My Breastfeeding Journey
I always knew I was going to breastfeed. My mom did, for all three of us. To me, there just wasn’t any other way. I got unexpectedly pregnant with my first daughter in Aug of 08. My husband had just left for our first deployment. I had to tell him over e-mail with a picture of the pregnancy test attached. I was freaked. After an almost 4 year hiatus from school due to moving every 9 months or less for military training, I was finally back in a 4 year college with 2 years to finish my degree in geology. How was I going to be the mom I wanted to be while in school? I decided what could fall by the wayside if things go to be too much-like cloth diapers, making my own baby food, etc. One thing that would not would be breastfeeding for a year. Come hell or high water, my daughter was going to be breastfed. My husband, however, was not at all supportive at first. He was formula fed. He and his sister turned out fine. It was gross, disgusting. I think he might have called it dirty at one point, but I can’t really remember. The bad part about our whole debate was it had to be done all over e-mail. Phone service when you are in the middle of ocean kinda blows. The few video chats we did have were spent on happier topics. I sent him article after article. I told him all the benefits for our baby and me. Finally I got him to shut up about it by providing a cost analysis of breast milk vs. formula, and if I had to use formula, it was going to be the organic kind from non-hormone treated cows, so we were talking a lot of money every month! Since he is the saver (and I’m the spender) in our relationship that got him to quiet down. Fast forward to the birth of our beautiful, spunky Hoo. Since I didn’t really know how it was all going to work out, I had gotten a can of organic formula & special bottles that really did look like the breast. I try getting her to latch on and nurse. She was born at 4:51 in the morning, so the staff lactation consultants aren’t there yet. A nurse is helping me try to get the right latch and she keeps pulling off. After successfully latching & her nursing for a few minutes, the nurse leaves, she stops and my husband steps in
“That’s it, she’s still hungry! I’m feeding her!”
He walks over to the bag to make a bottle. He was planning on making the whole thing and giving it to her (it was like a 9oz bottle!) because she just had to still be hungry! The nurse comes back and tells him to chill out, our daughter’s stomach was about the size of a dime & the ‘liquid gold’ of colsturm was plenty for her. The LC came in with ‘boob puppets’ that had a flip up panel to show all the parts of the breast. And she actually demonstrated the proper latch., with her own mouth and all. I was a little shocked, and my husband was trying his hardest not to laugh. She still wasn’t latching that well when she came back after a few hours so she had me squeeze a little bit on a spoon for my husband to give to her. I could tell he was less than pleased. After that first night and giving her the binkie, she learned how to suck properly and breastfeeding was going great. My husband was warming up to it, making jokes about cleaning up bodily fluids that had been processed by another creatures colon and was really happy when she stopped pooping every 2 hours at night because he didn’t have to do a thing when she got up.
At three months old I had to leave her with a sitter when I went to school. I had 13-hour days down at class, so of course I was pumping. I didn’t like the thought of an electric, so I used a manual pump and any class break I had that was longer than 15 minutes, I was out in my car, pumping away, carrying my little lunch cooler of milk to class. I would go rushing home every day, feeling like I was going to burst, grab my child & nurse while pumping at the same time. I hated pumping. The next semester my sitter entered her third trimester of pregnancy, so I found her a spot in a day care 5 minutes from my campus. I would arrive an hour early, nurse her before day care, go rushing out on my 1 hour lunch break, get her, feed her while eating myself, then pick her up at the end of the day, feed her & make the commute home. We had such a great little groove going.
Then at the very end of the year, 2 weeks before she turned one, I had to go out in the field for a geology project that had to be done or I wouldn’t graduate. It was 5 days away from my precious child, and the environment just wasn’t going to be conducive to pumping and storing (I really had no idea what to expect). So we decided to wean her, despite the many tears from me. We started at 11 months, cutting out the dinner, then the lunch, then the morning & I nursed her for my last time the night before I left. I cried. I just wasn’t ready. I had cried every day of the weaning process, especially that first time we cut out the dinner feeding and I could hear her cry and cry for me. I didn’t even have enough milk stored to give her that instead of cow’s milk. I held her that last night, rocked her and saw her sweet little face cuddled up to my breast and just cried. I tried to get her to eat more and more. I burned the memory into my skull.
I didn’t really feel that much pain from stopping during my trip, but long days hulling around rock samples and doing geologic mapping will do that to you. I could still get some milk out in the shower, so I held out the hope that maybe she would want to nurse when I returned. She didn’t. She was done. My little baby just wasn’t a baby any more.
We had been trying to have our second child for about a month, and I found out the day after I got back that I was pregnant. I wonder if that had something to do with her no longer wanting to nurse & the easy weaning. I still longed to nurse her.
We were driving back home shortly after the birth of our second child. I thanked my husband for being so supportive of breastfeeding our daughter and asked him what changed his mind-he had become so for it that I couldn’t believe it was the same person. He told me that he knew I was going to breastfed no matter what, and that he might as well be supportive of it rather than fight with me constantly. Nice. I asked him if he was glad that I did, and he got this soft, special ‘fatherly’ smile on his face and told me yes. He said watching me at the hospital with our second, when she latched on that I got this look over my face-this nurturing, loving, ahhh I’m breastfeeding finally look.
Seven weeks later, he had left for deployment and I almost lost my second baby due to a mystery illness. I had to use an electric pump for the first time to maintain supply, while wondering if the last time I nursed her at 1:30pm that day was going to be the last time ever. She couldn’t nurse for over 36 hours. She was crying in pain, crying for nourishment and my heart was breaking over not being able to nurse her. Every fiber of my being just wanted to put her to my breast and make everything better. I couldn’t even pick her up. When she finally was allowed to and latched on for the first time, I felt all the emotions from her first time nursing after birth. I could barely hold back the tears.
We left the hospital, and within a week she had gained a whole pound! We are rocking it now. I love looking at her chunky little body and know that it is from me, that I am the one giving her what she needs to grow. And this time, nothing will hold me back-she will wean when she wants too, not because of anything else. I think the best part about our whole journey together is not just my husband’s total change of heart, but seeing our older daughter walk around nursing her babies. I love that I am raising two girls who will see breastfeeding as a natural, normal event long before they ever see breasts used to sell cars.