I was contacted to write a post for The Honest Company, and all opinions are my own. I received no compensation for this post.
My breastfeeding story actually started well before I ever met my daughter. By the time I gave birth to her, I had gone through more fertility treatments than I ever imagined myself needing to do. We spent six years and over $40,000, losing three babies, exhausted our bank accounts and my heart. But it didn’t stop there. I was on a complicated regimen of pills and shots in order to keep my pregnancy going and when I finally went into labor at 36 weeks, it was due to preeclampsia.
Back then, I had no idea how sick I really was. I spent six days in the hospital, while the doctors threw everything they could at me to get my blood pressure to stabilize. I cried a lot. I was on strict bedrest and felt my body becoming more deconditioned by the day.
My one light during that time was my little girl. My miracle. My baby that almost wasn’t. There wasn’t much to do in the hospital when you aren’t allowed visitors and you can only stare at the T.V. so much. So I spent my time topless (much to the numerous medical doctors’ discomfort) lying back with my daughter sleeping on my chest. And we nursed. A lot. My bond with her was immediate. After my surgery, and I was wheeled back in my room, the nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. I will never forget those first few tugs as my baby latched and started to suck for colostrum. I always wanted to breastfeed. The years of waiting for a baby had started wearing on me and I wasn’t sure I would ever get to experience it.
That wasn’t to say it wasn’t without difficulty. The first two days in the hospital, I needed my nurse’s help for 90% of feedings. The football hold that came so highly recommended for C-sections, didn’t work. I hated it. My baby had a small mouth, so it was hard for me to see if she was latching correctly. The nurses shuffled pillows, shuffled her, shuffled me, and I was usually left in tears because it was so hard.
My second night there, as the night nurse was setting up a new IV for me, I timidly told her my frustrations, adding in that the times my daughter latched perfectly were the ones where I simply plopped her onto my breast to do it herself. Her advice changed my whole outlook.
“Then let her take the lead,” my nurse encouraged, “She knows what to do. Let her do it.”
It was like a veil had been lifted. We went from a 90% fail rate down to getting her to latch after just a few tries. My nurse was wonderful at encouraging me, at explaining that yes, she’s actually latching fine, it’s just that her mouth was tiny. She taught me to look for “duck lips” and if I wasn’t hollering in pain, that if the initial twinge went away after a few seconds, it was a success. All in all, she taught me to listen to my body, to watch my baby and let her do what her instincts were telling her.
We struggled with her blood sugars and weight gain the first few days. She supplemented with formula, which was tough for me to deal with. After two feedings, I was finally told we could use donor milk as needed. The lactation nurse visited and dropped off my pump, and for several days, I nursed, pumped, and had my husband feed her a tiny bottle of my colostrum and any additional donor milk we needed as we waited for my milk to come in. And I did that every two hours 7 times a day. Due to some major sleep issues I was having, my daughter was sent to the nursery the last three nights we were there, and we worked out a system of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding with donor milk.
It wasn’t what I envisioned that first week being. And to this day, I’m still affected by the events from my delivery and hospital stay. But it got better—much better—once we were able to go home.
I worked with the lactation consultants and the home care nurse that visited and we were able to stop the pumping and supplementing, but at least by this time, I was supplementing with my own milk.
I couldn’t get pregnant on my own without a whole team of doctors. I couldn’t carry a pregnancy to near term without, again, an entire team of doctors. Bringing my daughter into the world at 36 weeks and 4 days was a miracle. But I could nurse her. And even as I’m typing this, the words are blurred through my tears. I didn’t have any control in the way she was brought into this world. But the two of us, we were able to breastfeed like champions.
I nursed her every two hours, or more, around the clock for the first two and a half months, until she started sleeping longer stretches. I nursed her when she was fussy, when she was overly-tired when she was sick, and I nursed her when I had no idea what the heck else she wanted.
She’s nearing 15 months and we see no end in sight. I’ve been working through my frozen stash of milk, trying to make it on breastmilk until her second birthday, but it hasn’t been easy since my supply has leveled off and I don’t get very much while pumping. I’ve been trying to find some ways to boost my supply up, like eating more oatmeal and drinking teas.
I have no experience with formula, but there are some great ones out there with some excellent, non-GMO ingredients in them, such as this Organic Formula from Honest Co. If you’re interested in learning more about their products, check out their Pinterest boards.
Our bodies are amazing, weird, fickle, fantastic things. The ability to exclusively nurse my baby has been one of my greatest accomplishments. I went from wanting to make it to a year, to allowing my baby to decide in her own time when she will be done nursing. Through breastfeeding continues to have its challenges, I’m so grateful for what my body could finally do.