My journey with breastfeeding has come to an end and no one could have prepared me for this. The amount of sadness, guilt, and grief, but also relief, freedom, and calmness that I currently feel is unreal. So contradictory, right? Just another one of those “mom things” that not many people talk about, I guess?
Let’s start from the beginning. During pregnancy, I prepared myself mentally to be okay with not being able to breastfeed because of family history of unsuccessful attempts. However, I still wanted to give it my best shot and do it if I could, but not sweat if I couldn’t. If you know me, the “not sweating” part is essentially impossible; I am a perfectionist and will keep going at something until I am successful, which is exactly what I did.
I could sit here and brag about how I never experienced anything too terrible when it came to feeding my child and how it is such a beautiful, sweet bonding experience and everything is just so wonderful. Some may consider me “lucky” because I never got sore, never got sick, never had any pain, never got engorged, never leaked, didn’t need to pump in the middle of the night. It’s all true. None of those things happened to me in my journey. Luck? Probably not. Just my body. But if I sat here and told you that it was easy and everything went so smoothly, I’d be a big liar.
Hard is an understatement. Blood. Sweat. Tears. (Lots of tears) All things went into my breastfeeding journey. Since Kinsley was born prematurely, we immediately began supplementing with formula, which ended up being a choice I couldn’t be happier with. Kinsley would nurse 10 minutes on each side then take just a little formula to top her off. When we left the hospital, she was only down 5oz and gained it back before our first pediatrician appointment. It was perfect! Unfortunately, it took my body quite some time to produce milk, and, I was never really able to produce an adequate amount of milk to feed my baby. Therefore, supplementing was absolutely necessary. I nursed on demand, woke her for feedings at night, pumped after each feeding, ate my overnight oats, used brewers yeast, drank sour beer, used warm compresses, drank Milkmaid tea…guys, I did all the things. Nothing worked. Every day I battled my body to make more milk to feed my baby and I felt like such a failure…again. I didn’t understand why my body was, once again, failing me in this “motherhood” journey.
During this time, I worked with a lactation consultant and did weighted feeds, tried different holds, rented a medical-grade pump, changed the sizes of the pump…everything. My body never pumped more than 3oz and I never knew how much I was actually feeding Kinsley, although I knew she was getting something and we had formula to fall back on (luckily). Because of some digestive issues and Kinsley’s colic, I had to go dairy and soy free, which is so hard to just go cold turkey, but I did it for my girl! I had so many people watching me crumble during this time and reassuring me that it was okay to quit and okay to just feed her formula, but I was so stubborn, determined, and just mad at my body that I couldn’t let myself give up.
Kinsley’s due date came and it was like the milk God’s decided to bless me with supply. I am not sure if this situation is normal, but her due date was truly when my body began producing enough milk to stop supplementing with formula after every feed. Now, I would “run out” in the evening time when she would be cluster feeding, but I still nursed on demand, pumped, and supplemented when needed and we got into a great rhythm and I was feeling good. It was so convenient to just feed her on demand right then and there instead of making up a bottle and wondering how much to make so you weren’t wasting any of that formula that costs a fortune or wondering if the temperature is too warm or too cold.
It was nice, but also so demanding. There were nights where all she wanted was to be attached to me. Even going to the bathroom was near impossible. My husband got to watch his fave TV shows, go to the gym, run to Target, cook dinner, take long, hot showers…and me? Well, I had to feed the baby. It’s hard. It’s isolating. It’s the definition of a love-hate relationship. Well, at least for me it was. I knew I could always turn to formula, but I didn’t unless I had to. Why? Well, because I also loved knowing that she needed ME; I loved knowing that I was giving her vitamins and nutrients that are so vital in these early stages of development, and I loved that time being able to just hold her and talk to her. I wanted to push myself to give her as much as I could because I never knew if my supply would last. As an under-producer, it was always in the back of my mind that maybe I wasn’t giving her enough (which by the size of these cheeks, thighs, and tummy- I’d say my ta-ta’s were successful, haha!).
But, by the grace of God, I stuck it out. 4 ½ months of breastfeeding. We did it. And I am beyond proud of us (myself and Kins). Like, beyond proud. My initial goal was 2 weeks. TWO WEEKS, guys. And I made it 4 ½ months! So, why stop now? I went back and forth every single day. Why would I be taking something away from my sweet girl that came so easy to her? No, it wasn’t easy for me, but she has already had to fight so many battles in her little life and this was never her battle. How could I take that away from her?
Well, my supply started dropping again and I will be heading back to work here shortly. I really want Kinsley to get into a good routine with bottle feeding and I want to figure out exactly how much she needs at each feeding. It’s definitely the best decision for my family. And guess what? Fed is best. Kinsley is in the 81st percentile for weight and 50th percentile for height. So, WOOHOO! I call that a WIN! We did it. My body didn’t fail her, I didn’t fail her, and she is healthy and happy!
Although I am feeling all the feels about ending our breastfeeding journey, I continue to reassure myself that this is what’s best for my family and I know I am not doing any harm or wrong for my baby. Kudos to every single momma out there who FEEDS their baby. Whether its breastfeeding, formula feeding, pumped feedings…whatever. Feeding your baby is HARD; it’s hard physically, emotionally, and mentally and you all deserve a round of applause. Keep those bellies round, those thighs chunky, and multiple chins on those babes whatever way is best for you and your family!