How my Breastfeeding Journey was Anything but “Normal”

If I had to pick one thing that I felt the least prepared for when having my first baby, it would be feeding him. I know, it sounds silly. Feeding your baby should be the easiest and most natural part of being a mother – after all, women have been doing it since the beginning of time. I wish someone had told me that just because it’s natural, that doesn’t mean that it will be easy.

Photo of Medela Breast Milk Feeding Gift Set

Starting Out

When my Peanut was born, I was not able to produce milk right away. I had read that this could happen, but for some reason I didn’t expect that it would happen to me. After about 12 hours of my newborn son not eating anything, a nurse suggested we give him formula. Little did I know that this was first of a long, long series of bottle feedings. The lactation consultant set me up with a breast pump and had me use it every time that we gave baby a bottle.

Going Home

It took two or three days for me to produce the same amount of milk as Peanut was drinking. I wanted to get him breastfeeding, but I was also nervous that he would not get enough milk. We alternated feeding him breast milk from a bottle with breast feeding him for a couple of days. I found that when he drank from a bottle he would finish a bottle in 15-25 minutes and then be full for around 2 hours. When he breastfed, he would either feed for 45 minutes or fall asleep mid-feeding and then be hungry again an hour and a half later. I decided to stop trying to breastfeed him and without knowing what I was doing, I became an “exclusive pumper.” 

Doing it on my own

While my husband was on paternity leave, we had a great system. Every time that the baby was hungry, my husband would give him a bottle and I would pump milk for his next feeding. This worked out great! The problem came when my husband went back to work and I had to feed the baby and pump all by myself.

When Peanut was hungry, I would feed him, change him, pump, and then wash the bottle and pumping supplies. This whole process took about an hour and then we would repeat again an hour later. I ended up skipping the occasional pumping session which killed my milk supply. I spent weeks trying to get it back up. The only thing that helped was pumping for twenty minutes every two hours. My maternity leave was consumed by pumping and feeding. Around two months, my son hit a huge growth spurt and no matter how hard I tried, I was only able to pump about half of what he ate in a day. We supplemented with formula, which was a whole separate adventure. 

Returning to Work

Once I went back to work, I actually enjoyed my pumping sessions. Being able to take small mental breaks once every couple of hours really helped keep my anxiety in check. Everything was great until my company’s production of “The Nutcracker” moved into the theatre. Anyone who works in the entertainment industry knows that tech weeks are long, stressful, and all-consuming. When you add breastfeeding and postpartum emotional strain into the mix…well, I would not recommend that anyone return to working for a ballet company in December. I was not able to take breaks every two hours and everyday I thought about how much easier my life would be without pumping. I cut back from pumping eight to ten times per day to pumping three to five times per day. It was a hard decision, but I really needed that extra time to myself. 

Deciding to Stop

I continued to feed my son about half breast milk all the way through Nutcracker and the holiday season. I was proud of myself, but I also felt defeated because I was spending so much time and energy to produce just half of my son’s diet. Now I finally had the time to think about the benefits of pumping versus having that time to spend with my family. My son was now three and a half months old. My husband, who had been very supportive the whole time, hinted that they would enjoy the extra attention. I decided that exclusively formula feeding was better for my family and for my mental health. 

Of course, like all well-laid parenting plans, our son had ideas of his own. Because of his rapid growth and the large amount of formula he was drinking, his doctor recommended that we start introducing semi-solids after his four-month checkup. So began the next chapter in our baby feeding saga…

2 thoughts on “How my Breastfeeding Journey was Anything but “Normal”

    • Thanks for reading, Emma! I could not believe the difference that not breastfeeding made for my anxiety and mental health. Fed is definitely best.

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