My Breastfeeding Journey

I’ve honestly been trying to write this post for a least 2 months now. I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time getting this written out. So – here we go.

Alright y’all… I’m about to get a little personal and talk about breastfeeding so if that’s not your cup of tea… feel free to skip this post.

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When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding. I read a ton about breastfeeding – what to expect, what to eat, what not to eat, the norms, etc. It all seemed great. It’s the best nutrition for your baby, perfect blend of nutrients, fat & carbohydrates, how it changes to meet the needs of your baby as they grow, etc, etc. When we took our prenatal classes and learned even more about the benefits of breastfeeding I was even more convinced to try it & stick with it.  A lactation nurse (IBCLC) taught our breastfeeding class and not only gave us great info & tips on breastfeeding but also told us all the horrible things that are associated with formula. i.e. the higher incidence of obesity and diabetes, lower IQ, increased cancer risk, how formula causes gut leakage, so babies get sick easier, etc.

After that class I was terrified of formula! However at the same time, I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, that he wouldn’t latch, or my milk wouldn’t come in. I tend to overanalyze. A lot.  I read and read and read, researched, read blogs, and got so much information that it completely overwhelmed me. For hells sake, I was formula fed as a baby and I turned out just fine! I’m not diabetic or obese and while I may not be a rocket scientist but I’m far from being the village idiot.

When Ford was born he latched right away. I did have to take him into the doctor when he was 3 days old because he wasn’t having bowel movements like he should (he did have plenty of wet diapers). His NP had to probe his little bottom and he finally went. I felt so bad. Because he was so backed up his NP was concerned he’d lost too much weight (since he had such a large bowel movement) and suggested I give him some formula. I was appalled. My milk had just come in that morning and he was still nursing every 2-3 hours. I did NOT want to give him formula. Everything I had read told me that if I fed him formula it would affect my supply, I’d lose my milk, ergo, the world would end. (Let’s not forget about all the warnings about nipple confusion and babies preferring bottle over breast and refusing to nurse.) When I took him back in for a weight check 2 days later he had gained weight, and the NP was happy with his progress.

I began pumping after feedings when he was 2 weeks old. It would take me 3-5 pumping sessions to get 2 oz!! Which, after a panicked call to the Lactation Clinic, was assured is normal. I started taking Fenugreek and eating oatmeal every morning in hopes of increasing my supply, and therefore pump output. By the time Ford was 6 weeks old I only had about 40oz stored in the freezer. I thought I’d have a TON of milk. I was worried about going back to work and what it’d do to my supply. The first day back to work I sent 4 bottles with 3 oz each, following the 1-1.25oz/per hour from the lactation specialist. When I called to check on him at lunch, he had already had 3 bottles! I was horrified, especially because I was hardly pumping anything at work. I’m talking .5 to 1.5oz per session. By the end of that first week my frozen stash was gone! I was devastated.

I tried everything to get my pump output up. Continued taking fenugreek, also adding in blessed thistle and brewers yeast (thanks to Swanson’s Vitamins who so kindly offered me a $25 gift card to their site so I could get these!) Ate oatmeal. Brought clothes and blankets that Ford had used to hold and smell while I pumped. I looked at pictures and videos of Ford while I pumped. As soon as I got home from work I’d nurse Ford, and if I had time, I’d pump after that as well. After breaking down in tears, being so frustrated with the whole thing and talking with some friends & my Mom, I decided to rent a hospital grade pump. And that did help. I was able to increase my output by at least .5 – 1.5oz per session. I’ve been using the Egnell Lact-e which looks like a dinosaur, but it’s actually quieter than my Ameda Purely Yours. I just leave it at work (the biotch is heavy) and bring my pump parts home daily to wash.  I still use my Purely Yours at home if I need it and it seems to work fine. I sometimes think it was the stress of my first week back at work and worrying about Ford being at day care. But… I still call monthly to continue the rental. I will probably take it back next month… I think. Maybe. I dunno.

