It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week! There has been a lot in the media lately about breastfeeding (or, has there always been a lot in the media about breastfeeding all the time, and I’m only noticing it now because it actually applies to my life?) Anyway, I had been thinking about writing about my breastfeeding story for a while now, and figured that this week was a great time for me to do it!
I want to tell you that breastfeeding came easy for me. When I was pregnant, I read the book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and I specifically remember getting to the section on troubleshooting and skipping it because the rest of the book made it seem like it was going to be this super natural thing that would come to both of us pretty quickly. Babies know what to do, they’re meant to. But it wasn’t easy. Breastfeeding was really hard for us, especially at first. When Autumn was first born, she was a very tired baby. She was also pretty lazy. She would immediately fall asleep as soon as I started feeding her. And when it wasn’t that she was always falling asleep on the job, it was that we had a poor latch. There were lots of times where breastfeeding really sucked, pun intended.
The falling asleep often meant that when she woke up, she was just hungry again. There was a lot of cluster feeding in the first few days (which I’m told is actually very normal). But, because we had a poor latch, it also meant that it REALLY HURT. She didn’t have any teeth when she was born, but when we were having problems with latching, it felt like she had razor sharp teeth. I can’t tell you how painful it was. Luckily, there was an easy solution there with nipple cream, the kind with lanolin in it, which was a lifesaver (or nipple-saver, as it were). Also, we had a few days of breastfeeding strikes. Those are SO frustrating. I was literally leaking milk, but Autumn wouldn’t take any. Luckily, it only lasted a day each time it happened… but I couldn’t believe how she refused it, and then cried more because she was so hungry. Babies, man. They’re super weird.
Then, came the weight issues. This is still really hard for me to talk about. When Autumn was born, she was in the 50th percentile for weight. At just over one month old, our doctor didn’t think that she had gained enough weight. Then, the next day, Autumn had actually gone down a little bit in weight, which is not anything you ever want to see, so we got referred to a pediatrician. This was the worst thing that we could have done. Despite the fact that every single time after that, Autumn was ALWAYS bigger and ALWAYS gaining weight, it was never enough for this doctor. This doctor talked to us like we were stupid, and like we were starving our daughter on purpose. She just kept saying that Autumn needed more to eat, but then told me that I should only breastfeed her every three hours, and give her formula in between. I didn’t agree with that at all. I had no problem with breastfeeding my daughter as often as she wanted to be fed. It was frustrating to not have that support from someone who was supposed to know what they were talking about.
And every time we saw this doctor, Autumn had gained weight. The numbers were always going in the right direction, little by little. At my two month follow up with my own doctor, she said that Autumn is probably just a small baby. And that’s exactly true! We ended up being referred to a different pediatrician. The new ped told us that Autumn’s weight was good for her height. I saw her one other time, and Autumn had gained enough that we could go back to our family doctor from then on out. Our family doctor agreed that Autumn is a small baby, but that she looks perfect. She was exclusively breastfed from when she was 3 months old until when she was 6 months old, when we started solids. We are still going strong. Every time we get to another month, that is another major milestone for us. Additionally, we went from going to see a doctor every single week, to not seeing a doctor for two months, and now, we are not required to go see our doctor until Autumn is one, unless something comes up. It’s huge for us that we don’t have to go to doctors that often anymore!
There were so many times in there where I almost wanted to quit. I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore because it was so hard. Autumn will be 9 months old on Friday, and I can’t believe that we made it this far. I am very grateful that we did make it this far! Breastfeeding is something that I love doing. I love that I am able to care for my daughter in this way, and it is so important to me.
There’s a lot that this experience has taught me. I think one of the biggest ones is, if your doctor isn’t supporting you in your breastfeeding goals, you can find a new doctor! You don’t need to continue to see a doctor who treats you poorly. That best decision we made was no longer seeing the pediatrician who made us feel bad about the way we were parenting our daughter. It was so hard at first, and it was hard for a decent amount of time, but it did get better. When I look at my daughter, though, I know it was all worth it.