I really had no clue what to expect before I had my first child. I definitely planned to breastfeed him, and I had some background in that thanks to my work in Maternal and Child Health Nutrition in college. But I didn’t know what it would be like for me. Overall, I would summarize it as amazing and what worked for us, but it didn’t come without some bumps in the road.
After my son, Jack, was born, I kept trying to feed him but he wouldn’t eat. The nurses couldn’t encourage him to either, so they said to just keep trying. When my mom got in town six hours later, she said that he looked like a hungry baby and he needed to eat! I told her I was trying but he wouldn’t. Just minutes after that, the nurse finally realized something was wrong. He was very sick, so she took him to the NICU where he would spend the next 8 days.
When the neonatologist came in to tell us about how sick our baby boy was, she said I should start pumping right away. So they brought me the huge, awesome hospital grade pump. I would pump every 2 hours, and my husband would take each bottle with however little was in it, down to the NICU, hoping our baby would get to eat it soon. Once I was discharged from the hospital, they let me rent a pump so I could keep it up at home. I pumped in the NICU during the day when we were with our baby, and at home at night I set my alarm to wake up and pump during the night. We kept taking the milk in to the NICU, and Jack was allowed to eat on his third day of life. Once he was able to show that he could eat and keep his oxygen up at the same time with a bottle (of expressed breast milk) we were able to start nursing. From that day on, he was an awesome eater! My husband and I have always said he was making up for missing 3 days of eating.
Breastfeeding was pretty easy for us after the initial challenges of pumping for a sick baby. I did get mastitis twice – which felt like the flu – but we worked through that, too. With breastfeeding came milk everywhere, lots of spit up, and leakages all over me. I cried more than once when I spilled a bottle of expressed breast milk. I had to stop eating cheese, chocolate, caffeine, and those things for a couple of months due to a gassy, fussy baby. I tried to awkwardly learn how to nurse wherever we were. I had a baby with many colds and 11 ear infections in his first year of life, even though he was breastfed.
But I also had the most relaxing, comforting thing to me and my baby. When he woke up during the night, I could easily nurse him back to sleep and calm him right down. It was a special bonding time that only the two of us had. It made me slow down, take a break, and rest for a few minutes all throughout the day. Despite the learning curve of being a first time mom, it was the easiest way to feed my baby I can imagine. He was getting what he needed, and it benefited me, too.
I feel so uncomfortable when I hear moms make blanket statements that one way is the right way. I think we try to make the best choices for us at the time. I’m thankful I was able to breastfeed Jack. I treasure that time, and I’m proud of what I was able to do for him. I think each mama has a special story with each of her children when it comes to how she fed him or her as a baby. Each story is unique and laced with the love and care of a mama for her baby. What’s your story?