I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on breastfeeding since I officially finished nursing Hudson earlier this month. How can I not when it dominated the last 9 months of my life by a mile? But I keep putting it off, and I think that much of my hesitance in writing about this topic stems from the overwhelming amount of hyper-opinionated information available online. I am confident that women do not need any further resources—especially in the form of opinions—to help them make up their minds about the very personal decision of infant feeding.
In my nine months as a mom, I’ve never witnessed any real-life mom shaming on the feeding topic: no snarky comments about nursing in public, no side-eye for a mom’s decision to feed her baby formula. In my in-person mom’s group, about half the moms were nursing, and about half were on formula. Nobody seemed to care much either way about what the other moms were doing on the feeding front—we were all too busy trying to figure out how on earth to get our babies to sleep. The internet, however, is another story. Facebook mom groups and new mama forums can be a black hole of over sharing, projection, and judgment, but of course the extremes always tend to get more airplay online. I would venture to guess that most moms are much more moderate about their views on the whole thing than the stories told online will lead you to believe.
I’m firmly in the camp of: you do what’s right for you, your baby, your family. One of the great secrets of adulthood is that no one has any earthly idea what they’re doing—we’re all just trying to figure this parenting thing out. So today, I’m just sharing my story; how we made the decision to breastfeed, and how it all went for my son and I.
I remember telling Jason on the night that we came home from our hospital’s “Breastfeeding 101” class that I was more scared of breastfeeding than giving birth. The class unfortunately reinforced what I’d read online: the initial experience of breastfeeding would likely be was painful, difficult, and exhausting.
But PS: it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR UNBORN CHILD.
I was, of course, intrigued by the perks of the whole deal—both for Hudson, and myself. A few bonus IQ points for Hudson and effortless weight loss on my end? Sign us up. But really, most of my motivation came down to food. I know that I feel my best eating whole, natural foods, and nursing Hudson would be giving him exactly that. So I was in, and my goal was to make it to 6 months, if at all possible.
All that said, my husband and I decided that if it all went south and breastfeeding wasn’t working for us, we’d have no issue supplementing with formula until we could figure things out. Even before Hudson was born, we both had a sense of how precious those early days would be, and we didn’t want to remember them as a battle. Approaching the whole thing with hope but also moderation and a plan helped me maintain a sense of calm as the clock ticked down to the delivery date.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite my fears, for Hudson and I, breastfeeding came pretty easily. Hudson gets most of the initial credit for that for figuring out the latching situation right off the bat, and I am still convinced that my crazy-41-week-pregnant-lady binge on ALL of the lactation cookies that I’d made for myself to eat when he was born contributed to my milk coming in very quickly. (For anyone completely freaked out by the term “lactation cookie” – they’re just chocolate chip cookies with brewers yeast mixed in :))
The early days, of course, were not always easy—I was exhausted, recovering and Hudson was a marathon eater. Thinking back to him nursing for 45-60 minutes during growth spurts when he’d be hungry every two hours, I seriously question how I survived the early days with my sanity intact. (A very supportive husband and lots of coffee and water is how.) But I mostly felt gratitude that it was working for us.
Everyone tells you how much easier it gets after the first few months, which I agree with 100%. Hudson got much, much faster at eating, and the whole process became second nature. Going back to work only part time was hugely beneficial in continuing breastfeeding exclusively. I have thought so many times in the last year that I bow down to all of the mamas that bring their godforsaken pumps to work every day, pumping 3-4 times at work. Pumping is unequivocally the worst, though a necessary evil.
So on we went, nursing every 3 hours during the day and God only knows how many times at night. We cruised past my 6-month goal (how did I not celebrate that?), Hudson was thriving, and I was enthusiastically enjoying the bonus 500 calories burned daily.
Hudson was eating so much solid food by 8 months that his milk intake had dropped significantly—this was both appropriate and positive, according to his doctor. I decided to swap out one feeding session per day with formula to give myself a little bit of a break. I did a TON of research and found organic formula options (Honest Company, Plum Organics) that I could feel really good about giving him to supplement the healthy solid foods he was eating.
Huds helpfully exhibited none of the sadness/frustration/emotional trauma often cited in articles about weaning. The first bottle of formula he’d ever had in his life was around 8 months and the little tank hoovered the entire bottle without pause. You could have PRETENDED to prefer me, bud! I’m mostly joking about that, because what I really felt was relief. It was like a dam broke: suddenly, I felt overwhelmingly ready to be done.
I’ve done the math, and I estimate that in the nine months that I nursed Hudson, the grand total amounted to 1740 sessions. Some of those were pumping, but either way—holy cow. It blows my mind to think about, and I’m glad I never did that math the night I came home from the breastfeeding class because that likely would have been the tipping point of overwhelm.
So in the end, nursing for Hudson and I was, by all accounts, about as good as it gets. It was also the biggest sacrifice I have ever made, and unless someone I love needs a kidney in the future, that will probably stand true for my entire life. (I think it may top kidney donation anyway. What’s the recovery on that—like, a week or two??) I am in awe thinking about it now: I sustained a human life with my own body for 18 months. Science! God! Magic! Whatever combination of forces is responsible for that happening, it’s pretty amazing.
I am also super happy that it’s behind us now. Which maybe is not the most motherly thing to admit, and I know that many women have given up far more to breastfeeding than I have, nursing their babies for much longer or omg twins. But it’s true. We did it, I’m proud, we’re done. 9 months in my belly, 9 months connected to me, (literally, 8 times a day for the first few months!) through nursing. You are welcome, Hudson William, and you owe me for life. Just kidding, I’ll try to control my mom-martyrdom until you’re at least in your teens—it was good for me too.