“Jeannie, you don’t have to do this.”
These were not the words I expected to hear after long weeks of the newborn phase and my first go at breastfeeding. I sat at the table at Cheeseburger in Paradise, surrounded by bright colors and cheerful music, destroyed because the stress of the prior weeks. It had been my dream to breastfeed, but the way it has been going typically ended in Camila screaming and me in tears. That night, I realized it was starting to affect the way I felt about her in a negative way. I dreaded feeding time and didn’t want to be near her. My mom had tried to support me the best that she could, but she finally felt like it was time to speak up prompting her to tell me that I needed to find other options. She reminded me that the newborn days are difficult, but precious at the same time and didn’t need to be spent with me in tears and frustration.
A few weeks before, I remember driving to her first pediatrician appointment, dreading that they were going to make us supplement with formula. I could tell that she wasn’t gaining weight, even though I tirelessly tried to nurse her, which had led to my breakdown at Cheeseburger in Paradise.
That night at the restaurant, I realized she was right. I don’t know why I needed someone to tell me it was okay to quit. Truth be told, there is so much pressure for moms to breastfeed and I felt like a failure that I wasn’t able to do so. Camila and I had attended so many support groups and met with so many lactation consultants, but something just wasn’t working. I still wanted her to have breastmilk but didn’t know how. My sweet mom did research for me and she told me about this whole other group of moms called exclusive pumpers. After looking into it further, I knew this was what I needed to do.
By this point, my milk supply was almost gone. What I didn’t realize was that when Camila wasn’t able to nurse, my breasts weren’t emptying as they should. What is Breastfeeding 101? When the breasts don’t empty, they don’t fill back up and no one ever told me to pump when Camila wasn’t eating. I did tons of research, reading endless amounts of articles and webpages on how to get my supply back up. I developed a new daily routine, much of which came from this
article from Kellymom. In the morning, I would eat peanut butter oatmeal with bananas (recipe below), drink tons of water (recommended amount is 80 ounces per day), drink lactation tea, take 12 Fenugreek throughout the day and eat two lactation cookies (this is the story behind Café Baby's lactation cookies, by the way). I was never able to fully produce enough for Camila, but we supplemented around 30% with formula and that was okay with me.
Fast forward three years, we were pregnant with our new daughter, Juliette. Despite it being three years later, the memories of breastfeeding Camila were still fresh and I didn't want to go through it again. I started warning my husband that I was going to be crazy with "protecting" my milk for this go around and started stocking up on all of the breastfeeding must-haves (including Café Baby lactation cookies). I also familiarized myself with tongue and lip ties, as I heard about this more and more over the years. I still wonder to this day if Camila had them and that's why she couldn't nurse, but I just didn't know to get her checked for one.
The time came for Miss Juliette to make her big, very early and quick arrival and I was so nervous to latch her for the first time. But for the first few days, things were going so well. However, at her first pediatrician appointment, her weight hadn't increased very much and she wasn't producing enough wet diapers. I started to attend a breastfeeding support group, and when we did our first weighted feed she only took an ounce from both sides after nursing for a half hour. Come to find out, she was unable to transfer the milk from my breasts and this was the trend for the next few meetings. I took her to get checked for a tongue tie and bingo - that was it. The memories from Camila came back once again and back to the pump I went. This is where I still am as we wait for her procedure to get done, but I'm hoping she will be able to nurse after her tongue tie gets fixed.
My breastfeeding journey has been a roller coaster, to say the least, but I'm thankful to be where I am today. I get to help struggling moms because of my experience and that makes it all worth it. I strongly encourage you to seek out help if you feel like something is wrong. If your baby isn't gaining weight or producing enough wet diapers, talk to your pediatrician and make sure you pump to keep your supply up. Please get checked for a tongue tie. The consultation is free and the procedure is inexpensive.
And you know, if you feel like it's time to quit, then girl, do it. Everyone's feeding journey looks different and whatever decision you make for you, your family and your mental wellbeing, is the best. Just remember, fed is best.