Wow, the past few weeks have been packed full of activity around here so excuse my absence. But in the middle of all of the chaos, my sweet little baby turned 4 months and my breastfeeding adventure had come to an end. But no worries I’m still feeding my little one aren’t I, so there will be plenty more baby feeding adventures to come, from formula dos an don’ts to introducing food for the first time! For now though, back to my eternal breastfeeding problem that finally caught up to me.
My first go around at breastfeeding a couple years back was short and anything but sweet. It was stressful, painful, sad, and disappointing, all of which was only exacerbated by my emotional state postpartum. So after only a month of trying my hardest to nurse my brand new baby we had to start introducing formula half of the time to help her with weight gain and supplement my low supply. Soon enough we were full time and I was relieved of my breastfeeding duties all together. Not being able to breastfeed my first go around was heartbreaking, but now, in retrospect, was probably a blessing in disguise. I was beyond stressed about whether or not I was keeping up with baby and her lack of weight gain was just too much for me to handle, especially seeing as my postpartum emotions were far from positive and my physical state was barely 80% by 8 weeks.
This time around though I made it to 4 months with my second baby girl and honestly I loved almost every minute of it. My postpartum emotions were much more positive this time which I’m sure only helped things, but as far as the mechanics behind it all, things just seemed to work a tad bit better. My last experience I was barely making ends meet in the breastfeeding department, so to speak, and this time I seemed to be meeting our little girls needs or at least I hoped so (Bizarre seeing as supply was not much changed since my first baby but apparently every baby’s needs are different, says the doctors and lactation consultatns.). From day one though none of it was easy, besides the obvious demands that stand for any breastfeeding mommy, the stress over my supply was sometimes too much to handle.
So many factors go into successful breastfeeding, the first and most important is your milk supply obviously, but unfortunately this about 99% genetic, which makes it 99% out of your control. For me, this was the exact issue, along with constant pain, that kept me from breastfeeding my first little girl for more than a month and a half. Thankfully this time the pain was intermittent but making enough milk seemed to be my same story. I fed around the clock, pumped on the off times, and did about as much as I could to establish a good supply and I still only pumped a measly 7 or 8 ounces total from a longer stretch. After many a phone call with my doctor and lactation consultants I learned that there was only so much that I could control in this area and that so much of it was genetic.
Having so little control over yet another aspect of new mommyhood is beyond frustrating. Sure the delivery was out of my hands, but really this had to be too? Seriously, again really? Even though sometimes I feel like my body just fights against me every chance it can I always come back to the same thought, if my girls are healthy and happy, with full bellies, then I’m happy. My emotions and feelings about what I want are minimal and can take a back seat to their health and happiness. So this time around with my emotions in check and my post-delivery recuperation much more positive than before I was able to spend those precious moments with my baby girl and tons of less than precious moments pumping in-between. At the beginning things were going pretty well, even though my baby girl lost the undesirable greater than 10% of her birth rate before we left the hospital just like her sister, but thankfully she had gained it back before too long despite fighting off the jaundice. And once we were back up at the birth weight we seemed to get into a somewhat comfortable feeding rhythm, but with a little girl who was very colicky since her early weeks the next few months were anything but comfortable.
While I loved every bit of my quiet snuggle time and convenience of feeding her anywhere and everywhere without a bottle and formula in tow, the constant worry of whether our little girl was screaming because she was still hungry never left my mind. Not to mention the stress of whether my milk was filling enough for her seeing as I eat a very restrictive gluten free diet which truthfully didn’t fill me half of the time. Maybe these things were silly, especially given the constant reassurance from the pediatrician that since she was gaining weight all was good in that area, but anytime you have a baby who doesn’t seem satisfied you begin to search for fault anywhere, most likely within yourself. And trust me that added stress and worry certainly doesn’t help an already struggling milk supply. So after three months of breastfeeding we decided to start adding in some formula and see if that helped tame the fussiness.
Just as we had hoped, adding in just one bottle of formula a day seemed to help but didn’t take all of the fussiness away which with a colicky baby would make sense. No matter, we stuck with the one bottle of formula a day while mommy fed the rest of the day which gave her the best of both worlds. But after two family colds that made my milk supply drop even more we decided to retire the breastfeeding at 4 months, use up the rest of the frozen breastmilk, and then turn to formula full time. And even though we’re still on the fussier side, my baby girl seems plenty satisfied, making this mommy happier than ever.
It was a whirlwind first few months as a new mommy of two that was more positive than my previous postpartum experience but more challenging in so many different ways. Nothing kills a mother more than a helpless, tiny newborn who’s cries don’t seem to be soothed by anything, not even her mommy’s hugs. For me, my first few months with my littlest girl were beautiful in so many ways but heartbreaking in so many others. From jaundice and weight gain issues for the first month to inconsolable colicky crying for the next few months my world was shaken, but being a mother to these amazing little girls who show me so much love in every way they can has given me the strength to do everything I can for them. I’m strong for them because of them. Through all of the worry in those first months all I needed was just to look into my baby girl’s big blue eyes and instantly know that all would be okay. And even though I’ll never know if it was coincidence that my baby girl’s fussiness seemed to go away when we switched to formula full time or if she just outgrew the colic which just so happens seems to occur at 4 months, none of it matters now. It’s all just part of her story, our story really, and those breastfeeding moments that I shared with both of my girls no matter how short they were, I’ll never forget and will always hold a special place in my heart.
And as you can see, formula fed, breastfed, or a little bit of both, my girls are both healthy and happy, just the way I hoped they would be! I just love my little kangaroo and sea turtle!