Coming home from the hospital with a new baby can be one of the scariest moments of any new mom’s life. You have this teeny, tiny human to care for and everything you’ve learned or read about goes out the window!
One of the hardest parts, for me, about having a baby, was feeding her. Breastfeeding was always at the forefront of my mind as a method to feed little K. I took the classes, I read the books, and I made sure to buy all of the needed supplies. I had the Boppy, the pump, and everything else I needed. So, all I had to do was bust out the boobs and she’d be able to eat from me right?
NOT THE CASE.
While we were in the hospital, K was super sleepy. She didn’t latch easily each time the lactation specialist came in to show us how to nurse. I just chalked it up as her being so new, coming about 3 weeks early. I assumed that once we got home we would settle into our own routine and there was nothing more to think about.
Within the first week of coming home, I had a feeling that K wasn’t getting enough milk from me. She never seemed to be suckling very hard nor full when she was ‘done’ with a session. She was just under 6 pounds when she was born and within the first week she got down to 5 pounds 3 ounces. Babies are to lose 10% of their weight when they go home, but she seemed to shrink. We had to make our first trip to the Emergency Room on Day 3 since she had high levels of bilirubin (aka jaundice) and that seemed to be the first sign that my intuitions were spot on.
By the grace of God, I was connected with a lactation specialist who was FREE and able to meet with me weekly. She taught me that I had flatter nipples that needed help popping out so that K could latch properly. So, in came the ever-elusive nipple shield that was NOT easy to use. It helped me work with K on her latch and we were able to be rid of the shield within a week or so. She even weighed the baby before and after nursing sessions to see just how many ounces she was getting at a time. Talk about specific!
Next, came the raw nipples and dry skin. Thank the Lord I had great mama friends who recommended home remedies so that I healed and was able to nurse at the same time.
Something was still off. With every pediatrician visit, I learned that K was within the 1-3% percentile of her age group. I knew to take things with a grain of salt, but I still wanted my little girl to grow and thrive. We decided to begin supplementing with formula to help increase her weight while she also nursed and received mama’s milk. We discovered, too, that K had acid reflux which didn’t help her to gain weight (when we would lay her flat in her crib she would cry bloody murder from the pain, so we opted to use baby Zantac to keep her acid reflux at bay.)
We got into a rhythm with nursing, and I even became more and more comfortable nursing in public. Using formula to supplement in between helped ease some of my anxiety and also showed to help K increase her weight. I did try everything I could to keep my supply up as I never leaked nor had an extra supply like many moms do. I ended up even having an allergy to mother’s milk tea from an herb that conflicted with my allergen induced asthma. OOPS.
At our 4 month check up, I found out that K was increasing weight slowly but surely and growing into an adorable little girl. That very day, I started noticing her not wanting to nurse as much. She would only stay latched for a few minutes and then release and stare at me. Okay, kid, maybe you’re just in a funky mood? This went on for a couple of days and I just had a gut feeling she was telling me something. It was then that I decided to begin weaning with her.
It took us about 4 weeks to completely wean, but it went very smoothly. K always took both the boob and the bottle easily since she supplemented with formula early on. I did have bittersweet feelings as I worried about our bonding time, but I also knew that if we were both in a happier place when it came to feeding time that we were okay.
I have to be honest in saying that breastfeeding is up there as one of the top 5 hardest things I’ve EVER done. EVER. I was constantly stressed about having enough milk, feeding K long enough, making sure she was growing big enough. I had tons of amazing friends who reassured me I was doing all I could, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe my preference on breastfeeding didn’t matter. I wanted my baby fed, no matter how it happened. Initially, I felt inadequate since I had to use formula. I wanted my baby to get her milk from her mom, the ‘natural way.’ I also knew though that I was a formula-fed baby and turned out alright. I knew that K wanted her mom to not be stressed as long as she was THRIVING.
I am definitely subscribe to the philosophy that FED IS BEST. No mom should look at any other mom and judge how she chooses to feed her baby, because we all have a tough enough job being moms on top of worrying about feeding our kiddos. Breastfeeding taught me a lot about patience and determination, and also about forgiveness and understanding. K is happy and healthy and we’re both in a great place as I get to bond with her as a present mama, no matter what method we use to feed her!