Home Motherhood My Breastfeeding Journey

My Breastfeeding Journey

by krismkoch

A lot of you have been DM-ing me about breastfeeding and how it’s been going with Charlotte, so I thought I’d round up all the questions into one post. Personally, I’ve found hearing about other people’s breastfeeding journeys and experiences to be extremely helpful, both making me feel better about the struggles that come with it and helping me to figure out all the logistics etc. I want to preface this though by saying that I’m not judging any way — fed is best is my motto, something I had to learn/accept the hard way the first time around with James. This is just my own experience, which has been wildly different with each child, so hopefully it’ll help you as you go through your own journey.

Are you breastfeeding Charlotte?

I am. She is currently three weeks old, so I’m still exclusively breastfeeding her. I really wanted to breastfeed this time around, but with James, I really struggled at first (more on that next) and it was really stressful and emotional, so this time around, I promised myself I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. I wanted to do everything I could to make it work, but I also told myself that if it didn’t, it was fine. I am so grateful that Charlotte latched right away, and while it took us a few days to get it down and sometimes she would struggle to latch, I was so much calmer this time. I knew if she was fussing and not really latching that she eventually would calm down and get it, and sure enough, she did. I think being more patient with her and not immediately assuming I was failing, which I did the first time around, really helped. It could also be that every baby is different (more on that below too), but luckily, it’s worked and she’s a really good eater.

Are you following a feeding schedule?

Not currently. She’s just three weeks, so I’m holding off on putting her on a schedule until she’s a little bigger and older, probably around 6 weeks. To be honest though, we’re not that great about schedules in our house. We have routines, which really do help, but with James, I had so much trouble getting him to feed that I just fed on demand for his first 3 or 4 months, and then we implemented a schedule when I went back to work and had a nanny who helped a lot. With Charlotte, I’d like to put her on a schedule so we can start getting her closer to sleeping through the night, however, with taking James back and forth to school, renovations and hopefully, moving, and all the craziness we have this fall, it may not happen. I’m okay with that. I know that my friends who’ve put their babies on strict schedules, swear by it, and I do wish we had tried better the first time around, but the whole point is to make your life easier, so I’m going to see what works for us. Right now, we’re in survival mode just trying to get through the next few weeks until we can move into our apartment. But I’ll definitely share our schedule and talk more about that once we start, since there seems to be a lot of interest in it.

How has this time been different than with your first?

Seriously, it’s been night and day. It’s hard for me to remember James’ disposition during the newborn days, because I was so overwhelmed. It was so new, overwhelming, stressful, and it’s kind of like this weird twilight zone, where you have no idea how to be a parent and doubt yourself constantly along the way, or at least that was my experience. So I don’t totally feel like I paid as much attention to his personality as a newborn because I was obsessed with getting him to feed. Sad, I know. So I can’t say they’re polar opposites, but it feels that way. She just feels like such an easier baby, especially when it comes to feeding. However, that may just because I’m more comfortable as a parent and have some semblance of knowing what I’m doing. This time around, I’m so much more comfortable as a parent. I don’t stress over every little thing and then assume I made the wrong decision and it will screw up my child for life. I also have another little one to worry about who is in the middle of a rough transition, so I don’t have as much time to think about everything.

So bottom line: it’s a lot easier. I struggled to get James to latch and as a result, my milk supply went down and I really had a hard time feeding him. He wasn’t gaining enough weight, but I was so focused on breastfeeding and not confusing him with a bottle, that I really didn’t want to supplement and when the doc was like you need to, I sobbed giving him his first formula bottle. Then I sobbed because he drank it in like two seconds and I felt horrible that I had been starving him. It was awful. We hired a post-partum doula (sort of like a baby nurse but she also takes care of the mom and teaches her how to breastfeed etc.) to help me and she was a godsend. She got me a nipple cover which helped him latch – in retrospect, he probably had a tongue tie that went undiagnosed. He also had bad reflux so he didn’t really sleep except on me, so I was constantly feeding him and he still wasn’t gaining as fast as he should. When we finally started supplementing with formula, it helped, but he was still cluster feeding nonstop and it was exhausting. I was a zombie. I felt horrible about the whole thing, but looking back, I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it and doing what I could. Eventually, we figured out how to get him to latch without the nipple covers and then we really found our rhythm. Of course, then I had to go back to work, so I started pumping, but I was grateful that he didn’t have any nipple confusion, so we’d go back and forth between the bottle and breastfeeding when I got home, no problem. I ended up breastfeeding (and supplementing with formula for a few feeds) for a year. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but it worked for us, and he didn’t get sick at all his first year, so I think that it goes to show that whatever you do is great, even if it’s not perfect.

