My ultimate goal when I started breastfeeding was to go to a year. In the early days I never thought I would make it to a week, or a month, or 3 months. BUT, I accomplished my overall goal and breastfed my daughter until she was a year old. It was certainly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, if not THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s such an emotional roller coaster.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that every baby is different and every breastfeeding journey is different. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and that’s okay. I was a formula fed baby and I would like to think I turned out okay. When looking for advice, suggestions, or just venting, I always turned to mommy forums or mommy blogs. In my opinion, they were the most resourceful and helpful. I wanted to share my story kind of by month and ending with my weaning process.
So….here goes nothing…
As soon as Raelynn was born, I wanted to breastfeed her. Even though i had read pages and books of literature about breastfeeding, I was so scared. I wasn’t really that sure how I was supposed to do it, I wasn’t really sure how it was supposed to feel. I had an awful labor and delivery nurse that was not helpful at all. I tried to ask questions, but she was just bothered by me. So, 4 hours later, I finally got her to latch on with the help of a new nurse. It hurt like a bitch. I ended up seeking help from the lactation consultant and she was awesome. She helped me so much and described things to me in a way that made sense. I told her over and over that I was just going to take her home because she made me feel so confident. I dreaded leaving the hospital for the sole reason of trying to breastfeed her without the help and guidance of my lactation consultant.
We got home and it was still a struggle. Sometimes she wouldn’t latch and then she would scream forever because she was hungry. Then I would get frustrated, in turn making her more frustrated. It was a really awful cycle. And for whoever says breastfeeding doesn’t hurt is a fucking liar. Raelynn had a good latch; a lacation consultant confirmed that for me. BUT it still hurt like a bitch. I had toe curling pain for about 8-10 weeks. On top of that, I had very cracked and very bloody nipples for the same length of time. ON TOP OF THAT WAS THE FUCKING HORRIFIC CLUSTER FEEDING. UGHHHHH. I know I referenced this in my last post but I just cannot even begin to explain the toll this took on me. ON TOP OF THAT, was me trying to pump after nursing her in the morning to help build somewhat of a freeze stash so I could go back to work. Let’s not forget the key factor here, she had colic. So anytime she was not attached to my tit, she cried. I could barely find time to pump for 10 extra minutes once a day to try and build my supply up.
Looking back, it’s all a little fuzzy with the lack of sleep, but I do remember things getting significantly better at the 4 month mark. The colic started to subside, feedings were no longer an hour and a half, I wasn’t in any pain anymore. Dare, I say, it actually started to get easy?!
Tricked ya!!!! I also went back to work at 4 months post partum. So, whenever things actually started to take a turn for the better, they actually started going back down hill. The worst part? FUCKING PUMPING. OH. EM. GEE. FUCK PUMPING! Pumping in general is a complete mind fuck. For some reason, I never worried if Raelynn was getting enough milk when I solely breastfed because she always had plenty of wet and dirty diapers. I always felt really confident with my supply and she was gaining well also. When I started pumping, family members and Raelynn’s daycare always questioned the amount of expressed milk I was giving her. They didn’t understand the fact that breastmilk changes and adapts to your baby and they don’t need 800 ounces per bottle. I hated it. Then if I even stressed out about ANYTHING, my milk supply plummeted. If I didn’t drink enough water, my milk supply plummeted. It was really awful. My heart goes out to people who dedicate themselves to exclusively pumping. You da real MVP.
Besides all of this, I suffered really bad with post partum depression and anxiety. It peaked around 6 months. I was a complete nut job. I still might be, but not as bad. I just had a very hard time going back to work and not being able to nurse my baby. The maternity leave in the United States is bullshit. That’s a whole other post for a whole other day.
I digress…Even through the depression and anxiety, breastfeeding continued to get easier. Eevn though my ultimate goal was a year, I would mentally celebrate each month I hit and then proceed to count down how many months I had left. For Raelynn and I, breastfeeding really remained the same from month 4 until about month 10. I pumped while at work and I nursed at night and on the weekends. We had a pretty strict schedule that I stuck too as well. I know scheduling isn’t for everyone, and that’s all fine and good, but it was certainly for me and Raelynn.
In my opinion, it’s pointless to put baby on a schedule for the first 3 months of life. They pretty much feed on demand. Around 3 months old, we started to develop a schedule:
8am – eat
11am – eat
2pm – eat
7pm – eat
This worked for us. I didn’t set the schedule, I let her lead and then I just followed it. She started sleeping through the night completely at about 5 months old. From 4 – 5 months old she would occasionally wake up once a night to feed, but the night feedings were pretty much cut out for us around 5 months old.
It wasn’t until she was about 11 months old that she changed the schedule herself again. She started to extend the feedings to 4 hours in between each feeding instead of 3 hours in between each feeding. So, I followed her lead, and we developed a new schedule:
7am – eat
11am – eat
3pm – eat
7pm – eat
Since she dropped a feeding, I figured it was time for me to take inventory of my frozen stash and figure out if I could start weaning. When she was 11 months old, I had roughly 600 ounces frozen and we had very, very slowly started to introduce whole milk. I decided I could start weaning.
For me, the first feeding I dropped was the 7pm nursing session. We started to give her a bottle instead. I never felt uncomfortable or engorged so about a week later, I dropped the 3pm pump. Same thing, I never felt uncomfortable or engorged; a little “full”, yes; but never uncomfortable. About a week later, I dropped my 11am pump. Still felt full, but neither uncomfortable or engorged. So I was down to one pump. I thought this day would never come. On August 19th, I pumped for the very last time. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I felt a clog coming on. I hand expressed in the shower. A couple of days after that, another clog. I hand expressed in the shower again. It’s now been almost 2 weeks since my last pump and I can fit back into my pre-breastfeeding bras and I think I am finally and successfully starting to dry all the way up!!!!!
I’m not sure at this point how much breastmilk I have in the freezer, but Raelynn will continue to get breastmilk until my freezer stash is depleted. We are now at about half whole milk and half breastmilk. I am surprising thankful that Raelynn will still be getting breastmilk past a year. I wish I had had it in me to continue past a year, but for my own sanity, I was so ready to be done. It is so incredibly nice to not live life in 3 hour increments. Overall, it took me a little over a month to successfully wean off nursing and the pump. Weaning in itself is a huge process and if not done correctly you can end up with major clogged ducts or even mastitis, something I was so thankful to have never gotten.
I have attached some literature that hopefully someone finds useful. For me it was really spot on when it came to the general timeline of breastfeeding: Timeline of a Breastfed Baby
–The Kentucky Momma