Friday, April 19, 2013

My Breastfeeding Story

Here is your fair warning: If you aren't interested in the topic of breastfeeding, move along to another post about protein shakes or yummy cakes! This post is for my mommy friends! :)

I've only had about 152367 people ask me about my experience with breastfeeding (okay not really, but close). Everytime I get ready to do a post about it, I convince myself I shouldn't because

1) It's a sensitive topic and can cause people to get offended.
2) The idea of feeding a baby from a boob sometimes causes people who don't have children yet to get uncomfortable.
3) I'm fearful that people will judge me because I didn't start weaning Kollyns until she turned 2.

Wait, I'm not really worried about #3. When I became a mom, my focus shifted away from what people think of me to the single most important thing in my life...the wellbeing of my child. After the infamous Time Magazine breastfeeding cover controversy last summer, I was subjected to endless snarky comments by people who thought I had been breastfeeding Kollyns for too long because she was already over a year old. I would always defend myself with the fact that the AAP recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of 1, and internationally the average weaning age is 2! I'm proud of myself for ignoring everyone's remarks and opinions and doing what I knew was best for me and my little girl. Here's my story...

When I started thinking about getting pregnant, I began to read...a lot. I read every how-to book that I could get my hands on. If ever there was something I was going to get right in life...I wanted it to be the way I tackled the challenges of motherhood.  And yes, being a mom has been the absolute most challenging thing I have ever experienced.  But it has also been the most rewarding.  Being responsible for the most amazing little being is a huge thing to take on, but in doing so my heart has grown.  My heart is now toddling around outside of my body in the form of this beautiful, perfect, precious, feisty little blue eyed girl.  I matured in more ways that I could ever imagine and I grew up fast.  I was 23 when I had Kollyns, which is a great age to have a kid...but it's still young and I didn't realize until I had her how much growing up I still had to do.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant this process started...the process of me evolving into Mama Kelsey.  Everything I would drink, eat, see, the back of my mind I was thinking "Is this safe for my baby?"  The worrying hasn't stopped since then and probably will never stop.  There is one thing that I did have control over, though...and that is what I chose to feed her.  I knew that breastfeeding was the best possible thing I could do for Kollyns and for myself.  It's no secret that the benefits of breastfeeding are incredible, so I had made my mind up that no matter how hard it was I was DOING IT!  I am super modest, so I was uncomfortable with the thought of feeding my child directly from my breast, and when I first had her she would only latch well to my left side.  I had a lactation consultant in the hospital that was doing all kinds of gymnastics with my boobs and my baby, trying to get her to latch properly.  Ha, now that's awkward.  I was exhausted.  I had literally just gotten settled in my room and here is this lady that I had known for about 5 seconds pulling on my boob (imagine the discomfort).  Kollyns still wouldn't latch to the right side.  I was so scared of losing my milk supply that I requested a breast pump in my room.  And here they came with this monster milking machine (a Medela).  I felt just like a cow, and Kollyns feeding directly from me was heaven compared to attaching a vacuum to my boob.  I'm very thankful that my body responded to the pump and Kollyns got all of the colustrum into her system via bottle feeding.  I pumped around the clock every 3-4 hours while I was at the hospital.  The Medela pump was amazing.  We came home and got settled in and it was pumping time again.  I swear everytime I turned around it was time to pump again.  I pulled out my Avent breast pump that I had gotten at my baby shower, and my body did not respond AT ALL.  No milk was coming from me, not even a drop!  I went into sheer panic mode and literally started crying my eyes out.  I had failed.  Then it hit me, it was the pump.  I sent Devin straight to Target and he bought me the Medela Pump in Style, and some backup bottles just in case my biggest fears were realized and I had to feed her formula.  Thank goodness the pump had been the problem.  The Medela pump worked like a charm.  No less painful, but I pumped out about 4-6 ounces from each breast every 3-4 hours around the clock for 3 solid months.  The worst part about pumping was waking up even when Kollyns was asleep to pump because my boobs felt like they were about to explode and I had to get the milk out.  Some nights I would finish pumping, and as soon as I laid my head back down Kollyns would wake up for a feeding.  So after my 15 minutes of pumping, I would have to stay up another 30 minutes to get her bottle ready and feed her in the middle of the night.  Even better, feeding her WHILE pumping was quite the challenge...but I eventually mastered it.  That was a long 3 months of bottle washing and sterilizing (I don't have a dishwasher, I know what you're thinking...and I'm aware that it's 2013), freezing and writing dates/ounces on bags with sharpies, and packing bottles AND my pump every single time we left the house.  I can honestly say I thought about QUITTING (gasp) when Kollyns was 3 months old.  I was exhausted, tired of being milked by a machine...and my freezer was running out of space.  I started crying again.  I didn't want to be selfish and give up on providing my daughter with the best possible nutrition, but I just couldn't do it anymore.  Finally that night I decided to try and get her to latch as my final effort to prolong breastfeeding my girl.  She latched perfectly on both boobs!  From that point forward I chunked the bottles and the freezer bags, and stored my pump far away from me in a deep dark closet.  I haven't looked back since.  (I also work with my family so I have been able to bring her to work with me every single day since she was a newborn.  I have them to thank for those 2 years because obviously if I couldn't be with her every hour of every day, I wouldn't have been able to part with the dreaded pump so soon.)  Nursing became something I enjoyed.  It was bonding time, not a chore.  I didn't have to pack anything but diapers and extra clothes when we went places.  I never had to worry about running out of bottles or freezer bags on overnight trips because all she needed was me!  Night time was a dream because we are a co-sleeping family and when she got hungry there was no preparation involved.  I quickly threw all of my modesty out of the window and started viewing my boobs as strictly functional.  Ask anyone in my family, I didn't care who I was around...if my baby was hungry I was going to feed her.  If they didn't like it they could look the other way.  Yes.  I went from the girl who felt incredibly uncomfortable when I saw someone breastfeeding, and kind of freaked out by the idea of that chick who breastfeeds her toddler.  I couldn't be more proud of myself for lasting 2 years breastfeeding.  It wasn't always easy, I had zero freedom and could only go on a date with my husband if it was 3 hours or less because Kollyns refused to drink from a bottle.  (Which I didn't mind at all because I hated being away from her for more than 2 minutes at a time anyway.) And to this day, she has NEVER spent a night away from me.  Weaning at age 2 was quite a draining process as well, because it's not like she drank from a bottle and I could just swap out the milk.  We both cried many times, but eventually she just stopped asking for it.  Believe it or not I still felt guilty for weaning her at the age of 2!  She has been the healthiest kid ever, and I'm pretty sure I owe that to lots of breastmilk and lots of prayers.  It's a big deal to breastfeed a kid for 2 years because it's practically unheard of for a working mom to do that.  Yes, I totally just tooted my own horn because it took alot of work and effort, and alot of encouragement from fellow breastfeeding I officially earned bragging rights. 

