Holly Bollinger Photography & Design
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, I am sharing my breastfeeding story with you.
This journey is deeply personal and my hope is that it will be a source of encouragement for those who may need some.
I want to preface my story by saying, while I am passionate about breastfeeding, I also recognize that breastfeeding is HARD. It is honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done. A mother’s emotional and mental well-being is of utmost importance, especially during the postpartum period, and I acknowledge that some breastfeeding obstacles can not be overcome. My desire for telling my story is not to spread guilt for goals not met, but to encourage and affirm the efforts of all moms.
As I prepare to welcome my second baby in the next several weeks, I have tirelessly been trying to prepare to troubleshoot all the things that went wrong last time. My previous postpartum period was challenging and I am hoping my preparation is not completely in vain. I have spent a lot of time thinking back to those first days, weeks, and months. There were a lot of tears shed and feelings of guilt. Thankfully I can say that I now have a healthy and thriving three year old. If only I hadn’t wished away those early days and soaked up that time with my baby. Breastfeeding was not the only obstacle, but it was a major one. This is our story.
My son was born at home on a late, summer night. It was an amazing experience and he latched right away. I was feeling quite empowered and confident those first couple of days. Then on day 3, my milk came in. Suddenly, my son didn’t want to latch anymore. He would pop on and off the breast, crying hysterically, and thrashing his body. I could not seem to satisfy him, even though I had more than enough milk, and I felt completely rejected. This continued for days and I cried in my husband’s arms often. I remember telling him, “I understand why some moms decide to quit. This is awful.” On day 10, my midwife came over for a weighed feeding. My son was not gaining and still down a pound from birth weight. It was time to visit a lactation consultant. I remember sitting in the waiting room with a hungry baby, trying to breastfeed in public for the first time, and feeling so insecure. We did another weighed feeding and found that he wasn’t transferring much milk. She gave me some great tips to try, including positioning and ways to address my overactive letdown that was frustrating my little guy. We made some adjustments and at his two week appointment, he was 2 ounces above birth weight. Finally, a victory.
We seemed to find a groove over the next few weeks and all seemed relatively well. I endured clogged ducts and nipple pain, but he was eating and gaining so that was an improvement. We decided to have a family getaway down to the Comal river and I was going to be away from my baby for the first time. My parents were watching him while I got away with my husband and best friend for a few hours. While away, I could tell that my breasts were too full and I was probably going to have clogged ducts again. I pumped as soon as I got home and felt some temporary relief. That night, it felt like I had been hit by a train. Flu-like symptoms set in and my breasts were on fire. I called my midwife and she said I had mastitis. The next few days were completely miserable as I recovered and prepared to go back to work.
Oh, returning to work. A challenge of a whole other kind. To all the moms who exclusively pump: you are a BOSS. Pumping became another “job” on top of all my other “jobs”. It required taking pumping breaks twice a day at work (this is hard for a teacher who barely has time to eat lunch or pee and has to have someone cover class), pumping in the morning and evening to have enough milk to send to daycare, washing and disinfecting bottles and pump parts around the clock, and constantly stressing over supply. I never had a glorious stash of milk in my freezer like I know other moms have (jealous!) so it always felt like I took it a day at a time. I scraped by with just enough to send the next day.
After adjusting to all the pumping chaos (among many other things), at month 6 we had a new obstacle. I thought, “Seriously? Will it ever end and just become easy?” It seemed that all of sudden, my son preferred the bottle. He refused to take the breast and only wanted the bottle. I had never personally given him a bottle before in his life up to that point and I sobbed as I fed him that way for the first time. How would I ever maintain my supply just pumping milk? I depended on him to nurse to stimulate supply and demand and I was barely getting by as it was. This went on for a few days and I saw my joke of a “stash” slowly dwindling. I kept offering the breast and he kept rejecting. These were dark days for me. I reached out to friends for prayer and cried out to God. He lead me to this verse, Isaiah 66:11-13: “… that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…'” Soon after I received this spiritual comfort, my best friend texted me asking about the bottle nipple. About a week or so before, I had changed his bottle nipple to a slightly faster flow. For whatever reason, I hadn’t considered this before and quickly switched it back to a slower flow. Baby boy was back to nursing within a day and I was so incredibly thankful.
I continued to pump until he was about a year old. A year was my original goal. After pumping was over, I figured that I might as well keep going to 18 months. Then 2 years old. At that point, it was easy and we were down to once a day, right before bed. Our nursing relationship ended around 31 months (2 and a half years) when I found out I was pregnant again. I never thought we could have made it that long after everything we went through. Of course, then I had to hear all the opinions of breastfeeding a toddler, but no one could take away the satisfaction of making it 31 months.
Despite the hardships, I am so thankful for this journey because it has allowed me to connect, in different ways, to so many moms. I have no idea what round two has in store for me, but I know that I am surrounded by support and resources. If you are struggling and need some help, please reach out. Below are local support groups and resources for breastfeeding mothers. If you made it this far, thank you for reading my story.
Breastfeeding USA Waco chapter:
Breastfeeding counselor – Hanna O’Malley
Support group meets on Tuesdays from 5:00 – 7:00 pm and online meetings are on Wednesday from 8:00 – 9:00 pm
Waco Breastfeeding Mamas group:
La Leche League of Waco:
Postpartum Doula Services of Waco:
IBCLC – Tonja Carpenter
For additional local resources, click HERE.