I had been thinking about writing this for a while, and with the latest study that’s making Facebook news, I think the timing is right.
I have two sons, ages 6 and 1, both breastfed. I myself was breastfed for 3 months, followed by formula; and I grew up watching my siblings be breastfed for a couple of months, and then formula fed for the majority of their childhoods.
When I was pregnant with Jonathan (my first born), I had absolutely no intention to breastfeed. In fact, I clearly remember telling my husband that he better not expect me to breastfeed, because I wasn’t going to! It was my right not to, I wasn’t into it, it sounded too difficult – just, no.
As my due date approached, I started to become okay with trying. And after giving birth, that’s exactly what I did! I tried.
I tried, and I tried, and I tried. It was bloody painful, and the results were, well, bad. Jonathan ended up losing weight because he wasn’t getting enough nutrition, so the nurses recommended that I supplement him with formula, which I did, no questions asked.
The nurses at the hospital were wonderful at coaching me through breastfeeding, and the community care nurses were no different. They came every time I called them, and we tried everything.
Finally, I was referred to a Lactation Consultant and a Nurse Practitioner. At first, they recommended that I take fenugreek supplements and nursing tea (yes, they sell tea that aids lactation). That didn’t work, so finally I was prescribed motillium (it’s primary use is to stimulate gut motility, but it has an interesting side effect in that it stimulates lactation as well).
Throughout this time, which must have been a couple of months, I kept at it. I supplemented him with formula, but I still breastfed him as best as I could. Here’s the thing: I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to keep trying.
Like I said, I had no intention to breastfeed in the first place, and I certainly felt NO pressure to do so. My husband had no honest opinion about it either way, he just wanted me to be happy. My mother certainly would have supported me if I decided to quit because I was clearly having such a horrible time, and my mother-in-law, well, she never breastfed at all (although she never said anything anyway).
One of my Zumba students, a labour and delivery nurse, asked me why I tried so hard, and if it had to do with the nurses pressuring me at the hospital. The honest answer? NO! It had nothing to do with any pressure from anyone, especially the nurses.
Until she asked me, I’d never really thought about it myself. The only answer I can think of is that I have a Type A personality and that I was presented with a challenge; that, combined with the hormonal post-baby craziness, and there went my ability to think sanely.
Anyway, long story short, the motillium worked. Or at least it did, while I was taking it properly. See, you’re supposed to take it every 6 hours on the hour; I was lucky to take it once a day. But I found that even that once a day made a difference.
So, finally, I gave up. I said, forget it – nobody can say that I didn’t try. I started to prepare formula, and I felt really sad because despite how difficult breastfeeding was, it sure was a lot easier because it allowed me to use my other hand, plus I didn’t have to clean any bottles.
And then for whatever reason (I’m thinking because I mentally released myself), the proverbial flood gates opened. The milk started flowing nicely, I didn’t need to take motillium, and Jonathan got really nice and fat.
And I mean really fat.
This was at the 6 month mark, so it was a long journey. I had no goals whatsoever with breastfeeding in regards to an “end date”, I just kept doing what felt good and natural, and what kept Jonathan healthy.
In the end, I breastfed him for about 4 years.
Yes, you read that correctly. Keep in mind, the last two years weren’t really for any kind of sustenance, it was more to soothe him, or to put him to bed. In the last year, he would ask to latch on for 30 seconds every couple of days. Anyway, I digress.
You should know that I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom throughout this time. I went back to nursing school full-time, and I had really crazy practicum hours where I wouldn’t see Jonathan for 48 hours straight. I was so sure that if I was going to “dry up”, it would be during my practicums! But I didn’t. It still worked.
If you’ve done the math in your head, you’ll realize that I only had about maybe 12 months of boob freedom between kids.
Not too long after I finally weaned Jonathan, I was pregnant again. And in fact, my OB said that I could have kept breastfeeding Jonathan while I was pregnant (knowing full well that he was already four years old), because he would have weaned himself off at around the four month mark because the taste of my breast milk would have become unpalatable.
I didn’t expect it to be quite as difficult the second time around, but I did expect pain. Which was great because – NO PAIN! Hallelujah.
Breastfeeding Ben has been a breeze. I latched him on almost right after he was born (my husband was kind enough to remind me that I wanted to do that), and it almost seems like he’s stayed latched on ever since (ha!).
I haven’t had to supplement him, and while he wasn’t quite as fat as Jonathan was, he’s still pretty chubby and certainly within the healthy range.
Obviously, I’m much more comfortable nursing in public than I was before, plus with amazing “technology” like Cover Boo Couture, you really can’t go wrong.
I’m sharing this with you, not in the defence of breastfeeding, but to encourage those of you that do want to breastfeed.
I truly believe that your child will be great, whether you breastfeed or not. I always like to remind people that in a room full of adults, you can never tell who was breastfed or formula fed!
Yes, breastfeeding can be challenging for some women. But based on my experience, I can say that the pain does go away, that it does get easier because it is a learned behaviour, and that yes, you can continue to breastfeed even with a hectic work schedule.
FYI, I never did and still don’t pump efficiently. So I very rarely pumped, and right now, I just don’t.
Alberta Health Services recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years (at least that’s what their pamphlet said when I gave birth in 2012!). Ben is almost 16 months old, and I certainly don’t plan to wean him off anytime soon. In fact, to be totally honest, I have no plan – just like with Jonathan. He’ll be done when he’s done. Breastfeeding doesn’t inconvenience me, in fact it makes things a lot easier because I’m able to type/read/eat/do stuff with my other hand!
So, there you have it! I hope my story helps you in some way.
I think that rather than more research, what we really need are more stories. We need to share our real life experiences with each other, with no agenda other than just to share. No bashing, no taking sides, no throwing evidence or textbooks, just women getting together and doing what we do best: communicating and caring!
While I welcome comments, I will not tolerate any negativity, snide remarks, or unsolicited advice for this post. Like you, I’m a grown woman and perfectly capable of making my own decisions. I respect yours, and I expect you to respect mine. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t waste your time, because your comment will be deleted.
Otherwise, please – share your thoughts!