Monday, October 2, 2017

Mom Monday: Finding Breastfeeding Confidence

3 weeks, they said. 

"If you can make it through 3 weeks of breastfeeding, it will get better." Well, they were right...we're 8 weeks in and have found our groove but not without bumps in the road so let's backtrack a bit...

During my pregnancy, I was asked about my "feeding plan" over and over. "Do you plan on breastfeeding?" to which I answered yes, always resulting in an satisfied nod and approving tone from the askee. I would usually add, "Well, I'm certainly going to try," as if it was a way to remind myself that if things didn't work out, at least I would have put in the effort. I wasn't really that nervous about it. It just seemed like the natural next step of the process...Until I started seeing it in real life, that is. My girlfriends had their babies a few months before I was due so I had the advantage of noting their trials and tribulations. One of the first things I noticed was how it pretty much happened all day long during those first few weeks.

Seriously. You have a baby on your boobs...ALL DAY. 

I thought, wow...that's so time consuming. How do you get anything else done? So, naturally I started to worry about that plus all of the other joyous things they tell you could be possible (cracked nipples, mastitis, leaking, engorgement, and the list goes on). But nonetheless, it was still my plan and I was going to weather the storm, no matter how hard it rained. 

Well, here I am -- 8 weeks in and while the clouds have cleared, we certainly had our gloomy moments. Ronan's sugar levels were fairly low for the few days we spent in the hospital after he was born and since my milk hadn't come in yet, we were supplementing with formula until his sugar stabilized. I never imagined I would feel this way, but even in those very early moments, it bothered me to see him having a bottle. ESPECIALLY since he had just been born...I feared he would get use to that right off the bat and I would lose my chance to even introduce him to breastfeeding. But the nurses assured me that wasn't the case and this wasn't by choice, it was necessary for his health so there was no way around it. 

The lactation consultants at our hospital were great -- One in particular made me feel much better about the situation and I actually made a follow up appointment with her weeks after (which I highly recommend! If you are struggling or just have questions, this will make you feel so much better!). They urged me to try using the hand pump to express some colostrum, aka "liquid gold"...even if it was just a few drops, it was the best thing I could offer. I'll just be honest, this was no picnic -- My wrist was sore and after 15-20 minutes, I maybe had one drop but the nurses still insisted I swipe it across his lips.

They treated this speck of liquid like it was Rose's Heart of the Ocean necklace...
Ugh, I just wanted to give more.

I started to wonder, was it always going to be this hard? No, everyone said...My milk was expected to come in within a week or so and then we would go from there. Until then, we worked on different positions (Football vs. Cradle -- FYI, I still prefer cradle & cross cradle), though it took a few weeks to really feel comfortable with either. I even asked my husband to take pictures of me doing each one so I could reference them later on. It was all so new in the beginning and I worried it would never feel natural.

Once the 3 of us arrived home, we continued to supplement with small amounts of formula until my milk came in. I kept practicing with him so he would get use to latching and hopefully get some colostrum in the meantime. I was so emotional that first week, crying at the drop of a hat. We were getting zero sleep and not to mention, I had just given birth to a big deal. The exhaustion is unlike anything else and it just made me even more impatient. Then, after about 5-6 days, I noticed my milk had started to come in. I was ecstatic! 

The next few weeks were a crazy rollercoaster of emotions. Once we had actually started breastfeeding, my fears turned from "Will it work?" to "Will I ever be able to leave the house again?" I was fortunate -- Ronan latched really well from the beginning. He seemed to be figuring it out and while that made me happy, I still found myself crying at the most random times because everything about a newborn is all consuming, nursing being at the top of that list. I felt like he was attached to my chest all day long -- It seemed like I never left our chair because even when he would nap, he sometimes slept on the boppy on my chest or I would move him, and collapse into the cushions myself, only do it again an hour later.

But the hardest thing?

Guilt. That stereotypical Mom guilt. Early on, I never knew how much he was getting so if he was crying, I automatically assumed he was hungry and began to doubt my supply. I worried I wasn't producing enough for him and it made me feel so bad thinking I was the reason he was upset. There were a particularly rough few days at our lake house where he was fussy for what seemed like hours on end and my only conclusion was that he wasn't getting enough to eat. So, I panicked and asked my Dad to run to the store for formula. If nothing else, it made me feel better to have there as a backup but still, with each bottle that was opened, I couldn't shake the feeling of guilt and wishing it was coming from me instead. 

For about a week after that, we would supplement here and there with  formula if I felt uneasy about his intake...but then we went to the pediatrician for his first month check-up and within a few minutes, she somehow calmed all my of nerves. He had been consistently gaining weight -- In fact, he had doubled his birth weight and was excelling in every way. Not to mention, he was a very happy baby. She told me how common it was for Mom's to doubt their supply and oftentimes, it wasn't an issue at all.

I couldn't hold back my tears when she told me what a wonderful job I was doing. She reassured me that he was progressing beautifully and all that weight he had gained? Wasn't from a few ounces of formula here and there. I realized I had gotten him there myself and I should be proud of what we had accomplished together already. And now, as he's about to turn two months old, we have found a groove and routine in our daily schedule. We purchased a baby scale for our house so I now feel confident in how much how's eating and most of the time, I enjoy the process because it's something special we share together. 

I love not only filling his belly but his heart with comfort. 

But really, I have written this entire novel to get to this final point: It really bothers me how much pressure there is on Mom's to live by the "breast is best" motto. Over these past two months, I kept hearing it in my head...

And I really started to hate that saying.

Over time, I realized you are so much more as a Mother than the milk coming (or not) coming from your chest. God, until you go through it yourself, you don't realize how different everyone's story is and how difficult it can be on a woman. There is NO one size fits all solution when it comes to anything baby related, especially my best piece of advice is not to listen to anyone else's advice. You can appreciate the support from your friends, Family and Doctor but only YOU knows what will truly work for you and your little one. We now have a stash of formula in our house, because I finally feel comfortable with the idea of supplementing if we are in a bind...sometimes, I don't want to leave the room again when Family comes over or maybe I pumped too late in his nap and need to provide a little extra for him when he wakes up. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with feeding your baby formula and there are many situations in which that's the only answer. I just wish women could learn to support one another in their journey instead of judging every decision. That goes for anything related to Motherhood...It's already challenging enough.

Remember, you are taking care of your baby but you also need to take care of yourself. 
When it comes down to it, FED IS BEST.

If you're still with me, thank you for reading. 
If any of this can reassure at least 1 new Mom out there, it's been worth it.