Monday, January 9, 2012

Accidental Breastfeeder

Early on in my pregnancy with Grace, I only had one dilemma. What to do about feeding a new baby?

Although I knew the benefits of breastfeeding, I wasn't one who was sold on the fact that it was the only way to get those benefits. I was bottle fed and I turned out alright!

All of the children that I babysat and and nannied for were bottle fed, and they were in good health and of average to high intelligence. I loved that I, as the babysitter, got to take part in their feeding routine, and, as a soon to be mom, I was hung up on the fact that Ian would have little to no part in the feedings if I decided to breastfeed.

I weighed the pros and cons, read alot, and talked to alot of breastfeeding advocating mommas. I still felt uneasy about it. It didn't seem natural. And every time I told someone that I thought it didn't seem natural, they would laugh and say "But it's the most natural thing you could do!"

All the same, it didn't feel right to me.

About 3/4 of the way through the pregnancy I realized one of my hangups was that I could somewhat picture nursing a baby boy, but nursing a baby girl (for whatever reason,) seemed really foreign to me.

As the pregnancy drew to a close, I decided that we would breastfeed.

I'm going to be honest, the winning point for nursing? Free baby food.

Grace was taken to the NICU right after she was born but, at my request, was not given any sugar water or formula. About 12 hours after she was born I got to nurse her for the first time and she latched on pretty well. The hospital didn't have any lactation specialists, but they did have tons of nurses who are moms themselves, so I had a constant stream of well meaning nurses checking Grace's latch and checking to see how much and how often she was nursing.

We went home and settled into a routine. I had to have a friend go over the border and buy some nursing bras, and Ian went over to border to buy the pump one day, but other than that, nursing was such a routine for us.

And you know what?

I loved it.

It was quiet and peaceful. It was convenient. It was a time of bonding. It was, well, free!

Through the next couple of months we had next to zero breastfeeding issues. The only two that came up repeatedly in my mind was how I was going to store up enough milk for when Grace started daycare, and how to be as modest as possible.

I'm going to step on a few toes with this, but I don't think breastfeeding in public is modest. I think that I want to teach my daughter that certain parts of our body are not meant to be seen by the general public, and that what we wear and how we act, even if we don't mean to, can make people think on and dwell on things that make them stumble.

Does that mean it shouldn't be done? No. I have nursed in public. Covered and as discrete as possible, but still in public. We traveled all over France that summer and it was necessary, but I never felt 100% okay with it. For me, the struggle was a good thing. It reminded me of why and how I want to display modesty for my daughter in the future. I want to always remember this realization I had about what modesty is and how we are called to look out for others thought and possible stumbling blocks.

After our whirlwind summer trip to France, we came back home, started Grace on solid food, got her to sleep through the night, dropped her night feed, my cycle returned to normal, and we started back to school, all within several days of each other.

From then on, my milk supply dwindled.

I could no longer pump and get even a half of an ounce.

Grace started nursing for shorter periods of times and was always hungry right afterwards.

She started eating a TON of solid food.

Then, just 4 weeks later, at her 6 months check up, her growth percentiles dropped from the 25th percentile to the 10th percentile. She had actually lost weight.

Poor baby was hungry and wasn't getting enough.

My doctor encouraged me to try to reestablish my milk supply and to keep nursing. He told me to keep my eyes on her growth and if I still felt things weren't going well, to start supplementing with formula.

So, for two months I increased my water intake. I took my prenatal vitamins. I slept more. I nursed more (or tried.) I pumped every night. I stopped sending pumped milk to Grace's school and instead used my lunch break to walk next door to her school and nurse her.

Still, it wasn't enough.

As we reached her 8th month mark, she was so tiny. She was so thin. She was SO hungry.

I reluctantly bought our first can of formula after being on the fence about it for several weeks. I sent her first formula bottle with her to school. Soon after, we added in her late afternoon bottle. Just days after, we switched her completely to formula. I would try to get her to nurse before and after a bottle, but she would only eat for 15-30 seconds, and that's not really eating.

On December 19th, 2011, we came home from school, changed out of our work clothes, and I pulled Grace close, one last time. The sun was streaming in through the window and she was being cuddly. I told Ian to snap a few pictures. Because, they say you always remember the firsts, but it is the lasts that slip by without notice.

I'll always love those pictures, because that was the last time she nursed. That afternoon when the sun was bright and the house was quiet. The hum of the AC's lulled us into relaxation and shortly afterwards, Grace slipped into a long nap. That afternoon was the last time this accidental breast feeder nursed her first born.

