My Breastfeeding Story


This post is long overdue as it's been about four months since I stopped breasfeeding.  And in my mind, it seems like eons ago.  I hold Ethan now and the whole idea seems so foreign to me.  It's crazy to think that not long ago, we still enjoyed that bond together.

But I wanted to make sure to document our experience and hopefully reference it for the next time.  Breastfeeding was definitely one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences to date.  I truly feel like nothing can prepare you for it since it's different for everyone, but this was my experience.



I always knew I wanted to breastfeed...but I had no expectations about how long I would and what it would entail.  I just knew it was the best thing for him, so if it worked, why not?

I was actually lucky in the beginning...Ethan latched on pretty easily and I never had any bleeding or cracking.  The actual breastfeeding was easy...the rest of it was the hard part!  The dedication it takes to nurse full time is what I wasn't expecting.  Post-partum is a crazy time and I was trying to define my new role as a mother while also holding on to the person I was before.  With breastfeeding, I felt I had lost a lot of my independence and it was proving to be a hard adjustment.  I couldn't go anywhere for very long without worrying about Ethan getting hungry and needing to nurse.  Everything became harder...dressing to nurse, traveling, going out to dinner, have a glass of wine, you get the picture!  I was also always worried about building a supply.  Bottom line, I was mentally stressed to the max.


And just when I thought I got the hang of a routine and managing my stress...I went back to work.



I went back to work when Ethan was about 3 months old and at Ethan's 4 month appointment, we discovered he had only put on a few ounces in the past month.  I was devastated to learn that he wasn't gaining enough weight and felt directly responsible.  Since I was nursing full time before going back to work, I had no idea how much he was taking in during each feeding.  So I guessed on how much to make each bottle...and I obviously guessed wrong.  I was pretty determined to keep him on 100% breast milk so I upped his bottles to 7-8 ounces when I was at work and then nursed him full time when we were together.  I starting pumping 3 times a day too.  At his 5 month appointment, he had put on a pound and 6 ounces, which was a huge victory!  I was so relieved to know that it was a volume issue and not something that was deficient in my milk.

And while I was glad that I was able to get him to 5 months exclusively on breast milk alone, my freezer stash was quickly dwindling and I was beyond stressed out between work and keeping my supply up.  So we decided to start supplementing with formula around this time.  



I know supplementing isn't for everyone, but it gave me a huge sense of relief to know that he was still getting the benefits of breast milk and the volume with the formula.  It was a win-win for me and for baby.  I continued pumping twice a day at work and started to transition more and more to exclusive formula around 8 and 9 months.  I nursed Ethan in the morning and at night during that time...which was also about the time his teeth came in and he started biting while nursing ..and then laughing!  It was definitely a game, and I was the sore loser!  ;)  At 10 months, I decided we were done...and I think Ethan had decided that about a month prior.  So weaning was no problem.  And it was actually a relief for me to know that he was going to do just fine on 100% formula. 
 
And I'm not going to lie...it felt really good to have my body back.

Some things I've learned through this experience: everyone is different and everyone has an opinion on the subject of breastfeeding.  I was way too concerned about what everyone else thought was best for my baby and not listening to my own instinct.  I have also learned that I have a terrible let-down, so I would usually have to pump for at least 20 minutes each time to get any amount of milk...which of course, was stressful.  I've also seen how stress directly impacts me physically.  When I'm stressed, I don't produce enough milk.  And when I don't produce enough milk, I'm stressed!  I've never seen a more direct sign of stress then pumping for 20-30 minutes and not getting even a half ounce of milk. 

When I was able to let go of the stress, there was definitely a sweet side of breastfeeding...it really is miraculous.  Knowing that I was able to give him 100% of his nutrition in the first 5 months was really amazing.  I loved the closeness between us and can still remember when he was just one day old and so so tiny, how natural the whole thing was.  As difficult as the process was for me mentally, I wouldn't change a thing.  In fact, there are times that I miss it...especially at night before he goes to bed.  Luckily, the snuggles are still there.  :)


Some good advice to pass along:

Use lanolin.  It was my quite literally my breast friend during the breastfeeding process.

