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The Story: Why it's called "My Longest Year"

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His Longest Year

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I am so glad I found your blog! I had the hardest time breastfeeding my son and forced myself to keep at it. I had problems getting him to latch, had to use nipple shields to just get him to nurse and dribble formula on the shield to "entice" him into even latching, then after feeding I pumped to try and get my milk supply up. What I ended up with were multiple breast infections NO sleep, and ended with me with horrible post partum depression and anxiety about my baby. So instead of nursing being the most "wonderful, natural bonding and relaxing experience of motherhood" I was sad and tired and angry. I am pregnant now with our second child and will try to breastfeed. If it goes like it did last time, I am switching to the bottle because a happy mama equals a happy baby and hubby! Plus, then I can give up some of those night time feedings for some extra sleep!

I'm sorry you had such a difficult time with breastfeeding. I feel partly responsible, as a lactation professional, as a woman, and as a member of the human race. No one, I repeat, NO ONE has the right to stress you out about your supply, misinform you, or give you information that is not positive, uplifting, and encouraging.

Many women in America have never seen another woman nurse her child in person (pictures don't count). As a result, we, as women, have lost that vital link that has passed on breastfeeding knowledge and skills from generation to generation - in the 70's and 80's so few women breastfed, we have a generation of women who know very little (collectively) about breastfeeding and have completely lost that knowledge/skill link in some families.

Breastfeeding shouldn't be difficult, stressful, or something one is guilted into doing. Unfortunately, women don't have the support they need to have a safe, successful, and stress-less experience breastfeeding.

A few of the most common things I come across and discuss:
*Every baby and every lactation cycle (i.e. each time your full milk volume comes in/after each pregnancy or late-in-pregnancy loss) is different. You set your limit for each lactation cycle in the first 4-6 weeks after birth. That time is family time - mama/baby/daddy time. Be fierce in protecting it - it protects your supply. (see below about visitors).
*All babies loose weight in the first several days of life - if you had more than 1 bag if IV fluids or were retaining lots of water when you were pregnant, the magic number the doc talks about (weight loss of no more than 7-10%) is often lost very quickly, but if you go by the weight at 24 hours of age, you'll see significantly less weight loss (the first 24 hours baby looses all that extra water weight that really wasn't meant to be there in the first place)
*Your full milk volume doesn't come in for 3-5 days. Why? Because baby's stomach holds about one teaspoon at birth - I'm talking Thanksgiving dinner stuffed at 1 teaspoon. Baby is learning to latch, suck, swallow, and suck/swallow/breathe all at once. Having a lot to swallow just doesn't help things. As baby becomes proficient at suck/swallow/breathe/etc., baby's stomach size increases; once your full milk volume is in (between day 3 and 7 after birth), baby's stomach is about the size of a golf ball. (Note - if your milk volume isn't in by 5 days after birth, a lactation professional should be consulted and some sort of supplement should be considered - not required, but considered, based on baby's condition.) The first milk you produce starting at about 20 weeks of pregnancy is enough - baby wants to eat often because human milk is easily and quickly digested by humans! Every 2 hours is normal, so is cluster-feeding (on for 10 minutes, off for 30, repeat several times), it's not unheard of for a young baby to nurse 20 or more times in 24 hours!
*On that note, nursing 11 times or more in the first 24 hours decreases baby's likelihood of developing jaundice (to less than 5% chance), improves your perception of your supply and how you feel breastfeeding is going (moms notoriously think things are going horribly, when really - they're doing well), and babies have significantly more milk transfer in the first week (2x or more in some cases) than babies who nurse less than 11 times in the first 24 hours. (I struggle with this tidbit, because it encourages looking at a clock and not at the baby... but I think it gets the point across that newborns nurse a LOT.)
*All those weight checks and "you're home from the hospital, but you need to come back ever X-hours" only add to your stress and delay your full milk volume (and make you feel like a horrid mother - which makes me want to do mean things to the people that stress new mamas out!).
*Visitors are over-rated (unless they are providing child care for siblings, bringing food, or doing laundry).
*The first week (or longer, depending on who you talk to!) should be mama-baby time, with occasional daddy-baby time. For breastfeeding success, it should look something like this: Mama in bed, lots of pillows, shirt optional, baby in a diaper, on mama's chest, lying next to mama, or on dad's bare chest, if needed, cover parent and baby with non-fluffy blanket(s), mom gets out of bed to use the toilet and stretch if desired, nursing happens when baby is hungry, when baby opens eyes, when baby might be dreaming about nursing, etc., there is NO CLOCK in this room, daddy and helpful-visitors bring food, change diapers, empty trash, keep steady supply of water to mom's liking, if dad needs an alarm, he sleeps in the guest bedroom or on the couch. (If daddy is not a part of the picture, insert your favorite support person/partner/etc.)
*If you REALLY think baby isn't getting enough, count wet and poopy diapers (#poopy/wet diapers per day of life charts can be found just about anywhere you look on the internet - make sure it's not a formula company that makes them... a bit too much of a conflict of interest there in my opinion). Look at poop (color - black for a few days, green for a few days, then seedy/dijon mustard-y). If you still think something is wrong, call a lactation professional and have baby weighed before nursing, nurse, and re-weigh baby - you'll actually see the weight baby gained while nursing (OR, you'll validate your gut - if there's an issue with your supply or milk transfer [baby actually consuming your supply...]).
*If you do need to supplement: 1. Have someone else feed the supplement if you aren't using a supplemental nursing system or similar (tube taped to your boob so baby gets a "straw" to supplement from while nursing) 2. Use a quality breast pump for 5-10 minutes MINIMUM for each supplement (to "trick" your body into thinking baby just nursed). If you aren't getting milk at this point, and it DOESN'T hurt, that's fine - it's telling your boobs to make more milk. If the pump hurts (EVER) - STOP. 3. Don't stress yourself out about breastfeeding, supplementing, or exclusivity. I know, easier said than done.
*CoSleep - if you're not comfortable with that, use a "sidecar." after baby figures out the whole "OH, this boobie is my food, and this is how I eat" thing, when baby is hungry, you lift your shirt (if you're wearing one), pull baby close, and go back to sleep (I know, easier said than done)... and when the diaper needs changed, you fling your arm across the bed to daddy :) hehe.
*Ok, one last one, 'cause it's not mentioned enough - if you're beyond sore - and your boobs hurt, your nipples are blistered, cracked, bleeding, etc. - GET HELP YESTERDAY! Make sure someone who knows about breastfeeding checks your baby's latch, looks in your baby's mouth (looking for tonuge and lip ties - baby's tongue, when lifted should NOT go down in the middle like a heart, and the sides of baby's tongue should be free to make a "U" shape, baby's bottom and top lip should be able to freely move up and out - the connection from lip to gum shouldn't interfere with a nice, big pouty face - lip surfaces [where you put lipstick] should not be turning in toward the gums at all), if this seems to be an issue - discuss with someone experienced in dealing with tongue ties.