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I can’t say for sure if the supplements have helped or not. I was taking a ton of fenugreek at first, up to 15 capsules a day. Then I added in 2 capsules/tablets of the blessed thistle and brewers yeast three times a day. That’s a lot of damn pills! I ended up switching to Motherlove More Milk Plus. It’s the same 3 ingredients plus Nettle Herb, just all in one capsule. I take 2 pills three times a day. It’s a little more expensive, but I like it for the convenience factor of taking 6 pills a day versus 20. I’ve read that the effect of the supplements should take place rather quickly, but I never noticed a significant increase. But since I’ve started the Motherlove supplement I’ve noticed a small, gradual increase in my output. Like maybe 1- 2 oz per day. However, I feel like it could also be attributed to me finally getting used to being back at work, and getting used to Ford getting supplemented bottles of formula. I even tried pumping every 2 hours while I was at work (I was told by friends that I’d “turn into a dairy cow”), but that didn’t help either. Whether I pumped 3 or 4 times a day, my output was the same. On average I pump 10-12 oz a day.

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Like I mentioned above my frozen stash ran out after a week back at work. And he was taking bigger bottles than I could pump to keep up with. After his first week he was taking 3.5oz bottles, and then 4 oz. Whatever I couldn’t pump, he got in formula. He’s now getting 6oz (occasionally one 7 oz) bottles. He seems to be napping better with the bigger bottles at daycare. It shocked me at first when they were giving him that much, but I talked to our pediatrician and she wasn’t concerned. So I’ve come to terms with it.

After 3.5 months of being back to work and Ford being supplemented with formula… I’m finally OK with it. The guilt that I have over supplementing is awful. I realize some of you may roll your eyes at me and think “who cares?! You’re feeding your child and that’s all that matters.” And while I agree with that 100%, I STILL feel guilty. I know that breastfeeding is the best option. I know that it’s the optimal nutrition for Ford. I feel guilty that I can’t provide my son with the best nutrition.

The funny thing is, after talking to other mommas, my scenario is not that uncommon. A lot of us have to supplement, not because we don’t want to breastfeed, but because after trying every trick in the book, it’s still not working. And you cant pass judgment on someone for FEEDING their child. It’s a common response that as long as you “tried” to breastfeed, switching to formula (or supplementing) was then OK. But in all reality, if someone chooses formula from day 1, that’s perfectly fine, too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your baby.

I wish I hadn’t been so against formula feeding/supplementing in the beginning. It could have saved me many tears, anxiety and stress. I wish I hadn’t been so close minded and stubborn about the whole thing because it came back to bite me in the ass. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie since bringing Mr. Ford home from the hospital. I’ve learned to never say never, i.e. “I’ll never give Ford formula.” or “OMG, I can’t imagine giving Ford a 6 oz bottle! That’s way too much food!” Ugh. Bitter ass humble pie.

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Look at that face! He’s certainly not missing a meal. He’s content with the boob or bottle. As long as he gets it when he wants it. When he’s hungry, he just wants to eat NOW.

 

What about you? Did your breastfeeding journey have some ups & (lots of) downs?

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Comments

  1. Katie says:

    Oooh love the tip of the the Mothers Milk stuff!!! I was the one that told you about adding in the brewers yeast and blessed thistle. I have to take them at 6 months with all my babies… And I don’t work!!! I did go back to work with my 1st and had the exact same situation as you!!! Exact!! Emotions and all. Pumping is hard and I’ve come to decide that it’s worse for people with bigger boobs. Hahah what sucks is that when I wean my babies fully… Even when they’re already supplementing, those same emotions come back. It’s just part of the hormones in us and every time there is a change our hormones freak. I can see why some moms breastfeed even over 2!!! It’s just hard to stop whether you’re ready or not. Thanks for sharing!! It’s always comforting to hear someone else’s journey.

    • Ashley says:

      Pumping is definitely hard. Honestly, I hate it. I hate the pump. And the thought of weaning makes me feel even worse. Mom guilt is serious business.

  2. Kendra says:

    Yay glad you shared! Weston woke up super early and is now in bed with us sleeping but me not so much. You gave me something to read.

