Let’s talk about breastfeeding. Most everyone that knows me, knows I am a pretty huge breastfeeding advocate. If there’s a breastfeeding article, I’m reading and sharing it; if there’s an awesome story of a mama (or daddy!) sticking up for breastfeeding rights and awareness, I’m talking about it.
I first got interested in breastfeeding when my oldest was born nearly ten years ago (I cannot believe I have an almost 10 year old!! – although – I got called a “teenager” last week because apparently I don’t look old enough to have 3 kiddos). I was young, 19, and people in the hospital I delivered at seemed like it was the most bizarre and unusual thing – me wanting to nurse my son. Back then, even if you told the hospital or your OBGYN you planned on breastfeeding, they still sent you home with this formula-infused care package; you know the one you look at when its 3am and your kid hasn’t stopped crying since they came out of the womb. It’s full of different sample can formulas, different types of bottles and pacifiers to use, etc. But, I digress…
I was very uneducated when it came to breastfeeding my first child. My mother and MIL at the one didn’t nurse me or my ex husband long at all or our siblings. No one told me how important skin-to-skin contact immediately was. No one told me nursing within the first hour your child is born is so extremely important for not only your supply, but, for your baby in general. No one told me about nipple confusion. No one told me that breastfeeding is actually very capable of helping get rid of jaundice (which my son had pretty badly, he was on two biliblankets 20 out of 24 hours a day for nearly a week). My son has been a different kid since he was born. He’s always been just a bit more difficult than other kids. Being an infant was certainly no different. By 4 months, my supply was so low because 1) he had an undiagnosed tongue tie. 2) I had been supplementing with formula here and there because it was “no big deal” (and yes, it is in fact a VERY big deal). 3) I wasn’t drinking enough water or eating often enough (among many other things). But, also, by 4 months, my son refused to nurse. He refused to take a bottle. He refused to eat anything. I used to pump what I could and use a straw or medicine dropper to feed him. He had an oral adversion to nursing and taking a bottle (later, I would find out he is high functioning autistic, had SPD (sensory processing disorder), and ADHD). It wasn’t until he was 10 months old that he started to take a sippy cup, or use a straw properly to drink formula. I felt like a bad mom for giving him formula, but my milk was long gone. I felt guilty because I didn’t do my best as a mom – I didn’t research nursing strikes. I didn’t research about breastfeeding. I thought it would just come naturally and every mom did it because it was what was best for the baby (and really, mom too). Boy, how wrong was I. In hindsight though, the breastfeeding experience I had with my first showed me exactly what NOT to do when (and if) I had any subquent children.
When my second child came along (a whole 16 months later…), I made a promise to myself and to my child that I would do whatever I had to in my power to make our nursing relationship strong. I wanted to learn everything about breastfeeding. Everything was going well until my daughter hit 6 months. She would eat and eat and eat, but not transfer milk appropriately. It’s hard enough now to get your child diagnosed with a tongue or lip tie, but eight years ago it was even harder. She went undiagnosed with a lip and tongue tie like my first. The difference with her, though, is that I refused formula from the start. She never had a bottle and she didn’t take a pacifier. I made sure I drank enough, I power pumped, I ate the best I could. I made it a point to make breastfeeding a priority. Everyone (family/friends) told me to, “just give her formula, it won’t kill her.” Well, yeah, you’re probably right – it won’t kill her. However, that’s putting a bandaid on a gaping wound – it’s a temporary fix. I needed to figure out why my daughter wasn’t transferring milk appropriately because just “giving her formula” wouldn’t do anything. It’s frustrating to hear as a mother that’s doing everything to try and make this work “just give her formula”. Why isn’t breast milk a solution when a baby doesn’t thrive on formula?
I worked extremely hard with a lactation consultant to help Ry. I rented a scale from the hospital and did before and after weight feeds for over a month to get to the bottom of everything. I used a SNS (supplemental nursing system) and used pump milk to make sure she was getting adequate nutrition.
Needless to say, Ry ended up self-weaning around two and a half. Not one drop of formula. And I am proud of that. Am I proud because she didn’t have formula? No – I’m proud because I was an advocate for myself and child and did what *I* thought was best as a mother. That’s why I was and am proud.
And this brings me to my last little nursling that still requests milkies every once in a while. Because of everything I went through with my first two, I was on the look out for the same signs and symptoms. When Khloe was born, she was constantly nursing. She was gaining weight well (at first), but she was always unhappy. Always gassy. Always crying. Having screaming fits for hours. She never slept. To say she was a difficult baby is an understatement (and at 2, well….). I took her to her pediatrician several times asking for help. I got nothing. I mentioned could she possibly have a milk allergy or be allergic to something in my milk. Her pediatrician told me she couldn’t be allergic to dairy. I asked if she could have a lip or tongue tie because she stopped gaining weight around 4 months and perhaps se wasn’t transferring milk well; he said tongue and lip ties don’t exist. Needless to say, I dropped the pediatrician like a bad habit and found a new one to see if he could help address her issues. And guess what we found out? I had cut dairy out of my diet and she stopped having nasty green slimy poop. She stopped screaming (as much). She started smiling more. We also found out she had a severe posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie. She had her ties cauterized right at 6 months and by 7 months she had gained over a pound! I got the same lip from people when Khloe started to slow down on her weight gain – just give her formula, can’t you give her food yet (at three months!)?, what’s wrong with her?, are you sure your milk is even good? It’s not just formula feeding parents that get talked to nastily (although, I can honestly say I’ve never outright heard a breastfeeding mother “bash” a formula feeding mother that just wasn’t simply a troll and trying to ruffle feathers) – every time there’s something going on with a breastfed child, breast milk always seems to be the culprit. If you decide to drink alcohol while you have a nursing child, people think it’s okay to voice their opinions – it’s not. Chances are, the parent knows what they’re doing.
It’s very apparent that some mothers that formula feed or some moms that breastfeed seem to argue and fight with one another because one thinks they’re better than the other. I’m a firm believer in don’t starve your kid. Do what works for your family. Make sure you treat your kiddos with love and kindness and don’t teach them to be jerks when they get older.
I’m here to tell you that I am proof, as are my children, that breastfeeding isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always come naturally and it definitely doesn’t always come with no problems, concerns or hiccups. Nursing was and still is important to me and doing in my heart what I truly felt is best for my kids is my top priority. It’s not to “be better”, it’s not to be a hippie, it’s not saying I’m a totally crunchy granola type mama – I’m just human -doing what I think is best.
I have a passion for breastfeeding and empowering women. I always want women to know they matter and their opinions matter. Drop a line below and tell me about your breastfeeding experiences and stories. If you need advice or help, I am here as well! (I’m not a lactation consultant, involved with LLL, a nurse or doctor. I’m just a mother, wanting to help others that might be in my same situation.) We need to begin to build up mothers and that starts by putting our differences aside and just be there for one another. We’re all in this together after all, aren’t we?