Guest Post by Samantha Gonzalez
Time and time again, we as mothers, are told that breastfeeding is natural. But so often the realities of that journey are not shared.
Sometimes Breastfeeding Experiences don’t go as planned.
Sometimes we have to throw out those expectations and let come what may.
Today’s guest post in our National Breastfeeding Awareness series features Samantha’s story. She talks about the reality of breastfeeding and how her original plans were nothing like how her journey ended up.
It’s okay to change your plans and shape your breastfeeding journey as you go!
Breastfeeding Experiences Don’t Always Go as Planned
When I found out I was pregnant, I started researching.
Notebooks were filled with questions for my doctor, my friends with kids, my mom, and, of course, the internet.
What should I be eating, or not eating? Am I gaining too much weight? Not enough? Is it normal for my boobs to hurt ALL the time? What brand of diapers is best? Should I swaddle or not? Should I start saving for college now?
And, of course… Is it better to breastfeed or to give formula?
That one was easy. Breast is best unless circumstances prevent or limit.
So I intended to breastfeed. But for how long?
To be honest, the idea of breastfeeding weirded me out. My boobs were, well…mine. Not some tiny human’s I’ve never met!
I was terrified of clogged and infected ducts, chaffing and bleeding. I researched latch problems. I knew how to increase my supply should it fail.
But still, I set myself a small goal: I would make it one week. For at least one minuscule week I would exclusively breastfeed to ensure the baby got all the colostrum and other health benefits.
After that, well surely I’d start having supply issues or something and I could begin supplementing. Eventually, I planned to taper off and do only formula for the last six months.
My plan and research were flawless.
I told everyone I would “try” breastfeeding, but I didn’t have great expectations.
I told everyone I would “try” breastfeeding, but I didn’t have great expectations. When I switched to formula, I’d have a solid excuse and an “at least I tried” way of looking at it.
When my daughter was born, all plans went out the window.
All of my research couldn’t prepare me for what labor, nursing, and raising an infant was truly like.
As soon as she was on my chest for the first time, I asked to feed her. My nurses smiled and said things like, “Oh, I’m sure she’s not hungry yet,” and “Your milk might not even be in yet,” finally, “If you really want to try.”
My body knew more than even I did and this little tiny human I had just met fit with me and found her food source instantly.
Once we were home, I had several nights of horrible pain every time she nursed.
After she had finished, she would cry and squirm for a long time before settling back down to sleep. We were both frustrated, tired, and ready to give up.
We were both frustrated, tired, and ready to give up.
But I held out for the week like I promised myself.
We went for her 1-week checkup and met with a lactation specialist. This is where I heard the information that NOTHING I researched online ever mentioned.
“Once your milk comes in, you can pump out the excess after the baby is full. If you don’t, you will be in a lot of pain.”
I had more than enough milk? I was supposed to pump it out?
I soon found out that the baby’s fussiness after nursing was due to the fact that my let down was too strong for her and she was struggling to keep up and it was making her gassy. These were problems I had never heard of before!
I got the excess pumped out and on a regular rhythm with my new baby and things were much easier. Besides one bout of thrush for the both of us, we had no other issues.
Until she started crawling…
Once my baby was moving she didn’t want to stop! Not even for a meal.
She would sip just enough to get a letdown started then get bored and move on, leaving me sore and soaked. I began pumping her bottles, which she could drink on the go, and nursing only at night.
By about the 8-month mark, I was feeling less of the bonding and more like a cow milked for its nutrition.
I pumped what I felt was a decent freezer supply, then stopped completely.
We continued to nurse at night until my supply dried up to the point of my daughter getting frustrated with the slow flow. After a very painful two weeks of not pumping or nursing, we were officially done nursing, and neither of us looked back.
Ultimately, I’m glad I stuck with breastfeeding as long as I did.
The decision to stop before the one year mark was baby-led and eased the strain that was building in our relationship.
If we decide to ever have a second child, I will probably follow a similar plan. But this time I will be ready to throw the plan out the window!
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