During my pregnancy I decided that my baby was going to be exclusively breastfed for one full year. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to be washing bottles and buying formula. I read about all the health benefits of breast milk and I was pumped (no pun intended) and ready to start this journey, or so I thought.
Let’s just say that things haven’t gone as planned…
The journey began in the hospital with my daughter not latching on. I also struggled with my colostrum not really coming out. We tried several tactics to get her to latch on to get out the colostrum but it was a painful struggle. I called in a Lactation Consultant and she showed me how to hand express the colostrum and gave me a nipple shield which was a lifesaver for that moment. The nipple shield assisted with the latching issue and it also made me feel somewhat better because I could look in the shield to see if anything was coming out.
I continued using the nipple shield for roughly three weeks until I began to notice that my baby was beginning to use the shield as a pacifier and not its intended purpose. I tried again to have her latch on without the shield and that was a disaster. I decided that now was the time to put my spanking new breast pump and fancy bottles to use. My first couple of pumping sessions were uncomfortable but I got through it. Once I got used to it I was able to pump enough to satisfy her need. With her now receiving the milk through the bottle she seemed way more content because the milk was coming out faster.
I celebrated the small victory of finally being able to track how much milk she was receiving as well as how much I milk I was producing. As her milk requirement increased my milk supply stayed the same and that’s when the stress set in. I started taking fenugreek pills and increasing my water intake to help boost my milk supply. I began to pump on an every 3-4 hour schedule. I was pumping around the clock and beginning to feel like a cow. Some days I could pump enough milk to freeze and other days I could barely pump enough milk to get through her daily feedings. It was a vicious cycle of inconsistencies. At her two month appointment I was encouraged by her doctor to supplement with formula because her weight was in the lower percentile for her age. I was devastated because I really wanted her to only have breast milk but I couldn’t depend on my supply alone to give her what she needed. I beat myself up about it in my head and then I got over it. The day that I started supplementing with formula was the day that I felt like a burden was lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer had the stress of worrying about whether or not she was getting enough milk and it didn’t matter to me how much I pumped in each session because I knew that she would have enough regardless. I still continue to pump and to this day my supply is still inconsistent. I have my good pumping days and my bad pumping days but I don’t have my stressful pumping days. I stopped taking the Fenugreek as I believe it decreased my supply. I now eat a couple of lactation cookies per day and that has been helpful however I think that getting out of my own head was the key.
I have talked to so many moms about breastfeeding and all of them have had different experiences. Although I would rather not be so dependent on my pump I am thankful that I am able to pump at all and still give my baby mostly breast milk. I’m still fighting the good fight but I am determined.
I wanted to share this experience because every woman’s breastfeeding journey is not the same and I want to let anyone else out there that may be struggling with breastfeeding know that they are not alone. You would think that something so natural would come easy but I’m here to tell you think things aren’t always what they seem. There are plenty of women who have very successful breastfeeding experiences from the start. Unfortunately I was not one of them lol. I have gottten used to pumping now and it seems to be working for me. So ladies if you’re having a hard time with breastfeeding and/or pumping just know that it’s okay to do what works best for you and your baby. Don’t feel like less of a woman if your baby won’t latch on and feed directly from you. I was so devastated when my breast feeding plan didn’t work out like I envisioned and I had to supplement. However, my Husband, family, and friends are so amazing and supportive and reminded me constantly that it’s not the end of the world to give your baby formula and now it’s all good!