From the beginning I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I was also told in prenatal classes how beneficial it was to exclusively do so for at least the first 6 months. So, I did. But it wasn’t as easy as just doing it.
At the very beginning, I’m talking the day Lily was born, it was a struggle. Understandably though, because I’m a new mom and had no idea how to even hold my baby while breastfeeding, let alone how to get her to latch on and suck properly. Thankfully, my midwife made house calls and she was very patient in teaching and guiding me to breastfeed properly. There were some bumps along the way but all in all everything was going pretty smoothly. I had more than enough milk and I was glad that I didn’t need to supplement with formula.
Because I had enough milk, I had this strong aversion to feeding Lily formula. I had it in my head that because I could make enough milk there is surely no reason I should be giving her formula. This is what lead to a lot of struggles from month 1 onwards until month 6. The struggle was real and it was so intense, draining, and exhausting that I felt like giving up and had bouts of postpartum depression. You have to understand, Lily would feed for 30-60 minutes each session and she would need to feed every 1.5-2 hours. Breastfeeding physically takes a lot out of you and I felt like a cow. It also didn’t help that I often let her fall asleep at the breast. My midwives advised me to keep her awake while feeding, and I tried, but some days I was too exhausted to do so. So for those feeding sessions, be it long, she wasn’t actively drinking milk the entire time.
I had pretty much gotten into a “bad routine” of feeding her to sleep. I won’t go into too much detail here because I’ll do a separate post on her sleep and sleep training. But to sum it up, I’d spend 2-3 hours each night putting her to sleep and maybe 30-45 minutes for naps.
I really questioned whether I wanted to keep breastfeeding or not.Unfortunately, pumping wasn’t an option because it just didn’t work for me and, at the time, I was hell bent against formula. Kelvin was supportive and suggested giving her a bottle of formula so that I could take a break. I don’t know why but even though I was holding Lily, crying and exhausted, I still refused to formula feed her. I still can’t explain why I wanted to only breastfeed her but I knew that I wanted to.
Looking back now, I would tell myself that it is ok to give her formula once in a while. Yes, all the brochures and classes say breast is best, but it doesn’t mean that formula is awful. If it meant that I could take better care of myself so that in turn I could be a better mother and wife, then it’s worth it.
At 7 months, I decided to start the slow process of weaning Lily off breastmilk. According to literature, it could take only 1-2 weeks to wean but I wanted to take it slow and give my body ample time to get used to the changes. So my plan was to replace one feed with formula each month. When I first started replacing feeds, my body freaked out. I would get clogged milk ducts as often as 3 times a week and it was truly awful. It felt like I was about to burst and it was also very tender and painful. Sometimes Lily would get it unclogged on the first try, but unfortunately, I often went a whole day with the clogged duct because Lily just couldn’t get it out. When I stopped getting clogged ducts, I decided to replace another feed and that’s where I’m at now. Lily is breastfed 3 times a day and bottle fed twice a day.
Choosing to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months definitely had its challenges. In addition to what I’ve mentioned, I also had to deal with disapproving glares from people when I breastfed in public. I luckily didn’t get many snide remarks but I honestly didn’t care what others thought. I have the right to breastfeed my baby in public so I’m going to do it. But the bonding Lily and I got to experience was well worth it. Actually, I sometimes miss breastfeeding Lily, especially when I bottle feed her, but it makes me cherish those 3 feeds we have even more. I breastfeed her when she wakes up, after her last nap, and right before she goes to sleep. Those quiet moments are one of the best parts of my day. My heart explodes when she’s finished feeding and then looks up at me and gives me one of her huge grins.
This is my breastfeeding journey thus far. There really is no one right way of doing it, although prenatal classes/hospital/media may tell us otherwise. So, I’d love to hear yours! Please leave them in the comments below so other mommas can find comfort knowing that they’re not the only ones.