Buckle up; I got carried away writing this one.
We all have different journeys in motherhood. One of the roads we take is how we choose to feed our babies. Whichever you choose, it is the correct choice for your babe. Here is mine & Dominick’s story.
Honestly, before I was pregnant, I never thought I would want to breastfeed. I always thought it was odd, in my own mind, and since I was formula fed, I didn’t have a desired goal to do it. Plus, was I really going to just pop out a boob and feed him anywhere? Definitely a hard no on that one. However, the more I learned and when I got pregnant the more I was willing to give it a go.
I had someone ask me if it was weird. With the thoughts I had prior to it as well, I get it and get why they may think that. It isn’t. I can’t explain it. It is something you’re just able to do and it instinctively is not weird. However, I do still think it’s weird to bust a boob out in front of others that aren’t my husband or baby. That’s a personal choice though. Others have different views on that as well.
I was a 100% formula fed baby. My husband was breastfed. I’m sure there is an even mix among all that you know. Can you look at someone and actually tell what he or she had as a newborn through their first birthday? Nope.
I wanted to share my story because everyone’s story is different and personally, the more I knew from friends, the better I felt going into this new journey. I wanted to inform myself on real life experiences rather than what I read, which we all know can lead to a dark rabbit hole and guilt. I had friends who were very successful with breastfeeding and even made it to their child’s first birthday while other moms had trouble with milk coming in or their child latching at all.
The one thing everyone needs to know it is NOT your fault if you are not able to breastfeed and go formula because you’re a rock star mom, period! Also, if you choose to not try at all and go straight to formula, you’re also a rock star mom!
A friend of mine had her pediatrician tell her, “I was breastfed and my wife had formula. We’re both doctors.” Well would you look at that?!
From day 1, my husband and I set our goals that I would attempt and try to breastfeed our son, but it would be a-okay to go to formula if it wasn’t working out for us. I also said I would only do it for 3 months because I was going back to work and did not want to pump at work. I wanted to have the mentality set that I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t breastfeed. I already battle my own thoughts as a woman (you know this ladies). I had tried to prepare myself in case I couldn’t knowing that I was still doing all I could for my son to be a healthy little guy.
My husband was onboard entirely, which was huge because he initially wanted me to do exclusive breastfeeding since he was raised that way. He had asked me, “why do you keep bringing this up? It’s like you don’t want to do it and you’re setting yourself up to fail.” But the more we talked, he understood why I wanted to be prepared mentally and he had my back.
Before I had my son, I had many who had successful stories also come at me with their tips and suggestions to definitely breastfeed since it worked for them. When they would ask me if I was planning to breastfeed my response was always, “if he wants to and it works for us, we will.”
It was a honest response that not everyone liked because I had my expectations set low, but it was the truth too. I wasn’t going to force anything that wasn’t going to work and I also refused to allow the pressure from others weigh me down on this journey.
In my other blog post, you may recall, I mentioned briefly about one of the lactation consultants I met with. When Dominick was born, I had some great nurses immediately try to help me express colostrum for him. I had asked if I could meet with the lactation consultants though to get tips and help on learning this new task my son and I would be attempting to spend a lot of time doing together.
Lactation consultant number one! She was GREAT! She came into our room all bippity-boppity and cheerful. We tried to feed him while I was in the bed and then she had me move to the couch area and she joked and kept things light for us. She made me feel like we would get this down no problem and showed us pictures of how it worked. She spent a good bit of time with us and I felt confident even though milk doesn’t typically come in in the first few days.
I had later told my nurse I would love to meet with another consultant before we went home so I could ask more questions and have them check on us to see if we were doing it right. Well, here comes lactation consultant number two… stern, straightforward, drill sergeant kind of attitude, and no sense of humor.
She was attempting to “help” the baby and I get this down and one of her strategies was to forcefully hold his tiny head against my boob. He clearly didn’t want to do that, I was stressing out for a number of reasons, and Blake began to as well seeing both of us like that. Blake spoke up since he saw I was on the verge of tears and asked her to take a break. I tried my hardest to put on a straight face, but Dominick and I were both exhausted. She popped my confidence bubble that I had going for us and had I met with her first, I can almost guarantee I would have said that day, “I’m done.”
I would like to tell any mom who is planning to meet with a consultant, if you don’t like one, ask for another! They are not all the same and can be really helpful. They all mean well and want you to succeed, but their personality can be a game changer for an already stressful experience.
Moving on, we packed up our bundle of joy and headed on home and continued to try this new thing we learned. Let me tell you, we were on the right track to start. He was having plenty of wet diapers and bowel movements in the hospital so it was going as expected.
Next up, I recall the pain that came with this lovely adventure. Holy balls did it hurt some days. I got clogged ducts a day or two at the beginning and those bad boys hurt like someone put a balloon in my boob and it was about to pop, no, explode. Rule out the cabbage leaves for that too. A warm rag works just fine.
Maybe it works, I’m not sure. I was against putting a warm leafy vegetable on my boobs though. I already lost all my dignity in the hospital and my boobs were out all the time at home, I didn’t need to put the icing on the cake with random cabbage leaves everywhere.
I did call a friend of mine for some tips which she suggested the Lanisoh Thera Pearl heat and cold packs (on my list of Favorite Things – Postpartum, coming soon). I used those every single day and I would use the warm rags to relieve the pain as well. And the tip that probably sucked the most, keep trying. I had to allow him to keep eating even when you wanted to punch a wall because the pain sucked so bad.
