We were fortunate that breastfeeding came relatively easily to us. We never needed to supplement or stress that Parker wasn't getting enough. I also, thankfully, never had any clogged ducts or mastitis to deal with. Thank you, Jesus. That said, breastfeeding still had its ups and downs.
From the very beginning I wanted to approach feeding my baby realistically. Yes, I think breast milk is best for your child. It's the easier, more natural way of feeding the spawn of your loins. Sure, the concept can seem a little strange, but when it comes down to it your body kept that kid alive for nine months on the inside so it makes sense that until he can eat actual food your body just keeps on doing its thing. That said, I know that not everyone can breastfeed. Some people just don't have milk come in, some people have difficult recoveries, some people just aren't given the support they need to do something so natural but so very new and challenging.
My ultimate desire was to breastfeed for a year, but before Parker was even born I knew that I wasn't going to beat myself up about it if that didn't happen. So I started with baby steps. First, we'd just see how it went. Then we'd shoot for six months. Then a year. Then, as time went on, the goal was two years, as recommended by WHO.
Everyone tells you right from the get go that if you're doing it right, breastfeeding should not hurt. I just want to stand up right now and publicly debunk that nasty rumour. Breastfeeding, in fact, does hurt when you first start it. We spent an extra day in the hospital because I was convinced we were doing it wrong, even though the nurses kept saying Parker's latch was great. If everything was going so well, why did it hurt so much?
Enter common sense. A sensitive part of your body is suddenly being sucked on by an unrelenting leach for eight hours a day. That sensitive part of your body is chaffing like you wouldn't believe, and there's this toe curling pain that happens every time that leach hooks onto you. Looking back, I feel like it's so obvious that breastfeeding is going to take some adjustment, but I wish the information out there was more realistic. You and your tiny new stranger are learning new skills and your body is adjusting to them. Eventually you'll have nipples of steel, but it takes a couple weeks and a lot of nipple cream to get there. And, remember, that's assuming everything goes well to begin with.
So yeah, breastfeeding was not the most comfortable starting point. I also didn't know that it can take some kids 24 hours to actually want to eat after birth. After labour I was inhaling muffins like they were going out of style, but Parker seemed to deal with his trauma by ignoring it. It's okay, he's since learned to be an emotional eater. It took a full 18 hours of life before Parker even tried to nurse. No one told me that was a thing, they just told me that I needed to feed that little baby every three hours, even in the middle of that first exhausting night.
Let me tell you, there is nothing better than having been awake for 30+ hours, pushing a human out of your nethers, then having the best sleep of your life for an hour before trying to breastfeed an unwilling baby. Every story you've ever heard about kids feeding successfully right after birth is running through your head and you feel like a big old failure because the most natural thing in the world is just not happening.
Eventually we got ourselves sorted out and went home. When Parker was about three days old we hit our next breastfeeding hurdle: milk. Can I just say, that there is nothing more terrifying/impressive than your milk coming in. All of a sudden I had rock hard boobs that reminded me of Bane from Batman and Robin.
They also leaked everywhere. I would be getting dressed and all of a sudden there would be a puddle of milk on the floor. From my breasts. Hello, side show. And that, I kid you not, is what life was like for weeks. Breast pads were my bffs and constantly being changed. I got used to smelling, like Parker, like sour milk.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Mostly because I had to bring a clean shirt, nipple cream, and breast pads with me everywhere I went. Yep, life as a mom really changes things. Eventually things sorted themselves out and it became more manageable.
All that milk did not just end up on the floor or in my clothes. I was blessed with a very generous milk supply. At the risk of oversharing, Parker could have just opened his mouth and said "Ahhhh" and gotten a full meal. Fortunately, after two or three months, that sorted itself out, too. Until he started sleeping through the night, of course.
It was around that time that we started having some issues with breastfeeding. First of all, I was very uncomfortable feeding Parker in public without his nursing pillow. I definitely relied heavily on that pillow, and couldn't figure out how to discreetly feed him when we were without it. It was also the middle of summer, and way too hot to nurse with a cover on. That, and I'd get the nervous sweats whenever there was the possibility of a nip slip. Let me tell you, feeding my son in public was one of the most stressful things I had to do, especially when it resulted in me flashing an entire Tim Hortons.
Parker, my wonder feeder, also developed a lazy latch. This was probably a result of my generous supply and just laying him on the nursing pillow so I could be hands free. It was a good setup for cookie eating and Netflix watching, but led to some issues. I almost saw a lactation consultant about it, but was told by my health nurse to look into biological nurturing/laid back breastfeeding.
At first I was skeptical because it was just another breastfeeding position (and, hello, not one of the ones they tell you that you must use when you have a baby), but it was like hitting a magical reset button. Parker couldn't be lazy anymore and latched right on. Never mind that it's the perfect baby snuggling and lounging about position. That, combined with practicing not using my pillow, made breastfeeding so much easier. I still used my pillow until Parker was about six months old, but I didn't need it anymore.
Another thing that saved my sanity when it came to nursing happened when Parker was about four weeks old. I read a book on sleep training your kid. The big takeaway for me, though, was making sure he had full feeds. Parker has always been a sucky kid and would always look like he was trying to suck or nurse, and all the health nurses tell you that you need to feed your newborn as soon as they start giving you those hunger cues so they don't freak out. After a few weeks of doing that I was losing my freaking mind. Parker constantly looked like he wanted to suck on something (my boob) so he was constantly nursing. It was exhausting and frustrating, especially when he'd throw up from having eaten too much.
I learned that instead of letting your kid snack, you can try to give them a full meal. I also gave my kid a soother, something I swore I never would (health nurses say it's sin). Glory, hallelujah, life got better. Parker was no longer attached to me 24/7 and was eating every 2 1/2 hours like clockwork. I also didn't let him fall asleep while nursing (for the most part, it's hard with newborns that sleep more than cats) and it saved my sanity. He didn't need me for sleep, and I could get some (sleep).
We were also really lucky that when we introduced the bottle at six weeks Parker took it like a champ. I know a lot of people give bottles earlier, but we were told that giving him one before then would cause nipple confusion and that would be the end of our breastfeeding journey. Same with soothers. Basically, we were scared to do anything wrong so tried to go by the health nurse book.
Parker would take the occasional bottle during church and on Friday nights, and when I left the house for more than an hour. Breastfeeding still went really well.
When it came time to start cutting back on nursing with the inevitable return to work, it was pretty easy. I'd just stop offering and give him more food instead. I was nervous at first because it felt like it took forever to get solids really figured out, but everything happened with enough time.
When I went back to work, we were nursing in the morning, before afternoon nap, and before bed. We just dropped the afternoon nap and eventually the before bed one, too. It was easy. I wasn't there in the afternoon and Parker was too distracted to really get into the before bed one. On Saturday, we had our last morning feed.
Being pregnant, my amazing supply is starting to dry up. It's still there, but there isn't much and it's mostly colostrum. I'm kind of sad, but at the same time looking forward to having only to supply for one kid at a time. I let Parker decide when it was time, which was nice, and he doesn't seem to miss it at all. We didn't make it to two, but never had to supplement and I like to think that some of those breastfed super powers will linger for a while. We're over a year, it's not essential to keep him a live anymore, and I get a little more personal space in the morning.
And in five months I get to start it all over again. Oh boy!