No one said it would be easy, in fact most people didn't understand why I would want to breastfeed. My own mom said that I would probably chicken out, cry because it would hurt or get grossed out by leaky boobs and such. I remember being a little kid and playing dolls and I would "breastfeed" the dolls. I never saw it as something weird and even at my short age I would see a woman breastfeeding in public and not feel awkward or feel a need to stare. I remember going to my WIC appointment and when the lady asked me if I was planning to breastfeed how happy she was. She said that most young moms get creeped out by it and flat out say that they won't be breastfeeding. She encouraged me to do it and gave me a ton of books and pamphlets on the benefits of breastfeeding and breastfeeding 101. I felt so proud and I hadn't even had my baby yet!
Throughout my pregnancy I would worry about not being able to breastfeed but I promised myself that I would try my best to do so but I also was of the mentality, "if it doesn't work out it's ok, at least I gave it a shot". I went out and bought a manual pump, I didn't think it was reasonable to spend $300+ on a good quality pump when I didn't even know if it was going to work out. I also bought a ton of bottles since I thought that I would need them regardless of me breastfeeding or not.
I never took a breastfeeding class, watched breastfeeding videos or read a breastfeeding book. I didn't look up the benifits of breastfeeding on my own. My knowledge on breastfeeding was limited to the information provided by the section of breastfeeding in What to Expect When You're Expecting or any reading material provided to me by the WIC office or the Hospital. Yet, with the little knowledge I had I understood that breastmilk is best; higher IQ, higher self esteem, faster weight loss for me (yeah, right), etc.
The day that Gabriel was born we were not able to breastfeed right away. He had to be whisked away to the special care nursery right away so he was literally born, I held him , kissed him and he was taken from us. He couldn't leave so I couldn't hold him until I could walk again and the epidural wore off. I was scared to have missed the first bonding experience. But upon my arrival into my recovery room the nurse showed me how to assemble my pump kit for the Medela Symphony they had in the room and told me to pump right away so Gabriel could drink the colostrum. Ah, colostrum, I knew that was crucial to the baby, so a-pumping I went. I admit, it was quite odd. I felt like a cow...and the pump looked like a torture device. Nearly 2 ounces and 20 minutes later, the nurse came back in and was shocked to see how much was in the bottle. I felt so proud handing her my little bottle filled with yellowish orange liquid and knowing that we were off to a good start despite the situation. So, until I was able to nurse him, I would pump every two hours for twenty minutes and hand my liquid gold off to the nurse.
When I was able to first nurse him I felt so lost! The nursing pillow felt weird, he felt so small, my boobs felt huge and I thought I was going to smother him with them. Latching was a task but my mom was there to help and so was the nurse. It did hurt but I immediately fell in love with breastfeeding. I felt so close to him and I loved how he looked there with milk dribbling down his cheek and gulping away, I loved his little sigh when he was done. It felt right, there is just no other word to describe it. So I made a commitment, then and there, that I would for sure breastfeed up to his first birthday no matter what. And I have been doing just that.
It hasn't always been easy, around 9 weeks postpartum or so my supply started getting really low. I would pump every two hours (on the dot!) and he nursed every two hours but instead of pumping my usual 3-4 oz (sometimes even more!) I started getting 1 oz at the most. I started giving him a bottle so I could see if maybe he was just eating more but it was still the same. I would still pump every two hours while someone gave him the bottle and still no change. I cried. I was so upset in thinking that it could be coming to an end. I went online and started my research on what could be causing this and what could help. I tried everything, uping my water intake, fenugreek, mothers milk tea, relaxing, pumping after each feed, extended night feedings, massaging...Turns out Aunt Flo was around the corner and Gabriel was hitting a growth spurt and that my problem was actually quite common. Within a few days everything was back to normal.
