*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, however my experience with breastfeeding two children for more than a year each, taught me a lot and placed me in a position of giving advice to those who seek it from me. I have offered breastfeeding support for lactating mothers, and if you feel like you want to learn from what I went through then this post is for you. If you are however, here to judge breastfeeding mothers or in any way feel this is an attack on formula feeding mothers, then obviously you have no any idea that I am all about accepting other parents’ choices, hence I invite you to exit this page, there is no room for negativity or judgement.*
Before I gave birth to Tracy, I was in the last year of my 20s. I had been there done that with a cherry on top, and now was the time to focus on my growing family. I read a lot of books, online articles, magazines, downloaded mobile applications that track my baby’s daily growth, the whole deal. One issue that interested me was breastfeeding and the long list of benefits for both the mother and the child in the long run, from reducing the risk of types of cancer for both, to a strong immunity and brain power for the child to name just a few. Another benefit that only a breastfeeding mother can feel is the bond that is created which nothing else can duplicate, not to mention that whatever the mother eats, the baby does too, thus widening the little one’s palette from day one.
When my Cita was born, everything was overwhelming, some supported my decision to exclusively breastfeed while others insisted she was always crying because she was hungry and needed a bottle. Do you have any idea how harsh those words are for a new mother who went through 9 months of crazy hormones, the pains of childbirth, the instability and mood swings following the new baby, who isn’t getting a wink of sleep, whose breasts are in unspeakable pain? You don’t? Well NEVER judge a mother who is trying her best. I had a choice at the time, introduce a bottle at the tender age of 2 weeks or soldier on and breastfeed. Can you guess my choice? Had I given her a bottle, she would have gotten used to the easy flow of milk and she wouldn’t be able to adjust to properly nursing from me. I will not sugarcoat things, breastfeeding is really painful the first few months especially when you’re feeding on demand and have no time to relax, always seek help to make sure the baby is latching on properly.
Then it was time to go back to work after my maternity leave, and since when there’s a will there’s a way, I made it work. My advice to you, working mothers, is to ease your baby into a routine before heading back to your daytime job, meaning, make the nursing sessions consistent. For example, wake up, nurse, nap, nurse, nap, nurse, bath, nurse, sleep. That’s the way I did it, I would wake up and nurse her, take her to my mom’s and head to work, then I would take a lunch break and nurse her and go back to work and so on so forth. I worked around her schedule and at the same time she fit into mine. It’s a two way street, and it is hard sometimes because the baby’s meal is more important than anything during this phase. Trust me when I tell you I used to schedule my life according to nursing sessions, I would never go out with friends unless I had nursed her in the evening and put her to sleep, and whenever we were out during the day I made sure it was at a breastfeeding friendly mall so we can take breaks in their special rooms. This went on until about 1 year and 3 months when I had to wean her because I was going on vacation for over a month and couldn’t take her with me nor was it practical for me to pump to maintain my supply. Weaning was hard on her, she hated the bottle and hated formula, we tried everything from spoon feeding her the milk to dropping it into her mouth with a syringe. It was even harder on me to see her so sad and wondering what was going on, I even wanted to sneak in a breastfeeding session without anyone knowing! I obviously didn’t and a while later she adjusted.
Moving on to my 2nd pregnancy, I knew what was waiting for me around the corner, and I remember telling my husband I don’t think I can do it all over again, I needed to feel like my body was mine, I was tired of the lack of independence. Then Fares was born, one look into his then gray eyes I felt there was no way I wasn’t going to make a tremendous effort to give him the one thing I can to prepare his body to combat infection, breast milk that is dubbed liquid gold. However I introduced pumped milk in a bottle soon after because I decided it wouldn’t be convenient to go on long tiring lunch breaks and stay long hours in the evening at work because I now have a child who attends school and I must handle her as well; therefore Fares would have to learn to drink from a bottle anyway. The same routine started and I would pump the milk each day for the next and settled into the schedule. I traveled once while he was still nursing, and he was around 6 months which is too young to wean, so I took my breast-pump with me and pumped each morning and night to maintain my supply, while he would drink thawed breast milk I had stored for him in the freezer. Then again came time for another vacation, he was one year and 2 months and I started weaning, which was oddly enough easy on him and super hard on me. He didn’t give ME time to adjust to this separation.
I am sure I can go on and on and write an entire essay about my breastfeeding issues and adventures but I will limit myself to the above, and want to give you a bit of advice my dear friends. Take it day by day, set a goal in your mind but once you climb the ladder slowly, you will get there in the blink of an eye. Ignore ‘friendly’ advice that it is time to wean, only YOU know what’s best for your baby; if I had a dollar for every time someone felt entitled to share their opinion, my bank account would be pretty hefty. It is not without struggle, from beginning to end, I personally had mastitis both times, so be careful and always talk to lactation specialists and your midwife or doctor to get all the details and scientific truths. It also helps if you have a supportive partner who reminds you why you’re doing it when you feel overwhelmed, in my case 5 years of continuous pregnancy and breastfeeding would have made me hysterical had I not had a support system at home. Remember there is a large community of breastfeeding mothers who are willing to give their advice and I am one of them, hit me up if you ever need to vent or ask questions.
Last but not least, I want to reiterate that mothers who have medical issues that prevent them from breast feeding aren’t doing anything wrong, sometimes reality forces us to make decisions we would rather not. We are all in this together, no matter how different our parenting techniques might be, at the end of the day we all want our children to be healthy.