My breastfeeding journey was far from easy. It didn’t go at all how I expected it to go and I stressed myself to the max trying to make it work for as long as I did. When Sawyer was born we had some trouble getting our breastfeeding journey started. It took him 3 days to learn how to latch, and even then we used a shield. I was happy to use it though, because I wanted to breastfeed. It was annoying but I was determined to do whatever it took.
And I did. It was a long road, and it was anything but easy. But he was exclusively breast fed for a while! I went back to work when he was 2 months old and had to start pumping. We breastfed when I was home and he got a bottle of expressed milk when I was away. He was still strictly on breast milk. It wasn’t long after I started back at work that I noticed a decline in my supply. When I nursed him I could hear him gulping away but when I pumped I could only get a few ounces. I just didn’t respond to the pump well, and not for lack of trying. I tried different settings, different valves, and even a different pump. I tried Mother’s Milk tea and lactation cookies and pumping more frequently. At his 4 month check up his doctor told me he wasn’t on track for weight gain, and was only in the 5th percentile for weight. So, we starting going in every 2 weeks for weight checks. All the stress made my supply dip even more!
I starting staying up late and getting up early to get in extra pumping sessions. We’re talking staying up until 1:00 am and then getting up at 6:00am! This would give him an extra few ounces to have while I was away at work, but it still wasn’t helping. He wasn’t losing weight, but he wasn’t gaining like he was supposed to and dropped below the 0 percentile for weight at 6 months. At that point, we knew something had to be done.
So, when he was 7 months old, per the pediatrician suggested, we started supplementing with formula. I was still nursing and pumping but now he was getting some extra formula bottles throughout the day. We saw improvement right away and he jumped back up to the 5th percentile, then the 10th, then the 20th, etc. etc. He was growing!
Around 8 months I noticed him starting to lose interest in nursing. He still wanted to nurse right when he woke up in the morning and right before he went to bed at night but during the day I couldn’t get him to sit still long enough. He pushed me away and cried and screamed and only wanted to play. I fought him for weeks before finally accepting it and just let him nurse when he wanted to, and gave him formula and solids when he didn’t.
A few weeks later, around 9 months he stopped wanting to nurse altogether. I tried for a few more days but he just wasn’t having it. I then tried exclusively pumping for a little while, but, as I expected, I didn’t respond well to the pump and my already short supply dried right up in just a few days.
And, just like that, my breastfeeding journey ended. And we had a formula fed baby.
It was hard to not feel defeated. After 9 months of fighting until I couldn’t anymore, and giving it my absolute all, it was over. I was happy to have lasted as long as I did. I loved every snuggly second of breastfeeding. I wish I could have made it to a year, or longer, but it’s okay that I didn’t. I’m so happy that we had formula supplementation as an option when he was having weight issues. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it.
And for all you Mamas out there. I know it’s hard and I know you’re stressed. Providing for your little ones is tough. It’s absolutely draining. And we are rock stars for doing it. No matter how you’re doing it, you are doing your best! Whether you’re breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding you are doing what is best for your baby. Heck, I did all 3 and Sawyer is thriving. Here are a few tips to ensure your babe is getting the proper nutrition, to ease your mind!
How to Ensure your Child is Getting the Nutrition they Need
- Fed is best! No matter how you chose to feed your little one, as long as they are healthy and happy, they are getting what they need! To make sure they have what they need, make sure to
- Make sure your supply can meet their demands. If you’re having trouble, try Mother’s Milk tea or a lactation cookie recipe. Both are yummy and can help a lot! Also, look in to resources from local lactation consultants or breastfeeding support groups. Having support and the right education can make a world of difference.
- Invest in a good pump. A good pump can make all the difference. I had a lot more success when I switched mine!
- Have formula in the house. Even if you’re not formula feeding, it always good to have some in the house as back-up. When I was exclusively breastfeeding, I still kept formula in the house, in my diaper bag, and in my car just in case. We never once used it but you never know when your baby is going to need to be without you. Life happens, be prepared! And if you’re babe is exclusively formula fed, you never want to run out right at feeding time! Make sure you are always stocked!
- Start solids when your doctor says its time. And only then. It’s very important to make sure your little one is getting adequate servings of fruits, veggies, meat, etc. once they come of age. Educate yourself on starting solids and decide what is best for your family. Some parents start with purees, some choose baby led weaning. Talk to your doctor about what is right for your baby!
- Give them a vitamin D supplement. Our doctor told us at Sawyer’s 2 month check up that we should be giving him a vitamin D supplement and I had no idea! Breastfed babies typically need a vitamin D supplement during their first year of life. And formula fed babies even need it for the first few months of life. Turns out, since babies don’t spend a lot of time in the sunlight, they often are deficient in vitamin D (most Americans typically are). Too little vitamin D can cause rickets, a softening or weakening of bones. Ask your doctor if they feel your baby should be getting a vitamin D supplement.
- Start snacks and finger foods when your little one is ready! And at your doctor’s suggestion. Not only will little snacks like puffs or teething biscuits help them feel fuller longer (which means less fussiness), but it also helps teach them how to feed themselves which is an incredibly valuable skill for infants. Take your time when introducing new foods, baby won’t take to everything right away but stick with it.
- Ask questions! Those doctors appointments are great to pick your pediatricians brain about everything you need to know. If you have breastfeeding questions, ask them! Formula supplementation questions, ask them! Questions about starting solids, ask them! You’ll never know if you don’t ask and no one expects you to know everything just because an infant exited your womb. Asking questions will ease your mind and can help you feel secure knowing your are providing your child with the nutrition they need. You can’t always trust the internet, so ask your doctor!
I am not a pediatrician or a lactation consultant/expert. The above is my opinion based on my own experience and should not be taken as fact.
Now that Sawyer is over 1 year old, he drinks whole milk 3 times per day. When he wakes up, at naptime, and at bedtime. When we weaned him off of formula and switched to whole milk, he didn’t even seem to notice! He loves his milk and has grown so much. We had a lot of stress and health scares when he wasn’t gaining weight like he was supposed to. I carried so much guilt that I was not able to provide for him like I wanted to. I’m so happy we had other options to help him. When the time comes for baby #2, I can’t wait to breastfeed again. I loved nursing, and hope to have a better experience next time around. My goal is always to nurse until they’re 1, but it’s good to know I have options if that doesn’t work out.
Did you exclusively breastfeed? Pump? Formula Feed? Comment below!