The bottom line in all of this: I'm sorry. I'm sorry this has to be your story - so full of stress, pain, and fear. I'm so sorry some breastfeeding helpers are boob nazis (for lack of a better term). I'm sorry you had such stressful, horrible experiences with your first two babies that you were so disheartened, you felt like trying was too much.

Congratulations on your beautiful little man, or beautiful toddler as he is today... And thank you for letting my little soap box rant go on and on. It's mom's like you, with stories like yours, that need to be heard, listened to, and learned from. If people like me (lactation professionals) really understood your challenges and history, we could make what was so stressful and difficult for you, a (hopefully) simple and happy experience for others.

For those of you who have left so many comments... I'm sorry my profession has failed you as well. I'm sorry modern medicine is so inhumane, and I'm sorry well-meaning folks have treated you so poorly. Do not be ashamed, DO tell your story; if only so others don't have to travel such a difficult road.

My sincerest apologies,

Laura

I know that this post is over a year old, but I just came across it today while searching your blog for a burp cloth tutorial. I just want to say thank you for being so honest and unashamed about your choice to bottle feed.

I have 4 children and tried unsuccessfully to breastfeed each of them. With my first child I had PPD and couldn't breastfeed. With my second I got mastitis and stopped at 6 months. With my third I was determined to breastfeed, but got mastitis again and the pain was so bad that I started to resent my sweet baby every time he was hungry. With my 4th I vowed to try again, but she was underweight at birth and the nurse told me she might have to stay at the hospital if she lost any more weight. That's when I decided to bottle feed her. With amazing women all around me who breastfed (my own mother, my mil, all my sahm friends) I felt this intense pressure, as if I was letting my children down by not giving them the nutrients they deserved from breast milk. I believe it contributed to my ppd. I worked with many, many lactation consultants who told me that I was doing a wonderful job, only to have sores and fussy babies. Like you, a kind nurse took sympathy on me and offered to give me a bottle to feed my daughter one night in the hospital. I called my husband crying, feeling like a terrible mother. But here I am with 4 healthy children; 9,7,5 and 18 months, and I know that I did what was best for them and for me. And the bond I have with all 4 of them is wonderful! :)

Your story is important, thank you so much for sharing. There are more of us out there than people realize. My baby E, who is now 15 months, almost dehydrated her first week home. When I saw this happening I immediately sent my husband for formula. Regardless of what I was being told I wasn't going to sit and watch my baby starve. I kept trying with the pump so that I could feed her both breast milk and formula, but had no luck. When I quit I started to feel like a failure, then quickly realized that if I always listen to my instincts I will never fail her.