  3. Jen Wakeland says:

    Mother’s Milk supplement is available at Dr. Christopher’s in Springville. Its the main supplement I swear by. And I rotated supplements. When one started to wane I switched to a different one (mothers milk for a month, then fenugreek, then alfalfa). Also, increase your water intake and seriously quit stressing. :) I blogged about all of this for the whole year I nursed. Good luck lady.

  4. Allie says:

    Oh my gosh, he is SO CUTE!

  5. Good for you! You have done so much for Ford, more than he will know. The mommy culture right now is very pro-breastfeeding. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a bit of a culture of judgement, especially among health-conscious mommies. I truly believe that any mother that makes well-informed decision based on what is best for HER and HER baby is a truly great mother. This applies to decisions regarding feeding, sleeping, immunizing etc. Parenting is a hard job and sometimes you just have to do “whatever works.” There are so many things I have done as a parent that I said I would NEVER do (co-sleep, pacifiers, video games before age 13 etc.)
    My breastfeeding journey was different for each child. I worked with my first and he didn’t take enough during the day and nursed for hours after I got home from work. I had to supplement because he ran me dry in the evenings (when my supply was at its lowest). My daughter didn’t gain weight fast enough and they asked me to supplement her. Luckily, I was able to pump extra and supplement with that, but I was lucky enough to stay at home. Had I been working, I would have had the same issues as you.

    • Ashley says:

      Yes… the judgement. That’s what I hate. Especially since I had no control over my supply problem and pumping. But in the end all that matters is that Ford is happy and healthy and LOVED. :)

  6. Hayden mathews says:

    Breastfeeding really
    Is so hard at times and people don’t realize that until they actually do it! My hardest challenge was how painful it was. My nipples bled and I would cry each time I fed him for the first 2 months then it finally got better and now it’s a breeze. Great post ash!! And ford is seriously a doll.

    • Ashley says:

      I remember cringing in pain every time he latched. I never bled, but I had “breakdown” spots and they took forever to heal. It was kind of odd when I was nursing one day and I finally realized that it didn’t hurt anymore. Honestly the pump leaves me more tender and sore than Ford ever has.

      We need to have a playdate with our boys! :)

  7. You’re an amazing mama and Ford is lucky to have you! I think it’s impressive how much you’ve done to see if you could do what you wanted to do, and in the end, the realization that it’s just food & you are FEEDING your child is what tops all. Impressed!!!

    I actually had the opposite problem…which no one talks about much, but I had an oversupply. It may sound awesome but it’s crazy painful & poor little girl would get wayyyy too much & so we had projectile vomit all over everything several times a day. It sucked. Luckily it evened out around 7 weeks, but it was hard. So although our experiences are different, being a mama is plain HARD. Awesome, but hard.

    xo

  8. julie16750 says:

    I tried desperately to breastfeed my son. Took all the herbs, the oatmeal, the dark beer, the hospital pump, power hour pumping and it just wasn’t happening. The first time I gave him formula he drank so much and I was felt so guilty because I was starving him! It took a long time to get over the guilt of supplementing and finally the decision to exclusively formula feed. But when I saw my baby happy and healthy looking and I was no longer super stressed and extremely tired and was able to enjoy my baby, I knew I made the right decision.

    I have recently heard Gatorade was magic for the milk supply, worth a shot. :)

  9. I breastfed with both of my littles for the first six months and then I switch to formula. With my first I basically had the exact same experience you had (except I didn’t work). I think the stress actually made my lactation go down. I switched to strictly pumping and didn’t realize that I had a crappy pump and I slowly lost my milk. I was also concerned because Hanna would never eat more than two ounces at a time and I thought it was because there was something wrong (come to find out she is just small, even now as a 3 year old she is only in the 5th percentile for height and weight).
    With my second I decided that I wasn’t going to stress. If I had to supplement then I had to supplement. Turns out Lucy is a healthy eater and would take up to 6 ounces of breast milk at a time. I bought a nicer breast pump (Medela brand) and I switched to pumping only, otherwise she would wake up two hours later and was hungry again). I pumped and took all the supplements (even motherlove, which I could tell a difference with) and switched her over to strictly formula at 6 months and felt no guilt. My baby was healthy (and was in the 85th percentile for weight) and she was eating solids which meant she was going to e decreasing her bottle intake anyway. She has not been sick once (and she is 10 months), and is meeting all of her milestones. They say if you can make it 6 months it makes a HUGE difference on their health.
    You”re doing awesome Mama! Breast feeding and bottle feeding are such a personal thing and just keep in mind that you are the mama and you are doing the best you can with what you’ve got!

