In three days I will be breastfeeding for 56 months. That’s about 1680 days of daily directly breastfeeding my son. Wow. No wonder I can’t wait to wean him now. Kidding. Just a bit.
Seriously though, I just want to share with you momma, our breastfeeding story. I gave birth to my son, via Emergency C-section because despite laboring for about 16 hours, my son’s heartbeat started dropping after being induced at some point during labor. I stopped dilating around 4cm, I think. So my husband and I, at the advice of my OB decided to go ahead and let me have a C-section in which I was fully awake for and that’s an entirely different post altogether. But what is relevant in this part of my birthing story, is that because the surgeon who will be doing my son’s circumcision was suddenly available at that time instead of the next day, and they had to keep him overnight in the Nursery for observation—my son had to take formula milk much to my sadness. We allowed him to take in Hipp Organic overnight because we were told it was the only way.
I was so frustrated because I had my heart set on exclusively breastfeeding him. I was prepared in my mind and people who know me know that once I have my mind, set on something, I will move mountains to make it happen. Plus my momma instinct was currently on overdrive at the time so a lot of mom-guilt happening during the first few hours of my son’s life.
I was in the next room in Recovery while my son was being circumcised and I think the only time I allowed myself to drowse off was when I was told he was being taken to the Nursery. I gave birth around 4 in the afternoon so I suppose that was a few hours after. We did have the first embrace but my son was pretty sleepy when he came out and wasn’t in the mood to nurse. I wasn’t able to hold or see my son until the next day and not for lack of trying. I wanted to feed him myself but they wouldn’t let him go down yet or let me come up which was such a horrible feeling. I remembered being so anxious and frustrated. Oh and so very tired, too.
When he was finally brought to our room, I remember being told that I could finally feed him. I was so happy! Then I realized, I had no idea how. I was not a baby person or a child person, not until I became a mother myself so I was figuring out how to hold my baby properly so I don’t squish or drop him and figuring out how the heck I was supposed to position him to breastfeed from me. Frustration frustration.
Thank God for my son’s first pediatrician because she was able to teach me that I have partially inverted nipples. At least one of them was. I had no idea there were different kinds! I figured they should all be the same and work the same, right? Wrong! I was told I had to use an empty syringe (without the needle and the pointy part) and I had to use it to suck out the nipple so my baby can latch on it properly. I had to do this until they can be out and about on their own. It was literally hell. I remember having every part of my body hurt because of the surgery and then this. Add to that my mom’s concern that the baby may not be getting enough milk and I was about to pull my hair out. I wish I had my oils back then. But I wasn’t going to give up. I knew I had colostrum come in early and I willed my body to make milk without really being sure. I had so many doubts but I believed I had to have milk for my son. He was peeing and pooping enough anyway so I told my family, that unless the doctor tells me to supplement because I have none, then I don’t want to hear it.
It was the same struggle for the first few days and weeks. Thankfully, our pediatrician recommended Medela Nipple Shields which despite the issue of nipple confusion, has helped me with my nipple issues and has not hindered our breastfeeding journey in any way. Plus, I loved how I can see the milk gush and pool out into the nipple part of the nipple shield at some point, pacifying my milk supply worries.
Early on I was dead set on building a milk stash because I knew at that time that I was eventually going back to work, I pumped after every feeding and stored my milk. I tried a manual pump then eventually invested in a Spectra electric pump because it made life easier. I did this until about my son was a year old. Our freezer had nothing much except for milk.
Pumping early or too many galactagogues (I was taking malunggay capsules then) led to an oversupply and mastitis around about the same time that I was dealing with broken and bleeding nipples. At one point, my son was drinking pastel pink milk, which I was told by my doctor to be perfectly safe as there is no infection, just bleeding from broken skin. It was just horribly painful to do. I remember breastfeeding while crying. That was a usual occurrence. Mind you my son was a happy feeder as an infant. At night, he would feed every hour. This was until he was more than a year old. Eventually, it became every two hours and that felt like a holiday.
Still, I was pumping and working on building my stash which my son still wasn’t able to use since we were always together. There came a point where I was exploring interviews for work from home jobs (after missing being career-productive) so I had to leave my son with my mom. He had milk to last him more than a month and I was gone for maybe 4-5 hours. This was when I found out that my son would rather starve than drink milk from a bottle. What’s worse, after coming back home and trying to feed him—my son went on a nursing strike. I’m serious, that’s a thing. He wasn’t nursing as usual and it was something I had to force him to do for about two to three days. Mostly when he’s sleepy. That was probably one of the worst things ever except that I was at least able to stop pumping as much and that I was able to donate my milk stash to mommas who needed it.
Since then, it was nursing a teething toddler to a biting one but I’m blessed, that my son still listened to me when I told him that it hurt mommy. So he would stop and be extra careful.
Breastfeeding has made me short-tempered, grumpy, irritable, frustrated, made me feel hopeless, worthless and just in pain at some point in the past 56 months. It’s made me miss wearing nicer bras and more fashionable clothes. It has made me wish I had smaller breasts that I can easily nurse literally anywhere without much spectacle so that I didn’t have to nurse in the car or the fitting room back when not all malls have breastfeeding stations.
Yet, it is thanks to breastfeeding my son that I am a better momma. Early in my momma journey, I was already able to figure out how far I was willing to go, how much I was willing to give up and what I was willing to conquer all for my son.
I know that breastfeeding is not easy, Momma. It may not be for everyone. They say fed is best and that is true, but if you believe that breastfeeding is for you and your child, then exhaust your options before giving up.
- These days there are a lot of lactation consultants that can help you. Seek them out.
- Keep yourself healthy. Eat nutritious food especially soups.
- Take galactagogues. Treat yourself to lactation goodies— which are my favorites along with hot chocolate to boost my milk supply.
- Explore using quality essential oils to boost your supply. (I only use Young Living) I personally use Basil every day and Fennel at one point.
- Make sure you get as much sleep as you can. Literally, sleep when the baby does. I know it’s hard. Trust me I understand. We have always been a no-nanny household (except for about three months maybe where we had a horrible experience with some nannies and a nanny agency) so I know all about a messy house, the never-ending laundry and things to do. But seriously, never underestimate the power of a good nap.
- Reach out to momma friends. Educate yourself about your options. There are so many support groups already in place now that can help. Send me a message, I would be happy to offer any help I can.
- Most importantly, meditate and pray about your decision.
Then do what you believe is best for you and your child.
Happy International Breastfeeding Week!