I had such difficulty with my daughter. I think I hired every lactation consultant in the county because I wanted to nurse so badly. When nothing worked and she was struggling to keep her weight up, I decided I would pump, then bottle feed her breast milk. I would feed her a bottle, pump, wash the equipment, feed her, pump, wash equipment etc. Even at night. She would wake so I would feed her the breast milk from the previous pumping session, put her to bed, pump, wash the tubing and containers, then get maybe 30 mins of sleep before she would wake again. My husband would help as much as he could with night time feedings, but he would have PT at 5:30 so he could really only help with one so that he could still get enough sleep to function at work the next day. At 6 weeks my husband came home to me in tears yet again and told me it was time to stop--that having a happy, sane mom and being bottle fed was a million times better for her than a crazy, teary, resentful mom and getting breast milk. Next time around I am going to remember your words and think about what is really important for my daughter. Thanks for this post!

Love your honesty, well written. I have had the same experience and it is comforting to hear another's story, after child number 2 I don't care what people think, after all it's between me and my kids, the MIL and anyone else can shove their opinion, the truth is breastfeeding is so much harder and exhausting than I could have ever imagined. Second time around, it is so much more enjoyable having the weight off my shoulders to just live and enjoy this special time with my most precious gift in the world.

Thank you so much for posting this. I had my first child 2 years ago and I had similar issues. I had hardly any milk and so I breast fed and supplemented for 4 months until I figured out I was completely out of milk so I bottle fed from then on. I believe I was under too much stress from trying to deal with a newborn as well as be a caretaker to my grandma who died 5 weeks after my daughter was born. In my case, it was my dr. that made me feel like a jerk as he put it for 'starving my child' and he told me that she had to gain 8 ounces in a week or else. I had no clue what he meant by that so I was terrified that I would lose my child. I went home crying and depressed that I couldn't make enough milk to feed my baby so I started supplementing. She gained her 8 ounces, barely but we will just say that I didn't go back to that dr. I have long since got over the horrible things this dr. said to me but this caused me to make sure my daughter's dr. was one I loved and who loved my daughter. I plan on trying to breast feed my next child but I will not mind if I can't. I know best when it comes to my baby and I will not let someone, anyone make me feel that way again.

I, too stumbled across your blog while looking for a burp pad pattern, lol!! My babies are, 27, 26, 24 and 23 and I STILL feel guilty for having problems breastfeeding the first three; your story could be my story!! I, too, gave myself permission NOT to breastfeed my youngest when she had to be hospitalized for the first week of her life and we lived 30 miles from the hospital! "Friends", (I don't know if that is the right word for them) criticized me and told me that because I was an RN, that I must be a failure as both a nurse and as a mother because I couldn't successfully nurse!! Kudos to you for freeing yourself of the guilt laid upon us by ignorant but "well meaning" people. Enjoy your children while they're young, they grow up WAY to fast!

Crazy, isn't it, how much pressure there is with this? I had a similar experience and started blogging as a result of it. Here's that post. Babies need love and nutrition. It doesn't matter how they get the second as long as they are getting the first.

https://fosterandboo.blogspot.com/2010/06/crunchy-mom.html

My babies are now 8 and 11...reading this article brought tears to my eyes. I had almost the exact same expierence with trying to breastfeed my oldest. When my youngest daughter was born I decided during pregnancy that I would not try to breastfeed. I just couldn't risk going down that road...for her health and mine. Thank you for sharing your story!

wow, this was great! I think that the mama group is harder on one another than ANY OTHER group of people in the history of our world. seriously! competitive, fierce and sometimes just downright mean! i can't understand ... we're all in this together. we all know firsthand how difficult (and rewarding) it can be to be a mama, why get caught up with the little things, like how your kid gets his/her nutrients!? it's sad that so many women suffer depression because of this (i truly believe that) since our society berates you for NOT doing it. if i were to have another (uh, no thanks!) i'd not try to breast feed again, unless my littles were no longer littles. it's too difficult for me, and someone ends up getting the short end of the stick. i just wish that i could be more confident in myself and my decisions as you seem to be. it's beautiful and must be freeing! that's my goal, now, though: to make choices and then stand behind them confidently. it's a beautiful sight to see:) thanks for sharing your life via your blog. i just found it today and it's beautiful. sweet little family! :)

Thank you so much for this! Your struggle was far more noble than mine, I just hated breast feeding and then felt terribly guilty for hating it and my next daughter is due in 6 weeks and I'm just not going to do it again. And you're right, a sane mom is the best gift and allows for more stress-free bonding, at least for me. I know my baby felt my stress and I CHOOSE to simply enjoy this next newborn experience! Thank you again for speaking out so bravely! :)

