18 March, 2013

A Year of Breastfeeding - We Made It!

While we haven't quite reached a year yet, her birthday is only 10 days away (*sniff*) so I feel pretty confident we'll make it. =)

First, I'm just gonna say that it kinda, sorta, in a way makes me feel like supermom for breastfeeding for a year. My body has made every single drop of milk she's had since she was born. Awesome, right?! I think so. I'm not one of those who necessarily thinks formula is evil, but I still feel awesome saying that she's never had a single drop of it!

And now I'm going to tell you that it hasn't been a picnic. Breastfeeding was a breeze...until my milk came in. That's pretty much when the real trouble started. Big boobies full of milk + tiny baby = many problems. I had a terrible case of cracked nipples. It took them almost 2 months to heal. {I'm not exaggerating, either.} She had a hard time latching - and staying latched. She was so, so tiny, and her mouth was even tinier. It's really a wonder she could latch at all! As soon as she'd get latched and going good, she'd pass out. Which is fine and all, but 10 minutes does not count as a full feeding! So we'd wake her up and try again. *sigh* And somewhere around the second week, she decided she wanted to suck her hand, too. So I'd try to get her latched and she'd shove her hand in there! Frust.rating.

And that was just the first few weeks, which, you know, also includes 2-3 hours of sleep at a time. Rough/feedings, cracked nipples, no sleep? Oh, so much fun. {You can read more about our early breastfeeding days here.}

For a while there after my nipples healed, I felt fantastic. I wasn't panicky every time she wanted/needed to be fed. I figured out how to deal with her attempt at "double dipping" hand and mommy. I even sorta, kinda adjusted to no sleep. Then we were slapped with reflux.

I really should've caught on before she was 3 months old that something was up. She was spitting up all the time, soaking numerous burp cloths a day. I washed more of those during the first 4 months of her life than anything else! It wasn't unusual to see spit up stains on the couch or pillows. I even got to the point where I'd stop changing clothes every time she spit up on me because I didn't have enough clothes to change into! But I never thought about the possibility of reflux until she started refusing to nurse. Total, complete refusal of the breast. Or, she'd nurse for a couple minutes and then cry and arch her back. After 2 days of little-to-no nursing, I called and set up an appointment with her doctor. We were given Zantac and sent home. A week later, my happy baby was back! I couldn't tell you the last time she soaked a burp cloth...or the last time I used one while burping her. =) After that, things were pretty much a cinch for us for a while, at least as far as feedings were concerned. 

At one point, her doctor became concerned about her weight gain/my milk supply. I was appalled when she tried to force formula on me. She didn't even suggest speaking to a Lactation Consultant! I wouldn't let her give me any, though, and we eventually ended up switching her provider. I did call a Lactation Consultant, decided to stop taking the pill, and also started a Fenugreek regimen. I don't remember if this helped her gain weight, but it did help my supply! I did supplement her with expressed breastmilk for a few days, but found that it made her less likely to nurse. I wanted to protect our breastfeeding, so I nixed it. She was much happier with mama in the end, anyway. 

Fast forward 5 months, to the Nursing Strike of December 2012. =P I'm still not exactly sure what caused it, but I do think it was something my body did. I went to the commissary one morning, came back and attempted to nurse her. The strangest thing ever happened - my milk didn't let down. I was confused, but thought it was a fluke. This continued for the rest of the day and into the next day. I put in a call to the same LC and decided to start up on Fenugreek again to see if it would help. By this point, I couldn't even try to get Charlotte to take a bottle. She'd only had them a few times, and by 8/9 months, if you haven't kept it up, it ain't happenin. So she was getting nothing. I called everyone in a panic, seems like. =P After some good advice from my SIL, I decided to scale back her solids a bit and focus on nursing. I also started nursing her in our bed, lights off, fan on (to block outside noise). Within two weeks, things were back to normal. Whew! Even this far into our breastfeeding journey, she'll still refuse to nurse. Nothing like the Nursing Strike, but she will do it. I figure it's mostly because she's too busy to nurse. Too much to see! To much to do! So much to explore! She's very much a busybody. 

Despite all of the struggles we've had, I have thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding Charlotte. It is tough, but it's also sweet.

Newborn Charlotte, passed out nursing. Sweetest thing in the world.