We used Earth's Best Organic Formula and while it was more expensive, we loved that it was organic and the main ingredient wasn't fructose.  Seriously...check out those labels...fructose is the first main ingredient in most formulas.

Last...relax.  If you can breastfeed, great.  If you can't, don't stress about it.  Or, if you can't produce enough it's not the end of the world.  Plenty of baby's are formula fed {I was one of them!} and they are just fine!  I will definitely follow this advice next time...and learn to relax.


{all photos via artyard photo}


Thanks for letting me open up today...and congrats if you made it all the way through this ridiculously long post!  Sharing something so intimate is definitely not easy, but I really appreciate all the mamas who have shared their stories and encouragement, so I hope this helps!

xo natasha

71 comments :

  1. Good job momma! Breastfeeding is hard (I nursed my daughter for 16 months and my son for a year) when I stopped nursing my son, I felt like I had such freedom! I had gotten pregnant with my son while breastfeeding my daughter so for almost 4 years I had either been pregnant or breastfeeding and I was done and so was my body.
    You're right everyone's experiences are different, and I'm sure it's super hard wen you work and are nursing, but you did it even when it wasn't the easiest of things and that's to be commended :)

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    1. Oh my goodness...good for you! I can only imagine how good it felt to finally get your body back. :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It brings back memories of when my kids were little and we had that special bonding time. I had a hard time with both of my boys in the beginning but after the initial soreness, it worked out well. You are right - that lanolin is a lifesaver!
    -Shelley

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    1. Can't say enough good things about lanolin...such a lifesaver!

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Natasha. It's always interesting to read how another mama did it. I have been exclusively BFing for 3 months now and it is truly hard work! I know it's the best thing I can do for my baby and I love the closeness that it creates between the two of us. I think the timing is the hardest part. Figuring out how to run errands or do what I want in the small time frame between the next feeding.

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    1. I agree...the timing is the hardest! But it gets easier over time. Great job on getting to 3 months!!

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  4. What a great post. The baby years are long behind me(my youngest is 13)but the stress and guilt we lay on young mothers if they can't breastfeed is overwhelming sometimes. If you can do it - great if you can't that's okay too.

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    1. So true...the guilt is the hardest. Thanks for the great perspective! :)

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story. It always nice to know "I'm not the only one" when it comes to the multiple problems that can occur with breastfeeding. I just did a post on breastfeeding yesterday too, so nice to compare! Check out my breastfeeding words of wisdom -

    http://growingbabygardner.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for sharing Morgan! Lots of great advice and tips on your post!

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  6. What a special story - I agree that breastfeeding is so different for each individual, and what works for you is best! Well done on your awesome journey - I only managed 4 months before getting gastro and all my milk drying up x

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    1. Four months is amazing!! You should feel so good about that. xo

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  7. Our stories are almost identical! It's almost impossible to continue breast feeding exclusively for a long time after going back to work, unfortunately. It's just so time consuming. You did great!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad you can relate. Working and breastfeeding is definitely not easy!

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  8. Love this post! I am on month 9 of breastfeeding/pumping at work and have had to start supplementing with formula some for daycare. Reading this was a nice reminder to simply do what is best for your baby AND you! :)

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    1. Yes definitely! And good for you for keeping it up! 9 months was when it started to get so much harder for me...so I applaud you! :)

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  9. Happy Mama, Happy Baby! Great post and I completely agree that you have to do what is right for you and your baby and really try to not let others opinions or judgements get in the way. My little boy (now 2 months old) spent a few nights in the ICU when he was born and they really wanted to see him supplemented with some formula because he wasn't getting enough breastfeeding and that really helped me loosen up and realize that it's OKAY if he gets a few ounces of formula a day. It helped when I got home and was still building up my milk supply and wasn't killing myself over the fact that he might need a two ounce bottle of similar especially in the evenings when my milk supply was lower. Beautifully written and little Ethan is adorable.

