You always hear “Breast is Best” and they aren’t talking about chicken. From the second you conceive you will most likely be asked “Are you planning to breastfeed?” If you say no, they will give you a million reasons why you should at least try.
Now, I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t planning to exclusively breastfeed for AT LEAST a year, because I absolutely was. Doctors never had to tell me how important breast milk is to a growing baby. It provides all of the nutrients the baby could need (except vitamin D apparently) and it even provides your own antibodies to your baby to protect them against illness (how cool is that?). I even signed up for a breastfeeding class provided by my hospital and watched Youtube videos to learn how to use my breast pump and build the best supply possible for my baby. I thought I was prepared, oh how incredibly wrong I was.
They tell you that breastfeeding is uncomfortable when you are first starting until you get used to it. That is such an understatement. Breastfeeding absolutely SUCKS, up until your nipples are so desensitized you can barely feel anything anymore. Luckily my nipples never bled (which totally happens, I know people it has happened to) but they did become cracked and unbearable to touch. There were nights that my nipples were so sore that I was up crying as my baby ate because it just hurt so bad and I knew that I would be doing it over and over and over again all night long. It took about 3 months before I was completely comfortable with breastfeeding and it was a LONG 3 months.
They also tell you that breastfeeding is a supply and demand venture. The more you breastfeed the more milk you will make. This led me to an obsession for at least the first month. I wanted to be able to make the most milk possible for my daughter. That meant not only breastfeeding, but pumping. My entire day revolved around feeding and pumping, pumping and feeding. I would feed my daughter on one side and pump on the other, and then switch sides.
You may be thinking to yourself “I bet you had such a great supply of milk. I wish I could see your freezer stash, full of milk.” That is what I was expecting to have. A freezer supply full of milk so that I would be able to keep feeding my daughter breast milk long after we finished nursing. Well, I currently have 3 bags (15 oz) of frozen milk in my freezer and that is it. I became so burned out from constantly having something attached to my breasts, and feeling like it wasn’t even making a difference that I rarely use my pump anymore, and when I do, it is because we are probably planning on going out somewhere and I want my daughter to have more than just formula (in case she won’t drink the formula). There were only 4 or 5 times that I can remember that I was ever able to pump more than a couple of ounces at a time and I would be pumping all day long in order for my husband to give our daughter a bottle at bed time. It was exhausting, and I hated it. So eventually we started supplementing with formula and it was such a relief. I didn’t have to worry about pumping enough for my husband to feed her, I was able to actually go to bed instead of staying up to pump. I was less stressed, and my baby was fed and full!
They told me that when your baby is full, they will unlatch and be happy. That’s totally true, UNLESS THEY LIKE TO NURSE FOR COMFORT! The only time my baby ever unlatched because she was full and happy was when we had both fallen asleep while nursing. She would stay latched to me all. day. long. if I would let her. Which meant that I was holding her constantly. She woke up and cried any time I would put her down during the day in the early weeks, which led to me having quite a few breakdowns when all I really wanted was 5 minutes to make and eat a sandwich, or go to the bathroom by myself. And forget taking a shower, that could only be done when my husband was home to take care of her for me.
We tried every pacifier we could find, but all she wanted was MY nipple, and it was completely draining (no pun intended). My daughter also had this really fun habit of not unlatching before pulling away from my nipple. I liked to call it the nipple ripper. There were multiple occasions where I had to check and make sure she hadn’t actually ripped my nipple off because it had hurt so badly. Either my nipples are completely dead now, or she’s gotten better, but it is not as bad as it used to be. She still comfort nurses (mostly when she wakes up at night) but I am ok with it now because she is also a little more independent throughout the day. She actually naps in her crib and not in my lap. She doesn’t cry during floor time and plays in her Exersaucer so that I can actually get things done.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love nursing my baby. I actually hope that we can make it to a full year. But I never would have been able to keep my sanity if we had done it exclusively. Sometimes supplementing is necessary, and that is ok. FED is best, whether it be breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or formula as long as your baby is full, that is really what matters.