Thank you for posting this. I missed a lot of the first three weeks of my little one's life because I was stressing over not making milk. We are expecting another one at the end of March/beginning of April and I have been back and forth as to whether or not I want to go through this again. Since the older one will only be 10 ish months old I am not sure I am willing to go through the ordeal again. And I really don't understand all the people who judged me even though it was a lactation nurse who told me to quit for the sake of myself and my baby's health. People say that there is no such thing as a low milk supply but obviously there is. I wish people would be less judgmental.

oooh i went trough the same situation!!! almost the same, and i know... i know the guilt, the bad feelings, the nonsleeping, the sadness, and the comments... those are the worst...

I love this post!! I can relate to a lot of your post. Thanks as you can see many of us have been down your road, we are just afaird to talk about it.

I could have written this myself but never had the courage to stand up for this choice I made! THIS IS ME! my third has been a breeze since the moment he got here. Thanks for posting this!! It needs to be up with every pro breastfeeding article ever written!

i'm not sure how i stumbled across our blog, but i love it! i wrote a very similar post just this week. happy mama = good mama!

Months ago I emailed you about baby food tips and you were so helpful! The last email I sent your way was about BF and I never got a reply. I wondered why it was so difficult for you, but I figured you had too much going on with your pregnancy to explain. I'm sorry to hear how hard it was for you. You gave it your best, mama! I'm very happy that you're getting to enjoy your son without the pressure, pain and guilt. He is so precious... looks like your oldest daughter :)

Wow - soooo thankful I stumbled across this post. I'm 4 months pregnant (first time) and I have never felt the desire to nurse. I could list all the reasons, but that undermines my conviction that it doesn't matter what my reasons are because they're mine. I'm not advocating anything for anyone else, I am well-read on all sides of both BF and FF and I know what I can handle in life. I'm not making any permanent decisions until the bridge is in front of me, but regardless of what I decide, I won't let myself feel beat up for choosing not to BF, even if that means not trying at all. Bottom line, it's really nobody's business what I choose. I support choice for everyone and it's not my business or burden what choice they make. I've bookmarked this and have a feeling I'll be referencing it whenever I feel like I'm in the minority. The 'evil' minority. ;)

Bless your heart, Crystal! I'm glad that you were able to figure out in advance what works for your precious family and get on to the important business of loving that little guy! That photo is wonderful! You're beautiful, and of course, so is he. The Lord bless you all!

My comment can be short - why would you have to defend yourself about not breastfeeding? I haven't breastfed my two children - because of a surgery in the past it's not possible. And they're both healthy, happy children.

It's very important to feel comfortable with your decisions and it seems bottle feeding is the solution for you.

Sorry if this may sound slightly insensitive - English isn't my first language.

It is all about doing what is best for you and your baby -- and it sounds like you are doing that! :) He's beautiful.

Peer pressure is an ugly ugly thing, regardless of what the topic of discussion, and when raising our kiddos, it can be downright cruel.

In our generation, breastfeeding was rare, and so when I chose to breastfeed your sister, I went through much of the same guilt trip stuff in reverse, from the nurses, from friends -- since my breasts were so small, how could I possibly think I wasn't starving her?! It comes down to this: follow your mother's heart. Period. And don't chase down the road more travelled simply out of peer pressure to do so. Proud of you, little girl (hugs)

BRAVO, I hope every mom who struggles with breast feeding reads your post and takes permission to stop to heart. I was able to nurse all three of mine with very little difficulty (i did supplement w/ formula too), but have a few friends that it was so hard for them. Every baby is different, and every set of boobs/milk ducts are different.

The first few months are such a struggle, no one should suffer through something that should be a bonding experience. YOu can bond with your baby while feeding them a bottle as well, or when you sing a lullaby, or when you look in their so sweet sleepy eyes and smile.

Every mama should love their baby the way they feel called to do so, enjoy that so sweet little guy!

You're completely right..."if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" I'm so glad you were able to make the decision ahead of time and save yourself the torture of indecision and trial and error. I breastfed both of mine but always secretly envied those that bottlefed b/c it seemed so much more better for the mom. I always had trouble with resenting the fact that I was always the only one that could feed and I was always tied to the baby. I continued out of guilt. I also struggled with latching on, milk production, jaundice, not knowing if she got enough, etc. etc. Those problems are torture and are even harder to deal with when you have 1 or 2 other children to also care for. If we have a third, I may seriously consider doing things differently. Keep us informed of how this experience goes compared to your previous experiences. I'm interested to hear how the newborn stage with bottles compares to the newborn stage with difficult nursing. I'm also interested to hear about your experience of having a 3rd child period. The third child is very scary to me!!!

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