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    1. Thanks Annie and thank you for the encouragement as well. Good luck with your journey...you're doing great!! :)

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  10. What an awesome post! Thank you for sharing your story with us!! :) :) :)

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  11. Oh Natasha, thank you for sharing your personal story. Breastfeeding is so challenging. I had no clue what to expect when I had Mila. Initially I had bleeding and had to supplement formula because my milk wasn't coming in. I nursed exclusively until about 6 months when we started supplementing formula - Earth's Best! - and it actually gave me a huge relief and Mila seemed happier too. This time around, it's still one of the hardest things I've done. I have no idea how long I'll be able to do it for, but I'm trying to enjoy the moments/the experience as this will be my last time (a whole other emotional experience)!

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    1. One day at a time...you're doing amazing! I can only imagine how much more difficult it will be the next time around with a toddler running around! Eek! You're my hero! :)

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  12. Great post. Thanks for sharing!
    Julie

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  13. Thank you for sharing this.. I had a bad/slow let down as well and had to supplement early on because of going back to work and I felt so guilty about it that I still haven't let it go.. and my son is 18 months old now. So many Moms feel "judged" I think because all we hear about are the milk cows of the world, and Moms spraying milk across the room and having freezers full of milk.. we don't hear about the Moms who stress over pumping for 20-30 mins just to get a precious ounce of milk and then fret about it. It is HARD and the best advice is to relax and to forgive ourselves. Not every mom is a milk cow. :-) Thank you for sharing your story.. you have made me feel better in knowing I am not alone. :-)

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    1. So so true!! Everyone is different and we just have to be ok with that! No judging! ;)

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  14. Thanks for sharing this, Natasha!! What you said about losing your independence and feeling like your world revolved around when you needed to nurse--oooooh man, I remember that like it was yesterday and I don't miss it!! ;) Thankfully we have these experiences to help us the next time around :). I also know what you mean about Ethan not gaining enough weight and feeling directly responsible--Parker was always huge until we started doing solid foods, which he was NOT a fan of--it was really hard to keep his weight on. Thankfully everything has worked itself out, but it was exhausting and stressful work! Thanks again for sharing your story--I'm sure this is encouraging many moms who are in the thick of it!

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    1. Thanks Katy! It's nice to hear that you had similar issues at different stages. We all go through it at some point...it's nice to know I'm not alone! ;)

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  15. Hooray for sharing! Good job Mama!!

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  16. You did and are doing a great job mama! I had to stop about a week before my son's 4th month because I just wasn't producing enough milk. I also went back to work and I think that had something to do with it. Now he is 100% formula fed and is perfectly fine! I think we over stress ourselves because we want what's best for our kids, but we learn to adapt when we need to and that's what makes us mamas!

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    1. We definitely stress...glad you figured out what worked best for you!

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  17. Thanks so much for sharing -- i have a 9 month old who has just recently decided he doesn't want to nurse anymore and so we are limping along with pumping and formula for now. You have captured exactly how it feels -- that its something that you want and feel you should do for the health of the baby, but that is just so stressful at times (and i feel like no one ever really tells you that!) Thanks again for being so encouraging and honest about your journey.

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    1. You're so right...I don't think we, as new moms, share enough about the struggles. It's good to know I'm not alone! :)

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  18. I did my BF post on my blog today too!! Thanks for sharing...loved your story!

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  19. Great post! I am going to send this to my friend who just had her baby!

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  20. Thanks so much for sharing! I felt like I was reading about my own experience with breastfeeding - so similar! I totally agree on the point that I knew I would breastfeed but never in a million years understood how restricted and stressed I could feel by the process.
    - V
    http://www.lovethiscrazylife.com/

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    1. Isn't it crazy?! You would think the the commitment and timing would be a no-brainer, but it really was surprising to me!

