Breastfeeding is a Journey

February 12, 2024, Pollywog Staff

As my son, Isaiah, is about to turn 15 months old, I am actively working on ending my breastfeeding journey. I feel like ‘journey’ is the best word to describe my experience of providing Isaiah with breastmilk due to all of the ups, downs, and changes in directions that I faced along the way. Looking back from Isaiah’s first successful latch all the way to Isaiah now presently chugging down 8 ounces of breastmilk from a bottle, I realize it’s been such a crazy ride. Although it has been a blessing and joy to be able to provide milk for my son, the act of producing Isaiah’s main source of nourishment has been a tremendous source of stress and struggle. That being said, I am leaving the experience feeling very accomplished. Now that the journey is coming to an end, I’d like to share my experience and some helpful takeaways.

I was fortunate that newborn Isaiah took to breastfeeding immediately, and I was also blessed to have a healthy milk supply. Although it was demanding, I really enjoyed the experience of breastfeeding, and it was such a special way to bond with my baby. After almost three months with no issues, breastfeeding became very difficult and turned into the number one topic on my mind and the greatest area of stress in my life. Isaiah suddenly was having a difficult time latching, and he was also starting to show little interest in feeding. Convinced that he was not getting enough nourishment, I visited a lactation consultant. My suspicion was correct; he was not taking in enough milk, and his growth had stalled. It took several appointments to narrow down the causes, and all along the way, it was difficult to remain calm. It turns out that Isaiah had a severe posterior tongue tie and that he had a sensitivity to the dairy present in my breast milk (which was causing him to reject feeding). Even after addressing these issues, breastfeeding was still a complete struggle full of many tears for both baby and mama.

I was reluctant to switch to using a bottle because I was worried about losing the option of breastfeeding, and I worried that we would not be as bonded. However, out of desperation, I decided to switch to exclusively pumping and bottle feeding. As Isaiah grew accustomed to the bottle, it became such a lifesaver for both of us. Isaiah had a noticeably easier time focusing and sucking from a bottle, and I felt a significant reduction in my stress when I could see with my eyes how much milk he was drinking. The downside was that I had to pump five times a day in order to produce enough milk. That was inconvenient, to say the least, but I slowly learned how to squeeze pumping sessions into my day. As Isaiah has passed the one-year mark, solids are his primary source of food, and he’s technically no longer reliant on my breastmilk. At first, it was hard for me to accept that fact. One, it made me sad to think he no longer needed me in that way. And two, it was such a change in mindset after being hyper-focused on breastfeeding for a year. Now, at 15 months, I am ready to give it up and start the weaning process.

Here are some things that helped me on my journey:

  • Lactation consultation: I valued being able to meet in person with someone who is an expert on the topic. My consultant was able to help solve larger issues like Isaiah’s tongue tie and dairy intolerance, but she also brought me peace of mind. It was therapeutic to have someone listen to all my concerns and offer me educated advice. You can speak to your pediatrician to get connected with a lactation consultant.
  • Online resources such as La Leche League and Solid Starts: La Leche League is a credible organization dedicated to providing parents with information on all things breastfeeding related. Solid Starts has been really helpful in offering me information about how much breastmilk my baby needs, how to balance breastfeeding with solids, and how to transition from breastmilk to cow’s milk or a dairy alternative.
  • Portable/ cordless breast pumps: Pumping five times a day has been challenging, but it has been easier since I started using a cordless breast pump. This has allowed me to multitask or travel while pumping. Cordless pumps are more expensive, but you can see if your insurance will cover some of the cost.
  • Connect with a strong support system: A big contributor to not wanting to give up on direct breastfeeding was a feeling of shame and failure. Having good support people in my life helped me overcome those worries. My mom friends, and my husband were very supportive, and the positive encouragement I received from them helped me overcome my fears.
  • Breastfeeding is not an option for everyone, and that’s okay too. My main advice is to find what works for you and for your baby! Whether it’s breastfeeding, pumping, formula, or a combination of things, all that matters is that the baby is being fed and that your own mental health and joy are being respected.

At the end of this journey, even though it’s been a long, tough road, I feel very proud. I am proud of all how I grew, adapted, and sacrificed out of love for my baby. Wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey, you should be proud of yourself, too. Nourishing our babies is no small task, and you’re doing a great job!