Lives in: Tucker, Georgia
Breastfeeding experience: Unprepared for how exhausting and complicated breastfeeding can be
Main challenges: Finding a good nursing rhythm, keeping up a reliable milk supply, fitting many pumping sessions into a single workday
Breastfed for: 14 months and counting
Before my daughter was born, I decided to breastfeed to save money. It was as simple as that. Then I took a lactation course and watched latching videos on YouTube and learned about the skin-to-skin bonding that comes from breastfeeding. The more research I did, the more into it I got.
By the time Harper was born, I felt ready – but she wasn't. She had trouble latching onto my breast at first. She fussed. Our skin-to-skin bonding didn't last as long as I wanted it to. But we hung in there and she found a way to nurse.
For the first month Harper nursed every one to three hours. I found it exhausting, partly because I had a hard time establishing a rhythm. She'd nurse for maybe five minutes and then cry, breaking her hold on my breast, and I'd have to put her back on the same breast to finish.
Also, her poop was green when it should have been mustard colored and I got stressed out thinking she wasn't getting the nutrients she needed.
I did more research and decided to try block feeding so she'd get the fattier milk she seemed to need. This meant limiting her to only one breast for three hour blocks of time, which seemed to work for her.
(Editor's note: Block feeding is typically recommended only if a mother has an oversupply of milk and a baby is gaining weight too quickly, fussy and gassy, or has reflux symptoms. Mothers who block feed require monitoring because milk production slows when a baby is limited to only one breast for three hour blocks of time.)
When I returned to my job as a health scientist, I organized my work schedule so I could pump three times a day, which is pretty demanding. Still, when Harper was seven or eight months old my milk supply started falling off. So I increased my pumping to four or five times a day, including getting up an hour before she woke.
At 10 months I saw another dip and almost moved to formula. But I decided to give it one last try instead. I added yet another pumping session to my day, and my milk came back.
Before having Harper, my biggest worry about breastfeeding had been developing thrush, which makes nipples sore. Everyone said it was so painful! I didn't get thrush, but I developed a bacterial infection when Harper was about 13 months old, which made nursing very uncomfortable. I took antibiotics and after a month it cleared up.
Now, I'm sort of done breastfeeding. I'm tired of going out with Harper and having her reach for my shirt. I'm also just tired. I'm weaning her slowly and don't offer her the breast anymore. But she's still reaching for it, even if sometimes she just nurses for two minutes. I'm trying to go with the flow but it's exhausting.
Breastfeeding has certainly been harder than I expected. But I'm so into the whole idea of it that I'm going back to school to get certified as a lactation consultant! I just got accepted into a program and will take my courses online. I know I'll be tired because I'm working and I'm a mom, but I'm also very excited. Whatever a woman's goal is with breastfeeding, I want to be there to help her be successful.
My biggest lesson learned
Keep your eyes on the prize, which in my case meant giving my daughter the full benefit of breastfeeding. While I never had any major problems, I went through some tough times trying to keep Harper fed. What kept me going was my commitment to feeding her without using formula.
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