Breastfeeding, pumping, formula bottle feeding, it’s all a part of motherhood.
Hey there, fellow mothers and moms! Welcome to a heart-to-heart discussion about the real breastfeeding struggle. August is National Breastfeeding Month, and I’ve been reflecting on my own journey. As a fellow mom, I know just how overwhelming and frustrating breastfeeding can be, and the breastfeeding journey has been the hardest part of postpartum for me. From initial latching issues to transitioning to exclusively pumping and the guilt of supplementing with formula – I feel like I’ve been through it all. So grab your cup of tea, sit back, and let’s dive into this rollercoaster journey together.
As you’re reading this, be sure to check out my breastfeeding and pumping must-haves. These items have changed my outlook and experience with this journey.
A Breastfeeding Struggle, Latching Woes: The Battle at the Beginning
Picture this: You’re in the hospital, holding your precious bundle of joy, eager to start the beautiful bonding experience of breastfeeding. But reality hits hard when your baby won’t latch on. It’s not just a physical struggle – it’s an emotional one too. The feeling of inadequacy creeps in, making you wonder if you’re cut out for this motherhood gig.
However, remember that you’re not alone in this battle. While I was in the hospital I had multiple lactation consultants work with me and my baby girl. Breastfeeding is not as intuitive as you think, and no one prepared me for it.
For weeks I experienced cracking, bleeding, clogged ducts, and so much more in those first few days and weeks after birth. I tried breast shields, the football hold, the cross-cradle hold, and all the holds. I tried massaging her clenched jaw and hand-expressing milk to get her started. Nothing seemed to work.
My best piece of advice for this breastfeeding struggle, seek help from lactation consultants and fellow moms who’ve been through the same. With patience and persistence, your little one should eventually latch on. Unfortunately, mine never did. She would latch for 2-5 minutes on one side then not at all on the second side, finally becoming too fussy to feed and it became too painful for me. When I returned home from the hospital, I continued to try to get her to latch.
Embracing the Pump: A New Chapter with the Breastfeeding Struggle
So, breastfeeding isn’t going as planned. What next? Many moms, like me, turn to the lifesaver known as the breast pump. Exclusive pumping becomes the new norm – a whirlwind of pumping schedules, sterilizing parts, and storing milk.
I knew the benefits of breastmilk and I wanted to provide mine to my baby for as long as my body would allow. After a few weeks, I talked to one friend who had exclusively pumped and found the blog Exclusively Pumping which I pursued at all hours, especially 3 a.m. while pumping after a feed. I started to not feel so alone. Exclusively pumping moms is a growing community.
Exclusively Pumping, Untraditional and My Chosen Path
Many lactation consultants, OBs, and pediatricians don’t believe that you can exclusively pump. They talk about losing your milk supply and your sanity. It’s untraditional and it’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, but exclusively pumping is possible if that’s the path you choose to take.
At the beginning, I pumped every 2-3 hours. I pumped through the night, striving to fit in at least 12 sessions within a 24-hour span. Everyone emphasized that these initial days and weeks are crucial for milk supply, so I adhered to all the advice and schedules. Let me tell you, it required immense effort! I battled exhaustion.
For every feed I was simultaneously attempting to coax the baby to latch, resorting to bottle feeding when she refused, and dedicating time to pump for 15-20 minutes after the bottle feed. The whole process took about 45 minutes including feeding, pumping, washing bottles and pump parts, and an hour and 45 minutes later, I found myself repeating the entire process.
Although it might not be the dreamy nursing scenario you had in mind, exclusive pumping has its perks. It eventually offers flexibility and allows others to feed the baby a bottle, giving you a well-deserved break. It has been great for dad bonding time.
The Guilt Struggle: When Supply Doesn’t Meet Demand
Ah, the guilt – that relentless companion on this motherhood journey. You’re pouring your heart into pumping, but sometimes your milk supply just doesn’t cooperate. The sense of failure is hard to ignore, and the anxiety of not providing enough for your little one can feel suffocating.
By 12 weeks postpartum, I was only pumping about 10-12oz per 24-hour period. My baby was taking in about 24oz a day. In the beginning, as I was establishing supply we purchased donor breastmilk, but we decided that was not financially sustainable. I tried everything to boost my supply, but nothing was working. So we started supplementing with formula, and at first, I was devastated.
But remember, you’re doing your best. It took me a long time to get to this point, namely, lots of nights crying alone in the nursery at 3 a.m. But, I have finally come to terms with the fact that supplementing with formula doesn’t make you any less of a mom. Your baby’s nourishment and well-being are what truly matter, no matter the source.
Supplementing with Formula: A Choice, Not a Defeat
Here’s the reality check: not all breastfeeding journeys are smooth sailing. Supplementing with formula doesn’t mean you’ve given up. It means you’re making a choice that benefits both you and your baby’s health.
Indeed, formula serves as a valuable tool that bridges the gap when breastfeeding hurdles appear insurmountable. It provides a means to guarantee your baby receives the essential nutrients required for thriving.
How it’s going: The New Breastfeeding Normal
I am now 16 weeks postpartum and I am still pumping, bottle feeding, and supplementing with formula. I am in a good place accepting this as the way my little girl is getting her nutrition. I’m pumping about 12 oz per day over 5 or 6 sessions, and not waking up for a night pump (hello 6-7 hours of sleep!)
If you’re interested to know how I got my little one to sleep through the night and thus removed my overnight pumping session, leave a comment and let me know! I’ve added the topic to my list of future blogs, but here’s a hint on how I did it . . . Taking Cara Babies. (Also please note this is an affiliate link for the product I use and love. If you take action (i.e. subscribe, make a purchase) after clicking a link, I may earn some extra money)
You’ve Got This, Mom! You’re Not Alone in Your Breastfeeding Struggle
To all the moms out there facing these breastfeeding challenges – remember, you’re stronger than you think. The journey might be tough, but it’s filled with moments of growth, love, and resilience. Whether you’re mastering the art of latching, conquering the pump, or finding the right balance between breast milk and formula, you’re doing an incredible job.
So keep your chin up, lean on your support system, and embrace the unpredictable adventure that is motherhood. Your journey is unique, beautiful, and worth every bit of effort you’re putting in. And always remember, you’re not alone – there’s a whole tribe of moms cheering you on. If you need an online community for support, join our Mothers and Moms group, we’ve got your back!
Remember that breastfeeding struggles don’t last forever. Keep pushing forward, one feeding at a time. You’ve got this!