    • Ashley says:

      I wanted to make it to 6 months… but I’m not sure I’ll get there. I’m just so over the pump. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. But, yes, I’m the Mama and I get to take care of my boy how ever I see fit. ;)

  10. I can’t imagine balancing working full time with pumping Ash. You are amazing! I only pump on my long shifts at the Y-it sucks (no pun intended). Ford looks like a very happy baby and MOST importantly: HE IS LOVED and he kknows it!!

    • Ashley says:

      Pumping does suck. I really really really hate the pump. Anyone who is an exclusive pumper is my HERO. I thought I could make it to 6 months… but… I’ve about had it with the dang pump.
      Ford is happy as long as he has a full belly. ;)

  11. Monica says:

    I know I already commented on your Facebook, but as you know, this brings up so many emotions. I had so much guilt with my first. With my second it crept in but I tried just to relax and enjoy her. I spent so much time pumping with Luke – and got nothing – and still feel panic when I think of using a pump again. I decided the most important thing was that we were all healthy and happy – whether it was formula or breast milk. I absolutely agree with the idea of never committing to something you will or won’t do. I actually filled my toddler’s sippy cup with Diet Coke this weekend when we were in the airport and he was having a meltdown. Great parenting at its finest.

  12. Ford is beautiful! And I think you’re doing a fabulous job – working full time, pumping and taking care of Ford is a lot to handle and you sound like you’re doing an awesome job at it all.

    My little boy is 4 months old and I said I would never give him formula. I was all about the breastfeeding. And then I had him and started breastfeeding and instead of it being a sweet bonding time like I imagined, it was excruciating. I cried. I sobbed actually. I gritted my teeth through every feeding and tried to make it through the pain. I finally consulted my pediatrician/OBGYN/lactation consultant and they all told me the same thing – I needed time to heal (I actually bled from breastfeeding – tmi?) and I needed to supplement with formula. I was devastated, but once I incorporated formula, I healed up and was able to resume breastfeeding. And guess what? My baby boy did fine on formula. I was raised on formula and like you said, I’m still here. I lived to tell about it. haha

    I think you said it best – as long as we’re feeding our babies, we’re doing good. We don’t need to beat ourselves up and give ourselves a guilt trip. We have to do what we can with the resources we have! :)

  13. Ann says:

    I never comment but wanted to give you a glimmer of hope after reading this post. I had a horrible time breastfeeding with my first baby. He never latched well, and I don’t think I ever established a full supply. I was so stressed with pumping, my freezer supply getting low, the horror of having to give him formula (gasp!)–I was a complete mess. I ended up supplementing with him when he was 4.5 months, and my milk was completely gone by the time he turned 6 months. I think the stress breastfeeding was causing led to this, and at 6 months, my little boy only wanted the bottle. Again, I was devastated, but went with it.

    Here’s the glimmer of hope. My breastfeeding experience has been completely different with my second baby. I had her last summer, and I had over 800 ounces saved and stored before heading back to work when she was 6 weeks old. I now have a storage supply of 2,500 ounces, and she’s 7 months. I did a lot of things differently this time, but the biggest thing I think that helped was water intake and relaxing. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day. It seriously makes a huge difference. I also rented a hospital grade pump from the very beginning and pumped 4-6 times a day from day one. It helped me establish double the supply by the time I had to go back to work and I’ve been able to maintain it for months now and continue to build my supply even from what she eats every day. I love the bond we share and the experience so much, I have no plans of stopping in the near future, even though we’re getting to closer to her first birthday.

    So, see, it’s all trial and error. We have to do our best. Each baby is different and what ends up working for them and us will be different each time.

    Seriously, you’re doing an awesome job. Little baby Ford is so lucky to have you!

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