In honor of the hard work moms go through to feed their children - including those who exclusively nurse, nurse and pump or nurse and supplement with formula, those who never are able to nurse or who choose not to nurse for whatever reasons, those who exclusively pump, those who nurse for 5 minutes in the hospital or for weeks that feel like months, or those who nurse for years well into toddler tantrums, or those who decide formula is completely fine... these stories are for and by moms like you.
I know that the point of National Breastfeeding Month is to promote breastfeeding, breast is best, after all. I don't discredit that mission. I fully support it in fact, believing it's truly something to encourage among all moms. Encourage. Not force. So instead of "a breastfeeding story," it's "a BABYfeeding story." :)
So I hope that you find these stories uplifting, inspiring, and just plain REAL. I hope you see yourself in one of these moms and know that your struggles are not just yours, you are not alone with how difficult feeding babies can be.
If you are one of those moms who breastfeeding came naturally to, please celebrate! It's hard work even when it's "easy". Nursing is wonderful. So is feeding with bottles. I hope these stories show you that it's all ups and downs, and no matter how we feed our children, there are successes and challenges to talk about.
Enjoy these breastfeeding stories!
Thanks to my old field hockey friend, Mo Boston, for being the first to share her story. I think she's a really strong, independent mom who is SO smart! Her boys are adorable. I appreciate her sharing this with us. SO well written, hilariously funny, and straight forward, I love this. I want to go have a coffee with her, and I don't even drink coffee! You will LOVE reading this!
All photos from Mo Boston
My kids are Jimmy (3 1/2) and Charlie (9 months). I breastfed Jimmy until just after his 2nd birthday. I am currently nursing Charlie.
1. When pregnant, what was your plan for feeding your child? How did you think you would do in the hospital? How easy did you think it would be?
Two pre-baby experiences helped shape my view of nursing before I ever nursed. When I was in law school, a good friend and part-time roommate had a baby with tongue tie. She is a hard working person who loves all things natural and really wanted to nurse. I saw first hand what a hard time she had with her newborn. But, I also saw first hand when she realized it didn't matter and that she was still a good mother even though she couldn't nurse. And I saw that she was right.
Then, when I was eight weeks pregnant with my first, I went to our friends' party to meet their newborn. They were formula feeding. When the new mom went to make a bottle, someone I did not know said, "breastfeeding isn't for everyone." It sounded so bitchy. I was horrified.
Both of these experiences made me realize that the important thing was to feed my baby. If I nursed, great. If not, that's ok too.
(Full disclosure: I did have reoccurring dreams that I would forget to feed the baby. Which, you know, can happen with a screaming baby and engorged milk makers. )
2. How did you prepare for feeding your child while pregnant? Did you read any good books, check out Web sites, take classes, take free items from your doctor's office, talk to other moms, etc.? How prepared did you feel going into the hospital for feeding your child?
I don't really remember! Kind of scary how quickly you forget. I read the mainstream baby books. I don't remember when I discovered kellymom.com. My husband probably considers it a small miracle I didn't drag him to a class. Although, I suspect it's only because I didn't know about them. I don't know if I felt prepared going into the hospital, but I felt up for the challenge.
3. How did the first week of feeding go for your child? What did you try? What helped, what did not help? What challenges did you experience that first week feeding your child? How did you FEEL with feeding your child that first week?
With my first, things went pretty smoothly. At the hospital, he didn't latch right away. But, the lactation consultant had me give him colostrum on a spoon, which helped. Then I realized he latched better on the right with a football hold, which also helped. And home we went. He was back up to his birth weight within a week.
My second was not as smooth. When I told people I nursed my oldest until he was two, everyone said, "oh you're a pro" and left me alone. But I didn't feel like a pro. I felt like I was force feeding him (squeeze and shove, ladies) and faking the latch.
His weight was ok. And he was interested in eating. So, I just kept at it and eventually he started latching on his own. Then my milk CAME in. But, I'll get to that later.
4. What surprised you about how hard/easy it was to feed your child at first?
The time commitment. Those first months are intense. And obviously I expected to be 24/7 baby. But, it's even more specific. Every thing you do revolves around every two hour feedings.
If you are leaving the house, you schedule it so you will be some place you can nurse at the right time. I'm not against nursing in public. It's just more complicated. I can't nurse at the grocery store if there's no place to sit down, especially with a three year-old in tow. And they can't wait!
