Breastfeeding, like all other things parenting, is a personal choice. If you didn’t make the choice to nurse or if it didn’t work out for you, please don’t take this post as any sort of judgment on that! We all have to do what is best for us, our children, and our personal situations. Breastfeeding was a choice I made for myself, and since I have spent countless hours over the past 13 months of my life doing just that, it’s something I want to take a moment to remember and honor.
I knew right away that I wanted to breastfeed. My mom nursed myself and my three siblings, both my sisters nursed their babies, and it was important to me that I do the same. So among the many books I read before our little guy was born were titles like Breastfeeding for Dummies and, my personal favorite, So THAT’S What They’re For! My husband and I took the breastfeeding class at the hospital. I spoke with friends who nursed their babies. I did everything I could to prepare.
Then, on a cold Monday morning in November, our little bundle of joy arrived! And at a whopping nine pounds, three ounces. He latched and seemed to “get it” right away, which made me overjoyed! But our first night, I couldn’t get him to wake up and nurse at all. This led to him only weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces when we left the hospital, and really, the lactation consultant told me, she would have preferred he weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces when we were discharged. After the lactation consultant left I wanted to cry…over one measly ounce! Two days in and already I was afraid I was doing this nursing thing all wrong.
But then we were home, and it was so nice to be home. I continued to nurse, and my hubby and I diligently wrote down the duration of each feeding and constantly kept track of little man’s wet and dirty diapers. It seemed to be going as well as could be. Then came Thursday night. Our peaceful little newborn became inconsolable, and my husband was convinced it was because he was hungry. When I tried to pump, I got nothing, which led to my husband saying exactly what I had asked him to please never say: “why don’t we just give him some of the formula we have in the kitchen?”
I immediately burst into tears and through my sobs managed to say things like “don’t you remember, it’s supply and demand?” and “if we give him formula now my milk will never come in!” and “don’t you want me to be able to breastfeed our son?!”
I’m sure the postpartum hormones played no part in the whole exchange.
After that long night, I woke up the next morning and lo and behold…my milk had come in. WOW. As someone who has barely been an A-cup her entire adult life, this was completely unfamiliar territory. I felt as if I had gotten implants overnight! We headed out to the pediatrician for little man’s five-day check up, where they announced he had already gained back an ounce since we left the hospital. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Nursing may just work out for us after all.
And work out it did. It seems too easy to say that now, because it was definitely not an easy process. Breastfeeding hurt, of course, and the fact that it was the dead of winter made it worse. Besides the pain, my little guy wanted to nurse all the time, and since I had no idea how much he was taking in each feeding…that of course made me think I wasn’t feeding him enough! And there were times, especially in that first month, when I felt like all I was doing was breastfeeding and everyone else got to do the snuggling. I would nurse, because I was the only one who could, and as soon as he was finished, I had to hand him over to another relative or friend who wanted to spend time with him too.
When he was six weeks old, I joined a fantastic moms group. There, I could ask questions of other moms, seek advice from an amazing lactation consultant, and weigh my little guy weekly to make sure he was gaining and growing. It was just the encouragement I needed to keep going!
Over the course of weeks and then months, my little guy continued to grow and thrive, and breastfeeding started to feel like second nature. I nursed on planes, in parked cars, in dressing rooms, even standing up in bathroom stalls in NYC. Once, on a trip to the city when I forgot my nursing cover, I decided that darnit, my baby was hungry, and I was going to feed him right there in the sidewalk cafe. Granted, my nerve only lasted about a minute before I retreated to find a bathroom to nurse him in private, but I was still proud of myself for trying!
The day after his first birthday I stopped pumping at work. (And I have to admit- I won’t miss the pumping at all.) Then gradually we stopped the nighttime feeding, and finally the morning feeding. I thought weaning would be hard for him, but I had no idea it would be so hard for me! I miss the snuggling and the cuddling. Especially now that he’s on the verge of walking and just wants to go, go, go…I loved having that guaranteed quiet time together. And I will miss it. But at the end of this chapter, I am just so happy and grateful we were able to do it for as long as we did.
So tell me, if you breastfed, do you miss it? Or were you thrilled to put those nursing tanks in the attic?! If you didn’t breastfeed, what did you find the most convenient thing about bottle feeding? I must say, there were times I would have done anything to let my husband share in the midnight feedings!