I want to start by saying that what I’m about to share with you is MY experience breastfeeding, and I’m sure everyone experiences something different. But I hope you can take something away from me sharing my journey.
My Breastfeeding Goal
So, if you asked me before Hunter was born if I was set on breastfeeding, I most likely responded along the lines of, “I want to try breastfeeding for at least three months.”
When in reality, in the back of my mind, I REALLY wanted to be able to do it for one year.
You may be thinking….”Why?”
I honestly have no idea. I know that babies typically get the health benefits after 3-4 months, and I also know it’s absolutely okay not to breastfeed at all! I wasn’t breastfed, and I feel like I can say I turned out just fine haha.
I think I set a year goal because of the convenience factor, the financial benefit from not having to buy formula, and the time I spent with Hunter.
But I told others the 3-4 month goal to take the pressure off myself (even though internally, the pressure was always there).
The first few weeks
So when Hunter was born, he didn’t latch great. Looking back though, no one in our hospital actually tried to teach me or helped Hunter latch (that I remember. A lot of that night is definitely still a blur). Right away, they gave me a nipple shield. With the nipple shield, Hunter was able to latch, and everything was going pretty well. Because I had a c-section, the conventional way of holding a baby while feeding hurt, so I often held him in the football position.
Hunter had lost a lot of weight in the first few days, so our pediatrician recommended that we supplement with two ounces of formula after every feed. We did that for a week, and within that week, he surpassed his birth weight and was gaining weight great, so we stopped that. I was also happy to see that he took a bottle just fine, so if we decided not to breastfeed, that wouldn’t be a problem.
I’m honestly not sure when my milk officially came in. I didn’t notice any huge difference in how I felt, and wasn’t pumping at all, so I couldn’t really tell.
The first lactation consultant appointment
Before giving birth, I knew I wanted to make an appointment with the local lactation consultant even if everything was going fine. I had heard fantastic things about her, so I figured, why not. I knew it couldn’t hurt.
And wow, was I right! I am so thankful I met with her. A few days before my appointment, I stopped using the nipple shield because I felt like he was getting more air when I used it and then got a belly ache afterward.
I was terrified to stop using the shield because I heard horror stories about getting cracked and sore nipples, and I was already in so much physical pain from the c-section. But I knew I had to try. Once I stopped using it, it went much better than I thought it would. He latched just fine, and thank God; I didn’t get any cracked or sore nipples.
But getting back to the lactation consultant appointment, haha. She actually had me nurse Hunter while we were at the appointment so she could watch and give me tips right there in real-time. I’m thankful Derrick came to the appointment with me as well because, at that point, I was extremely sleep deprived, hormonal, and definitely not all there, so it was nice having another set of ears to take in this new information. Something that really stuck with me was the tip of flaring out his bottom lip after he latches. It just helped him get a better, deeper latch, which I immediately implemented. At that point, I was using the Haakaa on the breast I wasn’t feeding Hunter, so I asked if I should continue because I heard that it could make you oversupply because it makes your body think it’s feeding two people. She recommended that I continue to use it to build up a stash.
Looking back, I’m thankful that I did use it because I was able to build up my freezer stash, but it was definitely inconvenient because once my body was used to using it, I had to bring it everywhere I went so I could use it when I was feeding Hunter. It was just one more step I had to do every single time. Again, if I were to do it over, I don’t think I’d change anything. When I wasn’t worried about storing excess milk, my body eventually adapted to not using it; it just took a few days.
A constant worry of mine...
Overall, I’d say my breastfeeding journey was pretty easy. I was definitely an over-supplier, Hunter was a REALLY fast eater, so it wasn’t super time-consuming, and I never had any huge issues.
However, with all that being said, I was CONSTANTLY worried if Hunter was getting enough. He’s a little guy to begin with (born in the 30th percentile), and as I mentioned before, he eats really fast. I’m talkin a 15-minute feed was long for him (both boobs combined). I really struggled to compare my journey to others. I’d constantly see people post about how their baby eats for 30-60 minutes, so I was always worried Hunter wasn’t getting enough.
About two and a half months in, Hunter started to nurse for only 2ish minutes some sessions, and I knew that was not enough. He’d latch, punch my boobs, look like he would get frustrated, then push me away. To be totally honest, this stressed me the F out. I cried on multiple occasions. Being a little guy to begin with, then not eating caused me so much stress and anxiety.
I had a few friends who were solely pumping at the time, and I really considered going that route. That way, I would know how much he was getting in each feeding, and he’d still get breastmilk. But right around that time, D and I took a weekend trip away at the lake house, and I literally hated solely pumping for two days, so I knew that was not the route I wanted to go.
The second lactation consultant appointment
So with all that being said, I made a second appointment with the lactation consultant. Going into that appointment, I was so worried he was going to nurse great (because sometimes he did). But thank God, he did exactly what he was recently doing. She said, most likely because of the stress, it was taking my body a while to let-down, and by that time, Hunter was getting frustrated, so that’s why he’d punch my boob and then push me away. She recommended I try nursing him lying down and putting a heating pad on my breast before to encourage a faster let-down. I also brought up my concern regarding how fast he ate. She reassured me that when my let-down happens, it is probably just really fast, and he’s a quick eater. She said he could absolutely be getting enough in eight minutes (the average amount of time he ate), so I shouldn’t be concerned.
