So... I've wanted to write this post for a while. Really I wanted to write about this after nursing Quinn. And then once the journey with Teddy started, I really knew I had to write about it. It's long though. LONG. And honestly probably not that interesting for most people. There are so many emotions and thoughts wrapped up in this for me. I'm hoping that it helps a mom feel a little more "ok" with however they feel about breastfeeding. It really is just my story but I know reading others stories sometime help us all feel a little less alone.
I love breastfeeding. I love the IDEA of breastfeeding and all that it entails. I am all for it. I am a nurse. A baby nurse. SO I know how important breastfeeding can be. I also am not shy. I don't mind people that nurse in public. I don't mind helping moms in the NICU with breastfeeding. I don't mind nursing in public, although I do prefer to be covered. I am all for taking away the "weird" or "uncomfortableness" that people put with breastfeeding in public. It is what it is... feeding your baby. Nothing more. So people need to just get over their personal feelings about it because a baby needs to eat. And a mother shouldn't feel ashamed of how God made her.
Nursing both of my babies physically has been a breeze. Both latched on without effort and ate well and gained weight. I never had supply issues (in the beginning) and it truly was enjoyable feeding them, especially as newborns. BUT both of kids have had reflux. Quinn's was eventually figured out as a milk/soy protein intolerance. He puked and puked and I just knew it was something more than "reflux". I racked my brain for months. I gave up dairy twice for weeks at a time. Throughout this time, he slept on a incline, I held him upright for 30 minutes after every feeding, he puked every time he burped, every time he was put in his car seat and randomly just crawling around the house... for 9 months. And I couldn't figure it out. Nothing seemed to fix it. He wasn't outgrowing it. So around 8 months we took him to a specialist and they suggested we try hypoallergenic formula. I felt defeated. Like I couldn't just feed my baby and it all go smoothly (which I know now, isn't that rare.) So after about a month I caved and tried him on the formula full time. It was a miracle. The puking stopped and he was much happier overall. I told myself that I put myself through so much guilt about giving him formula that if my second child needed formula, I would do it, no guilt. His dairy/soy free diet continued until around 2 years.
Fast forward to Teddy. His journey started while he was in the NICU. I was pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first week of his life to bring in my milk and to give him milk while I wasn't there at night. BUT it was going well. I was making TONS of milk and he was doing so well with it! No puking, no gas. He was just snuggly and happy. I remember thinking and telling people how happy I was to just feed a baby and lay him down. Not have to hold him upright for 30 minutes so that he wouldn't puke everywhere. And then it started about 3 weeks after he was born. And it was worse than Quinn. He was spitting up through his nose multiple times a night. He was gagging and choking multiple times a day. But he wasn't actually puking as much. He just seemed SO uncomfortable. His poop was so weird too. He would literally poop all day. Like leak poop all day. So he had a terrible rash. I couldn't help but think, "Here we go again!". The connection between a mom and a baby when you are nursing is this weird thing. When your baby is possibly reacting to something you are eating that is going through the milk, you analyze EVERYTHING. I over analyze everything. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to have my normal happy eating baby back. But it didn't happen. So I cut out dairy and soy from my diet. I told myself after Quinn that I would cut things out of my diet until I was going a little nuts from it, and then I would switch to formula. So that's what I did. I cut dairy and soy out for 4 months. (Soy is in EVERYTHING.. like every single processed food. It's somewhat tedious to cut out). Teddy's stools did stop from being constant. But they were far from "normal" that I see at work. They were frothy and green, they were filled with mucous. They were just gross. But honestly, I couldn't find it in myself to give anything else up. And through this all, my doctor really didn't see anything "wrong" because he was growing, meeting milestones and gaining weight. Because that's all the matters right?! Being undermined by doctors is AWFUL. But that's another story. :)
Around the time I went back to work, we decided that I would just supplement whatever he needed above what I had pumped with hypoallergenic formula. And it went well. It gave me so much hope. That once I had enough of cutting things out etc, I could just switch to formula and it would all go away like it did with Quinn. RIGHT?! Wrong.
Getting to 6 months was GRUELING. I started to really resent feeding Teddy because he would pull on and off and against me while he was nursing because his tummy hurt. He would claw at my breast and I would be left with scratches all over. And then I just truly felt like a failure because he was still struggling with reflux all day and night. It almost felt like I was "poisoning" him with my milk-- even though I know it was the best thing for him. Around 6 months, I reintroduced dairy and soy into my diet. He had one really mucousy stool with some blood in it, but really nothing else. And I truly didn't see a huge difference. So I continued on a normal diet from there on. I had to hold him after every night feeding for sometimes an hour before his tummy would be settled enough for me to lay him down. It was exhausting. I also figured out that I need space. I don't like to be touched all the time. (My husband can probably tell you that :)) And I was being touched all the time. With an infant and a two year old, there is no space. And breastfeeding will ensure that! :)
So at 6 months I decided, I was done. Formula all the way. So I started to give him multiple bottles of formula a day. After a couple days, he was up all night screaming and he was spitting up all day. GREAT. Major fail in the formula department. I tried two different kinds of hypoallergenic and one kind of "gentle" formula with the same reaction. Also during this time, because I was missing feedings, my "touchy" supply dropped. So after figuring out that formula wouldn't work, I was left with a less than ideal supply. Which meant more frequent feedings, letting him eat anytime he wanted at night and taking some herbal supplements to help increase my supply. It was draining.
By the time we got to 9 months though, things evened out. He was eating more solids and was happier all around in regards to reflux. He has weaned somewhat early and is now nursing 2 times a day, FINALLY sleeping through the night and drinking almond/coconut milk in between. I still don't absolutely love breastfeeding him, but it more enjoyable than it has ever been. I would love it if we could keep these two feedings for months. But I don't think my supply will hold up. He still doesn't eat dairy because it seems to upset his stomach but I am able to eat whatever and really don't see any reactions from what I eat.
All of this to say.... breastfeeding is HARD. It is BY FAR the hardest part of parenting for me so far. And honestly more than anything, I just am disappointed that I didn't get any babies that eat well and don't have any issues. It's almost like those pictures of people nursing their sweet babies taunt me. It all seems so peaceful. And DEFINITELY there are such sweet and peaceful times in my nursing journey. But mostly, it has been exhausting and stressful. Would I do it again? Yes. Because it gives me a feeling of satisfaction to do that for my child. Would I try formula again at some point if I was as stressed as I was? Yes. If it is easier for them to digest, I'm all for it. If it's harder, then I would tough out nursing again. The one thing that I fear the most about having another baby? Breastfeeding. HANDS DOWN.
Which leads me back to where I started. I love breastfeeding. I love the IDEA of breastfeeding. But it has become so clear to me that walking through a journey like mine is rough and that's ok. I have learned so much about myself in the process and really have learned that it IS worth it to me to try to nurse any other baby I have.
I hope that this can help a mom out there who is baffled by how hard nursing a baby can be. There is so much involved. It's not just getting the latch right, there are SO many reasons why it can be difficult. But just because it's difficult, it doesn't mean it's not worth it. I am thankful that things worked out the way they did and that I am still nursing Teddy right now. But I also want moms to know that formula is not evil and it can be the best thing for you and your baby. It dramatically helped Quinn and I will be forever thankful for that!
I know my thoughts are all over the place but I really wanted to write this out while my feelings were still fresh!