My Breastfeeding Journey

8.24.2016


Before having Ryker, I was dead set on breastfeeding him for as long as I possibly could. I was really looking forward to the opportunity! I had read so many different books about breastfeeding and felt as prepared as I possibly could be. After Ryker was born, the nurses had me attempt to feed him within the first hour. Ryker started inching his way toward my breast while we were doing skin to skin so he definitely showed interest in nursing after birth even though I had an epidural. A lot of times, infants can be drowsy after birth due to an epidural but that wasn't the case for us, most likely because I didn't have a very long labor. I was so excited to get going and to add to the excitement, Ryker latched perfectly right from the very beginning! Obviously, there were some kinks we needed to work out because both of us were still learning how to do it but for the first few times, he did really well! Unfortunately, I wasn't paying too much attention to his mouth positioning over my nipple because I eventually started to get small sores on them after a few feedings. He was still receiving the colostrum because we could hear him swallowing but my concern was more for my own comfort! Luckily, the lactation consultant was able to see me in the hospital before we went home and helped me solve the issue and try different positions to relieve the discomfort of him nursing on the same sore spots.

Once we made it home, it was an entirely new ball game. The only directions I received in the hospital before heading home with my tiny baby in regards to breastfeeding was to nurse on demand for as long as he wants. So that is what I did, if he started rooting around or fussing, I immediately put him to my breast and would let him nurse for as long as he wanted to. For the first few days I could only get him to latch correctly where I wasn't in piercing pain (from the sores), in the football hold which required me to sit up to nurse him. This meant that for at least the first 72 hours, every other hour (or every hour) I would sit up and nurse Ryker. Which also meant that I did not sleep very much, if at all. For the first few days it wasn't so bad because I was obsessed with Ryker so part of me was happy to get up with him every hour or so to nurse. But since I didn't sleep the whole night before he was born and not very much the night of his birth, by the first week I had probably only slept a total of 20 hours (and that's being generous!).

After the first week and a half or so, I started to get more comfortable with breastfeeding. I no longer had sores on my nipples and could nurse him in other positions which made it a lot easier since I no longer had to nurse him sitting up at night. This was a game changer for us! Once I was able to nurse him lying down, I finally felt like I could handle breastfeeding a little more. But then came the cluster feeding...

Ryker would literally want to nurse every hour on the hour. He would want to nurse forEVER too. He would nurse for so long that he would eventually fall asleep, so I would pull him off of me and place him in his bassinet to sleep. Literally not 10 minutes later, he'd be up again freaking out for me to nurse him again! This went on for weeks. Usually, during the day he'd extend the time between his feeds a little more so I would get maybe a couple hours between feedings if I was lucky. But for the most part, he was attached to my boobs almost all day, every day. 

Now, I hope it doesn't sound like I am complaining because truly I am not, I really enjoyed spending that one on one time with him and I was proud of my body for being able to feed him! I know some women never get the opportunity to experience that and I am so grateful that I did. I do want to be honest in my experience though and it is something I want to have down to look back on! It was such a special time between the two of us but it did eventually get to a point where I felt very discouraged.

At about week 3, Ryker wasn't even making it an hour between feedings. He was obviously going through a growth spurt at the time and needed to cluster feed in order to build up my supply. But it was so hard for me. I spent day after day for almost a week laying in bed nursing him. It became this crazy cycle: nurse - fall asleep - unlatch - wake up - cry - fuss - nurse again.

I got more and more discouraged feeling like my body was failing us because my supply wasn't growing and he wasn't becoming content at all. He practically never slept because he wanted to nurse the whole time, which meant that I never slept. I hadn't showered in days probably by this point so I was becoming more and more emotional as time went on, I'm sure that the postpartum hormones didn't assist this situation either. I felt like I couldn't go to the bathroom much less make a meal for myself because I was constantly nursing him and he came first.
It started to become hard on Michael too because the only time he ever got to spend with Ryker was during a diaper change and he was usually crying because he hated it. So all in all, by his first month, we were all feeling discouraged, tired and frustrated. At this point, I decided to start implementing formula into his routine at night. The first night that we did this, he slept for THREE WHOLE HOURS. I felt like a whole new lady after that and cried because it was so nice to get some sleep (plus hormones, ya know).

I noticed such a difference in Ryker's demeanor after getting some sleep and having a full belly, he was so much happier and content. That is what ultimately pushed us to wean him from nursing and begin bottle feeding him. Once we started implementing the formula into his routine throughout the day, he slept more at night and would wake up in such a good mood! It was like a completely different baby!
Now I am not saying formula feeding is full-proof because it came with a new set of its own issues. Ryker, come to find out, has a cows milk allergy which is very common for most infants. We had to do some trial and error in order to find a formula that fit him and his needs. Plus, with formula feeding comes bottles which means you are doing a lot more dishes throughout the day! That was nice about breastfeeding because I didn't have to wash bottles, so like I said, they each have their own pros and cons.
To sum up what I had to learn: do what you think is best for YOUR baby. Ultimately, that is your baby to make decisions for so you have to use your mama gut and just go with what you think is best. Remove the guilt from your mind! Just because you can't breastfeed your baby for some reason does NOT make you any less of a mother than one who can. If you can breastfeed your baby and don't wish to use formula, awesome that's what works for you! And, either way don't let anyone tell you that you are not doing your best, because you are. All of us moms are just trying to make the best possible decisions we can for our little ones, all while sleep deprived!
 So you are doing awesome mama, even if you feel like you're failing! I promise that little babe is your biggest fan even if their cries don't make you feel that way!
  And there you have it, our breastfeeding journey may have been short but it was very sweet!
Anonymous said...

Very encouraging words! You really just have to find what works for your family. Also, it's so important to take care of yourself. A couple hours of sleep can make a huge difference and bring back sanity into motherhood.
I started topping up with formula before bedtime and his sleeping routine got much better. I researched and found out that organic formula creates a more normal sleeping pattern, because it's free from corn syrup and sugars, which are hard to digest for babies. So I ordered some from myorganicformula. It made family life a lot easier and I could feel that me and my baby were much more content.

Juliet

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