I encourage all expectant mothers, or anyone who plans to have children to breastfeed for as long as you can, if you are able to.  I will be happy to offer up my support to anyone who has questions or needs advice!  Please feel free to message me and I will be your biggest encourager!  For the mommies that didn't breastfeed or have no desire to, I am not judging you or trying to make you feel bad for not breastfeeding.  Everyone is different, and each mama knows what's best for her own child! I just thought it was time for me to share MY breastfeeding experience.  :)


Amy Kruszec said...

Your experience is very very similiar my own. I too, breastfed my Emma until she was 2. There were comments and looks like I was this crazy mama but I did what felt right for Em. For me, other than the hiccups in the beginnig, it was also such an amazingly beautiful bonding experience. My baby was never sick and I enjoyed every minute. Pregnancy and birth is such a beautiful experience period. I love reading your blogs, it's so nice to see I am not alone in my way of parenting and thinking. we still co-sleep for the most part as well. The way I view it is, this is my own personal experience and when it comes to being a mommy there are no rules. I do what makes us happy and what we are comfortable with. I still don't leave her with anyone and if so it isn't for very long. Her daddy and I work different shifts just so she does not have to go to dreaded daycare.They freak me out and no one could ever care for her the way we can. So, you are definitely not alone! Thanks for sharing:)

Kelsey Almond said...

Amen, sister! The way we parent is up to us & I wouldn't trade the years breastfeeding or a night cuddled up to my precious girl for anything! I am so happy to know there are moms like me out there! Thank you for sharing too!

Megan Burks said...

You absolutely had one of the most stubborn newborns I have ever seen when trying to help someone breastfeed LOL I'm proud of you for not giving up! :) And cosleeping is awesome!

Kelsey Almond said...

Haha! I forgot that you witnessed the struggle first hand! You were the only one I actually didn't mind helping me with baby/boob-gymnastics. Thank you for being an encouraging fellow breastfeeding mommy friend the whole time! :)

Melissa Hesseling said...

I can't believe I didn't find this wonderful post sooner!! You are soooooo sweet to share your story! So many keep their struggle to themselves, leaving us mommies who had the hardest time with no one to talk to! I painfully breastfed my little one for three months! I was devastated when we made the switch! There were so many things that kept my spirits down about the entire process and I eventually felt defeated and began to no longer enjoy this beautiful precious gift that God has given us. With that said, I plan on breastfeeding again if and when we are lucky enough to have number two. Even with all the trouble and disappointment and many a nights crying myself to a one hour sleep, I feel so strongly about breastfeeding even though I transitioned a lot earlier than I wanted to. It's posts/stories like yours that are so helpful when one reaches the end of their rope to not give up and to keep going. I will definitely have to return to your story, if I encounter any issues with our "future" second :)
Thank you again for sharing! :)
Fawn Over Baby

Kelsey Almond said...

Thank you for reading Melissa! :)

Erica said...

Great post. I'm still nursing my almost-14-month-old son and have no plans to stop anytime soon. It's so nice for both of us!

Kelsey Almond said...

That is wonderful!!! Here's a bit of an update....Kollyns is now 2 1/2 and I STILL breastfeed her before she goes to bed. It's only once a day, but it gives me peace of mind that she is still getting that good nutrition and it winds her down for the night! And I have no regrets! :)