This time, Charlotte latched right away as I said, and it’s been so much easier. She’s a good eater, she’s gaining weight, and feeding regularly. I’m also making a lot more milk (and leaking a lot more, sigh). It might be that she’s an easier baby, but I also think it’s just that I’m a more relaxed and confident mom. I knew that I can breastfeed and figure it out. I also knew that if it didn’t work out, she’d be fine and we could supplement and the upside is, I could switch off night feedings with my husband and leave her for more than an hour to do things if necessary. So that mindset really took the stress off me. It turns out, we’re attached at the boob right now, as I’m exclusively breastfeeding, but I think it all goes to show that you shouldn’t beat yourself up and try not to stress too much about it. James is a totally healthy, happy boy, and Charlotte is thriving too, and both were very different experiences. And some of their friends are exclusively formula fed and they’re happy and healthy too. But if it doesn’t work out the first time or at first, don’t give up. Feeding and caring for a tiny human is something we aren’t really trained to do and then we’re expected to be perfect at it. It’s not all intuitive. There’s a lot of learning involved, and I think if we accepted that and let ourselves make mistakes and learn and just focused on doing better each day (something I’m really trying hard to do with James), we’d beat ourselves up a lot less.

How are you handling the nighttime feeds?

Ugh, they’re exhausting. Currently, not so well. She sleeps really well during the day but then cluster feeds starting in the late afternoon through dinner time, which is exhausting because that’s also when James is getting home from school and then she’s up wanting to feed while we’re trying to do his bedtime routine. Unfortunately, James is in a clingy stage right now, where he just wants me to do everything, so he gets upset when his dad does his bath etc, which makes it extra hard. Then usually she’ll go down around 8-9pm after feeding nonstop from 4/5pm onward, but I also think some of that is because James is running around and screaming and chasing Dakota and everyone is home and it’s probably too much stimulation for her. Then she’ll sleep until 12/1am, feed and then if I’m lucky, she’ll go back down until 4/5am. Once in a while I’ll get a lucky night and she’ll sleep until 6am but that’s only happened twice, so we’ll see. But every night is different. One night she slept until 4am and I was freaking out when I woke up and realized she had been sleeping for so long but then she was up until James woke up at 7:30am. Since I’m exclusively breastfeeding, I’m doing all the night feedings. I should start pumping so Andrew can take some, but he’s been working a lot and managing the renovations and I am still hesitant to mess up our feedings by introducing a bottle, so we’re sticking with this for now. With that said, I have trouble napping during the day and some days, I”m driving James back and forth to the suburbs for school, so I know the lack of sleep is going to catch up with me and I’m going to need some help.

Do you have a night nurse?

We don’t. All of our friends used one, and we really debated doing it this time. To be honest, the first time around, I wanted to do it all myself. I am not saying this to be judgmental, and in fact, in many ways, I had to learn to ask for help, but I was also on maternity leave and could spend my days snoozing with him. But as I mentioned, we had a postpartum doula (basically a baby nurse), come during the days to help me out because Andrew was traveling a lot the first few weeks and I was overwhelmed and needed someone to show me how to care for the baby, how to pump, how to breastfeed, etc.. She was great and then Andrew got some time off so he was home to help too. In retrospect, we could have used a night nurse to help with his weight and getting him on a schedule and would have probably made me a better mom because I wouldn’t have been as tired and overwhelmed. This time, we almost hired one, but decided to wait until the baby came, mostly because we’re still in our old apartment in the city and it’s crowded right now and because we have our full time nanny during the days, so it just seemed like a lot of people. We agreed that if it felt overwhelming or we needed help, we’d hire one, but so far, it’s been working out and I really value my alone time, so it’s been nice to have quiet time at night without everyone asking for something or running around and screaming, even if I’m not getting much sleep.

