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Lives in: Rutherford, New Jersey
Breastfeeding experience: Tough at first, then got easier
Main challenges: Pain, low supply, baby started to prefer bottle
Breastfed for: 12 months
My mom breastfed me until I was 13 months so I always thought, "Okay, my mom did it, so I should do it." I took a breastfeeding class and I thought, "I can do this."
But it was tough. I remember we went to the doctor in the first week because my daughter was crying a lot, and her pediatrician said, "She's hungry," and suggested I formula-feed. My supply was low. I felt like a failure. Everyone has their ideas before they have the baby, and I thought breastfeeding wouldn't be hard, but it turned out to be hard for me.
With the doctor's orders, I tried to let go of some of my feelings of inadequacy and started supplementing with formula anytime it seemed like my daughter wasn't getting enough milk. I'd give her maybe 2 ounces of formula at a time, at most.
Another problem was that, in the beginning, breastfeeding was very painful for me. I had bleeding nipples. In fact, one of my nipples was so scarred within two weeks of leaving the hospital that I wasn't letting my daughter feed on that side. I was just pumping. In retrospect, I wasn't nursing my daughter as much as I would have otherwise because I was so fearful about the pain.
And when my daughter was a month old, I got mastitis. I had flu-like symptoms and a fever and I was like, "What the heck?" I texted my friends who'd had babies, and they were like, "Oh, that's mastitis!" I went to the doctor, and he gave me a prescription for antibiotics. When I took them, my supply went down, and I was freaking out.
But once I hit the five-week mark, things got better. The breastfeeding wasn't painful anymore, and I started enjoying it. By two months in, I was able to completely stop using formula. It's been exclusively breast milk since then. I just kept working at it. One day it was like, "Oh this doesn't hurt! We can both enjoy it now."
However, by the time my daughter was 3 or 4 months old, she'd been getting the bottle enough that she started preferring it to the breast. Every time I'd offer the breast, she'd cry and wouldn't eat as much. But she was hungry.
So from then on, I ended up exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding her my milk. I kind of missed nursing, but it wasn't working for us. And I recognized that breast milk was important for her overall growth and health, so I made a commitment to pumping.
One good thing about pumping from early on is that I was able to build up a stash that went into the freezer. And that was helpful to have because during the times that my supply has temporarily dropped – like each time I get my period – I've been able to use that milk for my daughter. Her appetite is huge.
I have my own office, so pumping at work isn't an issue, and I have two pumps – one at work and one at home. I don't take lunches now; I just use that time to pump. I do it five to six times a day. It's so easy, how could I not continue? I told myself I was going to do it until my daughter's first birthday, and now that that's almost here, I'm about ready to stop. I plan on switching her to whole cow's milk.
My biggest lesson learned
At the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you. For me, it was pumping and bottle-feeding until the one-year mark, and I'm working my hardest to fulfill that. One thing that really helped me is that I had a couple of friends who nursed and pumped for a whole year. And I thought: If they can do it, I can do it.
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