Hi, I’m Holly Charles. I am wife to Scott and mom to Brooklyn and Bronx. I teach elementary music (K-5) and blog at The Mile High Mom for fun. I love to plan and execute holiday-themed photo-shoots of my children. I live to make every day special for them.
Here is my family and my breastfeeding story (with some of my journey as a mom thrown in too).
When I was pregnant with my daughter (after years of infertility and various fertility treatments), I had every intention of breastfeeding for her first year of life. I was prepared for sleepless nights, shower-less days, and everything else that goes along with being a new parent. I was ready for my world to change. I was not ready (or prepared) to struggle with breastfeeding. All of my new mom friends were able to breastfeed without a problem. I had not prepared myself for the possibility that I might not be able to. I experienced a lot of different issues with my daughter and new ones with my son. I am extremely excited to share my breastfeeding story because I want to encourage new moms and new moms-to-be.
When we left the hospital, I was still without milk and we were supplementing with formula. I was still “breastfeeding” her first. I say “breastfeeding” because was she getting anything from me? Or was her tiny little body just burning off calories trying to get non-existent milk? Two days later my milk was in and I was thrilled! My excitement, however, was short-lived as I realized that pumping 1 ounce from each side for 45 minutes was not the “norm.” Regardless, Brooklyn was still breastfeeding and getting formula. It felt like we were feeding her constantly. "Breastfeed," pump, bottle feed, cry. Repeat in an hour.
Wouldn’t you know it? She kept down pretty much every drop of Similac Sensitive. In the morning, she had gained weight, her tests were clear, and we were sent home with orders to keep giving her Similac Sensitive. I kept asking if she could have a dairy intolerance and as she was not showing any of those signs, I was told no. I kept pumping to store milk for her with the hope that one day she would be able to have breast milk again. I was hoping that she would quickly grow out of whatever her intolerance was and she would be able to have breast milk. Even if it wasn’t directly from my boob, I wanted to her to have breast milk. With Similac Sensitive, Brooklyn started to gain weight, not a lot, but she was no longer losing weight.
Meanwhile, I was pumping every 3 hours to keep my milk supply (if you can call it that) in case she could have it again and to store milk for her. I would pump for 45 minutes at a time and I would get out 10ml (a third of an ounce) total out of both boobs. At my 6 weeks appointment, my Dr. (also Brooklyn’s pediatrician) told me to stop. I needed to stop pumping. I was torturing myself. And I was. Physically. And mentally. It was a huge relief to stop. And, what felt like, a huge fail.
Brooklyn had always been a wonderful sleeper. But due to her weight issues, we were told to wake her up and not let her go more than 4 hours without eating. At her two month appointment, we were told we could let her sleep through the night. And she slept 12 hours. I remember sitting next to her and watching for 3 of those hours with a bottle, ready to go. Things started getting better. I was no longer pumper and I was sleeping more. She was eating well and gaining weight. She still spit-up, but not to the point where she wasn’t gaining weight. She started to thrive. I had ounces full of milk in the freezer and a baby who wanted nothing to do with them. More importantly though, I had a healthy and happy baby. (I later realized that the desire for her to have breast milk was more for me, than her.)
My story didn’t just end there. I still have an enormous about of guilt over this. I feel like I failed. I took the year off of working to bond with my baby. I had the time to breastfeed. Yes, I know in my mind that I did everything I could, but in my heart it still feels like I failed my baby. I wasn’t able to provide for her in the way I wanted. I’ve watched so many breastfeed without an issue. Why can’t that be me? I so longed to just be able to breastfeed her and to know she was getting what she needed.
