Honest Thoughts on Breastfeeding

"There are three reasons for breast-feeding: the milk is always at the right
temperature; it comes in attractive containers; and the cat can't get it."
~Irena Chalmers

The day Cameron turned 15 weeks old, I gave her some formula for the first time.  I was overwhelmed with a guilty feeling as I watched her suck it down.  Cameron, on the the other hand, didn't even appear to notice the difference.

I never thought I would breastfeed my children.  Ever.  In fact, I was downright adamant that I never would, even after I got pregnant.  But a few months before Cameron was born, I suddenly decided that I wanted to at least try it.  I thought perhaps that breastfeeding her, even for a short while, would give her a better start to life.  Has it?  Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is quite the controversial subject.

When I was pregnant, I was addicted to the community forums on babycenter.com.  Breastfeeding is one of the most touchy subjects on there.  If someone wrote that they didn't want to breastfeed, they were verbally attacked.  It was vicious at times!  Not everyone can or wants to breastfeed for long or at all and their decision should be supported regardless.  Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, the only comments made should be "Good job! You're feeding your baby!"

I exclusively breastfed Cameron for 3.5 months and just this week have her completely on formula at 4 months.  I can only imagine the comments I would get on babycenter if I wrote this there!  I know that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months and encouraged to continue up to two years.  There are many women who do six months or a year or two or more.  That's just not for me.  I was adamant about never doing it in the first place, remember?  So four months is a huge accomplishment for me.  I don't feel selfish for stopping at four months, I feel proud that I lasted this long!

Breastfeeding is not easy when you first start.  For me, the first two months were downright AWFUL.  Engorgement, soreness, leaking, cracked nipples, unbelievable sensitivity, forceful let-down, shooting pain that may or may not have been thrush, a torturous blocked duct, worry about not producing enough milk, worry about producing too much, worry about everything I ate and drank affecting my milk, having to only sleep on my back, having a very limited wardrobe, and having clothes ruined with breast milk stains (yes, it stains!).  I want to remember all of this because I feel stronger for having endured it.

I heard so often "if the latch is correct, it won't hurt"... that is total bull.  Nipples are a very sensitive part of your body (at least for most people) and babies have a very strong suck.  If you put a vacuum hose to any sensitive part of your body over and over, day after day, it's going bruise no matter how perfectly it attaches.  Once your nipples toughen up and desensitize, then it won't hurt.  For me that took two months and yes, a lactation consultant even said that Cameron's latch looked perfect.

There were many times I nursed Cameron with tears streaming down my face and my teeth clenched because of the pain.  I hated every minute of it.  Nipple shields helped some and a few times I had to give her pumped milk in a bottle because I felt I couldn't physically handle the pain for another feeding.

I was determined to breastfeed for at least two months so I kept going despite the pain.  I considered quitting as I approached the two month mark because honestly nothing about it was enjoyable, but then suddenly it completely stopped hurting.  I'm not kidding... it was an overnight miracle that I can't explain!  Nothing changed, it just no longer hurt.  Once this happened, every breastfeeding session became an easy, somewhat-enjoyable, bonding experience.  This also happened to coincide with me finally falling "in love" with Cameron... what a coincidence!  I'm sad that it took that long but I'm not surprised, as those first two months were so difficult on so many levels.

Even when breastfeeding finally became bearable, it still had its downsides.  Cameron's stomach and bottom responded to many things I ate so I had to adopt an extremely limited diet.   I couldn't have dairy of any kind, no tomatoes, no citrus, no spicy foods, no gas causing foods (a lot of veggies and beans), and of course little to no alcohol or caffeine.  I ate very bland food and a lot of Cheerios and oatmeal because it really helped boost my milk supply.  I still could only sleep on my back (I'm normally a stomach sleeper) and I still had a very limited (and mostly stained) wardrobe.

As Cameron started going longer between feedings, I would become so engorged that milk would literally shoot out of my nipples in a steady stream.  Yes, it really was as funny as you can imagine :)  Cameron couldn't keep up with it and would pull off, choking, only to then be sprayed in the face.  It was a no-win situation for the poor girl :(  Other times, especially after a shower, my nipples would drip like leaky faucets.  I went through multiple breast pads a day and could never be without a supportive bra for more than a few minutes.  When I started running again, I had to layer two extra tight sports bras just to keep things from painfully moving up and down.  Not fun.

Before I had the baby, I was excited by the popular idea that "you can let daddy take a night feeding with pumped milk in a bottle so that you can sleep."  Hahahaha!  Sure, there is a small percentage of women who can do that but there is a larger percentage who can't.  Some women need to pump or nurse on a regular schedule in order to keep their supply up.  Other women, like myself, need to pump or nurse on a regular schedule or else they have to deal with painful engorgement and a very wet shirt.

Since I had to wake up to pump anyway if I wasn't going to nurse, why not just nurse?  It took about the same amount of time and there was a lot less involved.  Therefore, lucky daddy got to sleep through the night.  But I feel it was fair enough since he did have to go to work everyday (after his paternal leave) and couldn't exactly take a nap to make up for lost sleep like I could.

Before I gave Cameron formula, I first had to find a bottle that she could use.  Her bottle skills were awful and she choked and gagged on even the slowest flowing nipples from bottles that were supposed to be most like the breast.  We currently have six different brands of bottles in our house.  After finding one that she could successfully drink pumped breast milk from (Playtex VentAire Standard), I started introducing formula.  I gave her 2 ounces once a day and gradually increased the frequency and amount over a period of two and a half weeks.  Today was the first day of her getting nothing but formula.  I have to mention that Cameron started sleeping longer at night when I started introducing formula... love that!

A part of me will miss breastfeeding.  There was great bonding and feeling of closeness (only after it stopped hurting).  It's also free and there is no preparation or clean-up involved... it doesn't get much easier than that!  Cameron grew and thrived for three and a half months solely on a substance that came from my own body.  It's absolutely incredible to think about and I know that it was beneficial for her.

However, a bigger part of me is rejoicing!  I feel such a sense of freedom now!  Cameron had my body for an entire year (from conception in January 2012 until now) and it's so relieving to have it back!  I'm drinking coffee daily now and the caffeine gives me a TON of energy which I seriously could've used months ago!  I can once again eat whatever I want which really excites me because there are many favorite foods that I have badly missed.  I can wear my normal bras, shirts, and sundresses again!  I can sleep on my stomach... oh how I've missed that!  I can exercise comfortably again without having to wear double extra tight sports bras.  As a normally small-chested woman, I hated having a large chest and I'm so glad to have things back to normal!

I was never comfortable nursing Cameron outside of our house so I feel much more mobile now that I can give her a bottle wherever we are.  She is doing fantastic on formula (we are using Enfamil Infant) and gets excited when she sees a bottle!  I know that I made the right decision for both her and I weaning her now at 4 months.

I am very glad that I did choose to breastfeed Cameron and I hope that the benefits of it reach far into her future. Now the question remains... will I breastfeed our future children?  I don't want to say no but I can't guarantee that I'll say yes.  Perhaps exclusively pumping would be a better option for me, though there would certainly be more work involved.  I don't feel that I'll be able make those decisions until I have another new baby in my arms.

"A newborn baby has only three demands.  They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence.  Breastfeeding satisfies all three."
~Grantly Dick-Read

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