Is Breast Always Best?

Now-a-days breastfeeding is finally becoming a more freely talked about topic. However, I still feel if you want to get the hard truths, you have to actively research details or ask your closest friends or family about their experiences. Until I started my research, I had NO IDEA how involved breastfeeding would actually be.

One of the first questions everyone asked during my pregnancy (along with “Will you be going back to work?” “Who is watching the baby?” “Do you want a Boy or Girl?” … you get the idea)… was “Do you plan to breastfeed?”.

I’ve always planned to breastfeed.  I made Pinterest boards (which were very organized but truthfully I didn’t read until right before then end of my pregnancy), ordered the electric breast pump paid for by insurance, registered for bottles (so others could help feed him), looked into what foods I could and couldn’t eat, read up on milk storage, read articles on the “pump and dump theory” and how many beers I could have without it affecting my milk (don’t act like you didn’t too- side note: pump and dump isn’t really relevant), and Casey and I took a 3 hour class at the hospital. Ladies- encourage your man or woman to be involved in the learning process. We both learned so much and it helped so much to have another set of ears listening to the logistics. I felt like once Carter got here I was as prepared as I could be. This was the first decision we made together as soon to be new parents for the health of our child.

Background on me … in 2004, I had a breast reduction.  I was 19 years old. I still stand by this being one of the best decisions I ever made. We had extensive conversations with the doctor about making sure I would still be able to breastfeed when I was older.  There is no real way to find out if it would actually affect my supply.

From day one I told myself if I wasn’t able to exclusively breastfeed, I wouldn’t beat myself up about it. I know there are a plethora of reasons why women aren’t able to nurse their babies. I also know there is nothing wrong with formula and if we needed to supplement that would be totally fine. I just wanted Carter to have the benefits of breast milk as long as possible. (Or until he started getting teeth!)

When Carter made his arrival, I was ready to put the research into motion.  Thank God for the nurses and lactation consultations at IU Health Hospital, in Bloomington.  I’m not very modest, so I had no problem pulling out my boobs and asking for help as much as possible while we were in the hospital. The nurses were amazing, literally staying there as long as it took for Carter and I to figure out what we were doing… day or night. During the day the lactation consultants would come and check in on us and filled our heads with SOOO much encouragement. Casey was there the whole time asking questions and learning more right along with me. They all seemed to be aware of my previous surgery. I know the job of the LC is to encourage breastfeeding over formula feeding but they really helped us understand it may or may not be a long term reality for us.

When we got home we had our very own built in lactation consultant, my Mom!  She breastfed 3 children and she pretty much always seems to have an answer for all my questions. For the first couple of days Carter was just getting the colostrum before my milk came in. Along with adjusting to life at home with a newborn, we were trying to figure out if he was “getting enough”.  Obviously with BF you have no way to measure what he’s actually taking in.

Next thing I knew, my milk was coming in. Then wouldn’t you know it, I had clogged milk ducts.  That was fun… NOT! I spent lots of time pressing, massaging, doing warm compresses, and using a little round roller thingie to help unclog the ducts. I was pretty convinced the pain wasn’t ever going to go away.

Carter cried a lot and didn’t seem to settle. If he wasn’t sleeping or eating, I felt like he was crying. Everyone just kept saying “maybe he’s not getting enough”.  Even though I said I wouldn’t beat myself up, I did. Isn’t that such a cliche Mom move … to instinctively blame yourself, even though it’s not anything you can really control?! I lost my confidence for the first couple of weeks. We gave him some formula a few times here and there but continued to plug along with breastfeeding.

I had tried just pumping to see how much I was producing.  Often times after he ate, he would just cry (or scream). I would finally get him to settle, put him down for a nap, he’d wake right back up, then I would just end up having to hold him for the WHOLE day. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why i would nurse for an hour and then he wouldn’t settle.  After a while he was just using me as a pacifier. He was a frequent sleeper on the boob too. (It was hard work)  I wasn’t getting ANYTHING done. Cleaning or laundry… yeah right! Barely even taking a break to pee – and food?  Didn’t happen much. Obviously, when breastfeeding you have to be able to eat properly. (This was also before we were given the green light from the pediatrician to let him cry.)

At Carter’s first doctor’s appointment we mentioned our feeding concerns.  They recommended we meet with their lactation consultant. As we were finishing up our appointment, she was actually arriving for the day. We were able to chat with her very briefly and she gave us a few tips to hold us over until out appointment with her.

At our first appointment with the lactation consultant, Carter was weighed, we showed her how he was nursing, she felt inside his mouth to see how his tongue was moving, and we tried several feeding positions.  She sent us home with a few things to try.  We made another appointment for the following week for a weight check.

When we went back he hadn’t really gained enough. She said the weight gain wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. We decided supplementing is a must now.  She (and our pediatrician) told us to nurse for 10-15 minutes each side then top him off with formula. We went back for a weight check a week later and his weight gain was significantly better.  That’s all we needed to hear. We were now breastfeeders with supplementing. No problemo!

I wasn’t ready to give up yet so we just plugged on.

A couple of weeks ago he started being a lazy latcher. When I would get him latched he would pull his head back and nurse on just the nip (uh ouch, that’s not right), or he would unlatch then get REAL pissed off when I would try to latch him again.  I talked to the LC and she suggested he may just be emptying me quicker and he’s probably getting distracted because he’s transitioned from that newborn stage to the infant stage.  That lasted about another week then EVERY time I would try to latch him, he would SCREAM!

Okay, we’re done! 

He will be 3 months tomorrow and we are done. Sometimes he will nurse very early in the morning and not for too long at all.  I don’t even try to BF during the day anymore.

I’m now in that weird transition where I am a little heart broken but also I’m little excited to have my BODY BACK. After all, it has been about 13 months (including the pregnancy). Is that bad? Nope! I can eat what I want, wear underwire bras again, workout as hard as I want (and need to), sleep on my stomach, not have to PUMP (woooo!!). The only thing better than all of that is having a happy, growing baby boy.  I didn’t think I would be emotional but during a formula bottle feeding the other night, I was looking up how to dry up my supply (before I called the lactation consultant) and I did start crying. I really do know at the end of the day, we tried everything and neither of us need that extra stress.

Here it goes… I’m going to say it … Breastfeeding wasn’t a very enjoyable experience for me. Ahhh…. feels good to get that out. I’ve actually said it several times.  During one (or two) of Carter’s crying fits, I said to Casey, verbatim, “UGH I hate breastfeeding… this is the worst thing I’ve ever done!!”  Just because I hated it, I certainly know there isn’t anything wrong with him or me.  I just hated that this wasn’t settling him.  The number one goal of a parent is to have a happy healthy baby.  He wasn’t very happy!

Even though breastfeeding didn’t work out so great this time around, I still plan to try it again with Baby #2.  (no we aren’t trying again quite yet)

Breast isn’t ALWAYS best … but you don’t know until you try.