When my obstetrician asked me my plans around breastfeeding, without hesitation I told her we were going straight to formula. And thankfully she didn't judge me or try to push a breastfeeding agenda on me. She smiled, gave me some encouraging words along the lines of "fed is best" and finished her paperwork.
At that time, I felt that I had already been through enough and wasn't going to give any more of my body to this child I hadn't even met yet. I even went so far as refusing to read up on the subject. I just had no interest. It seemed so difficult and at that point I wasn't interested in "difficult."
By the final month of my pregnancy I had changed my tune slightly and did the most basic of due diligence on breastfeeding. I got my pump through insurance, ordered a standard issue Boppy pillow and read some educational materials on the Medela website, which mostly focused on storage guidelines, holding positions and flange sizes. Honestly, I had done more research on different types of formula and bottles.
Everything changed once my son was born. I instantly became a huge advocate for breastfeeding and found myself learning on the fly, researching everything as fast as I could for my son.
My milk took a little longer than expected to come in so I would pump trying to get as much colostrum as possible while my baby was figuring out how to latch and eat. I would find myself beaming with pride over the 2 ml of colostrum I would produce. I would have a lactation consultant in the hospital come at every feeding to ensure we had a proper latch, good positioning and that my son was actually getting milk.
When we finally got home from the hospital I had Amazon boxes waiting on our porch full of breastfeeding supplies—Lansinoh Soothies, Lansinoh Therapearl packs, storage bottles and bags, a different breastfeeding pillow "just in case," hands-free pump bras, Fenugreek supplements, Mother's Milk tea, lactation cookies and more. I was all in.
Little did I know breastfeeding at the hospital with lactation consultants and nurses steps way compared to breastfeeding at home is a much different experience.
On our second week at home we had one particularly difficult night. It was the exhausting 2 am feeding—the one where you immediately start counting down the days until your baby sleeps through it.
My son was wailing, hungry, cold and just confused because everything was so new to him. He also had a mom who had no idea what she was doing. I was trying to get the nipple shield on correctly, but was struggling with the placement. I was exhausted and I just started crying.
I sat there holding my crying son and just cried with him. My husband gently pulled him from my arms and gave him a bottle of milk I had pumped earlier in the day and told me he had things under control and to rest.
It was that night where things really came into perspective for me: my son needed me to be strong. What he really cared about was getting fed. And if we were going to breastfeed, I needed to get it together. I needed to learn more for him. I needed to work together with him, like a true partnership.
I decided to march on and continue breastfeeding. We struggled for the next six weeks. Some days were great and he would latch immediately without a nipple shield. Other days were different and we had to practice patience with each other. My son was putting just as much work into breastfeeding as I was.
Finally, around the 8-week mark—we hit our stride. We could feed without nipple shields entirely, I managed to figure out the positions that worked best for us and he managed to understand there are two sides and to be patient while I switch from one breast to the other. This was the breastfeeding experience I was hoping for. We got there—together.
I would look down at his little face and he would smile at me. I would smell his little head and tell myself, "Soak every second of this in." I felt so proud of the both of us.
At six months postpartum, I started to wean my son. My supply had dropped drastically after I went back to work and he seemed to lose interest in it. It felt like a natural stopping point for us.
I had so many mixed emotions over it. On one hand, I saw freedom in my near future but on the other, I saw my newborn baby drifting away. I didn't want this journey to end but I knew it was right for us.
The last time we nursed we were laying in bed on a Sunday morning overlooking the mountains and it was just the two of us. I took as many mental snapshots as I could and told myself to never forget this moment, this feeling or this experience. I hope 30 years from now I can still picture my little baby latched to me, smiling up at me, playing with my necklace in his hand.
Somehow, I just know I will.