August 11, 2005. That is the day my oldest son Lucas was born and the day my breastfeeding adventure started. I had taken a breastfeeding class at the hospital and read some books to prepare. I was going to breastfeed my son.
It was easy; everybody can do it, right?!
I started nursing that baby every 2-3hrs as soon as he was born. Three days after he was born, my milk came in. I had horrible engorgement and Lucas was not able to latch. From the help of a friend I got a nipple shield and that helped him latch. We were on our way to breastfeeding success! Lucas went to the pediatrician a few days later for a weight check, but he wasn’t gaining weight. His pediatrician was confident in my breastfeeding and encouraged me to keep trying. We went home and nursed, nursed, and nursed! Lucas was perfect, but I couldn’t understand why he cried a lot and I had to keep him on my chest 24/7. Night after night, I laid with that baby on my chest and nursed every 2-3 hours. A few days later and back to the pediatrician again. Still losing weight but I just needed to nurse more, right? After 2-3 weeks of Lucas continuing to lose weight, despite doctors visits and breastfeeding support groups at the hospital, I switched to formula. Lucas stopped crying so much and was able to sleep in his crib.
I failed at breastfeeding. I fail despite it “being natural.”
I failed despite the fact everyone said “EVERYBODY can do it.” I gave Lucas formula and never looked back.
That is until 6 years later when I had to look back. I was pregnant!
I was NOT going to fail this time! I was going to successful and exclusively breastfeed my baby. I was going to do everything possible to make this work. This time WAS going to different! At 20 weeks pregnant I switched my care to The Birth Center. I took another breastfeeding class. At the end of the class I introduced myself to the Lactation Consultant and told her my tale of breastfeeding failure. A few weeks later, June 8, 2012, my 2nd son Adam was born at The Birth Center. The nurse who happened to be at my birth was that same Lactation Consultant, Katie Madden. Katie helped me latch Adam and I was on my way to breastfeeding success!
Two days later, Katie arrived at my house for the home visit. After weighing Adam we found that he was not gaining weight. History was starting to repeat itself.
But what was worse is my feelings of failure were repeating themselves.
I was not going to starve Adam like I did Lucas. I wasn’t going to watch the clock. I was just going to feed my baby. I had an appointment set up with Katie a week later. Adam was still losing weight. She also did a transfer weight and I was transferring about 1.5oz total. Something is better then nothing! I needed to get up my supply. The next few weeks I tried everything! I pumped after feedings, fenugreek, Domperidone, mother’s milk tea, lactation cookies, drinking a beer. EVERYTHING that people suggested.
By the way, later on, when people found heard my story, they would look sad and say things like, “Did you try…?” I wanted to yell at those people (that were just trying to help) and say, YES, I TRIED EVERYTHING!
Appointment after appointment I would sit in Katie’s office and cry about how I failed. Nothing I tried made me produce more milk. I sat in breastfeeding group with moms that would talk about how they are “over producing” and pumping 6-8ozs at a time. I would watch these moms come in and pop their baby on and seemingly not have a care in the world. Why don’t my breasts make enough milk and why did I even care so much about breastfeeding my baby?! I told Katie that I was not going to starve Adam, like I did Lucas. Katie quickly reminded me that I did not starve my baby! Starving someone is to purposefully withhold food.
I did everything in my power to feed both my boys. Throughout our appointments Katie slowly worked with me as I came to terms that I wasn’t going to make anymore milk then what I was already making. At our last appointment Katie went downstairs and came back up with a 4oz bottle of formula. Adam drank that bottle and that was the end…but it was a different end.
I felt such relief knowing that it was over. No more fenugreek, no more extra pumping, no more magic hat tricks to getting my body to make more milk. Week after week, month after month, I continued to nurse Adam and then give him a bottle when he seemed really hungry. After all, 1.5ozs a feeding is still pretty good. I didn’t have anymore appointments with Katie after that day, but I did continue to go to breastfeeding group. Instead of hearing tales of over producing I began hearing people talk about how their baby won’t take a bottle so they can’t leave the house, or their babies don’t sleep at night. My initial shame and embarrassment had turned to remembering that everybody has their struggles and I should not compare mine to somebody else’s.
I had settled into my new role as a “hybrid feeder”. Adam continued to nurse happily and take a bottle. I set a new goal for myself I was going to nurse Adam past 1 year old and when he was ready I would drop the bottles and continue to nurse him exclusively. When Adam was 9mos old, as I sat a friends house, he latched on but then pulled off and toddled away. It seemed weird but I wasn’t too concerned. I continued to try to latch him the rest of the day but he refused. I knew that nursing strikes were a thing, and he was getting milk from bottles, so I wasn’t too worried. By the end of the week he still wasn’t nursing and I realized why.
I was pregnant.
Adam didn’t nurse again. That 9mos and many therapy/ breastfeeding appointments taught me that I can breastfeed and I did. I was not a failure. I did not starve my baby.
The biggest thing I learned is that breastfeeding is NOT easy and not everybody can do it. Breastfeeding helped me become a better parent.
Fast forward to November 3, 2013. My 3rd and final son Gage was born.
I had gone into this birth knowing that I would breast and bottle feed and was prepared with what I had to do. I saw Katie and everything was going down the same path. I know I said that I wasn’t going to try anymore hat tricks but… I had heard that placenta capsules could increase your milk supply. Hmmm, might be kinda gross but I’m a nurse so it takes a lot to gross me out. I gave my placenta to my friend to encapsulate. She dropped off the pills a few days later and I began taking them. The first time I weighed Gage after taking the pills, he had gained about 12oz! Gage continued to gain weight week after week. I don’t know exactly how much I was making but I just kept watching the scale go up! I went back to work at 12 weeks and was able to pump enough to exclusively breastfeed my son.
This lasted for about 6 months. At that time my milk supply started to decrease and I was back to pumping the 1.5 – 2ozs that I was pumping before. I have settled into the same routine that I did with Adam and couldn’t be happier.
Gage will be 1 on November 3rd and I will finally reach my goal of nursing a baby longer than 1 year. Needless to say my husband are being a lot more careful about not getting pregnant again.
Everyday that I breastfeed Gage is another day that I realize I am not a breastfeeding failure and I never have been. I couldn’t have done it without Katie but more importantly I couldn’t have done it without myself. I am strong. I fought long and hard for what I thought was best for me and my babies.