Once, I was at a restaurant for my sister's graduation dinner. I simultaneously realized it was time to feed my oldest and I really, really had to pee (yay, mom bladder!) I handed the baby to my mother and went to run to the bathroom and he let out the biggest screech! I felt like he was saying, "It's feeding time. You will wet your pants if that's what it takes to stick to my schedule!" I guess he didn't realize I was wearing my only pants without an elastic waist that fit? (I didn't really wet my pants.)
5. What do you wish people had told you about how hard/easy it would be to feed your child in the beginning?
I wish someone had said if he's happy and gaining weight, stop worrying if he's getting the right amount to eat. I think it's a big challenge with breastfeeding. You have no idea how much your baby is eating. It's easy to stress.
With my first, there was not a moment when I wasn't worrying he was either not eating enough or he was eating too much. But really, his weight and dirty diapers said it all. He was fine.
6. After that first week, what was your experience feeding your child? What was your routine?
With both my kids, I fed them every two or the three hours for awhile. We gave occasional bottles. They stopped taking them on cue when it was time for me to go back to work. This REALLY stressed me out the first time. We tried everything. Bottles. Nipples. Flow. Me. Not me. Nothing worked. But, they both took them again when they had no choice.
I work four days a week and I pump at work. So, nursing when I'm home and bottles when I'm not. I'm a lawyer which makes it really easy to pump. I set my own schedule. I have my own office. The courts are really accommodating.
Once, I apologized to a judge for needing a break and he said, "don't apologize! Do you know all the bad stuff I have to hear about people doing to their kids? Breastfeeding is great! Nurse your baby in my courtroom for all I care." Pretty awesome. I have not taken him up on it.
7. What tips do you have for either breastfeeding or formula feeding, or exclusively pumping or some combo in between? What specific things helped you to feed your child the first few months? (Drink more water, bring baby to you when nursing, try 2 oz of formula at first, try different bottles, etc.)
*Squeeze and shove. Seriously, it works. Get as much boob in that tiny baby mouth as possible. *If your baby is healthy DON'T wake them up to feed them at night. Your body will adjust. Your milk won't dry up. Sleep, before the moment passes!
*Drink water. *And eat. Don't diet. I notice at work, if I eat what I ate pre-baby, I'll pump half what I do when I eat breakfast and a serious lunch. *Put pump parts in the fridge in between sessions so you don't have to keep washing them. *Regular nursing bras work as hands free pumping bras. Just hook them up with the flanges on.
8. What is your advice to moms who are experiencing pressure, expectations, judgment, or otherwise unwanted comments about how they are feeding their child?
You are not alone. I love breastfeeding. I wish all moms could love breastfeeding. BUT I hate "breast is best" and "breastfeeding nazi" equally. (I mean, Hitler killed more than six million people in death camps. Maybe we could find another analogy?)
Formula fed babies are just as likely to cure cancer, win a Pulitzer Prize, or beat a home run record. More importantly, formula fed babies are just as likely to be well adjusted, compassionate, happy people.
And here's the thing, at some point, public sentiment shifts. People don't understand why you are NOT feeding your bigger baby a bottle. My oldest was three months when someone first asked when I was going to stop doing "that." A close family member told me it was inappropriate after a year. WE CANNOT WIN. Maybe we should not feed our babies at all?
Hey, moms who breastfeed, moms who formula feed, moms who exclusively pump: it's a lot of work keeping a baby fed. You are all rocking it!
9. If you felt Mama Guilt over how you fed or did not feed your child, what was that like for you? What's your advice to other moms who experience that guilt?
I felt a little shameful the older my oldest got. I would try to hide the fact that he was still nursing when we were around other people to avoid judgment. It's pretty accepted to express the opinion that you disagree with breastfeeding after a year. As if my child's nursing is a political issue, like guns or taxes, on which everyone is entitled to an opinion. I didn't want to hear it.
I don't think I'll feel the same way this time. Partly because I know people's fears are unfounded. My oldest is not overly attached. It did not create weird mom issues. He couldnt even remember doing it. I also feel more strongly that people's opinions on the issue are rooted in the over-sexualization of nursing and I'm not going to let that bother me. The World Health Organization recommends nursing until two. It's ok if you or baby aren't into it. But, if everyone is happy. Go for it!