There was no resting to allow them to heal. And on top of it, little man didn’t have a bowel movement for the first 5 days at home. #scaredmama We were at the pediatrician 3 days in a row and I felt like I had done something wrong or wasn’t nursing him correctly.
Oh wait, time out, one of my favorite stories from the first week at home. When I had called the doctor’s office over the weekend to ask about him not pooping, they suggested supplementing formula for added fluid and to use a rectal thermometer to stimulate his bowels. Well, this was not something Blake was ready for.
He held onto our little nugget, who was only 8 lbs 7 oz, not really going anywhere and I had got the thermometer ready with Vaseline. I proceeded to put it in his little bum and Blake screamed at me, “oh my God, that’s too far!” I was extremely careful and it had not made it even an inch into his bum. Let me remind you, I had NO pelvic floor and still had on my giant pads, thankfully, because I started laughing so hard and holding my pee wasn’t an option. I started to pee my pants, literally.
I put down the thermometer and as quickly as I could had to rush to the bathroom while Blake recovered thinking I just hurt our son’s bum, who honestly had no idea we had even put that down there. But no luck that day on the bowel movement. When we did go to the pediatrician’s office and they used the bigger thermometer, I had to remind my husband to look away every time. *Men are babies about some stuff, am I right?!*
At one of our many appointments, I had asked the pediatrician what would relieve the pain on my nipples because they had yet to get used to this and our little guy was feeding quite often, as every new baby does. She suggested Aquaphor instead of the Lanisoh. GAME CHANGER! That stuff worked like a charm and made a huge difference for me. The really bad days when I cried because it hurt so bad, Blake reassured me it was okay to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. That was really helpful to hear because he supported me knowing how hard I was trying and working to feed our son.
Any who, once we got the bowels moving again, which was only a fluke and all was a-okay in his tummy, my little one nursed well once we got the hang of it. I got through those painful days with the items mentioned above. He nursed about 40 minutes if not more at a time. That took up a lot of the day and most of my energy. No one warned me of how completely exhausting nursing is. Think about it though, your body is trying to heal itself from birthing that baby, create milk for them, and you don’t sleep.
It would feel at times like energy was slowly draining out of me like the battery icon on your phone hitting the red area and needing to be plugged in ASAP or else it would be dead. I always made sure he and I were tucked in tight and safe because I would tend to fall asleep, especially during those late night feedings. *No judging, if you are. It’s a tough go getting used to nursing a newborn!*
At about 3 weeks, we decided I would try to pump and allow him to have a bottle in that timeframe instead because my morale was at an all-time low feeling like a 24-hour buffet. This was a tremendous help. It allowed me a moment to breathe while allowing my husband to help as well. It was still breastmilk but having an extra set of hands be able to feed him was huge.
We had slowly transitioned to more bottles in the day while I had pumped instead. This was a 20 minute process rather than 40-60 minutes.
At 6 weeks it was 2 bottles a day. Then at 9 weeks we introduced 1 bottle of formula. The reason we started this when we did was that I had chosen that I didn’t want to pump at work having an added level of stress. We decided formula would be best once I went back to work.
We did ask our pediatrician what he suggested for formula when we made this decision. He told us , “I couldn’t tell you which kid had what type. They’re all good as long as you get milk based.” Truth is, you need to find what is best for your baby’s tummy. We did sign up and got lots of samples so we had it when we were ready to begin introducing it to him.
All of September I had only nursed him at night before bed since he was 90% formula fed now. I had a big supply in the freezer we were using as well to be sure his tummy was full since my supply was dwindling now. I had been cutting out one nursing session about every 3 weeks at a time when we would add another bottle of formula in its place. That did help relieve the pain that some experience when stopping. Except one day I had attempted to skip another feeding, not thinking it through. I laid down to watch some TV and when I got up, huge wet spots were on the front of my shirt. *face palm* Totally engorged, my boobs leaked right through my bra and shirt because I didn’t have those lovely pads on either.
So now that we got to the point of cutting back so much and him being on bottles mostly, it was about that time I was entirely done breastfeeding him. Problem was, after all that time before I was pregnant thinking I’d never want to breastfeed and even me saying I would only do this for 3 months (setting my expectations low), now I was at the end and totally afraid to let go and stop nursing him.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to breastfeed my son for 4 months. Not exclusively for that entire period and that was our choice, but the fear of stopping was because #momguilt set in and had me thinking I wasn’t going to be there for him anymore. I didn’t want to feel like he wouldn’t need me any more. What am I good for if I’m not nursing him?
See how our stupid, cruel brain can be at times? Of course he would need me. He’s an infant and what boy doesn’t need their mom?!
On October 2nd, I didn’t nurse him that night. I wrote down the date because it was much harder than I had believed it would be. It was only one time a day I was nursing him and I barely had anything left for him but it was the last time I had got to nurse him the night before. I cried a little… maybe more than once.
From May 28-October 1, I was able to nurse my son and do that for him. I also was able to ask for help to allow others to feed him formula as well and he is growing into a strong boy.
Just over 4 months. A bond was built between him and I. A bond was also built among his dad and him too because he was able to help us and support me through this. Others were able to help us as well including his grandmothers and grandpa, which I know they thoroughly enjoyed getting that special time with him. It’s all in how you, as your baby’s parents, choose to do this journey with them!
Remember that, it is your baby, your choices. You’re a rock star mom (or dad) no matter how they are fed!
Okay, I have to go now. I’m currently crying again.