Breastfeeding: How I Went From Formula to EBF

IMHO, breastfeeding is more challenging than pregnancy and labor combined. I know a lot of mamas share this same experience. Every culture and nation has its own breastfeeding culture. African countries, at present, seem to hold the torch for highest rates of breastfeeding while western nations, like France, seem to be less “pro-breast”. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends babies be breastfed for up to two years. During the first 2 months of breastfeeding, the thought of even doing it for six months was daunting, if not terrifying.

After the first 4-5 days of colostrum, my son was fed formula for two weeks. I had developed Cellulitis from delivery complications as well as Mastitis and was placed on narcotics and antibiotics. Both of these medications, although cleared as “safe” by my PCP, were not acceptable as being transferred through my breastmilk to my son. I had made the difficult decision to risk losing my milk supply so that he could remain medication free. There were a lot of tears and mom guilt involved.

To prevent losing my milk supply, I manually expressed milk every 3-4 hours for two weeks. 

After I stopped taking medications, I began to breastfeed my son once in the morning. During the next 1-2 weeks, I slowly added feeding sessions as my milk supply increased. I understand that many women in the same situation would not have been able to maintain and build back their milk supply. I feel very fortunate. That’s not to say that I didn’t experience many challenges along the way: cracked, bleeding, and sore nipples, nipple bleps, anxiety about my son’s weight gain, etc.

My son still feeds every 1.5-2 hours for up to 50 minutes at a time. It’s completely exhausting and some days I shudder at the thought of breastfeeding for the months, or weeks, ahead. My solution for this anxiety? One simple mantra: one feeding session at a time.

Despite all the challenges, I deeply enjoying breastfeeding my son. It is a bonding experience unlike any other. It amazes me that I can nourish my baby and provide him with antibodies, vitamins, and minerals that help him thrive. I sympathize with women who are not able to breastfeed their babies. I also understand why women choose not to. It’s hard and it’s not for everyone. I personally am just grateful that I get to nourish my baby in the way that I choose.

TLDR; Breastfeeding isn’t easy. I wasn’t able to breastfeed for the first weeks. Luckily, I was able to rebuild my milk supply slowly. I am blessed.

Why Postpartum is a B!tch

They warned me about pregnancy. The swollen ankles. The incessant midnight cravings. The inability to sleep and bend over to tie my shoes.

They warned me about giving birth. The “ring of fire”. The contractions. The tearing.

But no one warned me about new motherhood’s ugly stepchild; postpartum. No, I don’t have postpartum depression and I have so much empathy for the new mamas who have to deal with that on top of everything else.

What’s everything else?

  • Baby blues.
  • No sleep AT ALL.
  • Wearing adult diapers.
  • Going #2 without your ass ripping apart.
  • Cracked and bleeding nipples.
  • Mastitis.
  • Mom guilt (lots of it!).
  • Worrying about keeping your baby alive.
  • Night sweats.
  • Hair loss.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Chubby new mom pooch.

And that’s just to name a few.

Two weeks after I gave birth, I knew something wasn’t right “down there”. The sutures were poking through the skin. It was discolored. It burned every time I peed. I ended up having to hop in the shower or bath every time I wanted to go pee to alleviate the sting for 2 weeks — you should’ve seen that month’s water bill.

I visited the emergency room twice and the clinic 5 times all within the span of 2 weeks. It took five physicians (two OB’s and three family medicine physicians) to discover that I was allergic to the vicryl sutures used after birth. My body was rejecting them.

At 9 weeks postpartum, I was rolled into the OR to remove the sutures and a considerable amount of tissue. When I was supposed to be gearing up to resume intimacy with my SO again, I was instead starting my recovery from scratch all over again.

My postpartum recovery has challenged me more than pregnancy and labor combined. I no longer feel like my body is my own. I no longer feel that my body is acting right. With pregnancy, you at least know that’s it going to end at some point. During postpartum, all your physical (and emotional) struggles seem like they’ll last forever. All while you’re trying to learn how to care for another beautiful and helpless human being.

TLDR; Pregnant women are doted on. New moms receive flowers and wine at the hospital after their babies are born. But those moms in postpartum are forgotten while they are enduring the most challenging phase of all. If you know a new mama; hit her up and remind her that she’s amazing.