A Year of Breastfeeding

It’s been over a year since I started one of the most wonderful journeys of all – parenting.

And as I’ve posted about eleventy billion times by now, breastfeeding has been a major part of that journey.

When I started this journey I knew more formula feeding moms than breastfeeding moms.  I was gawked at while discretely feeding at the mall.  On numerous occasions I was told how easy formula was, that breastfeeding wasn’t worth it.   In short, I had a very small breastfeeding support group around me.

Regardless, for one year I made breastfeeding my priority.  It was all that mattered at times.  My days, my nights, all of my hours revolved around nursing and pumping.

I fought a seemingly neverending battle against low supply.  To combat it, I pumped longer and more frequently than I thought necessary, nursed around the clock and consumed more Fenugreek than I even considered healthy (but confirmed that it was totally safe.)

It was a long, hard, exhausting fight.  But I made it.

And this week, after almost thirteen months, Ariadne weaned.  On her own.

I was successful with my breastfeeding goals, but so many women, so many mamas, aren’t that lucky.

The following, are my tips, recommendations and realizations that helped me get through a year of breastfeeding:

  • A support group is vital.   I knew a few breastfeeding moms when I started, but I throughout this year, that number has increased exponentially.  Knowing moms going through similar experiences made it so much easier to get through the tough days.  Some days all you need is someone to complain to, someone who knows what you’re going through.
  • Get a lactation consultant on speed dial.  For reals.  Go to a breastfeeding class if you can before you have your baby.  But research LC’s before giving birth so you have someone to call if you are desperate.
  • Nurse Nurse Nurse Nurse Nurse.  In the beginning, it will seem like ALL you do is nurse.  And some days, it will be all you do.  While it feels exhausting and endless, you are building the foundation of a successful relationship between your milk production and your baby.  Those days will even out.
  • Drink enormous quantities of water.  And EAT.PLENTY.
  • Get a good pump.  If you’re going back to work, you will absolutely need this.  Don’t go manual.  Electric.  Double electric, all.the.way.  You can thank me later.
  • Trust your body.  99% of the time, our bodies know how much to produce, and even though you think you may have a low supply, or you aren’t sure, you’re probably making exactly what your baby needs.  True low supply is very very very rare.
  • If you do find yourself with a true low supply (or supply drop after returning to work), nurse nurse and nurse some more.  Your baby is the best at getting that milk out and stimulating production.  But if you’e still struggling to produce, eat oatmeal.  Lots of it.  The real stuff, not the packets.  And don’t be scared to try Fenugreek or Mother’s Milk Tea (or any of the other safe varieties of herbal assistance.)  Some of us need a little assistance, and it doesn’t hurt to try.
  • The following sites will come in handy –  Kelly Mom, Dr Sears, LLL
  • Your boobs will be your best friends.  Baby hungry?  Give her a boob.  Crying?  Boob.  Hiccups?  Boob.  Mama exhausted and just needs half an hour of relaxation after getting home from work?  That’s right…BOOB.  Seriously.  Boobs are awesome.
  • Don’t be surprised when your nipples look like they were chewed off by zombies.  Was that visual enough for you?  It may happen in the beginning.  Stock up on lanolin, and slather slather slather.
  • You will have bad days.  Bad weeks even.  Breastfeeding didn’t click for us until after the first month, and then we hit many roadblocks along the way.  You will get through it.
  • Probably the single most important piece of advice I was given before giving birth – Don’t try to breastfeed.  Trying it out isn’t enough.  If you want to breastfeed, and you are that determined, you can’t try.  You just have to do it.  You have to be willing to push yourself hard enough, and the only way you will do that is by saying I WILL DO THIS.  You can do it.
  • Never quit on a bad day.
  • Enjoy it.   Even with the bad days, there are so many good days.
I know it seems like I’ve spent so much time talking about how hard it is/was.  But guys, I’ll tell you this, I didn’t have a ton of advice from actual breastfeeding moms when I started.  I had either heard the wonderful stories, or from the moms that didn’t make it as long as they wanted.  There wasn’t a lot of feedback on how hard it could be.  So here it is.  In all it’s glory.

Breastfeeding is hard.  It is not for everyone.  But I wouldn’t have missed out on it for the world.  It is the single most rewarding thing I have done as a parent.  As a woman.  The joy and pride are inexplicable.  It is worth it, and until you’ve done it, you just can’t understand that.

Weaning has been hard emotionally. Not for Ariadne, she was totally ready, but for me.  I never saw that coming.   Once I stopped pumping just before her birthday, I got to experience the 100% ease of breastfeeding.  I didn’t have to worry about pumping, so the stress was gone. I knew my daughter was eating plenty, so I didn’t worry about supply issues.  She only nursed morning and night, and it was so easy.  Then about a week ago, Aria dropped the morning session.  Then last weekend she stayed at her Nana’s one night, and fell asleep early the next night.  After skipping two night sessions, she was done, and my body agreed.  There was no crying, no engorgement, no drama.  I spent a many months worrying about what weaning was going to be like.  How hard it would be, how much my boobs would hurt and how traumatized Ariadne would be if we had to wean before she was ready.

In the end, I worried for nothing.

I’m sad to see this experience go.  I wouldn’t have been opposed to continuing for as long as it worked for us.

This week I said goodbye to breastfeeding.

At least for a few years.

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5 thoughts on “A Year of Breastfeeding

  1. Congratulations on making it so far! Especially without a good support system…

    These are great tips, I’m going to share.

    One thing to add: the Leaky Boob facebook site is awesome- virtual support whenever ou need it!

  2. Great advice, Jaye! It’s all right on, it IS hard but like you said, you just have to be willing to do it! I had “low” supply issues also, I had to nurse, nurse, nurse and pump, pump, pump all the freaking time. It’s time consuming but well worth it! Mr. P weaned himself also and it was definitely hard on me at first and sometimes I miss doing it. Aria is a lucky girl to have a Momma who was determined! great post!

    • That’s an interesting thought, whether children actually feel anything about the fact that their mother breast-fed them. I don’t get the impression that breast-fed children really care about their own experience as a baby.

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