10. What are you most PROUD of about how you've fed your child?
I think I'm most proud of pumping and providing for my baby while working in a stressful, high- stakes job. I usually keep working as I pump. (For some reason I have TWICE overflowed pump bottles while reading Social Security regulations. Because they're so calming and heart-warming.)
It feels pretty good to solve someone's problem while you produce milk.
11. If you have more than one child, was your experience feeding your children the same or different? In which ways? What's your advice to a mom who did not get the experience she wanted with one kid, could it be different with feeding another one?
It was harder with my second. As I mentioned above, he did not latch as readily as my first. I also had a problem with my supply. (I hope this doesn't sound like when your size 0 friend complains that it's hard to find pants that fit...) I had way too much milk.
He would latch and pretty quickly pull off and milk would stream out. Sometimes from both sides. Seriously, not just a drip. I should have volunteered for the fire department. I'd let it go until it slowed down, put him back on, and it would be ok. But in the meantime, I'd have soaked a towel or filled a cup. Milk was everywhere. It took longer to feed. He would get upset waiting.
One time on the way home from a Christmas party, at like 9 pm, we stopped at the York rest area to nurse. I didn't have anything to catch the milk. So, I just opened the car door and let it stream out onto the ground. I'm sure it was a sight to see. Both me and the frozen breast milk puddle I left behind.
Six weeks or so in, I decided to call the lactation consultants. I had tried for a couple of weeks to only feed one side per feeding and hadn't pumped so as not to encourage more production. It didn't seem to be working. I left a message and waited for a call back. Three days later, I got a message, "that doesn't sound like a bad problem to have. You probably know how you to use the Internet. Why don't you look up kellymom.com and follow their recommendations." Seriously, that's what the lady said. I never called back. Not the supportive resource they're supposed to be. Even if my question was actually dumb. It took awhile, ten weeks maybe, before it finally calmed down. I still find milk spray everywhere in my house!
The other issue with nursing #2 is #1's reaction. I will never forget the look on my husband's face at the hospital when the lactation consultant told us to let him try if he asks to nurse because he probably remembers it but will get bored quickly. In reality, the first time he saw me nurse his brother he said, "What are you doing, Mummy?" even though it was less than a year since he weaned. A few weeks later, we heard him tell our 8 and 11 year-old neighbors that "Daddy doesn't nurse Charlie because he doesn't have big nipples like Mummy." To which the 11 year-old said, "TMI, Jimmy." He is still a little obsessed with my pump. (I caught him licking the pump parts a few times.) But, I think generally it's become much less interesting as time goes on.
12. What have you learned about yourself as a mother through the process of feeding your child?
I tend to give myself a hard time. Not just about being a mother, but about everything. There's always room for improvement. I can always try harder. Nursing is something I actually feel like I've done well enough. I, by no means, want to imply that not nursing is not good enough. Just that for me, for once, I feel like I can check the box: satisfactory.
13. Anything else you'd like to add?
There is one thing about breastfeeding that is much better than formula feeding: it's really freakin' cheap. Especially now that insurance often covers a pump.
But, seriously, I join the chorus that moms really need to give each other a break. Especially those of us whose littles are still really little. Especially moms like all you ladies in this group. This may sound awful, but I've seen bad mothers. Mostly because of my work. But it's also hard to miss in the newspapers. They are a really, really small minority. You know what makes me judge them as bad mothers? Their complete lack of concern for their children. Repeatedly telling a one year-old to be quiet. Screaming at a three year-old to stop wiggling in a totally normal way. Choosing things, from drugs to new boyfriends, over their children. And you know what these moms aren't doing? Joining Facebook groups to help them be better mothers. Googling weird rashes at 3 am to reassure themselves their kid will be ok.
Breastmilk or formula, forward or rear facing, separate rooms or co-sleeping. It doesn't matter. If you are here. If you are thinking about your kids. If you feel passionate about your parenting decisions. You are exactly the mother your children need.
14. - Which supplies, equipment, brands, accessories, etc. were your favorite as far as feeding your baby? (bottles, formula brand, nursing or pumping equipment, etc.)
I know a lot of people hate Ameda but the Purely Yours has worked well for me for two babies. Lansinoh storage bags on Amazon are the cheapest I've found. My mother gave me a little six-pack fridge that I keep in my office.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00EAXDLAO?pc_redir=1407137129&robot_redir=1 I really like not having to put my milk in a communal fridge. Oh, and cut up pre-fold cloth diapers make great reusable breast pads.