Well, I was lucky if we got that many. At first it really concerned me that he wasn't nursing enough, but at about 10 or 11 months old, I just said whatever. Max would nurse in the morning and at night right before bed time and try to get in just one feed during the day sometime.
At least I thought he would be pretty easy to wean.

I cut out the daytime feeding a little before Max's first birthday. As expected, he didn't seem to care much but, he has never been a kid that was attached to nursing. We did that for about 2 weeks and then I cut out the morning feed. I have to say that it was very nice to get to wear normal bras again. Also sleeping at night with out a bra on was simply awesome lol. I did notice that after we stopped nursing in the morning, Max started eating a lot more for breakfast, so that was nice that Jeff could just get up with him occasionally and just feed him breakfast. He also really loves cows milk and has no affects on him, so thats good. I probably nursed him only at night time for about 2 weeks. The last few nights he just really didn't want much. He would nurse for less than a minute on each side and then was done. I am not sure if I really just didn't have any milk left or he was just over it. Yesterday was the first night he wnet to bed without nursing. I had Jeff put him do the night time routine of books and then lights out, snuggles for a few minutes and then bed so I wouldn't be tempted to nurse him lol. I will admit that I was a little sad to see it end, and kind of needed a big hug from Jeff when Max went to sleep just fine without me nursing him. Kind of made me feel like Max didn't need me the same way anymore, and I think that part was just a little hard on me :) ( Oh man, what am I going to do when he goes off to college lol?) So as I had expected weaning was pretty strait forward.  I would really miss seeing his eyes get drowsy when we would do our night time feed. But, it is what it is.

When/if I have more babies I definitely want to breastfeed. Overall, it has been a positive experience for me. I liked being able to nourish my baby the way he was meant to and it made me feel good to not quit even when things got VERY tough. I would encourage other mothers to breast feed as it is a unique experience, and obviously there are a lot of other positive results.That being said, I have nothing against formula feeders. I do realize that for some families, formula is the way to go, and in some ways, formula would have been much easier. The pressure in the first few months of me being the only one that could feed Max was plainly exhausting! I think that, in itself, is one of the main reasons women don't stick with nursing. It is a lot of added responsibility to the already daunting task of taking care of a baby, and I totally get it. When I was writing this blog I felt some of the emotions come back from the early days of breast feeding. And for me, when everything else was going wrong and I just didn't know if I could do anything right as a parent, I always felt deep down that by breastfeeding I was doing at least one thing right! It kept me going. (Again, not that you are wrong if your formula feed, this was just how it felt for me at the time)
Breastfeeding seems to be sort of a hot topic these days, especially about feeding in public and breast feeding a 3 or 4 year olds. Feeding in public was never a huge issue for me as Max and I rarely went out in public for any long period of time where I would need to nurse lol. The times that we did, I would nurse in the car or somewhere private usually. It was honestly just easier for me as Max hated being under the cover and got distracted easily, so if there were things going on, he wouldn't concentrate on eating. I really don't care if women nurse in public without a cover at all. It doesn't bother me in the slightest if I see a boob or a nipple, but I do understand that it could bother some people. That was also a reason I tried to be very discreet about feeding in public. I don't think nursing mothers should have to hide, but we need to be respectful of other people too. I think people realize that breast feeding is the way a baby eats, but come on, it is your boob just hanging out there and ya people are going to look. Some people just haven't been around a nursing mother, so I think it just throws them off guard when you start getting undressed in public. So in my opinion, yes, please do nurse in public and don't be ashamed, but do realize that you are going to get looks if your boob is hanging out, in just the same way that you would get looks if you were wearing a super low cut shirt with cleavage spilling out. It's a ya people are gonna look at em:)
As far as nursing an older baby goes, well, I can't imagine doing it with Max. As I have said before, he has rarely showed interest, so there is no way I could see him nursing for much longer, by his own choice. If I had one of those babies who loved nursing, then it might be a different story, I don't know. I for one, was happy just to reach the year mark. I am ready to have my body back and not use it simply for the purposes of my baby any more ( not sure if that makes me selfish or not) I mean almost a year of pregnancy and a year a nursing...just think about it, 2 years where your body is for you child. I was ready to wear cute bras again and not have to worry about if the shirt I was wearing was nursing compatible. I was ready to have the same sized breasts and to be able to leave Max with a sitter without worrying about pumping and all that mess. It was definitely time for Max and I to stop when we did, but I show no judgement on women that nurse longer. Although I think I may draw the line at 3 or 4 years old:)


  1. Wow, most women would not have persevered there at the beginning. Congrats on making it to a year! Hopefully the next baby will be a breeze...

  2. You're not selfish AT ALL for wanting your body back at the 1-yr mark! Honestly, I don't get why so many women nowadays feel that they have to nurse for so long, or that they are being selfish by not nursing. I originally only committed to 6 months of nursing when Clara was born (I planned to wait to see how things were then before deciding to go on longer or not). And at 6 months, I knew *I* was ready for it to be over. I missed my body being my own. As you said, I'd already gone almost a year and a half with my body pretty much belonging to my baby, and I just really wanted to be my own person again. :) So I made the decision to start weaning at 6 months - I didn't wait until I thought my baby was "ready" to wean - I just weaned her when I was ready.

    So I'm sure that makes me super selfish, but hey, I made it to six months (until Clara was already getting other nourishment from solids and not just breast milk only), and I don't feel guilty about it at all! So I don't think you're selfish at all either!

    Also, I don't know if you knew this, but I actually was the only one of the daughters that was formula-fed, not breastfed. I think this probably makes me more comfortable with having switched Clara to formula around 7 months (I had a frozen breastmilk stash that lasted me a few weeks so I didn't start formula until then).