Let’s talk about breastfeeding. Every mama’s experience is totally different even between their own children (I know mine were completely different!) Put working a fulltime job into the mix and it gets a bit complicated. Here’s my story….
My oldest son, Dylan, is now 9 years old. Dylan was born with a congenital heart defect, so nursing him was an emotional experience for me. He had surgery to help repair his heart at just 3 days old. Within those 3 days, I wasn’t able to nurse him but I was able to pump. My milk came in fast and furious and pumping was all I could do for him in what felt like a helpless and scary situation as a new mom. He was able to go home at 10 days old, so while we were in the hospital, I would go to the pumping room and pump every few hours and cry my eyes out, then go back to his room and feed him from a bottle.
It was a surreal and weird experience (especially when one of my nipples started to bleed and there was pink milk in one of the bottles), but by the end of those 10 days I was able to fill both 8 ounce bottles and could overflow them at the time. I was a machine. At home, he took to nursing very well and we maintained a good routine during my maternity leave (and let’s be honest—my breasts looked amazing!) Then….I had to go back to work. I was an emotional mess. My job at the time provided a very nice pumping room for new moms. Within my first 3 days back to work, I developed mastitis and had to spend the rest of the week back home with my baby while I healed. Once I came back the following week, I setup my work schedule so I wouldn’t miss pumping and hopefully prevent myself from developing mastitis again. I got into a good routine and my milk supply naturally started to slow down since I wasn’t home with my baby every day, and some days I couldn’t stick to my pumping schedule. Dylan was scheduled to have open heart surgery at 8 months old, so I made it my goal to nurse him until then so I could soothe him if he was in any pain. It had slowed down by this time (I had switched jobs at the time to a more “mommy friendly” job and didn’t have a pump room anymore), so I wasn’t pumping anymore, but just nursing him once at nighttime. We went until he was 9 months old, and then we were done. It made me sad, but also proud that I went to my goal, and it just felt like a natural progression to stop for both of us.
My youngest son, Tyler, is now 5 years old. I had a very normal pregnancy and scheduled C-section with him and within an hour of being born I was able to nurse him.
We developed a great routine, but I had a shorter maternity leave with him and my job had changed. In my new role, I traveled in my car daily. I had to find a new pump with a car adapter so I could plug in and pump in my car. I work for a large nonprofit doing fundraising in schools, so I was pumping in the very back of school parking lots praying no one would come up to me wondering what I was doing. Not ideal, but it was better than nothing. It was January, so I would have my car running with the heat on and put my coat over myself so I could keep warm while pumping. However, pumping in the morning, labeling the bottles to take to daycare, and getting him and his older brother and myself ready in the morning made it much more challenging. I had made it my goal nurse Tyler for 9 months just like I did his brother, but we only made it 5 months. I felt disappointed in myself…like I failed (and my breasts no longer looked amazing like before). However, I learned not to get too down on myself because like I already mentioned—every baby is different and your lifestyle has a big impact on how your breastfeeding experience will go. I will cherish the time I had being able to nurse my sons.
So mamas—give yourself some grace with your own breastfeeding experiences. Your love for your babies is bigger than if you nurse, pump, supplement with formula or strictly just use formula.