Little Sunday Story time by Sarah @lex.mom
While this may sound braggy, believe me…it is not (mostly). Olive and I have been exclusively breastfeeding for one. entire. year. That’s 365+ days of on-demand boob time; 24 hours a day. This realization came to me just after her big birthday bash (Doljabi Celebration post coming soon) and I felt the need to share our experiences for any moms out there feeding those babes. A friend said recently that breastfeeding is a relationship. What a perfect way to describe it. For us, it was a complicated one. And as it nears the end, just like any relationship, I know there will be grieving, but also feelings of relief and growth.
A note: now that Olive is one, we are full-on-three-mealing-a-day (plus snacks) on top of breastfeeding which basically means she’s either eating solid food or on the boob the entire day. Boy did I not realize how much of our time would be spent eating and drinking around this age. I mention this because even if you’re not breastfeeding, dealing with a constantly changing diet for an entire year can feel so overwhelming. I hope that this provides insight in some area of your feeding journey.
**AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST, I’LL SHARE MY MOST FREQUENTLY USED BREASTFEEDING RESOURCES. SO IF YOU WANT TO SKIP ALL MY JIBBER-JAB AND CHECK THEM OUT, GO AHEAD! JUST COME BACK AND READ THIS NOVEL LATER. IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH LOOKING TO FIND SOME GREAT INFORMATION; A LOT OF WHICH SAVED MY SANITY IN EVERY STAGE OF BREASTFEEDING. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I ADVISE YOU TO MAKE YOUR OWN BREASTFEEDING TEXT THREAD WITH EVERY MOM YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE SHOOTING QUESTIONS TO. THE SUPPORT IN THE BF WORLD IS INSANE AND MOST OF IT IS SUPER FREE.**
Okay now here is a verrrry rough breakdown of how our year of BF unfolded. I hope it answers some of your questions and gives you a sense of how the first year could go for you and yours. Remember, every baby, mom, boob, latch, supply and so on..are different! Betcha never heard that before :)
MONTHS 1-3 (SURVIVAL)
We were so lucky that Olive didn’t have a tongue or lip tie that prevented a strong latch. She basically hopped right on in the first hour after birth. While this was SO exciting, I wasn’t producing an-y-thing. I pumped, and nursed, and pumped and nursed, and pumped some more. We left the hospital and I STILL had nothing. Cool everyone, send me home with this newborn that I can’t feed. Thanks. I wanted to freak out, but I was too tired. So fast-foward through an overnight visit to the children’s hospital the next day because she was jaundiced —because helloooo she couldn’t eat to get rid of all that bilirubin. What. A. Mess. Finally a nurse gave her a bottle while I pumped for the millionth time and I sobbed for the first time since she was born. I failed. Olive was perfectly set-up for breastfeeding and I couldn’t give her a drop of milk. However! On day 4, after lots of pumping and tube feeding on the breast with the help of my husband Will (crazy difficult but a lactation consultant showed us how and it was our life saver), I magically started producing milk. Like…a lot of milk. And then began the relationship I always imagined, kind of.
Basically Olive and I were connected 24-7. Feeding schedule? Nah. I tried every once and a while to count the times she ate in the beginning and with #mombrain I never remembered by the end of the day. She essentially ate every 2ish hours during the day and at night she would go longer stretches towards the 3 month mark. There were days when I really had to fight off thoughts of ‘oh my gosh how is she hungry already?! I can’t have her on my boobs for one more second!’. I would then have to remind myself that her only existence at this age is to eat, poop, sleep, repeat and it was my job to get her through those events over and over and over. Lots of motivational talks from mom friends needed during this time.
The first few months were tough. Breastfeeding for the first time hurts; for some moms, it’s unbearable and it’s the reason why they can’t continue. Some moms can’t produce enough milk and have to supplement, or stop altogether. I knew that if either of these issues arose with us, that I would be okay with it. All moms want their babies to be healthy and fed and we will do whatever we have to to achieve that. My feeding journey was no exception. Once the pain subsided and my supply was established, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and every day wasn’t so tedious, but then…. Olive got older and she changed! Go figure!
MONTHS 4-6 (BECOMING A PRO)
If I had a dollar for every time someone said “oh she’s eating again? Didn’t she just eat?”.... *side note: try not to say that to moms. The answer is always ‘yes, and?’. These months seemed to drag on in terms of breastfeeding. I was just figuring out how to comfortably nurse in public, because that’s how long it took me to build my confidence in taking her out and about. There were many, many, times when a shopping/lunch/coffee trip would be cut short because I had to nurse her somewhere private. Looking back I want to yell at myself, NO SARAH. KEEP LIVING YOUR LIFE AND FEED THE BABY WHEREVER YOU WANT.
