Breastfeeding can be extremely challenging in more ways than one. Many friends shared their experiences with me early on so I had a tiny window into what to expect but truthfully until you're in the thick of it you have no idea.
I'm just going to say it like it is: Breastfeeding is an emotional rollercoaster. Not only are you experiencing a new level of physical pain and discomfort but your baby's survival depends on your ability to feed him or her. It feels like a lethal combination of isolation, pressure and responsibility. It's isolating because only you can feed the baby. The amount of pressure builds the first few days after birth because you aren't producing and your baby needs you to.... and the responsibility of this new life is more than you ever thought possible... and it sits squarely on your shoulders. Needless to say again, breastfeeding is an emotional rollercoaster.
Baby Hunter is turning 3 weeks tomorrow and as of TODAY I'm finally producing enough milk. For the last 3 weeks I've done nothing but research breastfeeding and formulas. I have had 2 full on breakdowns, I've texted virtually every mom I know asking what they did, I've been attached to the pump, drank all the tea, and I've almost given up many times. It's hard.
You go from experiencing days and nights as different things to existing only in 2-3 hour increments. And it's not 2 hours AFTER he's done feeding...it's 2 hours from the START of him feeding. So you basically get 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours off. Being a feeding machine around the clock is draining for sure - but if you're even the tiniest bit social and like being out in the world the challenge becomes even greater.
My husband and I are very social people and we were so excited to "get back to normal" after Hunter was born. We had a bottle of Rose Champagne from one of my favorite wineries waiting to open after the baby was born. I was so excited! I was so excited to enjoy wine guilt free but then I started Googling...Basically I had to treat breastfeeding like pregnancy - and that meant no drinking. Some websites said absolutely zero alcohol, my doctor said I HAD to drink 1 Guinness a day, my lactation consultant said to pump and spread the milk across several bottles, other sites said pump an dump, etc. It seemed like the advice (just like in pregnancy) was all over the map.
So where is the balance? Admittedly I'm still trying to figure that out. I have a container of formula in my cupboard that a good friend recommended. After researching standard formulas I was truly terrified to even entertain the thought but loved the idea of having some flexibility. When the doctor told me Hunter was too small I tried my first formula bottle. I was totally mixed with emotions on it (I might have cried). He had 1 ounce... I still carry it with me just in case but so far I've stuck to pumping as much as I can. Though I haven't used it since that 1 ounce, I am grateful to have something on hand in case of emergency. I do think it's worth sharing what I found regarding formula after all my research and extensive polling across moms. These brands came up time and time again. I am not promoting one over the other I'm just sharing what I've learned.
This blog was also very helpful: GimmeTheGoodStuff.org
As far as US based formula this was the only one recommended to avoid our GMO filled foods.
These last 3 weeks have felt like a lifetime. And I am still learning how to treat myself kindly through the process of breastfeeding. I'm learning that my sanity and my relationship with Charlie cannot be dismissed in the midst of these sleepless days. I'm learning that I have to take care of myself physically in order to provide the way Hunter needs and that means sleep. That I have to still be "me" or I will lose my mind if I don't honor that. I'm learning to trust Hunter's rhythm as opposed to setting an alarm and following an app. I'm learning to slowly let go of the control and trust that my baby is doing just fine. He's not crying, he's sleeping, he's smiling...I have to look at those things and know I'm doing well.
All I can say is it takes time, like all things, to find your rhythm and balance. I can only do my best and then I have to give myself the grace and time to figure out the rest. Every single second of this is brand new. For all new moms out there, know you are not alone in your feelings. One of my friends said that true strength is allowing yourself to feel an emotion all the way through. To not dismiss it - to feel it from start to finish. I truly feel like this is a test of strength. I just want to honor you, let you know you're truly a bad ass and one amazing mom! Trust your gut, give yourself credit for all the incredible things you're doing and love yourself through it all. Because the more love you can give to yourself the more love you'll pass along to your baby.
You've got this!
PS: Was feeding while blogging ;)