After my last post about breastfeeding, I felt as if I owed you guys a followup. Sometimes as much as I hate to admit it, the real knowledge of things only comes after you have endured the difficulties that make learning necessary. If things were always easy, we might never understand their true value.
We are just a week shy of 4 months of breastfeeding, with a total of 4.5 bottles of formula included to date. We went from 12 feedings a day all the way down to 6, then back up to 9, and now we are settling somewhere between 7-8, with one feeding being a bottle of expressed milk (I’ll cover why below). She went from the 8th percentile in weight, up to the 21st, down to 0, and today we are sitting at 10.78 lbs and in the 2.4%. After working extensively to up Aubrey’s feedings and doing everything possible to get her to put on weight, she still didn’t really chub up, and we finally just determined that she is just a squirt. She is gaining weight, just very slowly, and she is growing and meeting all of her milestones right on time, if not early. She is happy and super alert, and back to my initial feelings about it all, she is perfectly fine. This is just one more situation where scales can be misleading in our lives. Doctors have to err on the side of caution, which was the case in this situation, but for now we have been cleared to continue as normal, and I’ve felt a big weight being lifted off my shoulders.
Throughout these months I have developed a very love/hate relationship with breastfeeding, and I kind of think it will continue that way until we stop. When I take a step back and look at our situation, I realize that we really haven’t had it all that bad. We didn’t have to suffer through learning to latch and actually nurse effectively. I never had to worry about my supply really. And I have been extremely fortunate to be able to be a stay at home mom, which has allowed me essentially unlimited time to work out the kinks.
I love that my body not only was able to create and support a life inside my womb, but is now also able to provide for all of Aubrey’s needs. It’s a pretty amazing and fulfilling thing to think that your body can actually feed and sustain another human being! I love the quite moments nursing gives me with our baby girl. And I love that breastfeeding cuts down on the amount of “stuff” you need for your baby because it’s always available and always the perfect temperature to satisfy little one.
On the other hand, I sometimes loathe the amount of time breastfeeding requires. I hate sitting upstairs in the nursery while our friends and my husband are downstairs enjoying their wine and laughing it up. I get stressed from time to time when Aubrey is being fussy or distracted, and I feel like our nursing session turns into a battle to try to get a sufficient amount of food in her tiny body. Especially compared to when I give her a bottle and get to spend the entire time talking to her face to face, seeing her smile, and feeding without the stress. And I hate that no matter how much I research, and how much effort I put into it, we still have problems here and there.
Throughout this low weight issue I have read about a million articles. I’ve held formula in my shaking hand debating giving into it. I’ve seriously considered switching to exclusively pumping. And I’ve also realized that in considering EPing, I am not ready to give up our nursing time.
I’ve also learned a few other things. Nursing Aubrey 8+ times a day between 7am to 11pm is too much…for me at least, and actually for Aubrey as well as she would often refuse feedings here and there. It’s exhausting, and stressful, and made me feel like I didn’t have a life. It also didn’t result in much better weight gain. This is what led me to considering switching to pumping. With pumping I could give her 3-5 oz bottles, feed her 5-7 times a day, and know without a doubt that she was being fed sufficiently. Pumping only takes me a few minutes each time instead of the 30-40 nursing requires, and bottle feeding meant Dad could participate too.
But ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to risk hurting my supply to give it a shot, so I compromised. I now nurse Aubrey 6-7 times a day, and give her 1-2 bottles as well. I still get to have my time with her breastfeeding, but the bottles give me a little break (although a pumping session or two is still needed), and Will has gotten to feed her a few times.
I’m not exactly sure how things will progress from here. I’ve read and been told that at 4 months many babies are down to 5-6 feedings a day, and sometimes even less when solids come into the picture. Obviously with Aubrey’s crazy metabolism we can’t do that, but I’m looking forward to the days when our whole day isn’t spent either feeding, or thinking about feeding.
I’ve learned a lot about breastfeeding. Like a whole lot. And in a way I’m glad. I’ve learned that more often than not breastfeeding is a real challenge for many mothers. I’ve learned how to handle almost any obstacle that comes our way (BFing-wise that is). I’ve learned that the support out there is abundant…if you only ask for it or voice your concerns. I’ve learned that what works for each mother and baby is truly different for every family. And I’ve learned that although baby’s needs come first, mom’s needs (especially happiness) also have to be considered so she can be the kind of mother she wants to be for her baby.