The moment I learned that I was pregnant was unforgettable. My mind was immediately filled with so many emotions: excitement, worry, anxiety and an overwhelming amount of hope that this would be a healthy pregnancy. As the pregnancy progressed, I read so many books and blogs about motherhood, sleep schedules, daily routines, and more. Like many new mothers, I was trying to do my best to prepare for raising a child. Even though I was a kinder and first grade school teacher for several years, I really didn’t have much experience with babies. This was ALL new to me, but I was determined to learn as much as possible.
However, the topic of breastfeeding was different. Before George arrived, I was never really worried about it. I saw so many people posting these BEAUTIFUL photos breastfeeding. It just looked so natural and effortless, I guess you could say I assumed it would be the same for me. And while that might be true for many, I just didn’t have that experience.
Breastfeeding has become one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, parts of motherhood. So today, I want to share my experiences with breastfeeding. I hope that you find it relatable and encouraging. Please know that everyone will have a different experience. Some may find breastfeeding easy, while others may find it impossible. After experiencing the highs and lows of breastfeeding, I do not judge anyone for the way they’ve decided to feed their child. Whether a mother is breastfeeding, formula or a combination of both, at the end of the day, they have to do what works best for their child and themself.
Shortly before George arrived, my “plan” was to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. I set this timeline without much thought and I didn’t really have a backup plan. During my pregnancy Austin and I took several birthing and parenting classes, CPR and First aid and had a Doula I talked with regularly. But breastfeeding wasn’t something I studied or sought advice on. I also didn’t research formulas or consider other options because, by all means, I was going to breastfeed. Well, things went a little different.
…AND WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
The day George was born was truly the most wonderful day of my life. Meeting my son for the first time filled my heart with pure joy and gratitude. But it was also the day that I felt a new worry in my heart. It’s true what they say: “Whether a one month old baby or 40 year old adult, a mother never stops worrying about her children.”
After the delivery, my wonderful nursing staff immediately assisted me to start breastfeeding. My lactation consultant was in the room and we were all so impressed that George had latched on and appeared to be eating. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! This really is so easy”.
After some time feeding, he started to fall asleep. With George seemingly fed and content, I put him down to sleep. About an hour later, he woke up crying and unhappy. I started to nurse again. He latched on and everything again seemed to be going smooth.
After a few cycles of this, we noticed him shaking and having what appeared to be tremors. We called the nurse and advised that she perform a blood test. The results of the test showed that his blood sugar was very low. The most likely cause was that he was not getting the nourishment he needed. While it appeared George was breastfeeding correctly, he was not successfully transferring enough milk. I was heartbroken, filled with guilt and frankly ashamed. How could something so natural be so hard for me.
We grew very concerned. Later, we also learned that he also had a tongue tie and needed it to be “clipped”. After he had that done, we thought that might fix the breastfeeding issue. The nurses continued to monitor his blood sugar over the next two days but his levels did not improve. Our emotions were taxed with every blood test. After being encouraged by promising numbers from one test, our hopes were dashed with the next. But after a few days in the hospital and supplementing with donor milk, George’s blood sugar levels began to normalize and we were able to go home.
The doctor told me that my feeding options were pumping, donor milk, formula or a mix of both. We continued to see our Lactation Consultant for the first couple weeks in hopes that we could figure out how to successfully breastfeed, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.
I remember Austin literally ran to Walmart that night and bought this breast pump (love this one, I had the Medela in the hospital and wanted to buy that one but they only had the Spectra, I actually ended up liking it better) glass bottles (we loved Dr. Browns 4oz but the larger size would leak on us, the Comotomo and Brezza are amazing!) and started to create a schedule.
OUR FEEDING SCHEDULE
I knew pumping exclusively wouldn’t be easy, but I really wanted to make it work. I put so much pressure on myself and I honestly thought that if I didn’t give him breastmilk I failed. Why would I even think that?
I don’t judge my friends on how they feed their babies, so why would I judge myself?
I pumped exclusively for the first 2.5 months. He ate every three hours, so I would pump and Austin would feed. I felt so sad that I couldn’t feed my own son. Not to mention the anxiety I felt if my supply was low.
George started eating so much at 2.5 months that I physically could not keep up. I was getting overwhelmed, anxious and started feeling depressed about being hooked up to a pump for at least an hour per session just to produce one 5 oz bottle. I knew it was time to do something to help my mental wellbeing and be a better mom for George. My pediatrician was amazing and helped me find a formula that worked for us and create a plan for supplementing. It wasn’t easy for me to accept, but I knew it was the right thing to do for our family.
We started with supplementing one bottle a day and I immediately felt less stress. She even helped me find a way to stop pumping and try breastfeeding again. We figured why not try it AND give him the bottle. Our theory was if he finishes the bottle consistently after nursing, we have a good idea that he isn’t transferring. But if he doesn’t finish his bottle then that might mean he is actually getting nourishment from me.
We started that 2 weeks ago and it worked. It actually worked! Now, I can’t exclusively breastfeed or anything, but I can give him an ounce or two per feeding session before the formula bottle. I am so thankful that we found a plan that worked for us and I get to experience a glimpse of breastfeeding.
Our current feeding schedule (he’s almost 14 weeks old and eating close to 6oz per session):
7:45a Breastfeed 20mins + 4oz Formula
11:00a 5.5oz Formula
1:00p Breastfeed 20 mins + 4oz Formula
4:00p 5.5oz Formula
8:00p Breastfeed 20 mins + 4oz Formula
10:30p Final Feed – Breastfeed 20 mins + 5 oz Formula
This schedule works for us because if I have a work conflict or can’t breastfeed at that exact time, we give him a formula bottle and breastfeed the next time.
TOOLS THAT HELP WITH FEEDING
So if you are using formula you have to get the Baby Brezza — think Keurig of baby formula. Just press a button and it gives you a warm, perfectly mixed bottle in under 10 seconds. You know every second counts when you have a screaming, hungry baby. Just be sure to clean it out regularly because it will remind you and it can be annoying. Still 100% worth it though. Walmart also has the glass bottles which are so easy to clean and do not leak at all. Oh and don’t forget the grass drying rack for the bottles. I thought I would “never need one”. HA — I was crazy.
If you are breastfeeding, stock up on some nursing PJs. These are a lifesaver during late night feedings.
If you are pumping, you 100% need a handsfree pumping bra (size down, you want this snug). I went one day without mine and never again. I have 3 just incase one get’s lost, dirty or breaks…I will not pump without this. This was a game changer and allowed me to at least get some work done if I had to be hooked up to my pump.
Like I said earlier, it doesn’t matter HOW you feed your baby. What matters is that you do what’s best for your family, your baby and your mental and physical wellbeing. At the end of the day, we are all trying our best and we shouldn’t feel ashamed of how we feed our baby. Don’t forget, no one knows how to love your baby quite like you.
But tell me, how was your experience? If you have any advice for new momma’s drop a comment below! xx Ashley
This post was written in collaboration with Walmart for Breastfeeding Awareness Month.