My Love/Hate Relationship with Breastfeeding

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I originally started writing this post a month ago when Rowan was 4 weeks and I'm glad I didn't post it because you could hear my frustration while reading it. I wanted to give breastfeeding a chance and I'm so glad I did, but it was not easy. I thought I'd share my experience because I have a feeling there are some ladies out there who have felt the same way, frustrated and tired, and have considered throwing in the towel.

What I needed when I reached that breaking point was encouragement to keep going and to know that it was 100% okay if I didn't want to breastfeed anymore. Your baby will thrive regardless of whether they are exclusively breastfed or formula fed, so no judgements here. And that's why I'm writing this, so others know its okay to switch to formula if you want to. Breastfeeding may not get easier, but after about 6 weeks you will both get much better at it.


I will preface this by saying I think I have been pretty lucky in the breastfeeding department, and I hope I'm not jinxing myself. I haven't had to experience clogged ducts or mastitis and aside from a few middle of the night feedings when Rowan was just overly hungry, he's had a great latch. It's just the damn postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation that you have to get past!

The Good

Advantages
I know there are so many women who want to breastfeed but can't, and that was part of why mom guilt set in when I considered quitting. The other part is how many advantages there are to breastfeeding, the list goes on and on. The health benefits for Rowan alone are worth it but the cost savings and help losing that baby weight are an added bonus.  

The Bad

First Two Weeks
Those first two weeks are pure survival for breastfeeding mamas. If your babe is like Rowan, they may have their days and nights mixed up. Rowan also cluster fed every night for the first 10 days. I remember sitting in the rocker feeding Rowan every hour, watching my husband and Ruby sleeping peacefully in the bed next to us. I would burp Rowan, swaddle him, and put him in his lounger, but the moment I got comfortable he would spit up or be hungry again.

Soreness and Engorgement
When your milk comes in your boobs feel like rocks. I was in tears it was so uncomfortable and I was leaking constantly... so glam! To top it off, my lactation consultant said not to pump at that stage, just to hand express to the point that your babe can latch. You don't want your body to think you need to continue producing that much on a constant basis.

Even with a good latch, your nipples will still be sore and very sensitive at first. I put Lanolin on before showering because the water hurt them and it helped but only a little. Breast milk also helps a lot.  

Fussiness
It wasn't until about 6 weeks when I learned some of Rowan's cues and things got better. He would constantly unlatch and then squirm and cry like a crazy man, which I figured out later was because he needed to be burped. After he burped he would latch right away and go right back to eating. I really wish I had known this early on, it may have prevented some tears from mama at 3 AM. We also learned that he needed to be kept upright for about 45 minutes after feeding to help reduce spit ups.

The Ugly

Baby Blues
Remember when I said I was up all night the first two weeks? That lack of sleep contributed to some baby blues, which I haven't talked about much here. Every night when it was time to get ready for bed I would be in tears knowing what was in store... knowing my husband couldn't help and it was all up to me to keep our little man fed.

Pillow Madness
I tried almost every breastfeeding pillow there was and hated all of them. I would throw them on the ground in a fit of postpartum, hormone-induced rage. Seriously never thought I'd get so angry about a damn pillow.... I ended up sticking with the "My Breast Friend" pillow (terrible name) and cut some of the foam off of the back support.

Feeling trapped
Before I started pumping I felt trapped, like I was just going to be a hermit forever (dramatic, I know) because I couldn't leave the house for longer than an hour or two. I did a lot of impulse buying at Target because I had to rush back home every time.

A few of the things I use daily...

Pump (Check with your insurance, they are required to provide pumps for free!)


So what changed? Why did I do a complete 180 about breastfeeding? Here are a few of the things I recommend for breastfeeding mamas.

Push yourself to do it until the 6 week mark and then reevaluate. 
Things just clicked around 6 weeks and it was much less stressful. I think it was because I started pumping (see below) and because we were coming out of the newborn fog. The all night cluster feeding does end eventually, I promise!

