“The moment when you want to quit, is the moment when you need to keep pushing.”
This is the perfect quote to describe my daughter’s and my breastfeeding journey. J and I are nearly 9 1/2 months into our journey, and from looking at us, you would think that it has been this easy the entire time. Let me tell you, no breastfeeding journey, especially your first, is easy. There is always some bump in the road or hurdle to jump over.
When I was pregnant, I knew that there was no other option besides breastfeeding to feed my baby. I wanted to give her the best. My latest memory of anyone close breastfeeding is when my oldest sister had my nephew. I was 15 and a freshman in high school at the time so I really didn’t pay that much attention to what she fed him, but what I do remember is her pumping (I had bought the pump for her) and leaking. It seemed to me that she never had a supply issue and had milk flowing out of her ears. Forgive me for being so naive, but I thought that it would be a piece of cake for me because it looked so “easy” for her; therefore, I did not do much research about breastfeeding besides reading what was in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Basically, all the information about breastfeeding that was in that book was just about comparing and contrasting breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, not really the day to day journey of breastfeeding.
Our journey started out just fine, no latch issues, no nipple blisters, no clogged ducts, no mastitis. I had one breast leak a couple little drops when my milk came in and never “felt” the letdown I had read about in books. We mainly just had frequent feedings and a bit of nipple soreness. Around 6 weeks postpartum is when things started to get hard: really, really hard.
First of all, lochia is a nightmare. You bleed and bleed and bleed and when it finally starts tapering off, it can blast you one last time. That one last surprise bleed (lasted about 1 week), made me think I started my period. Not only that, at 6 weeks, J had a growth spurt. All the while my milk supply started to regulate. So, lochia, growth spurt, constant cluster feeding, and supply regulation all happening at the same time made me think that my supply is dropping i.e. “Am I making enough?!”
I called my mom in desperation because she had breastfed all five of us so I thought that she would help me get through this rough patch. She said, “You gave her 6 weeks, that’s a great start. It’s okay if you feel like you need to stop, now.” I called a close friend who I thought would help me through my discouragement. She said, “Happy mom, happy baby.”
So, like any mother doubting supply, I start supplementing, starting with dairy based formula. At first, J seemed happy, content like she was finally getting enough to eat. Slowly, I started to notice things going awry. She started spitting up a lot even after burping. She started to get dark circles under her eyes. She started getting little pimples all over from her chest to the top of her head. She just looked, sick, like something wasn’t right.
I called the pediatricians office about the “pimples” (images below). The triage nurse just said it was probably hormones leftover from birth causing them, but that just didn’t seem right to me because they were literally all over, on her ears, in her hair, clustered on her chest and back and spreading. I switched to soy formula for supplementation. She did not get any better.
Finally, I reached out to a breastfeeding support group a friend added me to while I was pregnant for help. All I posted was, “Been BF my LO for almost 7 weeks now. She nurses well, but it just feels like she’s constantly nursing. Is this a normal time to want to give it up? If so, how did you make it through?”
Reaching out and asking these questions to the proper people was the most crucial thing for our breastfeeding relationship. I got the correct answers I needed, and I finally knew that what we were going through was normal and to persevere. From that day forward, I put away the formula and nursed. She rooted. I nursed. She fussed. I nursed. She cried. I nursed. If anything was amiss, I nursed. I started co-sleeping with her in her room so that I would be there immediately when she needed me. (She had been sleeping in a bassinet in our room before the move.) My husband wasn’t too keen on sleeping by himself, but I had to do whatever it takes. I did not have a choice.
I posted that question on December 1st. My next goal to attain was 2 months which was December 15th. Those were the longest two weeks of my life. Everyday, I had to tell myself that I am not a quitter. And, I wasn’t. I survived those two long weeks, and after December 15th, it seemed like the skies suddenly opened up, like the whole world just got brighter. It wasn’t necessarily any “easier” physically, but it was easier psychologically. Like I had broken through a barrier in my psyche if that makes any sense.
Nursing through December 15th was a beautiful day because I knew we had made it. I had pushed through the hardest part of our breastfeeding journey and came out on the other side, weary but grateful I didn’t give up.
Now, of course, I realize that my hardship could have probably been avoided had I done proper research about breastfeeding a newborn. But, I think it has helped me have a stronger breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. I know that if we can make it through that tough time, we can make it through anything.
More to come on going dairy-free…
Update: We will skip the “Going Dairy-Free” post for now.