Happy Monday folks! Hope you are feeling refreshed and reenergized after a weekend away (hopefully) from the hustle and bustle of work. I am fresh off a week-long work visit in Tucson and a weekend in LA celebrating my dear friend’s baby shower for her first baby – a girl – due in October!
Even though Ava is 2-years-old so it has been a minute since I last breastfed, the same conversations around breastfeeding seem timeless. Mothers-to-be wondering and hoping they can indeed breastfeed, some being okay if they aren’t able to (and some aren’t), and everyone is scared and overwhelmed on some level. While I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, I’m always happy to share my thoughts and personal journey breastfeeding Ava.
Let me be upfront about something.
Whenever anyone asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding Ava, I always replied “if I can”. And I really meant it. I was absolutely intending to try and breastfeed and would do everything in my power to breastfeed, but if I couldn’t? I’d be okay with that (even if my husband wasn’t). The main reason for this mentality was since I am adopted, I was a formula-fed baby, and I like to think I turned out just fine. 🙂 I also knew I have perfectionist tendencies and I didn’t want to go into something as big as breastfeeding setting unreal expectations for myself.
Once Ava was born, I immediately jumped into breastfeeding like it was my job – because it was! As her mother, I knew I was primarily responsible for making sure she had nutrients entering her body to help her gain weight and ultimately grow into the boisterous and energetic toddler she is today.
It wasn’t easy.
In fact, when Ava was three weeks old, I almost quit entirely. My nipples were beyond sore and repair (or so I thought), I was a crying zombie since I had to feed her every 2 hours around the clock, and I truly felt like a slave – a milk slave. The latter being the hardest for me. For someone so independent, at times it was difficult for me to understand how something could be so dependent on me. It was a hard time because I didn’t have anytime for myself and because I felt trapped inside my house since there was no time to take a walk outside or go run an errand to get some fresh air. (Most often Ava’s feeding sessions would take 1.5 hours and then I would only have thirty minutes to run to the bathroom and grab something to eat for me, before feeding Ava again).
What stopped me from quitting? A number of things, but ultimately it was Tommy. I’m not sure how he managed to find the perfect balancing act of encouraging me to keep going, even though I was in so much pain and discomfort, and instructing or suggesting that I keep going because I am not one who likes being told what to do. Especially when the other person had no idea what I was going through.
Tommy being Tommy, soldiered on. He empathized with me as best as he could, but he also provided possible remedies and solutions for my discomfort when nursing the baby that we would do together. Nothing was off the table and I appreciated that. I cannot stress the “together part” heavily enough. Tommy didn’t act like it was only my problem to bare, but his too. Here are some things we did together:
- We sought out countless Lactation Consultants (LCs) for their advice. These ladies were invaluable. It’s amazing to think back on what Tommy initially thought about LCs before we had Ava! One of the best tidbits of advice we learned from an LC? The best remedy for sore nipples is coconut oil. It’s miracle oil plain and simple.
- We constantly asked for advice – from friends, to neighbors, to books and blogs – like this one the Honest Company has, to local breastfeeding groups. (I went to one of these groups weekly for about 2 months and the experience and friendships I created were invaluable).
- Because Tommy wasn’t feeding Ava himself for the first few weeks, he took it upon himself to take care of everything else since I was breastfeeding. The cleaning, the cooking, walking Violet, feeding me when I was feeding Ava, and being my most supportive cheerleader.
- Persistence is my middle name. Even though I knew Ava would be okay if I stopped breastfeeding, I didn’t want to “quit”. I kept on. However, I can say with certainty, if I had to go another 2 weeks of how I felt at the beginning, I would have quit. My thinking: no use being a martyr for your child when she isn’t even 6 months old.
Of course there are a number of other things that made my breastfeeding journey easier step-by-step, which I wrote about here, but these four things were the biggest takeaways.
I am proud to say that I breastfed Ava until she was 8 months old. While it wasn’t as bad as some other people’s own breastfeeding journeys were, this was Ava and my story. It began bumpy, but with some work on each other’s part (+ daddy), we were able to work it out and carry on for many months. I decided to stop at 8 months simply because I was drying up and after a couple weeks, I decided it wasn’t worth the stress and the tears coming back to try and pump my heart and soul out – again. I gave my girl 8 solid months of mama’s milk and I knew she would be fine with formula and eventually pureed and solid foods later on.
As we plan on trying for Baby #2 later this year, I am slightly dreading the thought of breastfeeding again, as I plan on giving it a go another time. Will it be easier or harder this time around? Will I take it so personally or can I be more relaxed and just go with it? The thought of pumping while breastfeeding gives me the shivers. I’m also thinking “hello leaky boobs” again. I will say, I feel like I’m now equipped with an arsenal of knowledge and experience to be just fine, but I recognize every breastfeeding journey is different.
Now when people ask (read: assume) if I will breastfeed my second one, my response is still, “if I can”.
Have a great day.