Start pumping and get a small supply going. 
I started pumping after Rowan's noon feeding when he was 3 weeks and got a small freezer supply going before we introduced a bottle. It made me so much less stressed knowing that if I was out running errands and couldn't get back in time, my husband could feed Rowan. That little bit of freedom made a huge difference. I'm also so thankful to Laura for her advice on pumping!

Let someone else do a feeding. 
By 4 weeks, we started Rowan on a bottle for his last feeding before bed. This gave my husband the opportunity to be involved in feeding him and me some extra time to clean up after dinner, (maybe) shower, or just relax. I still have to pump at that time, but its been one of the best moves we made throughout this whole experience.

Get on a schedule
Rowan fed on demand the first two weeks but I started using the Moms on Call schedule once we knew he had gotten back to his birth weight (and then some!) and the Pediatrician gave us the okay. Having that structure has been so helpful for us! We don't follow everything exactly, but it works for us so far and we've even had a few nights in the past week where Rowan slept through the night! Not bad for a 9 week old!

I'm so glad I stuck with breastfeeding, it's amazing what your body can do. Knowing that I contributed to those adorable chubby cheeks and wrist rolls is a great feeling. I'm sure the boob situation won't be pretty after breastfeeding though... I propose that breastfeeding mamas should get to put the money we save on formula towards a post-baby boob lift. Who is with me?!

I know this was a long post but I hope it is helpful for some of you! Feel free to reach out if anyone has questions or needs some encouragement like I did!

19 comments:

  1. It's so nice to hear the good and bad of breastfeeding! Noah never latched because of being tongue tied so I pumped. Never had a great supply though. But I have to say being bottle fed from the beginning was nice in that we could share the nights and I didn't have the crazy trapped feeling. Glad it's better now!

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this!! I am really apprehensive about how awful those first 6 weeks are going to be with breastfeeding, but I'm determined to do it. It's great to know what to expect and things that can help and just hearing your story! Thanks Cait! Glad you are doing better now!

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  3. ahhh, I am not pregnant but really needed to hear this!! When the time comes, my husband & I would like for me to try to breast feed but the thought of the pain scares me!

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  4. It's so nice reading someone else's experience! We've been doing well for the most part but sometimes it can be frustrating. Pumping and having someone else give a bottle helps me not feel trapped too! Also, just in case you want to save more money I got the Avent sterilizer and use it for my pump parts and save the micro bags for traveling.

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  5. I'm totally bookmarking this. Thank you for your honesty and way to go, mom!

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  6. Loved reading this!! Thanks for sharing your reflections, mama! xx

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  7. This is such a great post. I'm planning to give breastfeeding a serious try, but I'm so nervous because I know so many people who have given up. I love that you shared your struggles, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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  8. Great post! My mom told this weekend that she couldn't breast feed me and because it was the 80's no one really pushed her into trying. I obviously plan to and am looking forward to it but also know if it doesn't work out the baby will be just fine. It seems like the first 6 weeks is the hardest part with a newborn. It's also got to be harder because you're having to do it all alone. Which is sad for your husband too because you know they wish they could do more. You're doing an awesome job and I can't wait to reread this in 6 months when I'm up feeding at 2am ready to throw in the towel!
    Ally - Life as I know it

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  9. I'm glad to hear that breastfeeding is going better for you! Clearly what you're doing is working because Rowan gets cuter and cuter in every picture!

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  10. Great post and everything is so true. I was going to write a breastfeeding post, now that my 19 month is finally off the boob...haha, but haven't had the time to sit down and write it. So happy that it worked out for you and you kept at it. Good work mama!

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  11. Yes yes YES! I always tell other mama's to give it 6 weeks. That is seriously a huge turning point. It's still hard even then, but something definitely clicks over at that time and it just isn't quite as overwhelmingly hard anymore.

