It’s been about 2 years since I last breastfed my youngest daughter, who is now 4. Our breastfeeding journey was completely different than the one I had with my oldest daughter, who is now 7.
With my oldest daughter, we started to breastfeed, then started exclusively pumping, eventually having to supplement with formula, and then stopped all attempts at providing breastmilk by the time she was six months old.
I always lived by the motto that any breastmilk I could provide, was enough and that fed is best, and I still do. But, when I became pregnant with Saidey, I was determined to breastfeed. I knew the benefits and I knew the challenges. I also learned the importance of asking for help and maybe even more difficult, accepting the help.
I asked to speak to a lactation consultant and met with her several times before I left the hospital. I joined the Facebook group, La Leche League of Des Moines, and I felt prepared to take my bundle of joy home and breastfeed to our heart’s content.
Except, when I got home, no one told me about having a 2 year old who still wanted my attention, dishes that were piling up, and the pain that is still healing from a second C-section.
I was also worried about how much milk she was getting, if I was doing something wrong, if she was latching right and gaining enough weight, and on and on.
I took Saidey to her two week check up and expressed these concerns and the pediatrician recommended that I supplement with formula after I nursed her. I felt a little defeated and I think in those first few weeks of bringing her home, I said aloud several times, “That’s it, I’m done with this!”
But, I also was getting wonderful support from the Facebook group. I called the lactation consultant and she expertly abated my fears. With this support, I knew my body would know what to do. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. The more I brought baby to the breast, the more my body would supply.
I also had to come to the realization of how important it was to listen to baby’s cues.
“Watch the baby, not the clock” became a constant recitation in my head in the middle of the night.
I think it’s important to listen to your doctor but with this, I listened to my head and heart and didn’t supplement with formula.
Instead, whenever in doubt, I’d nurse.
By week 3, it seemed like it all just came together. I was able to listen for the signs that she in fact, was suckling and getting milk. She was having enough wet/dirty diapers and most of all, I stopped watching the clock! I also realized that my sole job, in these first few weeks, was getting to know this little bundle, and if that meant dirty dishes and piles of laundry- so be it. I had to really let the idea of “doing it all” go in that first month and shift my perspective that my only job was to take care of Saidey and learn the ups and downs of breastfeeding her.
I ended up breastfeeding Saidey until she was almost two and a half. All those days and nights, nursing her and sharing that time together are so special to me, and I will forever cherish them. Do I think my bond with Saidey is purely from breastfeeding her? Absolutely not.
But, I do know our nursing relationship is something unique and created a special bond of its own.
I also took her lead when it came to weaning. When she finally signed to me “all done” when it was time to nurse one day, I knew she had fulfilled her need to breastfeed, both emotionally and nutritionally. The weaning process was not forced and it was stress free for both me and her.
If you want to breastfeed, be open to asking for help, accepting help, and set up a cozy little breastfeeding spot.
My spot was a super comfortable, total splurge of a rocking chair. I set up a side table that had snacks, the TV remote, a phone charger (Candy Crush for the win for 2AM feedings!), and a water bottle.
Know your body is awesome and knows what to do! Sometimes, it just needs a little help!
Another piece of advice I got from an amazing group member in the Facebook group was to watch the baby, not the clock. It was an invaluable piece of advice that really helped me shift my perspective and helped the breastfeeding process go much smoother.