Just one month later, at her check up, Grace had put on nearly 2 and a half pounds. I am so happy with her growth and adjustment. Now, Ian and I can share in her feedings and snuggle together as a family. I can go out at night and Ian can put her down with out me there. The formula and bottles are so good but also such a mess. I dread bottle washing and dread even more the purchasing of the formula.

Would I have loved it if we could have nursed until her first birthday? Yes. Absolutely. That's how much I loved nursing.

Will she be the worse for the wear? No. She's brilliant. She's beautiful. She's just who God wanted her to be, so I'm really not worried about it.

Whenever baby number 2 comes around, we'll definitely breast feed, but this experience has reassured me that if there are any nursing issues, that the switch to bottles will be alright.

If I could give any piece of encouragement it would be this: try breastfeeding. Just relax and try it. If it is not for you, no problem. But, even if you couldn't before, or chose not to before, or this is your first time, give it a try. I have loved our experience with it and am so grateful for those still and quiet moments with my baby.


Emily said...

Even with me not having kids yet, I really enjoyed reading this and I feel encouraged to try breast feeding one day. I, like you sort of feel like it is unnatural and just uncomfortable. Guess that's because I was bottle fed and so were all the other babies in my family growing up!

Emily Powell said...

i never wanted to nurse either....just pump. nursing was never easy for us because of my thyroid...i made little to no milk. and i hated it. g would eat for 45 minutes on each side and still scream for you i tried everything under the sun to up my supply and nothing worked. i dont think g got any benefit from it honestly. she has done nothing but thrived with formula even though my original plan was to only pump...oh well...

Erika said...

You ending thoughts brought tears to my eyes...I had to go back to work at 8 weeks so of course I had to pump for Savannah and she had to take a bottle. I had enough (plus some) milk and she took to the bottle well. But, we chose the wrong bottle to help her transition...she went on a few short nursing strikes and ended up at 3 months refusing the breast altogether. I was able to pump enough milk for all her feedings until 5 months. Now she's on half BM and the rest formula. I didn't think I would miss it as much. I love that you took pictures to remember your last nursing session. I loved nursing (I didn't think I would) and I can't wait to do it again (and definitely trouble shoot earlier). Great post:-)

Tami said...

This was such a beautiful post Brittney! I felt the same way about breastfeeding before Emerson was born and was very reluctant to even try. During the first two weeks she had a hard time latching and I really thought about quitting but I stuck it out and I'm so glad I did. It's something I've actually grown to enjoy. I feel the same way you do about nursing in public. I have only done it when it is an absolute necessity and even then I have been uncomfortable. I loved reading about your very last time to nurse- you wrote about it so beautifully and I will be honest and tell you that it made me tear up a bit. You did such a great job with breastfeeding and you should be so proud of how far you made it!

Nicole said...

This is an absouletly fabulous post! We are just starting to talk about babies and I've always felt the same way about breastfeeding. This post just might have changed my mind!

Lyndsey said...

I too was unsure about the whole BFing thing, but now I absolutely love it. My milk started majorly dwindling when Liam began solids and my cycle came back too. I'm holding on as long as I can, but I know it's more for me than him :)

I hope I remember to cherish the last time as much as you did!

The Taffs said...

Such a great post on breastfeeding. I think that's one of those mommy topics that people have such strong feelings on, both ways, and easily get their feelings hurt (because they wanted to and can't/couldn't or because they can't/couldn't and wanted to or felt like they should have). Ultimately, I think every case on whether or not to breastfeed (and child!) is unique and has to be approached and handled that way.

I am 100% with you ... I feel like breastfeeding in public is completely inappropriate. However, like you, I've done it more than a time or two. Sometimes, you just have to. Each time I have, I've been so uncomfortable and tense, while trying to be as discrete as one can in that situation! Ahh, the things we do for those sweet babies! : )

Great post!

Truly His said...

I do not have children yet, but am so blessed by this. God always know what is right for you and your family and I really like your stand on modesty... I agree with you on that.

Thanks for this post, Brittney!

Ria @ Life as a Wife! said...

Great post! :) It is really encouraging and helpful as we prepare for our son to enter the world. My goal is to breastfeed despite oposition that my mom faced with BFing... I want to try my hardest :) I am encouraged. Bless you!

The Barker's said...

such a beautiful story and so touching!!! Way to go momma!!! Now, I want to make sure I capture one of our last "nursing" moments!!!!

Lauren said...

great post! It certainly reminded me to enjoy these moments I have now with Elyse during her feedings as I definitely won't have them forever! Breast feeding is not always easy but I'm so glad that I can provide for our baby girl in this way and I'll try and cherish it for as long as it lasts...