With Honest Feeding Stories, you’ll hear from parents like you about one of the most intimate and important experiences of family life. Happiness and heartbreak, serenity and struggle, joy and tears — it’s all here in their own words. Presented with our support and without judgment, these stories remind us that the choices we make to nourish our children are truly unique.
Before giving birth, women make plenty of plans. We read and we research and we hope for things to go a certain way. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
My breastfeeding story, so far, has not been how I envisioned. I want to share my story, because there are, unfortunately, so many societal pressures today regarding motherhood. I planned to and was prepared to exclusively breastfeed this time, but I have had to adjust my plan. Thankfully, plenty of resources are available to help!
Our youngest son, Ridge, is just over one month old. My initial goal was to exclusively breastfeed for as close to one year as possible. I was bound and determined to do a “better job” than I did with our first son, Davis. Immediately after Ridge was born, the nurse laid him on my chest for skin to skin time. After a few minutes we tried to let him nurse and he latched easily. Breastfeeding seemed to be going well during our hospital stay. He only lost a few ounces from his birth weight, which seemed acceptable. He did have significant jaundice, therefore the goal was to feed him often and use that to help his body work out the excessive bilirubin.
When we got home from the hospital, I nursed on command. I kept track of how often he fed with an app on my iPhone. It turned out to be 12-15 times in a 24-hour period. He was sleepy from the jaundice and he was basically just snacking. But I didn’t realize all of that! I figured he was getting plenty to eat, since he was nursing so often.
At his weight check a couple days after being released from the hospital, his weight had steadied, but my friend, who is also a physician’s assistant and fellow mom, encouraged me to see a lactation consultant. I made an appointment for a couple days later and that’s when my plans were derailed. Ridge had lost several more ounces, even though he seemed to be eating around the clock. He was below his birth weight. I was put on a new plan to produce more milk, help him ingest more, have more quality feedings, and help his body get rid of the jaundice.
The new plan was for him to eat 8-10 times per 24 hours, with ideally 8 quality feedings. I was to switch breasts then feed him again on each side (back and forth and back and forth). Following each nursing session, we were instructed to give him another ounce and a half in a bottle. If I don’t have enough breast milk stored for that bottle, we supplement with formula. While feeding him with a bottle I’m supposed to pump for 15 minutes. All in all, each feeding session takes close to an hour, especially if I am by myself. Thankfully my husband is a tremendous help when he’s home from work! And he always helps in the middle of the night.
We have been on this nursing/pumping/bottle plan for over three weeks, and will continue it for at least a couple more weeks. Ridge will be six weeks old this week, I have seen the lactation consultant four times so far, and am continuing to see them. As a brand new mom with Davis, the thought of someone monitoring me while I breastfed was daunting and embarrassing, but this time I am so glad I chose to seek their help. They have helped me know exactly how much milk Ridge is ingesting, and they’ve put me on a plan that has proved successful. He is gaining close to an ounce per day! They were the ones who suggested supplementing with formula, and encouraged me in knowing that the most important goal is to get my baby to a healthy weight.
The good news is that the plan is working, and Ridge is gaining weight! The bad news is that this feeding plan is a significant amount of work and takes the majority of my time and attention. This plan would not work for everyone, and that is okay. I have had to supplement with formula, which was not in my original “perfect” plan. Obviously breast milk is ideal, but the main goal in feeding a newborn is for the baby to reach a healthy weight! If breast milk isn’t accomplishing that goal, supplementing with formula is the next best thing, and can allow babies to thrive. Thankfully, organic, non-GMO formula options exist now, that we can feel confident about when feeding our babies.
I have also received advice on how to increase my milk supply from the lactation consultant. This includes everything from diet to vitamins and supplements. I am planning to write a post about what I have done to increase my supply.
Breastfeeding has not been easy, but as fellow moms know, the baby’s needs take top priority! As mothers, we should make the choices that we feel are best for our individual children and for ourselves. Though this phase of life is tough and tiring, having the title of “mom” makes it all worthwhile!
-Lindsay, Charlotte, North Carolina
This post was originally published on Lindsay’s blog, Seven Layer Charlotte.