Breastfeeding: On the Real

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With my first son, I have to admit, I was clueless. From breastfeeding to how much work a baby actually was, I was as green as they come. Before getting pregnant I thought, ‘aw how cute and fun it would be to have a baby!’ Obviously that was a fantasy, one I’m grateful for everyday, but nonetheless, that fantasy proved to be quite the life-quake.

Our son was born jaundice. He didn’t have to stay in the hospital but I was told to supplement his feedings with formula. I was breastfeeding the first few days, then pumping and supplementing to get rid of the jaundice.

This was not only nerve wracking, but exhausting! Never having breastfed before, all I knew was it hurt, it took a lot of patience that I didn’t have and it was more tiring than I could have ever imagined.

Bottle feeding him formula and breast milk ended in him solely on the bottle and I stopped pumping after 6 weeks due to my lack of milk supply. No sleep, the demands of feeding and all of the other hormonal and emotional feelings I was having had me feeling the ‘baby blues.’

Was it just me feeling this way? Was I doing something wrong? I looked around and I seemed to be one of the only women among my peers who had a child, so the loneliness contributed to my blues. I felt kind of like a failure, especially when it came to breastfeeding.

Everyone seemed to have an expectation of me, but no one was harder on me than myself. All I wanted was to give my baby what he needed, to feel supported in whatever decision I made and to feel confident enough to make that decision for myself and not let others influence how I fed my child.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked, still to this day, why I formula fed my first son and why I didn’t breastfeed. It’s almost felt like a competition of sorts, as to who was the better mother and who could “do it all” without looking affected. I couldn’t get my mind around this and couldn’t help but feel judged.

Cut to 4 years and 4 months later; there I was, preparing to give birth to my second son. All I could think about was how I wanted to do things differently.

The experience of having your first child truly prepares you in the best possible way for that second baby. My expectations were so different, my reality was clear, I knew breastfeeding would be hard, but I told myself I would give it all I had and not put so much pressure on myself to be perfect.

All in all, I just knew, it was going to be hard, especially while having a 4 year old at the same time. Here I am, 3 weeks into it and yep, I was right, IT’S HARD!!!! Not just breastfeeding or having a 4 year old, but all of it! It’s exhausting beyond belief!

But the difference this time and yes there is a real difference, is that I didn’t have those same expectations. I knew what to expect when it came to having a newborn, but I was completely new to being a mother of 2 and I knew it might make my attempt at breastfeeding that much harder.

My previous experience gave me the patience I needed and the knowledge that this little baby won’t be this little forever. I knew I needed to take it all in and relish this demanding time, as crazy as that might sound. I knew I would miss it once he grew out of this stage in his life. My mind set changed completely and that has made things so much easier.

So while I feel like a first time mom when it comes to breastfeeding, I am giving it everything I’ve got and for me, it’s definitely good enough. My son is exclusively on breast milk. I breastfeed 90% of the time, I pump and bottle feed breast milk if we are out and about and I can’t breastfeed. Then my husband feeds our son one bottle in the middle of the night so that I can get that extra few hours of sleep, which makes all the difference in the world.

There are mothers who do not believe in giving their babies the bottle, especially this early, and that is great for them! We are very lucky that our son has had no problems going from breast to bottle and back to breast.

This works for us and we are getting into a great routine. I’m in no way saying this isn’t hard! I have already struggled with shallow latching issues, which in turn has damaged my nipples and created a semi-torturous few days of feeding before I spoke to a lactation consultant and began the process of healing my nipples and getting my son on a proper latch.

It’s super demanding, especially this early on when they feed every 2-3 hours and cluster feed during growth spurts. But in the end, for me, it’s a day to day accomplishment. Since I don’t really feel like it’s come as easily or naturally to me as it may others, I can only look at it as an achievement, and every day I get through, I am so proud of myself and can’t help but feel satisfied that my son is getting the most nutritious form of milk that he can.

I’m seeing his little body gain weight and start to fill out and it feels so good knowing I can do that for him. Today is a good breastfeeding day, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but only I can decide what is best for my son and I, no one else.

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