Are you bottle feeding at all?

We aren’t right now. To be honest, I haven’t been great about pumping either, which I should do to get some more milk reserves on tap. But right now, I’m still trying to get through the days with all the craziness happening, so I’m going to try to focus on that more next week. I also wanted to wait a little longer as we have a good thing going with our feedings, and I really don’t want to mess it up.

How long are you planning to breastfeed?

I don’t know tbh. With James I did a year, and I was really proud of myself, but I also supplemented. But I had never planned to do it that long. I just kept telling myself do it for three months and then see. Do it for six months and see, and then I only stopped at a year because we wanted to start trying for another baby and I hadn’t gotten my period back. This time, (husband, if you’re reading, earmuffs pls) I would like to start trying for another sooner rather than later giving all our struggles with secondary infertility, so I may not breastfeed as long in order to get my body back on track. But I’m going to take it one day at a time (which I realize I hypocritically say as I plan for our next child, which my husband hasn’t even agreed to but that’s just how baby crazy I am).

Did you have any trouble to start?

Not really. I mean compared to James, no, but the first few days, it would sometimes takes us 5-10 minutes to get her to latch properly, so it wasn’t like she just instinctively knew and it was all easy breezy. However, as I said, I was more patient this time and had faith she’d get it, and she did. I also found that when I started stressing because she was fussing and not latching that it would make it worse, so I just try to stay calm and guide her. It’s similar to what I”m training myself to do with our toddler and his tantrums. Easier said than done, but the calmer and more confident you are, the easier I’m finding every aspect of parenting to be. With that said, you only get calmer and more confident with experience, so it’s a total catch 22, and god, isn’t parenting hard?

Do you plan to supplement?

Maybe? Right now I’m lucky that my supply is strong and breastfeeding is going well, but we’ll see what happens, especially when I go back to work.

What do you plan to do when you go back to work?

I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m going to pump, which I did with James and then hopefully, nurse in the mornings and nights. It may be harder because I’ll also have James to come home to and give attention, so we’ll see what happens. Trying not to think about leaving this little cutie right now though and just enjoy having her all to myself, but I will definitely do a post on my tips for pumping at work etc.

Are you pumping as well?

Not right now, but I should so I can get a reserve supply. I’ve pumped a couple times when I was really engorged but that’s it. I know I should be to increase supply though and have backup milk, so I am going to try to start doing it once a day next week. This week, I’m giving myself the week off.

How are you keeping your supply up?

Honestly, I haven’t had to think about it this time. I am basically just feeding her on demand and it’s been working well. I have been meaning to pump more between feedings to stockpile milk so I can get a break and bottle feed her sometimes, but honestly, I’ve been too tired and busy. Which reminds me, I should pump now lol. I have been ravenous and eating a ton so that might be helping too, but so far we have been pretty in sync.

How do you handle feeding when you’re on the go?

As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of whipping out my boob in public, but I’m far more comfortable this time. I just cover myself in this nursing poncho I found as mentioned above and feed. I generally try to do it in a car or a corner or somewhere discreet, but I have had to do the coffee shop before and a park bench. Sometimes it just is what it is. The funny thing is with this nursing poncho, no one knows so they will chat me up and try to shake my hand etc, and I’m like um… It’s hard but with commuting James back and forth from the city to the burbs for school, having to shop for fixtures and cabinets etc. for our countertops, and everything else, I’ve had to do a lot more breastfeeding on the go this time around, and it’s been fine. I think I’m just more comfortable this time. Plus, it’s not such a struggle to get her to latch etc., which makes it easier. There are times when I’m driving and she’s hungry and crying, and my boobs are about to explode, and I just have to power through, get home, ignore the crying and boobs as best I can, and get home and nurse as soon as I can, but that’s life, and she’s thriving and it’s all working out.

What are some cute nursing-friendly clothes?

I have a whole post on nursing friendly dresses here. I am going to do another post with more, and I actually think my next mission is to work on a line of nursing-friendly clothes, but one thing at a time.

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