I've been back in the breastfeeding game for two and a half months now and it's as challenging and rewarding as I remember. I shared some of my journey while nursing Tory here, here and here but in a nutshell, breastfeeding didn't come easy for me. I struggled to produce enough milk for her, felt completely bogged down by the pressure of being Tory's only source of nourishment and ultimately stopped nursing at seven months when my supply completely dried up. Looking back, it'd be a fair assessment to say I was manic about the whole thing. I wanted nothing more than to feed my child, but I never felt relaxed about it; never felt like I was doing it right. I still have some "mom guilt" about the relief I felt when it was all over.
The second time around, I promised Andi (and more importantly, myself) I wouldn't sink to that dark place again. If breastfeeding worked, great. If not, I know first-hand formula is not the devil. It's just food. Two days after Aden was born, a fill-in pediatrician suggested I supplement with formula after each nursing session to help him bounce back to his birth weight. I didn't let the doctor's advice shake me, though I didn't agree with it. I did as I was told (kind of, for a few days) and as I watched Aden grow, I knew I was doing alright by him.
This time I'm doing things differently and overall, my entire breastfeeding experience has been much more enjoyable. First, I'm feeding on demand. In my first months as Tory's mom, I was strictly by the book. If the "experts" suggested my two-month old should be eating every 2-3 hours, I waited exactly until that time to feed. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin as a parent and instead of listening to my gut (or my own mother, ha!), I followed as directed. In hindsight, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this and I really think my lack of frequent nursing stunted my milk supply early on.
Now, I'm pumping daily. I don't love it (does any nursing mother?), but pumping once a day has begun to build a milk supply in our freezer. And in turn, I don't feel guilty leaving Aden in the care of grandma or a babysitter. It allows me to have walk away and have a moment to breathe once a week. Oh, how I remember the stress of pumping when I was nursing Tory and painfully watching as barely any milk was produced. The less I produced, the more pressure I felt. This time, I have a stock-pile to rely on because I started from Day 1. I don't pump a huge amount, but it's a "slow and steady wins the race" kind of thing.
Also? I'm also not apprehensive to feed Aden formula. Let's pretend Andi had to travel to Paris for a week of work and asked me to join him. Would I? Oh, heck yes, and I wouldn't feel one pang of guilt about feeding Aden formula while I was away. (Okay, maybe one pang would be felt, but I'd squash it like a bug).
I started taking Fenugreek from the start, drinking boatloads of water and eating oatmeal every day. I think the Fenugreek is helping boost my supply (I think it helped last time too, but its gesture was too little, too late). I carry a Camelbak water bottle with me everywhere I go and set a personal goal to drink at least 5 bottles a day. That's 125oz.
It sounds like I'm just as obsessed about it all this time, but truly I don't feel that way. I scold myself for not reaching out to a lactation consultant for help back then. I had so many deep feelings of anguish over breastfeeding and while I did ask questions of my OB and pediatrician, I wasn't speaking to the right person. For example, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me there were different sizes of nursing shields for Medela pumps and I was floored. You mean to tell me I've been shoving my giant-sized boobs into tiny breast shields for two years for no good reason? I bought size 27mm cups and oh my lord, they are amazing. I'm producing more milk when I pump and more importantly, my nipples don't feel like they've been through the wringer. Shame on me for not sourcing more help for myself back then.
I can honestly say breastfeeding is a much more positive experience now. I'm so lucky I'm able to stay home full-time which really allows me to be there for Aden when he needs me, and also to pump a back-up supply of milk on my own time without the pressure of returning to work out of the home. I'm truly thankful for this second chance.