*Disclaimer* I didn’t write this to judge anyone who chose a different path. Every mother does what is best for her and her baby. There are many reasons why mothers choose not to breastfeed and I am not going to judge! A fed baby is best!! For me, I was lucky enough to not have any major problems and this is the path I chose to gown down.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed and I knew I wanted to make it to the year mark. When I gave birth on February 24, 2016, that is when my wonderful journey started. I was a very lucky first-time mother…breastfeeding came so naturally to me and to Lucas. Within 20 seconds of him coming out of the womb, he was perfectly latched on and he ate from me for the first time.
Now I am not going to lie to you, at the beginning it was very much so a love-hate relationship. I was producing so much milk that it was hard for Luke to keep up (I was producing enough milk for 3 babies….it was crazy). As awesome as producing a ton of milk sounds…over production can really have its downfalls….it can hurt like a bitch! I had an overactive let-down so what should have been a 20-30 minutes feeding was only a 5-10 minute feeding; which in theory is nice, but it didn’t allow him to get the hind milk (the nice fatty stuff). At the beginning, I was balancing being a stay at home first-time mother to a newborn, lack of sleep and college so when I had time to pump…I decided to nap; which left me with not a whole lot of milk in storage. After my supply balanced out, Luke would cluster feed and let me tell you….that was not easy for the girls! I would nurse so many times in less than two hours that it would leave me with cracked and bleeding nipples. It hurt! Most of the time they bled for about a day and I didn’t want to feed on that side because of the pain and not wanting to give him bloody milk so the other boob would do over time.
After Luke was about 3 1/2 months old we became one with breastfeeding and I loved it! I didn’t feel like I was missing out not being able to drink and it was a bond like no other. I became comfortable nursing in public and even became really good at it!! Sure I got some dirty looks from disproving bystanders, but the positive comments outweighed the bad tenfold. I could see the amazing things it was doing for both of us! Nursing releases two major hormones, oxytocin and prolactin. Oxytocin is also called “the love hormone”, it plays a huge role in pair bonding and it makes you feel good. Prolactin helps the body produce milk. For Lucas, the benefits were incredible!!! In the whole first year of his life, he was never sick, he didn’t have a single diaper rash and he was so socially interactive!! Breastfeeding allowed him to fight off any sickness that was coming his way and gave him crazy nutrients and antibodies he wouldn’t have gotten with formula. As if I couldn’t have been more amazed by my body doing what it did during pregnancy and birth….I was. It is so freakin amazing what the human body can do!! Breast milk changes according to what your baby needs. More of certain nutrients, more milk, less milk, it is a great additive in baby baths and to top it all off, I found out it can fight pink eye! SO COOL!
Another cool thing about breastfeeding is that you burn calories when you nurse, so in theory, you should be losing weight, but at 11 months postpartum, I weighed more than I did at 9 months pregnant. In January of 2017, I went to my clinic because I couldn’t figure out why I was gaining weight. After blood tests, it was confirmed that I had PCOS (more to come in a later blog post). I was relieved that it wasn’t something I was doing wrong but rather something my body was doing wrong, but at the same time, I was terrified of what was to come. One of the things that had to happen is I needed to start taking certain medication to help with the symptoms. The downside to these medications is I can’t take them while breastfeeding, but no matter what I was going to hit my year mark! Luckily for me, Luke had almost 100% self-weened himself by 11-11 1/2 months old so it made it easier that I didn’t have to “take it away” from him. I, however, wasn’t quite as ready as I thought to stop breastfeeding. I had grown quite attached to the bond of breastfeeding that it was too hard to quit.
With my annual physical coming up, I decided that it would be the day that I would be done with my breastfeeding journey. With my choice set, I was slightly heartbroken. With my PCOS I didn’t know if I would ever have another baby, which meant I may never get to breastfeed again….and that was something I didn’t even want to think about. But I did know that I had a little boy to take care of and if I wasn’t healthy and at 100%, then I couldn’t be there 100% for him and that was my deciding factor.
April 7, 2017, at 8 am was my last nursing session with Lucas. I sit here writing this post with a very accomplished feeling. I made it over my year goal. I made it 408 days. I spent countless hours, many of which were spent while others were sleeping, nursing. For 6 months, I exclusively breastfed, and my body was the only thing sustaining and feeding my child. After solids were introduced, we still stuck to a breastfeeding schedule and nursed at least 4-5 times a day. My favorite was the night time nursing…when he would fall asleep on me and I could feel his breathing…it was slightly intoxicating. I cried many many tears, and I can remember thinking “Why the hell am I doing this?!”. And then I look at my thriving little boy who has such an amazing bond with me and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!!! What am I going to miss the most? I think I am going to miss him needing me in that way. I know he is always going to need me, but no matter how he was feeling or how I was feeling, breastfeeding always made it better. See his loving eyes look up at me, seeing his smile while nursing…it just isn’t something you can put into words. So in light of me ending this journey, I have decided that I am going to get a breastfeeding tattoo to honor my time doing something I truly loved! So many don’t make it as long as I did and I can say that I am blessed to have made it as far as I did and to have had such an amazing support system!! I hope that I get the opportunity to breastfeed again, but if I don’t, I am so happy I had such an amazing experience the first time around!! I am a tree of life.