Gotta love the milk drunk face!!

This is when she started putting her hands and arms over her head while nursing. :)

Hehe. Seriously, isn't that the cutest?!
She wasn't asleep here, just closed her eyes because, gosh, life is hard, mama. 

This is when we started doing the side-lying thing.
No clue why I never did it before!

The hand gently laying there? Oh, sweetness.

And look at that sweet face!!

This is my favorite photo of her nursing!

I wish I had more recent photos of us breastfeeding... She'd grab my phone and stop nursing these days. So I guess I'll just stick with nursing while getting slapped, poked in the eyes, mouth, and nose, and getting my hair yanked. Yeah, that sounds good. ;-)

Yeah, breastfeeding may be tough, but it's totally worth it. If not for the sweet snuggles (though those are few and far between these days!), the health benefits are definitely worth it! And I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon. I know a lot of mamas will wean their babies at 1 year, but... I don't think we're ready yet. She still nurses 2-5 times a day. It's good for her and I think it's something we both enjoy. I enjoy the snuggles and she enjoys the milk (and putting her hands all over my face). I don't know when we'll stop, but I know it'll be when she's ready. Joe and I are both okay with that, so here comes year #2 of our breastfeeding journey - nursing a toddler!


Allison Boutwell said...

That is a HUGE accomplishment and one you should be proud of. We made it to 6 months and that was my initial goal. I will be ECSTATIC if we can make it to a year. Some days I wonder if we will and others I feel very confident that we will. Like you said it's not always easy, but it's definitely worth it.

Kaylee said...

Good work, mama! I've been battling some low milk production and trying to figure out why my girl spits up all.the.time (although she's a pretty happy spitter...), and am trying my best to stay encouraged and keep at it - it's not always easy, that's for sure! Good for you!

Chantal said...

Congrats on a year of breastfeeding!! As you know, we're still going strong at 15 months. It's so nice!

Karen said...

Good for you!! We made it to 16 months and then she just decided she didn't want it anymore and she was done :( I'm glad to hear that you stuck through it, even with the tough times (and I can't believe your doctor tried to push formula on you - that's so not cool).

Kelly said...

Congrats! Drew and I just hit the 19 month mark, and I'm hoping to make it to his second birthday. Nursing a toddler is a whole new adventure! Good luck... And keep the cuddles coming! ;-)

I'll Love You Forever said...

Congrats! A year, what a great accomplishment. I have been a working mom and I made it 7 months pumping. Crazy what our bodies can go through.

Mrs.B said...

That IS awesome! Congrats! I'm determined to breast feed for a year this time around versus only the first few months with my first.

Ashley said...

Congrats on making it to a year -- and good for you for deciding to continue on, even though there is such a stigma attached to nursing a toddler in this country. I am currently nursing my 14 month old, although we are weaning due to us leaving the country without the kids next month ... but I nursed my oldest for 22 months [and until I was 6 months pregnant with her brother!!] Enjoy those moments -- they really are the sweetest!

Heather said...

It's such an accomplishment! I intend to write a post about my own experience in the next couple weeks, because we're also nearing a year. I didn't have an easy journey either but it is so worth it!

Jessica Lynn said...

Way to go!! I'm loving BFing so far, but my girl isn't gaining "enough" weight. She's only 10 days old and they already told me I should start supplementing with formula (she's down 6% of her birth weight). I told them no. I hate that that was their first suggestion for us. Luckily, I have a great lactation consultant who's helping me stick with it (I'm pumping after she nurses). Anyway, I'm glad you made it a year; I'm excited to keep this up.

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~Dawn~ said...

Congratulations to both of you for making it this far. I'm a new follower and so glad I found you at this post. I am a huge breast-feeding advocate and was sad when my milk supply ran out at 10 months with my first daughter. I wanted to badly to make it a year. But, made up for it with my second and nursed her for 2 whole years. Good luck making it another year - you can do it.

Jess said...

Way to go!!! What an accomplishment! My son is 8 months old and we are still chugging along with breastfeeding, but like you it wasn't easy. It's nice to know there are others out there going through the same stuff. :)

Jenna said...

One year is my goal but I won't stop just because I hit one year. I am hoping it works out well as this is my biggest concern with having a baby!