Yes, I bought and tried to use several nursing covers. Let me tell you, they’re all annoying as hell and I will never use one again. Some babies need them to minimize distractions; totally get it. My baby was distracted BY the cover. Using one was more of a spectacle than nursing her without one. Oh don’t mind me, just flailing around with a weird blanket/strappy thing, sweating profusely, and half-naked in the middle of a large group of people. Lesson SO learned. Dropped that cover and never looked back. What really helped me was reading articles and looking at pictures of normal women all over the world breastfeeding without fear. Seems simple, but it totally changed my perspective. A quick swipe of the ol’ instagram #dropthecover and I instantly felt more empowered. **If you love your cover, snaps to you. It’s all personal preference and I just think I was forcing something that I really didn’t need or like.
Here are some of my favorite IG accounts that boosted my confidence(and also offered valuable info):
By the month 6, Olive was starting her solid food journey and that gave her a small distraction from always wanting to nurse. When I say small, I mean, very small. She still wanted to nurse every 2-3 hours and this became my ‘resting’ time. Oh dishes? Laundry? Sorry, can’t think about you right now, gotta sit on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls while baby eats. I really began to enjoy BF and was convinced I could do it forever.
MONTHS 7-9 (SOLIDS AND OTHER THINGS MESSIN’ UP OUR FLOW)
Just when I thought I was a professional, Olive’s stomach threw me a curveball. She began eating more and more solids, while still BF, but then she stopped pooping. Stopped for like….14 days at a time, no exaggeration. I even had to start a ‘poop diary’, which I soon renamed ‘poop log’ because I have a third grade sense of humor, so I could keep track of every.single.bm. Fun and inspirational, right?!
I had always read that breastfed babies are rarely constipated because breastmilk is a natural laxative. This seemed truthful in the beginning; we had ourselves a poop machine. So when it all came to a halt, everyone was so confused. Two different doctors gave us all kinds of suggestions and we tried them all - cut out solids, increased solids, purees only, more water, more juice, probiotics, massage, etc,etc,etc,etc. Until finally they said, Miralax time! So that’s where we are now, and things have improved.
But back to breastfeeding; Olive has always been a super active baby. When she learned how to roll over, there was no looking back. She was in constant motion, including during most BF sessions. Most of the time she would need to fidget with something while eating; that something was always ME. These are the injuries I’ve sustained while nursing:
Bloody nose (from her finger jamming straight up into it)
Scratches on face/arm/neck/chest/boob
Bruises from pinching on back of arm/face
I would have days when I felt like a human punching bag and the first thoughts of ‘I can’t do this anymore’ entered my mind. Somehow when I would reach the end of my rope, Olive would chill out a little and would let me enjoy the peace of nursing again. So this allowed us to keep on truckin’. Shew.
MONTHS 9-12 (NEVER WANT TO STOP. OR MAYBE I DO)
Around this time, Olive’s increased mobility kept me chasing her all day long. Nursing sessions continued to be our ‘rest’ time and gave us both a chance to catch our breath. My breasts stopped feeling overly full and feeding her seemed to be the most comfortable thing in the world. We were truly in a flow and then I began to notice Olive’s indifference about nursing in small moments here and there.
This very morning I decided to skip our morning feed for the first time. Olive had one of those painful nights when she woke up every 2 hours or so and I nursed her a total of 3 times. She’s 12 months old now and yes, I still nurse her in the night because I know that’s what she wants; whether it’s for comfort or sustenance- gotta give the girl what she wants when it’s that early in the morning and all everyone wants is to get back to sleep ASAP.
So when she woke up this morning, I casually just put her into her high chair, gave her an egg, some pureed veggies, and a sippy cup of coconut milk. I sat back and marveled at how we got here (and then quickly sent an SOS text to my dear mama friend). She’s not a baby anymore! But I won’t get into all that just yet. After a trip to the grocery store I was READY to nurse that girl. She really didn’t act interested until it was time for her first nap.
Something just clicked in my mom brain and told me that we are nearing the end. My dream situation would involve an effortless transition where Olive never cries because she wants to nurse and I never cry because I want to nurse her. But let’s be real. There will be moments when I’ll question what I’m doing but as long as I’m the one who is more upset by this gradual weaning, I’m 100% okay with that. Something (everything) tells me Olive is a boss. Maybe it’s because she is craving more independence by the minute and this mama has to let her lead. Go girl.
If you made it this far, congratulations and thank you. Ask me your questions! I want nothing more than to help you.