If I had any doubts about sharing this post on my challenges with breastfeeding, the comments, emails and messages I received after assured me otherwise. And actually, after taking in the response and chatting with a few other new moms, I’ve decided to add a “New Mom Real Talk” blog series. I have a few topics in mind but wanted to continue on the topic of breastfeeding for now. Feel free to skip these posts and just come back for the food.
Photo from L’s newborn shoot courtesy of I Love Parentheses
*****Before I start, I just want to reiterate from last time that this is a no-judgement zone. I respect other parenting decisions and am writing about my experience and that of some friends.*****
So the other day, I got together with a group of four other new moms. All of us had babies in the range of 5-8 weeks old. Some interesting stats:
-4 girls, 1 boy (L)
-1 formula fed baby (after 1 week), 1 exclusively breastfed, 3 breastfed with formula supplement (including L)
-4 c-sections (including me)
-Number of moms who had some sort of struggle with breastfeeding: ALL FIVE
Before I had L, I was prepared for some breastfeeding challenges. I heard it was “hard” and assumed that just meant in the very beginning when the baby is learning to latch, etc. I also figured it would hurt a bit when your body is getting used to things. Let me just tell you, I was wrong. 7 weeks in and breastfeeding is still hard, and painful. To be clear, sometimes L doesn’t want to nurse steadily for a feeding and it can take an hour or more for him to eat for 25-30 minutes. That can be a result of a sleepy baby or gas. Often, I just can’t get a burp out! These days I offer a bottle of breast milk or formula after nursing to make sure he gets enough food. There’s a nice hour and a half feeding for you (for a child that eats every 2 1/2-3 hours during most days). For some feedings, Matt or someone else will feed him via bottle and I’ll just pump. Occasionally I have to do all of the above. Real life: A few nights ago, L was having trouble nursing during his middle-of-the-night feeding (somewhere around 2am). An hour after starting, I finally decided to give up and give him a bottle and then pump to avoid (extra) discomfort. The bottle of breast milk I offered him wasn’t enough so I then proceeded to pump while holding him, then feed him some of that milk mid-pumping session, then continue pumping, while feeding and burping him. Can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, when I got together with the other moms this week, I learned that I am definitely not alone. Another mom is dealing with the same pumping around the clock I did a couple of weeks ago, along with nursing and supplementing. one mom got mastitis (PAINFUL) because she was pumping too much and overproducing. Someone else had to supplement with formula immediately because her baby was underweight. And someone else said that her daughter had jaundice during the first week so she started with formula then and decided to stop breastfeeding altogether afterwards.
It’s just crazy what we do to try to be the best moms we can be. There is so much pressure publicly to breastfeed and whether we admit it or not, we then put that pressure on ourselves. The truth is, though, who are the “they” that say we should breastfeed? Do they realize what so many moms go through just to make that happen? Is breast really always best?
Here are some quotes from the afternoon that seemed worthy of sharing:
“By the time I finish breastfeeding, pumping, and feeding her [formula or breast milk], it’s time to start again.”
“When I stopped [breastfeeding’’], my mom said to me ’so you gave up?’’
‘I might consider stopping but my husband asked me to keep trying.”
“I woke up in so much pain [from the mastitis] but it only took three hours of massaging for me to get it out.’’’
“I had a lactation consultant come over to help and she asked if I was upset because I had a c-section.”
“There is no way I’m doing this (breastfeeding) for more than six months because during the summer I want to actually go out.“
“Once you decide to stop [breastfeeding], you won’t look back. It’s so liberating to be able to go out and eat or drink without worrying about it.”
“My lactation consultant told me to stop eating salads.”
“My boobs hurt all the time.” (that might have been me)
“It was much easier to stop breastfeeding the second time around.” (baby number 2)
“It does get easier.” Pure speculation of what we have “heard” from others. When this takes place we did not know exactly.
So that’s real life and real talk in the life of a new mom. For now, my plan is to do this as long as I can, though if the pain doesn’t go away in the next couple of weeks, I may stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later. In terms of supply, I do think mine is up, though we need to feed L about one formula bottle each day. If you have experiences to share, I’d love to hear in the comments! And if there is another topic you want to see in New Mom Real Talk, let me know.
It is hard at first, and I do think you have to be 150% commited to wanting to breastfeed to get through those first weeks, but if at 7 weeks it’s consistently painful I wonder how the latch is. Has Liam been checked for lip/tongue ties? That can not only affect output but make it SO painful.
Any breastmilk you can give him is great- I am so thankful for that now because Hugo needed antibiotics and nothing is better to put the food bacteria back in his tummy that breastmilk- it really is liquid gold.
Two more things to note- burning 600 calories/day is no joke- I weigh less than I did pre-pregnancy. AND- you can totally go out with your friends as a breastfeeding Mama- it only gets easier!
Thanks, Audra. I’m going to give it a couple more weeks of “pain” to see if it gets better (I think because I was using the nipple guard for so long it’s like I just started over).
And trust me, that calorie burn is definite extra motivation!
There will always be new challenges, but it definitely gets a lot easier. Let me know if you want to talk sometime! Happy to share my experiences! Hope you are doing well!
Thanks, Alanna!! And I hope you and your boys are doing well!
thank you for starting this series!!! I have a two month old baby and I have been looking forward to your L posts… I think this series will be wonderful.
We have been lucky in terms of breastfeeding all things considered, but we did have a week of waking him up to eat every 2 hrs all day plus pumping and supplementing… So at that time, it was definitely time to start again pretty much as soon as we stopped! This is because he wasn’t gaining weight as fast as they liked. As soon as we got a green light on the weight gain and could go back to feeding whenever he was hungry (fancy that!), that was when it got easier for me.
