Real Life: The Roller Coaster of Breastfeeding (Part II)

My Breastfeeding Journey

 

Note: this is the second of two posts on my experience breastfeeding. Find Part I here.

 

Our easy-breezy breastfeeding experience continued for several months. It was so fun to see it progress. We started with no idea what we were doing. For months I had to be sitting upright with Lawson laying on a boppy pillow. Soon after I figured out I could feed him while lying down. And finally Lawson would just sit on my lap and feed.

 

At his 6 month check-up, Lawson weighed in a pound less than he had two months earlier. The pediatrician expected he’d be small, but he was no longer even on the growth charts. She suspected my milk supply had decreased and suggested I pump to see how much I was producing. This meant feeding Lawson a bottle, which did not go over well. He flat out refused. There were moments he’d take 1-2 ounces and we’d think he was going to do it, but then he’d be right back to refusing it. I was still breastfeeding him because I was so worried about his weight. He had already lost weight and I knew he needed to eat. I finally spoke to his pediatrician again and she referred us to a pediatric nutritionist since he was refusing to take a bottle.

 

Based on the frequency and duration of his feedings, the nutritionist thought he was getting enough breastmilk. She determined the problem wasn’t milk, but that he wasn’t getting enough solids. We were already feeding him solids twice a day, but we added rice cereal in the morning and a snack at lunch.

 

Two weeks later we went back to the pediatrician. I was devastated to find out he’d hardly gained any weight. As a mother, I felt terrible knowing I was supposed to provide nutrition and important calories for my little one and was failing. Not to mention all the time and effort to make sure he was eating enough solids.

 

Finally around the 8 month mark, the pediatrician said I could not breastfeed him. I had to pump and give him a bottle until we could figure out if my supply was the issue. For a full 24 hours, Lawson refused a bottle. It was so, so hard to know he was hungry and not be able to breastfeed him. But it’s amazing how quickly they learn. He was soon taking that bottle like a champ. With a mix of breastmilk and formula, he was drinking almost 30 ounces a day. From pumping, I found I was only producing 10 ounces a day. My poor little guy had been starving for 2 months. He hadn’t been waking up during the night and was still smiling and happy so I’d had no idea.ideas

 

I wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding. My original goal was 6 months. After we reached that point, I revised it to 9 months. I always thought it would be my choice to transition Lawson to formula or milk when I was ready. I never thought my body would make the decision for me. I tried a lot of different ideas to boost my supply (eating more, exercising less, lactation granola bars, supplements). They may have helped a little, but I finally admitted I was never going to increase my supply enough to meet his needs.

 

After I accepted my days of breastfeeding were coming to an end, I was so sad. I had heard about the hormones in the weeks after giving birth. I was somewhat prepared for them. I was not prepared in any way for the emotions I felt about stopping breastfeeding. I cried uncontrollably. I worried the bond I shared with Lawson would never be as strong. I regretted not having photos taken of me breastfeeding Lawson. I realize that may sound strange, but some of the photos I’ve seen are so beautifully done and I wanted to commemorate this special experience.

 

I read a few articles that really helped me understand there is a grieving process many go through at the end of breastfeeding. The Last Drop: Grieving the End of Breastfeeding and Grieving the End of Breastfeeding are two of my favorites. I allowed myself to grieve and be sad.

 

Today Lawson is a healthy, happy little boy. He’s a great eater and back on the growth charts. He still lets me cuddle him occasionally. And our bond is still as strong. I am grateful that I was able to breastfeed him as long as I did.