What They Forgot to Tell You About Breastfeeding
I remember thinking, “if I don’t breastfeed my baby, I’ve failed as a mother.” I couldn’t wait to give birth to Jedidiah so I could be a good source of nourishment. Then pump and produce massive loads of liquid gold to pack in a new deep freezer that I had to go out and purchase because I produced sooooo much milk. I was ready to show the world I was a milk machine.
The reality kicked in immediately after I gave birth to Jedi. I had a c-section (not planned at all)…. And the only thing coming from my breast was colostrum. Yes, colostrum is normal. But colostrum for 8 DAYS after giving birth was not normal. I kept thinking, WHY IN THE WORLD DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS???? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like every other mama whose mass producing? Why is nothing happening with my boobs? I want leaky boobs too!!!
On the third day at the hospital, one of the nurses mentioned the option of donor milk. I was ALL for it! Anything to ensure my baby was fed! But, I’d never spoken with anyone who’d done this or gone through this before. I just knew I wasn’t going for formula. So I opted for the donor milk, but I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like a failure. I felt as if I failed myself, my family and especially my son.
Before we were discharged from the hospital, the nurse informed us we had to call in a prescription for donor milk. Then we discovered the only place in the DFW where you can order donor milk is in Fort Worth (an hour drive from where we live). On top of all of that, the place wasn’t open on Sunday’s and I was discharged on a Sunday, five days after giving birth. We were so sad with this news because this now meant, we had to give him formula. I’d never done any research on formula simply because my plan was to breastfeed Jedi until he reached 12 months. I didn’t want to share this news with any of my friends because I was embarrassed to share what was happening with me. After discussing how I felt with my husband, he started praying over me each night. I was so bummed and discouraged. It seemed as if nothing was going according to my plans.
Nine days postpartum, we took Jedi to his first appointment with the pediatrician, she asked about breastfeeding and I told her we were giving Jedi Similac, but my desire was to breastfeed. She asked why I opted for donor milk and formula. Then I began to tell her how I was only producing colostrum (1oz from each boob) and my baby was hungry. She challenged me to throw out the formula. She told me she’d rather not write a prescription for the donor milk and advised me to just keep him at my breast. The milk would eventually come. She explained it would be hard, but I would be proud of myself for not giving up. I was thankful to receive this advice from our Nigerian pediatrician.
I went and purchased fenugreek (I discontinued after a few months), pumped three times per day for thirty minutes and I refused to give Jedi a bottle. It seemed as if I was feeding Jedi every thirty minutes, but I was determined to get my milk. I would sit in front of the window of our guest bedroom, watch Nigerian movies on my computer and kept Jedi on my breast for an entire movie. The goal was to be as relaxed as possible so I could produce milk. At times I didn’t answer the phone or answer text messages because I did not want to hear anyone’s opinion. My mind was set on breastfeeding and I was going to ensure I did everything in my power to make it happen. Although I was exhausted, I was determined.
And FINALLY! Ten days postpartum after one of my crying and praying sessions with my husband, I pumped a whole 4oz from both breasts. This was the most I had pumped since being discharged from the hospital. I was on cloud nine. I praised danced and thanked God! I wasn’t getting much sleep because I discovered I pumped more during the late night hours so I had an alarm set for midnight, three and six o’ clock in the morning. I was able to create a small freezer storage and it all started working out for me. I was grateful for the increase and I started working towards building a larger storage before returning to my full-time gig.
When Jedi reached one month, I noticed he constantly wanted to feed. It seemed as if I couldn’t catch a break with feedings. Every 15 minutes he wanted more food. At first, I thought I wasn’t producing enough milk. Thanks to google, I discovered he was cluster feeding due to a growth spurt. I took a breastfeeding class (totally useless in my opinion), but I do not remember ever going over what to do when you’re not producing or that I would go through my baby at my breast for hours upon hours at a time.
I went back to work when Jedidiah was three months. My mother-in-love stayed with us for three months and the help was definitely great. But once I returned to work, I realized Jedi became used to the bottle and when I would come home, he refused the breast. I prepped all of Jedi’s bottles for the day and breastfed him mainly at night. I probably would’ve been able to build a larger stash if I had just breastfed on demand. When it comes to the next baby, I plan to breastfeed on demand. When Jedi refused the breast I wasn’t having it. I worked too hard to get this milk production up. You gon eat from these boobs lil’ man!
After working a little over a month, my job allowed me to work from home per my request to ensure I kept my milk production up. I hadn’t researched any daycares, but taking my child to daycare started to freak hubby and I out. The biggest thing for me was ensuring he had enough breastmilk. I was still working really hard to maintain a good supply. When my mother-in-love left to go back to Nigeria, Jedi was almost five months. By this time, hubby and I made a decision that I would leave corporate America, focus on building our businesses and take care of our Baby J. Breastfeeding eventually got easier with time, but I was still working hard to keep a stash.
Another reason I was working so hard towards a large stash was because of a few girls trips I had penciled on the calendar! When it comes to my future babies (speaking of my twins….;-)), I’m not committing to any girls trips. If I make it, cool! But the pressure I placed on myself to have a large stash of milk so I could travel domestically wasn’t worth it. When you don’t have a large stash, unfortunately, you have to miss out on a few things. If you choose to breastfeed and you decide to travel without the baby, you gotta have enough supply for the time away. I remember having to leave events early so I could get back home to feed Jedi. I made it work. I was doing pretty good up until I got closer to a major event I was planning, the Woman of Purpose Conference. I was stressing and not pumping as much as I was before. I no longer kept up with my late night pumping sessions. I was tired and breastfeeding began to feel like a daunting task. I wanted my boobs back to myself.
Jedi turned eight months the week of the conference. Hubby and I had to make a decision. Either I was going to stress myself out trying to pump enough milk or give Jedi formula. I had a long conversation with myself and I finally let go of trying to have my way. I started texting my girlfriends who I knew wouldn’t judge me for introducing my baby to formula. These women were so encouraging. I had one mama even send me all of the research she’d done on formula’s. I was super grateful and decided to go with Earth’s Best organic formula. Thankfully, Jedi was receptive to the formula plus I still breastfed him whenever I got the chance to do so. It ended up being one of the best decisions for everyone in my home. I was happier because I had more freedom and my husband didn’t have to hear me complain anymore about trying to keep up my freezer stash.
Jedidiah is now 11 months and he’s primarily on formula. I do some breastfeeding at night to help maintain milk flow. My advice to any woman hoping to breastfeed or currently breastfeeding is to enjoy and embrace the journey. No matter the circumstance, take time out to thank the MOST HIGH for where you are. Don’t compare your journey to other mamas. Comparison really is the thief of all joy. If you spend all your time comparing your journey to other mama’s you’ll always inherit new doses of insecurities. I know I did.
I had to stop and think about what was best for my peace. Don’t be afraid to protect your peace. I share a bit of that in my blog post (10 Self-Care Hacks for New Moms). What matters most is your precious baby getting fed, whether it is formula or breastmilk. I’d like to hear your stories if you had any challenges with breastfeeding. Email me or drop your comments below. Sharing your knowledge will be another woman’s power!