My Breastfeeding Journey

**This post has been on my mind for a while, I originally wanted to post it during World Breastfeeding Week (last week), but it was a crazy week and I didn’t want to rush through it. But it’s here now, better late than never right?**

Breastfeeding was something I had always planned on, even before I was pregnant. My mom breastfed me, as well as my 4 siblings, for 12 months. To me, it was the “normal” way to feed a baby.

When I found out I was pregnant with Kallen (after waiting 18 looonnngg months) I was SO excited. I read all the articles, blogs, and books out there. I joined mom groups and support groups and eagerly followed all the posts. If nothing else, I was determined to be prepared.

I had heard about breastfeeding struggles, as a matter of fact, my sister, who had a baby just 6 months before me (our babies are exactly 6 months apart-to the day-how fun is that!) had a hard time with breastfeeding. I would also see posts in the groups or read articles like “10 tips for successful breastfeeding” or “how to get on track with breastfeeding”, so obviously it crossed my mind that it was work. BUT surely that wouldn’t happen to me…I was going to be different, because Hello, I read all the things! But, boy, was I in for a long ride….

My labor was long, and hard, but nothing unordinary….I was induced on my due date, a choice I made because my mom could only stay with me for a couple week…but that is a post for another day! I had a plan, I wanted immediate skin to skin and to latch ASAP. Unfortunately, my labor nurse and I butted heads and she wasn’t crazy about this (why? I still cannot figure out). So I didn’t get my skin to skin, he was laid on my chest while Chris cut his cord, but I had a gown on, and that took maybe 30 seconds. After that was done, he was taken to the warmer to be weighed, wiped down, and was brought back to me swaddled. I did not get skin to skin or immediate latch

My first moments with Kallen
My first moments with Kallen

Because of my choice to have an epidural (it may not be for everyone, but I do not regret that AT ALL) I was not able to get up and shower for a couple of hours. I delivered Kal at 5:57 pm, I showered around 8, and finally at 8:30 (almost 3 hours later!!) the nurse suggested I try and nurse him. His first latch was great! The new nurse was so sweet and helped me get him positioned just right, he nursed on both sides for a good 15 minutes. I was SO proud, I knew I could do it, and it was happening!

Fast forward to about 1 am….I was finally coming down from the high that is giving birth and I was exhausted, all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Kallen was sleeping, so I took advantage and fell asleep…when I woke up 3 or 4 hours later, Chris was so excited and proud that, even though it took him an hour, he was able to get Kal back to sleep without waking me. I was grateful for the sleep, and didn’t think much more of it. I nursed Kallen again when I woke up, and I remember he took 1 side, but not the other. Not really knowing what I was doing, I figured it was good enough and all was well.

Around 6 am the nurse came in to check on me and Kallen and asked how things were going. I told her great, because I thought they were. She asked me how he was eating, and I told her he had nursed 2 times in the night. She expressed some concern that it wasn’t more and encouraged me to try every 2 hours, but she didn’t offer any other help or education about it. My mom came up to the hospital around 8, and I told her that I had been trying the every 2 hours thing, but Kallen wasn’t really interested. My mom told me newborns are just sleepy and to keep offering it, which made me feel better. When the nurse came again, she asked all the questions for what felt like the millionth time. When she asked about diapers, I told her Kal had pooped 2 or 3 times, but he had yet to make a wet diaper–with the education I have now, I know this is totally normal, but I was clueless then—when I said this, the nurse got a very concerned look on her face and let me know that this was not okay. Of course, being a first time mom, this made me very nervous and concerned! So my mom helped me express to her my nursing concerns..her solution? A nipple shield and to have him drink 1 oz of formula, “so he would have that wet diaper”. Not knowing any better, I willingly fed the bottle….this is where things went down hill for us…I was not able to get Kallen to latch again while in the hospital and fed him “ready to feed”  2 or 3 more times that day. Never was i offered a latch assessment, a pump, or taught to hand express.

When we got home, my mom encouraged me to start pumping every time he nursed. Thank Goodness for my dear mother, who was one of my biggest supporters on this journey. So I began exclusively pumping. I would pump every 2 hours, while Chris or my Mom would feed Kal. He would get whatever breastmilk I had pumped, supplemented with formula.

