The Ups and Downs of My First Breastfeeding Journey
In 2010 when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child there was so much that I knew I needed to learn. Like many first-time moms I watched the weekly updates of how my baby was growing and what food he was the size of that week. I spent a lot of time on Google finding out information and I made the decision very early that I would breastfeed. I wish I could say it was because of health reasons or knowledge about breastfeeding but in all actuality, I chose to breastfeed him because it was free. I was so caught up in looking up strollers and baby clothes I am not sure why I did not look more into breastfeeding. At the time there were no breastfeeding classes in our small college town. I did not really put much into learning about breastfeeding it was simply a decision that I was going to do it. I had made this conclusion despite not knowing anyone in my family who had breastfeed.
I did not know any positions, or about the golden hour, stomach size, hunger cues, pumping, engorgement, nipple confusion or anything else. When he was born, I remember telling the nurses I wanted to breastfeed. We did not get that important skin to skin time. They showed him to me and took him out of the room to bathe him, take his temperature and everything else that could have waited. They eventually brought him back and said “mama he’s hungry, he’s sucking on his fingers.” The nurses did not provide any further assistance at this point. I told them that I wanted to keep him in my room, and my breastfeeding journey began. My milk came in very quickly and I remember asking for a breast pump and pumping for him while I was in the hospital. When leaving the hospital, I was given a manual breast pump and some breast pads with no instructions. I immediately began pumping. I did not know anything about milk storage and was pumping and putting it in Tupperware jugs. I was pumping a half gallon to a gallon of milk a day along with latching him. I would wake up in the morning and my entire bed would be soaked in breastmilk because of the oversupply I had given myself. I suffered many nights of engorgement due to not properly draining my breasts. I did not have anyone to call and ask for information and help.
When he was 5 weeks old school started and by this point, I had a better schedule for pumping. I had to make sure he had milk when his Dad would keep him while I was in class. I was wearing breast pads from armpit to armpit trying to keep from leaking all over myself while I was in class. Once I got back home, he would not take the bottle from me so I would breastfeed and end up having to pump again despite him not drinking all the milk I had pumped for the day. I eventually ran out of space in my freezer for milk and I mentioned it to one of the nurses at my OBGYN and she told me that I could donate it. It was only then that I learned proper milk storage guidelines. Unfortunately, the physician was only able to provide limited information that was useful. His pediatrician told me that he should be sleeping through the night at about 6 months and encouraged the use of rice cereal and formula. All his checkups said he was happy and healthy, so I decided not to listen.
My initial plan was to breastfeed for six months and switch to formula because I was worried about breastfeeding him with teeth. Once I reached that goal I decided to continue breastfeeding because it was so easy at that point, he didn’t have any teeth and I did not think he would drink formula. When he was approaching a year old, I figured it was time to wean him from breast milk. I did not know how to do that, so I let him go with my parents for a week out of town without me. He was eating everything at this point, so I sent him with enough milk for him to have some at night before he went to bed. My parents said he had no interest in the milk while he was there and while he was away, I stopped pumping. Once he came back, he had no interest in breastfeeding.
That was how my son and I ended our 12-month breastfeeding journey. Despite my lack of breastfeeding knowledge, push back from family and incorrect information from physicians. I was able to persevere and surpass my initial breastfeeding goal. I became the person people called to ask about breastfeeding and was the support for other women I wish I had as a first-time mom. So if you’ve made it this far I am here to tell you that your breastfeeding journey may be filled with ups and downs, and may not be exactly what you thought before hand but you can make it through!