This week is World Breastfeeding Week, and for all of you who have breastfed or tried, then you know why there's a sort of holiday for it. It's dang hard work, but it's the most satisfying and gratifying thing I've ever done. In honor of this great holiday, I thought I'd share my breastfeeding journey.
For some people breastfeeding comes very easily and effortless but NOT for me. I got off to a rough start with Samuel. I tried to start reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before I had Samuel, but it didn't hold my interest because it was all completely foreign to me. No one in my family breastfed, so I had no experience even being around it. You'd think that that would make me want to read it even more, but I was more wrapped up in reading about the actual birth. (By the way, I liked this book better for breastfeeding.)
Long-story-short, I ended up having an unplanned C-section with Samuel. I did everything incorrectly, got bad advice, didn't seek help from non-hospital sources (i.e. friends, La Leche), and ended up giving up after a week and a half because I had a low milk supply and couldn't get him to latch. I did, however, pump for a year and bottlefed him my pumped milk. He ended up getting about half breastmilk and half formula.
When Samuel was about 4 months old I found an online forum of women who had similar problems as I did with breastfeeding, and I spent the next year and a half learning as much as I possibly could from them as well as reading a TON. I was determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with my next baby.
So when Levi came along, I was so overly prepared - in a good way. I made certain that the hospital staff knew my desires, and they accommodated me greatly. I was able to nurse within the first hour after birth (very important) even though I had another C-section. I then nursed as often as I could - about every 2 hours. I struggled because he was very sleepy, and I was also dealing with a lot of pain due to his tongue-tie (and a couple of other reasons that I won't share).
The pain was bearable at the hospital, but once I got home it was immense. At times it was unbearable. I would latch the baby and literally scream because it hurt so bad. There were several times that I would finish nursing and just sob for about five minutes, partly because the pain was so great and partly because I was so frustrated. It wasn't supposed to be this hard! I thought I was prepared, and I was. I had my low-milk supply issues all dealt with, but I was in no way prepared to handle the nipple pain.
I thought about giving up several times that first week. I was planning which bottles I would buy as I was on my way to my lactation consultant's office at five days. Thankfully this time around I got some really good advice from two different lactation consultants, friends, and a La Leche league leader. I did get some poor advice a few times, but this time I knew how to tell the difference.
So we got Levi's frenulum (the flap underneath his tongue) clipped at one week old. Two days later the pain was almost completely gone. I was amazed. I couldn't believe that I almost threw it all away when it was so easily fixed. When I was in the moment, though, things were so crazy. I was working on practically no sleep; I was in pain all the time; I was recovering from major surgery. I vowed not to make any decisions between the hours of 8pm and 8am, and that helped tremendously.
So things were going great for a while. Then when Levi was 2 1/2 months old, I discovered that he is allergic to dairy. I already knew that he's got reflux, so this was just the icing on the cake. Welcome food restrictions! Keeping dairy out of my diet has been extremely difficult. I have to tell the waiter that I'm allergic to dairy so that they'll take me seriously when I go out to eat. It's no fun, but it makes me really glad that I didn't formula feed him.
Hopefully things will be smooth sailing until he weans. I'm sure I'll hit other bumps in the road, but I wouldn't keep doing it if it wasn't totally worth it. I know that I'm doing the best thing for little Levi, and the longterm health benefits that I get from breastfeeding are nice, too. Also, I always heard that the bond between a breastfeeding mother and her baby is so strong, but I never understood it until I experienced it myself. It's really amazing, and I would do it all over again knowing that it would be that hard.
So to all of you breastfeeding moms, Happy World Breastfeeding Week!