On Thursday (4 days after birth) my milk transitioned. HOLY COW-literally. I was so engorged and uncomfortable. I continued to pump every 2 to 3 hours and I would express 10 to 12 oz each feeding. I was feeding Kal and storing in the freezer. And while that was great, I wanted nothing more than for him to latch. I would still try to latch him every hour, but he would root and put his hands to his mouth, and couldn’t seem to be able to find the nipple. I was getting do discouraged. I think I cried more that week, than I ever have. PostPartum Hormones did not help my frustration. I remember asking Chris, in utter desperation, if he would be disappointed in my if I gave up. Of course, he said he supported me no matter what. But I was determined and kept trying.

When Kallen was 1 week old, I made a phone call back to the Mother Baby unit, to see if there was any help for me. They told me that there was a Certified Lactation Consultant there that day, and to come up with a hungry baby. My mom went with me, so she could learn how to better help me. This is the day everything changed. The Lactation Counselor talked calmly with me and assured me I could do this. She showed me some different positioning and helped me latched Kal. She sat with us for an entire hour, while Kallen nursed on both sides. I cried, she cried, my mom cried and for once Kallen didn’t cry during a feeding. She helped me with the shield, and let me know it was okay, that it was better to have him latched with it, than not at all. I saw her 3 more times over the next weeks, and by the time Kal was 3.5 weeks old he was Exclusively Breastfeeding, without a nipple shield. I know 100 %, if it wasn’t for that Lafration Counselor, I would not be nursing Kallen today.

After Kallens first, full feeding, without using the nipple shield
Milk Drunk Kal, after his first full feeding without using the shield

It wasn’t completely smooth sailing from there…because of all the pumping I had done in the beginning, and thinking I needed to pump after every. single. feeding. (totally NOT necessary) I developed oversupply.  Not fun, but we worked through it. Then when Kal was 15 weeks old, I had an IUD put in, and my supply was all but gone, overnight. I still nursed him, but had to supplement with my pumped breastmilk. After 2 weeks, I had the IUD removed, but had to build my supply back up. Finally around 6 months, things were back to where they had been, and from there it’s been wonderful. We’ve been through growth spurts, illness, developmental leaps, and teething. There were SO many nights I just wanted to give up, but I am so glad I didn’t. I was able to Exclusively Breastfeed Kallen for 5 months (until we started solids) and he has continued nursing until now, he is 18 months old. I never imagined I would breastfeed this long, especially in the beginning, I was just happy to make it to the next feeding. It is hard work, but so very worth it.

My first breastfeeding picture, Kallen was 6 months
My first breastfeeding picture, Kallen was 6 months

Now, because of my experience and the joy I found in nursing, I have decided to pursue Lactation Support as a career. I currently work as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, and plan to start school next year for Nursing and my ultimate goal is to become and Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

I have to say, I would not have made it without the support of my amazing husband, mother, friends and fellow nursing moms, and lastly, but certainly not least, my Lactation Counselor. If you know a nursing mom, please encourage and lift her up, you never know how far a little support will go.

I want to hear from you guys! Did/Do you breastfeed? Do you have questions..let me know below!!

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One thought on “My Breastfeeding Journey

  1. I am so glad it worked out for you, truly. I remember with my first, I tried for weeks. I had lactation specialists coming to my house, every person I knew who ever breastfed coming to help me and Olivia absolutely would not latch. It was to the point where she was clearly starving so we’d feed her a bottle because certainly I don’t want her to not get food. I think after about 6 weeks my husband sat me down and said I was done. It wasn’t worth it for me to be in hysterics because I couldn’t feed my baby, and to have Olivia upset because poor girl just wants to eat, etc. Fast forward 6 months and I realized I had post-partum depression pretty badly. I started seeing a counselor who said the combination of my hormones combined with unsuccessful breastfeeding (and feeling pressured to do so) just set me over the edge. So needless to say, Olivia’s first year was horrible. I don’t remember much of it. I’ve gone on to have three kids total (one just this April!) and I didn’t even try with them. I just went with what I knew worked and man alive, it’s so bizarre to enjoy the post-partum period. Which only makes me feel guilty with my experience with Olivia but ugh… whole other post. LOL. 🙂

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