Today, my sweet little baby girl is in the 89th percentile for weight. (As I write this, she is running around with a stuffed fox in her hand, held by its tail, a purse on her shoulder filled with her phones, and a straw cup of whole milk in the other, all while babbling and giggling to herself.) She is a wonderful eater who loves food. She didn’t miss any milestones not having breast milk. She excelled. Brooklyn is an extremely happy baby - our friends tell us they’ve never seen her not smiling. And it's true. She's always happy, very healthy, a great eater, and an amazing sleeper. What else could a parent ask for? She is the light of our lives and I when I’m with her, I forget about my "failure." (A "failure" that still creeps into my "Mommy guilt" thoughts at night.) I may have failed at breastfeeding her, but I know I’m the opposite of failing her as a mother.
One positive thing I’d like to note, at around 7 months she was able to go from Alimentum to Similac Sensitive and at around 9 months she was able to drink all the breast milk that I had stored for her in the freezer! Woo hoo!! It wasn’t a lot, but I was so happy that she was able to have it. (I would have cried if I had to throw all that milk that took me hours, about three times the normal amount of time, in the trash.)
Even though she is 17 months old, I still feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed her (or provide breast milk). There will always be this sense of shame that I have. I "failed." Did I, really? I love her more than life itself. We have a wonderful time playing together and making memories. I love making every day special & fun for her. Is this "failing?" I think not. Moms who can’t breastfeed deserve our support. They shouldn’t feel shame or guilt when mixing a formula bottle in public (like I did).
Fast forward to today, Bronx is 6 weeks old. He is on breast milk only! (The nurse wanted us to supplement with formula as it is higher in calories, but he spits it up more than breast milk, so we decided to stop.) We weigh him twice a week to ensure that he is gaining weight because he does spit-up a lot (not as much as Brooklyn, but more than “normal”). That being said, we need to be sure that he is gaining weight. Because of this, Bronx is primarily fed from a bottle. I pump 6-8 times a day. He is breastfed about 1-2 times a day. The other times are from a bottle (even when I’m home). Yes, I feed him breast milk from a bottle. Why? Because I need peace of mind knowing how many ounces he receives. (And I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to breastfeed in public.) When he breastfeeds I have no idea how much he actually gets. I know, check for wet diapers, poops, satisfied looks, etc. But at the end of each feed, I still wonder, “How much did he eat?” So…I need to know - hence the bottles. I am just thrilled that he is drinking breast milk.
Why is it different with him? Is it because I conceived him naturally vs. clomid? Is it because my body didn’t go through an induction and a crash before the C-Section? Is it because it’s the second baby? I have no idea. I don’t want to say that the second time was more “successful” because that implies it wasn’t with Brooklyn.
Breastfeeding will always be a sensitive topic for me. I’ve watched so many of friends have a wide variety of experiences (all easier than mine). However, I want to share my story. I feel very strongly about this. I’m tired of being shamed for giving Brooklyn formula. Formula is not the enemy. What would happen to babies like Brooklyn who had an intolerance for breast milk and whose moms didn’t have enough? I don’t even want to think about it. Now, with Bronx, I’m getting about 4-5 ounces total during each pump session. I have a good amount stored in the freezer. How long will I have a milk supply? I have no idea. I am very superstitious about this. I make a huge effort to drink a ton of water (I already drink a ton, so now I drink two tons) and eat enough. I’m scared my milk will disappear. Scared. However, this time, I will handle it differently (hopefully much less crying). My goal is to provide him with breast milk (even if it’s through exclusively pumping) for a year. I’d be thrilled with six months. Truthfully, I’d be thrilled with as long as I can.
I am no expert on breastfeeding, far from it. I just have what I’ve experienced. I know one thing though, breast milk has nothing to do with what kind of a mother you are. Despite my feelings of guilt, I need to focus on the fun moments, and all the moment in between, with my two beautiful healthy and happy babies. I want their lives to be filled with so much love & happiness. All moms need a reminder now and then that we are doing the best we can and that’s perfect. “You have enough. You are enough. You do enough.” Yes, easier said than done; but this is a goal of mine, to focus on the positive. And to kiss & hug my babies more, because I’ll blink and they won’t be babies anymore.