    Abigail had the worst latch in the history of latches and I was bleeding and sore and wanted to quit, so I would literally tell myself, "just one more feeding" and then again, "just one more feeding" and before you knew it, I exclusively nursed her for 13 months :)

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  12. So glad you found the happy zone because those first two weeks SUCK! Literally they freaking suck. Here I am almost 8 months later and now I get teeth. Towel may be thrown in pretty soon!

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  13. Yay yay yay!! I'm so glad you gave it until 6 weeks. I know at 2 weeks postpartum 6 weeks sounds like forever but once you get over that hump it all gets better!! I'm happy you all have found a good rhythm that works for you and Rowan. The older they get the easier it gets too and you will find mom guilt in everything you do so don't beat yourself up too much ;) He is sooo freaking cute!!

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  14. Breastfeeding was so hard for me! I'm so glad you were able to continue mama! Keep it up! Your post is so honest and so very truthful and I could relate to so many parts of it (except the continuing). thank you for not judging any mother who's had to use formula either.

    I knew I was doomed when Sophie was born. She didn't latch in the hospital and my milk never came in at the hospital (we were there three days), she refused to eat from the boob and when she did, she never latched well no matter how many times I tried to get her to latch properly. We also had to supplement from the beginning because I didn't make any milk. My supply ended up drying up one month in and she's been on formula since. We are now slowly transitioning to cow's milk.

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  15. great post caitlyn! engorgement was the woooorst! but im glad that breastfeeding got better for you. so far things are going well with violet but im curious to see how things evolve. i need to start pumping so i have a backup supply! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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  16. I'm so happy you have found your rhythm!!! I will definitely look back on this post when the time comes for me!! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

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  17. Yes! Six weeks was a magic turnaround for me. Prior to that I was in tears as I was in so much pain. Meeting with a lactation consultant to help with my daughter's lip tie made a huge difference. She is now 7 months and we haven't had to supplement, so I'm hopeful we can make it to one year.

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  18. I totally agree with this post! I actually still haven't blogged about breastfeeding yet because I wanted to give it some time before sharing anything, but now that he's 4 months old, things are so so much better than they were in the beginning. I am glad I stuck with it but I also realize it's not for everyone :)

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  19. So happy you were able to push through! At day 10, after inconsolable crying for hours each and every day, we took our son to the pediatrician, since we knew something wasn't right. Well, turns out, he has a milk protein allergy. I debated cutting out all dairy and soy - that means no milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, you name it. He also wasn't gaining ANY weight while being breastfed. On top of that, he was a biter, not a sucker, so I had "severe nipple trauma" according to the lactation consultant. Meaning, blood blisters and cracked and bleeding nipples. I cried and cried after the pediatrician appointment and lactation consultant visit. I felt like a failure. I originally wanted to breast feed the entire 12 weeks I was home on maternity leave, but all the signs - no weight gain, severe nipple trauma, the milk protein allergy - and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was giving it up, and switching to (the very expensive milk / soy free) formula. At least C got 10 days of breast milk. (Oh, the poor sweet also has acid reflux, so he's on Prilosec twice daily. He was originally on Zantac twice daily, but that wasn't cutting it, so we had to switch to Prilosec.) Now, he still has his fussy days, but he's much happier, as am I! I can eat all the dairy I want (YAY yogurt and ice cream and milk and cheese!) and DRINK all the wine and cocktails I want. So - it's a win win for us. A happy mom = a happy baby. Do what works for BOTH of you!
    And oh - I can SO relate to the crying. I would cry EVERY time I breast fed - first of all because it hurt like HELL from my nipple trauma, but also because it was all on me - feeding, that is. COMPLETELY agree about that! And I got SO TIRED of pumping. I produced SO MUCH MILK. I had SO much stored up, and then I had to DUMP IT ALL when I found out about the allergy. UGH! Heart breaking! But I love it SO MUCH now that my husband can feed C bottles! Love that! Just yesterday, I went out running errands for 3 hours. BLISS!
    You're a great mommy!
    And I love your blog! (I have my own blog - it's private, though, so let me know if you want an invite.)

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