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My {Unexpected) Breastfeeding Journey

I was excited to both breastfeed and pump. I knew going into breastfeeding, the journey might be shorter than others and still tried to keep a positive outlook. I was actually excited when my breast pump arrived in the mail! I was eager to go back to work and pump for the majority of the time and was well aware of how maternity leave might prove to become difficult in that transition. It was a mix of emotions but I knew from the start I’d be a working mom and looked forward to that. I knew there was a chance I might stop nursing because of Lily’s requirement for a bottle at daycare, leading to her majority preference. Instead, I later found myself in a position where my baby wasn’t gaining enough weight and in the midst of an unfamiliar role as a mom and stress, I began to doubt my ability and self worth.

For the first few weeks, Lily and I had no other purpose but to eat and snuggle. We made it through the first night and the first day home alone. Breastfeeding wasn’t a struggle for us, just new. We’d only leave for necessities, basically hibernating. My extroverted self had to expect this. I tried pumping a few weeks before my maternity leave ended. I wanted to be comfortable with it and have an idea of what my supply looked like before I was away from Lily during the day. I pumped enough for a bottle and was able to introduce occasional bottles of breast milk. Everything seemed to go smoothly and the plan was to eventually pump at work and nurse at home. I was confident while things went according to the plan I’d envisioned. 

Around the time I was preparing to go back to work, Lily’s weight gain slowed a bit. This happened at an unrelated checkup with the pediatrician and I’m extremely grateful for their attention to detail and genuine concern! We had two weight checks before I went back to work and could figure things out. I visited the hospital lactation consultant. I took doctor recommended supplements and made lactation cookies. I felt encouraged and supported to keep breastfeeding. I was receptive to any and all advice from the pediatrician, lactation consultants and specialists, friends and family. A fed and healthy baby was the priority. I started to feel pressured and stressed. After three months, Lily was put strictly on formula. I felt a quiet sigh of relief leave my mouth and a weight on my shoulders lift. I’d been back to work for a few weeks and we had been in the pediatrician’s office each week for weight checks, sometimes twice. I didn’t expect the toll it had taken on me, both mentally and physically. I had started to wrap my ability to successfully breastfeed into a reflection of my ability as a mom. Luckily after a few days, I realized that I needed to make healthy decisions with Lily’s best interest in mind. We had already begun to focus on a new plan: How to get Lily to a healthy point in her weight gain. 

Lily and I both made it through weaning(!). The last nighttime feedings were sweeter and more peaceful than the firsts. I still had emotional ups and downs about it. I struggled to do extra things to make up for not breastfeeding: I insisted (for longer than I care to admit) on making each bottle for daycare when it wasn’t required. It seems silly now but felt really important at the time. It took awhile for me to realize that I didn’t miss out on anything because I stopped breastfeeding early or that I was less of a mom because we didn’t continue. We still bonded and she still knew I was her mom. I found peace in the fact that I was able to make decisions with Lily’s best interest in mind. It was an unexpected obstacle and I not too soon learned that parenting is full of them. 

If you need support with your own breastfeeding journey, I would encourage you to reach out for help and guidance, whether it be friends or family who have been there before and community of professionals. I was extremely grateful for the team of doctors and nurses who stepped in and patiently helped us and for family who listened to my frustrations! Sometimes every little bit helps.

There are so many different stories and perspectives when it comes to parenting, breastfeeding is another topic for us to share our unique experiences. 

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