Out of everything I was anticipating about becoming a mom, breastfeeding by far was the thing I worried most about. I’d heard so many horror stories and everyone in my family had just formula-fed their children so I approached it with not much confidence to begin with. I realize now that I could have prepared myself a lot better for breastfeeding. I thought that reading a few books would suffice but now I really wish I’d taken a class while I was pregnant or met with a lactation consultant. I think that there could have been ways for me to make it work despite everything I went through that first week postpartum. I was in so much pain, I had to lie on my side and it hurt just to switch sides. My baby needed to cluster feed during those first days and I didn’t have the strength. I look back on those first weeks and remember what it felt like to see my mother or mother-in-law taking care of my baby while I healed. It hurt so much because this was MY baby and I wanted to be his everything.
After working with a lactation consultant, I learned that I could nurse side lying with my baby in bed next to me. My husband would do diapers and cuddling, and then bring Aiden to me in bed when he needed to eat. We did this all day until around midnight and then one of the grandma’s would give Aiden formula overnight. I would still wake up at least once to pump and go check on Aiden. I felt guilty for giving him formula and I realize now that it isn’t because I think that formula is “horrible” it’s because I had a goal for nourishing my son and I wasn’t reaching that goal.
I started researching on the best way to gradually decrease the amount of formula I am giving my baby and increase my milk supply. I have to say that the internet did not offer much optimism on this subject. Everything I read made it seem like if you give your baby “just one bottle” you have ruined your chances of exclusively breastfeeding for life. I can’t explain why but I simply refused to accept that.
My friend Courtney wrote me a beautiful email that offered some great advice on how to increase my milk supply… and more importantly, she offered encouragement and assured me that I could make this happen! I started pumping between feedings and letting Aiden nurse more often. He even started nursing for comfort and I remember just propping myself up on the sofa and watching a whole movie while Aiden fell asleep at the breast. I didn’t unlatch him, I just let him nurse (whether for food or comfort) for as long as he wanted to. Then of course there is CO-SLEEPING! I was afraid to put a tiny baby in my bed at first but once I did, I slept lighter than I ever have, aware of his presence next to me and I knew that he would be safe. Co-sleeping is controversial I know, but it saved my breastfeeding relationship with Aiden! He was able to nurse as often and as long as he needed to overnight and I actually got sleep. It was a win-win if you ask me.
When Aiden was 8 weeks old, I went into my cupboard and grabbed the formula. It felt so good to throw it away! I didn’t need it anymore and I could feed my baby on my own with nature’s best milk!