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  21. I'm in the same boat! Even before I returned to work after having E, I was stressing about not having enough to feed him. The stress of not knowing if I would have enough to feed him his next bottle was too much. I started supplementing at ~2 months and felt instantly better! I continue to pump while at work, but my job is so demanding and spontaneous, I'm lucky if I can make the time for 1 session. At this rate, I'm hoping I can maintain my supply another 2 months until E is 5 months. It's not ideal, I was hoping to make it to a year, but I'm glad that I was able to provide for as long as I have thus far.
    Props to you for making it as long as you did!

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    1. Good for you! Working and pumping is so so hard! I commend you for getting as far as you have.

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  22. The thought of breastfeeding sounds so incredibly foreign to me but I am so excited to take on that journey! I'll definitely be using you as a resource!

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    1. Oh you'll be a natural...I just know it!! xo

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  23. I know exactly what you mean about constantly being stressed out. In the beginning that's how I felt too. So much is going on, you're losing sleep, adjusting to life as a mom (and trying not to lose who you were before that) and solely responsible for feeding your baby. It's hard stuff. I would cry sometimes when it felt like I had just fed her and it was time for another feeding, especially during growth spurts, because I longed for a break. But I did it, thank goodness, and I'm so glad. I also agree that everything felt harder while nursing- going out, getting dressed would stress me out! I loved reading your experience, thank you for sharing.

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    1. All SO true!! Why is dressing for nursing do difficult?? We all know how to dress while we're pregnant but no one really warns you how to dress for nursing!

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  24. Natasha...great post. I think every momma goes through the troubles of breast feeding. I know I did too! I have been nursing for 7 months. I actually would have never nursed my baby had it not been for all of my friends who nursed theirs. I felt pressured to do it. And then when I wanted to give up I felt like I was a terrible mother. I was listening to a pediatrician the other day and she said that Mommas put too much pressure on each other and that we needed to stop doing that and I think that is so true! Of course nursing in so much easier now and I love it. Next time though I won't pressure myself so much and force myself to do it!! Love following sweet Ethan's growth I often reference your blog to see how Ethan was developing T my daughters age!!

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    1. Gosh this really resonated with me! Thanks for commenting. We definitely put pressure on each other, which is counterproductive b/c at the end of the day, we should all be supporting one another. So glad that you ended up loving it...such a silver lining. You have a great attitude!

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  25. Thanks for sharing - there are so many unknowns with babies and everything surrounding! Glad you found what works for you and your baby!

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  26. i LOVE this post...and if i could "like" it i would!! takes a lot to open up about such a personal experience and i applaud you for doing it with grace :)

    you rock mama!!! E is a LUCKY LUCKY boy

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  27. Totally love your honesty & your commitment to your baby. What a wonderful job working full time & still doing everything you can to make your baby as healthy as possible! You should feel nothing but pride :)

    xoxo Shauna

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  28. What a wonderful post, Natasha! I can't tell you how similar my story is to yours - it's almost scary! We had a lot of our problems front-ended, beginning in the hospital with a poor latch and too much weight lost... and I was in so much pain for the first 6 weeks that I'd cry everytime he started to wake up from a nap. But we eventually found our groove, and going back to work & pumping was HARD work. We started weaning daytime bottles at 7 months, and then by 8 months I decided to only nurse morning, night (and everytime he woke up... 2-3 times), and lasted until 10 months. We were both done, and it was a wonderful experience in the end. I didn't do as much mom-blog reading back then, but if I had, I maybe would have found some support and reassurance from other moms that said it was OK if it hurt, or I didn't love it at first, or if I had to supplement. Momma guilt is hard, but its so wonderful to find other women to share our stories with! Thank you so much for sharing!! XO

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  29. Love your honest! My peanut is 5mo old and I'm still nursing but I think my milk is almost done. She was exclusively on breast milk till 14 weeks then I had to supplement bc she wasn't gaining weight. Nursing can be so stressful but sweet at the same time! It's something that no one can prepare you for pre-baby!

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  30. My experience was similar to yours- the actual breastfeeding wasn't difficult, luckily, but the complete life-change was the hard part. :)

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  31. So thankful you shared your story...I didn't have any issues physically but I can definitely relate to the anxiety/frustration end of bf. We began supplementing around 9 months and weaned at a year. Somedays it's sad that its over but mostly it just feels right.

