Our Breastfeeding Story

Our story begins just minutes after birth. Isaiah brings Hunter to my chest. We share a family cuddle, and Hunter begins to nurse. I don't think about latch or how long he's been there. I just gaze lovingly at my new son as he suckles. Soon after all the "fuss" of birth is over, our new family of three is left alone, and we sleep. Hours later, maybe five, a nurse wakes me, asking, have you been putting the baby at the breast every three hours?

I explain that, no, I haven't -- we've been sleeping, and then I get somewhat of a scolding for not following step by step the instructions in the baby feeding chart we were given right after birth. I glance over at the stack of papers on the nightstand, untouched. I vaguely remember my midwife telling me not to fret about nursing the first 24 hours (yes, feed the baby, but don't fret). Apparently the nurses didn't get that memo, because they are on me, and if I am to get on their good side, I suppose I should do what they say. I wonder how long we will have to stay in the hospital anyway. Will we leave in the morning?

Hunter is so sleepy, nothing really happens when I put him at the breast. He seems to latch well onto one breast but not the other. We set the alarm on my phone to wake up every three hours to feed our tiny boy. A nurse weighs him the next morning, and it's not good, I guess. You'll have to stay another night, they say. Some lactation consultants come and try to help the situation. One more night turns into another night. At some point a nurse has given me a nipple shield to help Hunter latch on. It works, but he's still so sleepy. He is not awake long enough to get a good feed. I'm pumping to get my supply going. Our last night in the hospital, they hand me a vial of formula, and I am so desperate for my baby to eat something, that I just give it to him with a syringe, the hose threaded through a hole in the nipple shield.

The next morning, we're released with strict orders to supplement all feedings with pumped breastmilk. We must stop at Mary Birch to pick up a hospital grade pump rental, and since my sister accidentally took my shoes with her (after moving from the room where I labored to the room where I birthed), I am wandering around the hospital in my slippers looking for the rental shop. Once home, Isaiah and I work like mad around the clock to get this boy to eat. At subsequent appointments with the pediatrician, we hear the worst, he's not gaining enough. Tears ensue because I must be a failure of a mother, right? Because my baby has gained an ounce in two days instead of two. After ten days, Hunter is finally back at his birth weight, and we can rest a little.

A few weeks later, hormones get the best of me, and I am a blubbering mess. Will I ever stop using this shield? Is it going to affect my supply? Why can't he just latch on without it? I break down at a friend's home, and she tells me to go see Peggy, a cranial sacral therapist and lactation consultant. Peggy sets my mind at ease. She tells me to just keep using the shield, and to get his tongue tie and lip tie checked out. I also meet some wonderful women at a breastfeeding support group that encourage me to keep up the good work.

Meanwhile, Hunter has started to writhe and whimper in pain during and after feedings. He arches his back and pops on and off the breast. I turn to Google, and decide to give up dairy. Two weeks later, his symptoms have subsided. A hiccup with insurance means Hunter doesn't get his tongue tie clipped until he is almost 8 weeks old. It's traumatizing for both of us, but by three months of age, I've weaned him off of the shield, and he's nursing like a champ. Sure his reflux begins acting up, and I have to start feeding him smaller amounts more frequently, but he's steadily gaining weight, and he's happy.

The freedom to just whip out the breast (without having to fumble with the nipple shield) whenever it's time to feed my baby is wonderful. I have no shame when it comes to breastfeeding in public. I always do so modestly, but if someone catches a little nipple action, I'm not going to fret. I'm not being obscene -- I am feeding my baby.

The addition of four teeth in the last couple of months has made nursing a little more challenging, but I am hopeful that there is a happy ending to this story. Only time will tell how it will end. To be continued...

UPDATE: 7/18/2015
Now that I am pregnant with Baby #2 and thinking about breastfeeding again, I thought I would come back here and update this post with the conclusion of our breastfeeding story. A few weeks after I published the original post, I discussed having Hunter's lip tie corrected. That seemed to help a bit, but some more time went on struggling with the teething. By the time he turned a year old, he had a mouthful of teeth, but I was determined to make it all the way to a year. Things eventually got better by his first birthday, but I was also not ready to stop cold turkey just because it was his first birthday. After struggling off and on for an entire year and finally getting to a good place, it seemed silly to stop. We had a groove, and to be honest, it was still such a special time -- I didn't want to give it up.

And to be honest, I didn't really want to put in all the work of weaning him, so we continued our breastfeeding relationship. From one year on, he was nursing first thing in the morning, to go down for his afternoon nap, to go to bed for the night, and every 2-3 hours during the night. Since we co-slept, the night feedings didn't really bother me. At around 18 months, the summer before I started school, however, I did start thinking about cutting back on feedings because I knew nursing just wouldn't work for us while I was in school full-time. I started by cutting out the day-time feedings. Then I cut out the middle of the night feedings. That part was kind of cold turkey. He was not happy about it for a couple of nights, but then he got over it. We were still co-sleeping, so if he woke up, I would just pat him on the back, and he would fall back asleep.

By the time we both started school, he was 20 months old, and I was down to only one nursing session a day: bedtime. The day I finally decided to take away that last feeding, I had a talk with him. I said that night would be the last night he would get "chichi" before bed. I nursed him for the last time, kissed him goodnight, and lay next to him until he fell asleep. The next night, I was sure he would ask for chichi, but he did not. And he didn't ask for it the night after that. It was all so bittersweet and... easy. He was clearly ready to stop, but I was not really emotionally ready for him to be so ready to stop. My baby wasn't a baby anymore! Although he did not need chichi to fall asleep anymore, he still needed mami and papi to lay down with him. Also not ideal, but it worked for us, for a while, until it didn't. Yeah, sleep? That's a whole separate can of worms!

August 1 through August 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. The theme this year is "Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers." I want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of having support during a breastfeeding journey, whether it's a supportive partner, a lactation consultant, new friends at a support group, or all of the above. I hope all moms, not just exclusively breastfeeding moms, get the support they need to feed their babies.

Also, if any moms-to-be are reading this post, I highly recommend taking a breastfeeding course prior to your baby being born. I didn't, and I wish I had. I attended a few La Leche League meetings, but it was not enough. You can ask questions, but it was one of those "I didn't know what I didn't know" situations. I wish I had known the good, the bad, and the ugly because, as you can see, we hit quite a few bumps in the road, and it would have been nice to be able to say, "I knew this could happen, so let's work through this." Instead, each bump felt like the world was ending. For some moms-to-be, a class might scare them out of wanting to breastfeed, and that's a tough one, but for moms who are pretty committed, the information you gain in a class may just be the thing you need to help you forge ahead when the going gets rough.

Hunter at 2 days old (photo courtesy of Manda)


  1. Mandy I love this picture of you and Hunter. You are an amazing mom. I'm so proud of you.

  2. thanks for sharing your story. It is such an amazing and emotional journey trying to get babies to do what you know they need to do but just won't (like eating and sleeping). it's so rewarding when you and they get it right and so challenging when you don't. But alas babies are just babies and that's what makes them so hard and yet so fun. I couldn't breastfeed my twins for several days after they were born since they were in NICU. It was tough giving birth then having to be apart from them for so long. And living on the express machine just meant more time away from them. Anyway, you're doing great. Love the photo.


Thanks for stopping by. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your comments!

Copyright © Amanda Freerksen 2008-. All rights reserved. Powered by Blogger.
Maira G.