BUT now he won’t take a bottle. At all. So while I feel very lucky that we are able to breastfeed, I have NO idea when will be the next time I can be away from him for more than an hour. Thankfully I am taking a leave from my job so I don’t have the stress of a bottle-hating baby and having to go back to work!!
Anyway sorry for the long comment but wanted to say you’re not alone and thanks for starting an honest series like this!
Thank you so much for posting your comment, Bethany, and sharing your experience. I’m so happy to hear that your BF experience has been mostly positive. Hopefully you will be able to re-introduce the bottle to your baby again soon so you can get a few hours to yourself once and a while:-)
Not sure if you have tried different bottles at all, but there are some that are supposed to be more like the the “real thing” than others. This is the one I use that L seems to be okay with (he latches onto it better and gets less gas than he did with a different bottle): https://www.lansinoh.com/products/momma-bottle-with-naturalwave-nipple.
Thanks!! I have tried various bottles but not that one, and we will try it soon! Thanks for the recommendation.
Ok we have only tried it once BUT he actually took it!!!! WAY better than anything else we have tried. Thank you!!!!!
I am so happy to hear that!!!
Lauren, I feel your pain! I saw three lactation consultants by day 10. While I learned a lot, his latch is still shallow. Every few days we get a really good latch, so it gives me hope. And since I hear “it gets better,” I keep going. I definitely agree with you when you write that we put the pressure on ourselves. Before I had Andrew I thought if I have to formula feed exclusively, no problem. My sister’s kids were formula fed and they are healthy. I was formula fed (I turned out ok I think). I’ll do what needs to be done to feed my baby. But then I became his mom, and I feel guilty when I don’t nurse him. I’m putting this pressure on myself when I don’t need to. So I nurse about 70% of the time, and use formula for most bottles. I still believe breast is best, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Ok, this comment is way too long. Good luck Lauren, you’re doing great and L and Matt know it!!! :)
Kylene, I could not have said that better myself. You read my mind!
I never comment on blogs but this struck a cord with me. I had my baby on Oct 20, and since then she has not latched on. I live in Canada and the pressure to breast feed is enormous. FOr the first week I had my midwives try for two hours a day to latch her on for a week!!! Public health kept telling me that she has to clear jaundice with breastmilk and that she will be brain damaged if she doesnt. Everyone shamed me for saying formula. I have heard stories of new mom having to sign documentation that they know that they do wrong if they choose to formula feed.
Finally after a week, I was allowed to pump and bottle feed (all that nipple confusion crap). That was amazing. Better yet I discoverd nipple shields and I can feed her thru them. Because I was using shields my midwives told me they lower milk supply so I had to pump 12x a day. I was freezing over 1L of milk a day. I was engorged, got mastitis, started hallucinating in fever. I went to a lactation consultaant who told me to stop pumping all together (its hard when 2 different professionals tell you the polar opposite). RIght now because she is underweight I weigh her before and after everyfeed on a special scale to see how much she eats. Honestly there is no magic, and no bonding, its clinical and obsessive. I feel like a failure when she doesnt hit 840 ml a day. I am technically breastfeeding but I am still shamed bc of the shield. On monday my baby had a tongue and lip tie removed. This may have been causing all my problems, but she is 6 weeks now, and may never learn to latch. I want to punch people who ask me why I have so many problems, when breast feeding is “so natural”
Oh, Pumzie, I am so sorry for what you have been going through! To be shamed and pressured like that is completely unfair. There are so many important things in life and raising a child, and you have to do what it takes to be the best mom you can be (whether that means formula, pumping, supplementing, etc.). You are doing such an amazing job and have already given your baby so much. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!
Thank you for sharing this comment to let me and others know that we aren’t alone in our struggle. I’ve heard from many other moms privately that they felt so guilty and horrible about the whole thing.
Also, I actually used a nipple shield for a few weeks and had no idea that it might reduce milk supply. I finally stopped when I realized that could have been the whole reason L wasn’t getting enough for me. But now I deal with a bloody nipple on a regular basis… so which option is better?
I LOVE the photo of your family! And I appreciate this post so much-I already know how much pressure I’m going to have to exclusively breastfeed when I have children (Michael’s mom in particular-she seems unable to understand that some women have so much trouble that they can’t push through) so the support and community is so important. I hope things get easier for you!
Thanks, Kayle! And I’m sorry to hear that you are already getting some pressure about breastfeeding. It really should be a very personal decision for you to make and when you decide what is best for you, hopefully you will be supported! Thank you again for the nice comment!
Thank you so much for sharing! I have a 4 month old and we struggled sooo much with breastfeeding. I had mastitis, thrush, plugged ducts all the time, oversupply and I was so close to stopping breastfeeding. Things did get better around 2 months and we have been breastfeeding since with no furher problems. It was a struggle so I totally understand weighing the possibility of stopping and if its best for you then you have to take care of yourself too!! Good luck with everything and can’t wait to read more mommy posts :)
Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Alexandra! I’m SO happy to hear that things got better for you… it definitely gives me some extra hope that there might be a turning point.
Love this post!
I struggled in the beginning with breastfeeding and I remember thinking how much easier it would be if I just didn’t. Those first few days I was totally engorged and bleeding and it was so miserable. I got to my complete wits end when I received a text from a friend who had breastfed her son for a year and I said – when will the pain go away? She sent me some diagrams that she used which were helpful…and wouldn’t you know, that night I finally got it right. I know that’s a very short amount of time compared to what you’ve been going through :\ I think once the latch is right, it really does get better. It’s not easy, but I was able to go back to work and pump (also cannot believe I did that, in hindsight) and just did the best I could.
Good luck – like I always say – do what works for you!