I tried nursing lying down once and didn’t feel like it helped me relax, so I used a heating pad instead. I only used it a few times because the meeting made me feel so much better, and then I could relax, so my let-down happened quicker.
Things had gone really smoothly since that second appointment, but I constantly had to reassure myself that he was eating enough.
Contemplating starting the weaning process
When Hunter was about four months old, a family friend started to watch him two days a week so that I could get some uninterrupted work time. On those days, I really didn’t enjoy pumping. I hated that I felt like I still had to stay home and couldn’t work at a coffee shop because I’d have to pump in three hours. So, I started to consider starting to wean Hunter from breastfeeding.
At his six-month appointment, our pediatrician said he dropped to the 9th percentile. He was sick for a few weeks and wasn’t eating well because he couldn’t breathe. She wasn’t concerned, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. As a mom, I just want to make sure I am literally doing EVERYTHING I can to help Hunter, and it was stressing me out not knowing how much he was eating.
So I started thinking about weaning off breastfeeding again, but I still didn’t do it.
A few weeks later, I went to a women’s event at our church. I also texted one of my friends who recently had a baby to see when she would pump during the long event. She shared that she was actually in the middle of weaning, so she wouldn’t have to pump. I started asking her about her experience and contemplated starting even more.
That Sunday, I was talking to D about my 30th birthday. It’s at the end of April, and he told me a few weeks ago that he has a HUGE surprise planned. He said it’s right behind his surprise proposal and how he surprised me with Koda. I literally have no idea what it could be, but I can’t wait to find out. I asked him if we’d be with Hunter or if I’d have to pump, and he said I’d have to pump, and I’d most likely not want to. So…after going back and forth about what I wanted to do for 24 hours, I finally decided.
I was going to start the weaning process.
The weaning process
So, on February 27th, 2023, I dropped one nursing/pump session.
SO many emotions came with this decision. And honestly, I wasn’t expecting that.
I started down the “what if” pathway. For example, what if we aren’t blessed with another baby, and this really is my last time being able to do this?
I felt guilty. I can breastfeed, and I know so many people who tried everything they could but still couldn’t.
I felt selfish because I want to get my body as strong and fit as possible before having more kids, and I think my body is happily hanging onto the 10-15 extra pounds while breastfeeding.
I felt stressed because it meant change was happening soon, and we’ve already experienced SO much change in the last six months.
I felt sad because I do love that time with Hunter. It’s hard for me to describe. I don’t love the actual breastfeeding part, but I love how cuddly he is afterward with me. I also LOVE being a source of comfort for him.
However, I also thought about all of the reasons I did want to stop.
I know it’ll be so nice and so relieving to know how much food he is eating.
I know we can still have that special time while feeding him a bottle (I actually have LOVED feeding him a bottle!)
I know I cannot wait to be able to take a bath and not have my boobs leak the second I get out haha.
I know I’m pumped to stop pumping.
I know we want to have a second baby in the near future, so I want to feel like I have my body entirely.
I know I cannot wait to work at a coffee shop again and not have to go home in three hours to pump or feed Hunter.
I know it’ll be AMAZING that D can help more with nighttime feedings so I can sleep through the night.
And these are the things I have to literally remind myself of every single day during this process.
The process has been so much harder emotionally, mentally, and physically than I ever would have imagined.
It’s been emotionally difficult because of all the reasons I just mentioned.
It’s been mentally difficult because I’ve wanted to stop the process every single day. Hunter doesn’t take a bottle from me great right now, so I feel like every time he’s home with me alone, it’s a constant battle for him to eat. It makes me want to pull my boob out and feed him so badly because it would be easier. But in those moments, I have to remind myself that whether it’s now or in a few months, this time will come to an end. And he is going to have to learn to take a bottle from me, and all I’m doing by giving in is prolonging this process. Side note - I've been writing this blog post over the last few weeks, and I can happily share that Hunter takes a bottle from me great now, and I love that time together!
And lastly, it’s been really physically difficult. I’ve introduced a bottle for one additional feeding every week until four weeks.
This is the schedule I've followed and plan to follow moving forward. I'm currently writing this blog post on day 34 of this timeline.
Every single time I dropped a nurse/pump session, my boobs felt like they were literally going to explode, up until I was consistently waiting 12 hours between sessions. Like to the point that they hurt to touch. Then all of a sudden, my body must have recognized what I was trying to do, and it became so much easier! I had to constantly remind myself that I'm only experiencing temporary discomfort and it will get better (which it did!).
I also felt way more anxious during the first three weeks of the weaning process. Hormones drastically shift when you stop breastfeeding, and I didn't know how common anxiety and depression were during this process until I looked into it. Luckily, I'm aware of it, so I've been very intentional with trying to slow down during this season.
So, that brings us to today, Friday, March 31, 2023. I have no idea how long it’ll actually take for me to be completely done producing milk, but I took the slower route to avoid as many clogged ducts as possible. I’m crushing sunflower lecithin a few times a day to hopefully help prevent clogged ducts, and I truly just take it one day at a time.
Overall, I’m SO thankful and blessed that I could feed Hunter for as long as I did, but I am definitely ready and excited for this next chapter as well. (Picture below is a very poor-quality pic but this is our last nursing session together, so I wanted to make sure I captured it!).
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey thus far!