Then, around 3 months, I got the flu and Gabriel got a milder version of my flu. I couldn't get out of bed, I was weak and my supply dropped again and he just wasn't interested in eating for a day or two. Regardless I'd offer the boob and still pump every 2 hours regardless of him eating. I drank so much fluids and still drank my good 'ol mother's milk tea and fenugreek. I knew that when you are nursing not every medicine is compatible with breastfeeding but I saw that and cold medicine actually reduces your supply or can dry you up completely and that it should only be used if absolutely necessary. Although I felt like I was dying, ok maybe not dying but I tend to be dramatic at times, I refused any medicine that could end up in me having to supplement with formula. About a week later, I was better and he was too and I worked harder than ever to get my supply up.
By this point, I had already stashed up over a hundred ounces of frozen breastmilk, I didn't want to take any chances.
Sadly, In December I went back to work. I work at Starbucks, my oh-so-glam job and I knew I would have to pump every chance I got to keep my supply up. So at every break (my ten minute break and lunch breaks) I would head to the bathroom with my dinky little manual pump and pump away. I would not be able to eat because my hands were occupied and by the time I was done, I had a 4 oz bottle full of milk (by full I do indeed mean full). I hate pumping at work. As I stated before, I pump in the bathroom where people pound on the door every 2 seconds because they have to go and I've been in there for "a long time". I cannot tell you how many arguments I've had with customers. They tell me that since they are customers they have more right to you use it...I just go off on them Bitch Please! More right? My ass you have more right. It use to make me uncomfortable but I'm so used to it by now. And around his fourth month I upgraded my Avent Isis Manual pump (I was seriously getting carpal tunnel from pumping so darn much!) to a Medela Freestyle= best choice ever! It was pricey but so worth it! I don't regret dropping almost four hundred big buckaroos on it since I use it so much and plan on using it with the next kids. So now instead of having to do 15-20 minute sessions on each boob manually, I just clip and pump it up and have my hands free to eat, text or whatever else I have to do.
I digress. Point is, it hasn't been easy. I've been through so much with breastfeeding: nursing strikes, teething (one word: OUCH!), overactive let down (causing the kid to spit up too much and get colicky). He still nurses at least 4 times a day, sometimes snacks in bettween feeds. He hates milk in his bottle and flat out refuses it in a cup, he just wants the girls! When I'm at work we're lucky if he takes 1 maybe 2 bottles. I still get up early (I start at 4:45 am) to pump just mainly to keep my supply up since he lacks so much interest in bottles. I still pump at work and get the annoying people pounding on the door, the confused look on some of my young and naive teenage coworkers who think I must have digestive issues since I'm in there for so long, and the weary look from customers who have been waiting outside of the bathroom door imagining why on earth I was in there for so long. I hate pumping. I love breastfeeding but hate, despise, loathe having two tubes stuck on my boob making a mooing noise and extracting milk from my udders. It's something so mechanical, nothing compared to breastfeeding. I compare breastfeeding vs pumping to making love vs using a sex toy-it's not the real deal but it gets the job done.
I'm proud of myself for getting this far and making such a commitment to the well being of my child. I dont want to stop breastfeeding any time soon. I feel that sometimes it would be nice to ditch the nursing bras for some pretty Victoria's Secret bras, throwing the nursing pads that I have been wearing for over a year and a half out the window and having my boobs back to myself. But, everytime Gabriel nurses I am reminded that I'm not just doing it because it's good for him or because he loves to nurse, it's also because I love the closeness and the bond we have. I love his chubby hand stroking my boob and how he curls his legs around me when he nurses. I love that while he's eating he gazes in my eyes and suddenly smiles with milk trickling down his chin then goes back to buisness. I love knowing that I have something that he wants that no one else can provide.
The journey hasn't always been easy but it has been awesome. So to those that say "I couldn't breastfeed", "It hurts", "I don't think it's worth it"...Pooey on you! You don't know what you're missing out on. I understand it's a personal decision and in no way am I saying you're taking the easy way out by formula feeding (yes, you wash bottles, warm them up, have to spend money on formula, have to get up at three in the morning to make a bottle) it all is easier to just breastfeed, even though at times it doesn't seem that way.