First off, let me start by saying that a fed baby is a healthy baby, and a healthy baby is a happy baby. So if you are looking out for the well-being of your child and yourself, then cheers to you! Finding what works best for you and your family is the definition of success. This is my personal experience with breastfeeding on this wild & wonderful motherhood journey.
Motherhood is something that I had dreamt of, and when I envisioned myself as a mom, breastfeeding was always in the picture. It is something I find beautiful & beneficial, and I wholeheartedly wanted to be a part of that! So when we found out we were pregnant, it was an automated response for me “yes, we are going to breastfeed.” In the passing weeks of baby preparation I was reading more and more articles about how hard breastfeeding was. How terrible. Exhausting. And downright impossible in some cases. We even heard these similar stories and experiences in our birthing and lactation classes. And suddenly this easy assumed answer of mine became surrounded by fear and pressure… what if I can’t breastfeed my baby? What if I don’t produce enough milk? What if we cannot figure out the proper latch?! All these “IF’s” and we all know how much wasted anxiety those bring. So I had to find my own inner peace of mind during pregnancy and accept that nurturing my baby is what was important, and however I did that was OKAY, and I could not worry about the “if’s”, just enjoy the journey of growing life and wait until our baby arrived.
Fast forward a few months and the big day came. Baby was here at last! Our delivery was honestly amazing (I’ll get all up in that story another time) and after hourssss of labor, our precious baby girl was placed on my chest. I laughed, I cried, I squealed, literally all the feels come rushing back to me… then came the moment of truth, that first breastfeeding. I mean within minutes of birth, nurses cleaning babe up, and meeting your new child, it’s time to start serving up the meals–talk about a full day!? All blessings, fortune, and graces were with us as Leilah latched on immediately with no hesitation. In that moment I felt the full embodiment of MOTHERHOOD. This was it. A life I created with my love, finally meeting her in person, and now nursing our tiny human- this was a slice of heaven on earth. And although I was cherishing the moment, I had not fully realized that we had formed a breastfeeding bond that was about to be a journey all in itself.
I advocate the Normalize Breastfeeding Movement. I fully support being able to feed children, it’s as simple as that for me. So I did! I have literally breastfed everywhere. Planes, trains, boats, cars, restaurants, the yoga studio, the mall, Mamava Lactation Suites, beaches, parks, even on mountaintops. I’ve also breastfed with any sort of cover. A nursing wrap, a swaddle cloth, a poncho, and many times with nothing at all. Whatever it took for me to able to nourish Leilah, I did it. At first I made a mindset goal of 3 months; see how it goes, give it everything I’ve got and take it from there. Then we made it to 6 months. Then 9… 12… and suddenly here we are 20 months old and still nursing. And although it has been a positively successful journey, it has certainly not been an easy one. There was a time around the 5 month mark where I felt my supply was drying up. Whether it was diet, lifestyle, or both of us simply adjusting & growing, there was a change happening and I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue nursing. Immediately those anxious fears crept back up, oh no, is this the end?! I didn’t fulfill my goal, what now?? But instead of filling my body with harmful thoughts of toxic doubt, I focused on my baby, listened to my body, and did some research. I charged up my diet on super foods good for fueling milk production, and added some new items to my shopping list. Aside from amping up my leafy greens intake, I started drinking lactation tea and even found some lactation cookies… can you say hell yes?! The Milkmakers products worked for me and I found them to be most palatable. I know there are all sorts of milk making remedies and goodies, but these are the specific ones I used. (FYI-not an endorsement at all. I found these items and Target and Babies R Us, paid for them, and genuinely found them useful)
And although I think these products did help me, a lot of it was having the patience and taking the time to work through the frustrations. There were times of chapped nips, cracked nips, engorgement, sprinkler level leakage, stretch marks, blood, sweat, and tears… the whole nine yards. But I powered through and upped the frequency of my nursing to stimulate milk production and slowly but surely, we were flowing golden again.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again (and you’ll see it in many of my posts) Do what’s best for YOU. And in this case, for us Exclusive Breastfeeding was the way to go. When I say “exclusive breastfeeding” I mean baby on breast, milk straight from mama to little one. We didn’t do bottles, didn’t do pumping, and as you already know- didn’t do formula. Just Leilah and I working together as a well oiled feeding machine! To some people this exclusive feeding sounds crazy, but it worked perfect for us. I am fortunate to work from home, so Leilah is always with me. Morgan did not have much paternity leave and had to return to early mornings of work pretty quickly, so it honestly worked great for his schedule bypassing the middle of the night feedings. Make no mistake, he helped in ALL the ways and was just as sleep deprived with a waking newborn, but the exclusive breastfeeding was perfect for our setup. Leilah’s crib was in our room the first few months, so walking a few feet, picking her up, and nestling her on my chest for night feedings was ideal compared to stumbling downstairs half asleep and trying to make a bottle of some sort. The exclusive breastfeeding also translated well as we travel far and travel often. Popping a crying baby onto the boob was much easier than fumbling around for a bottle on the tight fit of a plane or trying to keep milk at regulated temperatures for a day of hiking or at the beach. Like I said, it is what worked for us, plain and simple. We kept this routine going as long as we could. Like the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Once Leilah turned 12 months, we wanted to start transitioning her to other milks. This was a personal choice for us that we discussed with our pediatrician and decided as parents is what we wanted. I was still producing plenty, but wanted to slowly introduce calcium in other forms of milk. We weren’t sure how long Leilah would want to nurse, how long my body would be able to sustain her growing toddler appetite, plus we wanted to eventually have another baby and our demanding exclusive breastfeeding schedule was still acting as birth control. We started with a mixture of organic 2% milk, almond milk, and warm water. Leilah took to it just fine, especially since we were still nursing as well. Gradually over time we lessened the breast feedings and transitioned her main milk consumption from the bottle blend. It got to the point where Leilah was mainly nursing for comfort or to simply be close to me, which I did not mind one bit! And that’s where we are today. She drinks her milk blend every day for nutrition, then will maybe nurse once a day or some days not at all. I’ve found if she’s having a hard time going down for her afternoon nap, one minute on the breast and she’ll be out like a light. Also if she takes a tumble and wants some TLC consoling or if I have been gone for a long time in a day, she’ll want to nestle on my chest.
For me, breastfeeding has been a dream come true. A walk in the park, no. Fulfilling, more than I could ever explain. We have had a long successful journey these past 20 months, and it is honestly hearbreaking for me to imagine that there will be “a last time.” But part of motherhood is watching your little one grow and also growing with them in all their changes and stages. Breastfeeding is a blessing in my book, and a chapter I will always truly cherish.