Hi there readers! My name is Kate and I occasionally blog over at Life with Noah. I am a full-time working mama from up north in Canada, am mommy to my adorable 18 month old son Noah, and am currently 33 weeks pregnant with baby #2 due to arrive in mid-June. The topic of breastfeeding often brings up unrealized feelings and emotions in women, as everyone has such different experiences. That's why I love this series. Whether you were successful at breastfeeding or not, this series connects moms from all over, some of which may have had a similar experience to the one you were so certain only applied to you. Thanks Julie for having me!
I exclusively breastfed Noah for the first 12 months of his life, and although it was a wonderful experience for us, I was ready to move on from it when I went back to work when he was just shy of a year. Little did I know at the time, I was already pregnant with our second child. So I've basically been pregnant or breastfeeding continuously for 2.5 years. In Canada, we are blessed with one whole year of paid maternity leave. You can even split that time with the father, if you choose to do so. My husband had recently started a new job when Noah was born so I took the whole year off with Noah and plan to do so when our second child is born. This made breastfeeding so much easier for me. I didn't have any drops in supply or have to pump at work away from my baby. We were attached at the hip for the first year of his life.
I'll start my journey at the beginning. I hadn't really given much thought to breastfeeding before I got pregnant. I was so lucky, and got pregnant very quickly and my husband and I just assumed I would breastfeed if possible. I knew I wanted to try it, and I figured I was about as prepared as one could be. I started with a general knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding from my mother who is a nurse and breastfed my sister and I, and with the knowledge that a newborn's stomach is about the size of a marble. There was also no Plan B. We didn't even buy formula or take a bottle to the hospital with us in case I couldn't breastfeed.
From the moment Noah was born, he latched on and we haven't looked back. He was a good sized baby weighing 8'7, and I had a fast and relatively easy labor with no pain meds (not by choice!). So he was alert as could be when he was born. I attribute that and his size as to why we got off on such a good note with breastfeeding. That's not to say we haven't had our tough moments, because we most certainly have. Nights that seemed to be endless feeding sessions in which I was getting no sleep and was left to be a human pacifier for my child. But in comparison to those that struggle with latches, and supply issues, and emotional issues, we were lucky to avoid all of that. We really have had the best experience.
I also had an incredible support system, my family and in-laws and most friends. There is no greater thing than having family and friends support your decision to breastfeed. It can be a little unnerving having to feed your newborn in a roomful of visitors, most of whom haven't had kids yet. It's only natural to be curious about it, and I understand that. But to add to that, there is nothing worse than breastfeeding your child and hearing people say "I just can't imagine doing THAT." I was one of the first of my close friend's to have a baby, so other than my mom, I didn't have many places to turn to for advice. Luckily, breastfeeding is still the same now as it was 30 years ago when my mom had me. I also found a great support network among a group of moms that took prenatal yoga together during our pregnancy. Almost all of us chose to breastfeed and we got together for play dates regularly which was more for our benefit than our babies.
One thing I was not prepared for was the amount of time I would spend breastfeeding. Noah was a slow eater from the beginning, and for the first 3 months of his life would take up to an hour to feed. This made it so difficult to get out of the house, as it felt we would just be finishing a session and he'd be ready to eat again. I learned pretty quickly that if we wanted to leave the house I had to get a system down. So I would get everything ready and by the door, have myself ready to go, and then I'd nurse Noah and put him in his car seat and we'd be off. By about 3 months or so we had a pretty good little routine. Another thing that I was not prepared for was the amount of stress that falls on a breastfeeding mother...knowing that you are the sole provider of nourishment for your child. That is a really stressful thing to have on your shoulders, the constant worry about your child's weight gain and if you are providing enough for this tiny human.
Noah went through a phase around 9-10 months when he became distracted and uninterested in nursing during the day. It was a struggle to get him to slow down long enough to have a good nurse. It really made me appreciate the quiet/sleepy nursing session that we had together at bedtime. I worried that he was weaning himself too early, and it made me really emotional. But it turns out it was just a phase. I was able to pump and offer him a bottle for those feeds that he was too distracted to nurse, and after we got over that hump we successfully continued until Noah was a year. We weaned slow, over a period of about 6 weeks. We dropped one session every 10 days or so, until all we had left was the bedtime feeding. I intended to keep that one up as long as possible, but Noah was ready to let go of that one pretty easily and transitioned to whole milk without any problems.
Now that baby #2's arrival is fast approaching, I've been thinking a lot about embarking on a new breastfeeding journey. I really hope we are as lucky this time around as I was with Noah, but I know every baby and every experience is different. Having gone through it once I feel like I am more prepared, but I've come to realize with a newborn you can always expect the unexpected.
My advice to new moms that are embarking on their own breastfeeding journey, take it a day at a time and do what feels right for you. There are so many times it would be so easy to just throw in the towel, but give it another day and you may feel differently. Breastfeeding is hard work, it's a full time job, but it is also empowering and so rewarding and one of the greatest things you can do as a Mother.
And most importantly, regardless of whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed or something in between, support each other as mamas. Find a good support network, someone in your corner, someone to lean on when the days feel never ending and stressful. Because chances are, someone else is feeling the exact same way as you are.