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  32. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm still on maternity leave and am worried about how things will go once I'm back at work. Will I be able to pump enough? Since I'm nursing exclusively right now, I don't know how much milk to give daycare. Sure I give her a bottle of pumped milk on occasion, but that's usually just to hold her over until I can give her a proper nursing (i.e. I wanted to have a beer or glass of wine with dinner). If you don't mind me asking, how much milk were you giving in bottles before increasing to 7-8 ounces? Monica will be 12 weeks old when she starts at daycare and I'm still waffling on how many ounces and bottles of milk to bring.

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    1. Hi Cathy! We started giving Ethan 4-5 ounce bottles when I went back to work and it just didn't seem to be cutting it so we upped them from there. I thought if I was only pumping 4-5 then that's what he should get. But that obviously wasn't right.

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  33. obviously,by the number of comments you have done a truly wonderful service with your honest heartfelt entry. Why we can be so judgmental of each other when someone does things differently is such a mystery. Perhaps it is that we are in need of affirmation that we are doing what is right ???THANK YOU for the help this is to even one reader.

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    1. Thanks Brenda! That means so much to me. I agree we need to be more supportive and accepting as a whole. Everyone's journey is different.

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  34. Thank you for sharing your story! We mommas put so much stress and self-judgement on ourselves and one another about breastfeeding. I have just recently decided that at 10mo Wade has basically weaned himself... I was putting the "mommy guilt" on myself since I didn't make it the 1yr mark like I had with Cadence. But I finally realized what I was doing to myself and just accepted that he was done and it hasn't been the end of the world like I thought it would be!!

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  35. ahhh breastfeeding... i love it and i hate it! i too am relieved to be done...i can TOTALLY relate to you losing independence while nursing. i felt the same way...with how to dress, how long i could be away (she wouldnt take a bottle of breast milk!) etc. you did what was best for you and ethan...proud of you!

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  36. So much pressure is put on moms to breastfeed and we definitely just have to do what it right for us and our babies. Great advice! I nursed C til 10 months, had a rough time with B and had to supplement from the start and gave up nursing all togehter at 6 months and now with Wells, I enjoy nursing and am making plenty of milk, but am already feeling the overwhelmingness of being on his feeding schedule, especially running around with the other two! We will see how it goes!

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  37. Breast is so hard!! I made it 3.5 months with Sterling before I threw in the towel. I was ready for my freedom and body back plus I just wasnt producing enough milk. So great you shared your story for others. I hope this time is easier for me!

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  38. lordy girl I hear you! It definitely felt good to have my body back too after all the pumping and feeding ;) its great you shared this because I'm sure there are so many moms out there that are feeling the pressure! At the end of the day you just have to do whats best for you and your family xo

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  39. So beautiful. Love hearing these stories now, so when it's my time to have babies I know I'm not alone in anything!!

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  40. Thank you for sharing your experience. I had a devil of a time due to supply issues and ultimately stopped after 3 months when I returned to work, but our peanut was supplemented from the get-go because it took so long for my milk to come in. I agree; everyone has an opinion on this topic. I so appreciate the open-minded ness of your perspective! Ethan is adorable!

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  41. I'm only 3 weeks into it with our son... And I can't imagine doing this for 10-12 months! I'm with you on feeling the stresses of always being nearby when he's hungry. I'm trying to take it a day at a time though!

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  42. I agree with the comment. Just like the saying, "Mother knows best", your Doctor knows best as well. So be sure to consult your doctor and ask for advice. Anyway, if the products are proven safe and effective, then you are good to go. Thanks for sharing... breast enlargement supplement

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  43. Thanks for sharing! My baby is almost 7 months and I'm on month 4 of being back at work and nursing and it is difficult! Comforting to read your experience:)

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  44. So interesting post you have shared. Read your stories and i am also thinking now that it is the time for a baby now. I will also keep in mind all these tips. Thanks again! Also check breast firming products.

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