Adventures in breastfeeding

You're probably thinking: "What the -- is there anything she won't blog about?!" (No.)
Breastfeeding.    I could go on forever about my experience but will try to keep it straightforward.  If reading about boobs, nipples, & such makes you squirm, this is the post to skip.  After all, reading about my lady parts in detail might be just the thing to convince some of you to unsubscribe (Ben, Kevin, & my father-in-law.....talking to you specifically. ).
    :) happy
I breastfed Quinn for almost 14 months (she's now 14.5 months old).  My goal had been 1 year & when we passed that mark, I felt extremely fortunate/blessed to have made it that far.  Then I wondered if I would be nursing her into her school years (kidding, sort of).  When she decided she longer cared for it, it felt like a natural stopping point.  Of course, it was bittersweet.
The Beginning
Breastfeeding didn't come easily or naturally for me.  I had to work hard at it for several months. I thought about giving up countless times.  There are lots of women to whom breastfeeding is like second nature......I was not one of them.
When Quinn was born, I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a go. (Which reminds me, I never got around to blogging about her birth story.  In a nutshell: I was 2 weeks past my estimated due date, got induced, had 24+ hours of labor, pushed for 2 hours, then had a C-section).  If breastfeeding worked out, awesome!  If not, it wouldn't be the end of the world.  Still, I'm Type A by nature & had read all the literature.  I wanted so badly to give Quinn all the health benefits that came w/ breastfeeding.  For as long as I could make it work.  
My blood loss from the long labor & subsequent C-section, combined w/ a thyroid condition (I've had Grave's since my mid-twenties) all resulted in my milk not coming in for 2.5 weeks.  According to my OB & midwife, that's a long time by milk-production standards.  We opted to give Quinn donor breast milk to supplement during those first weeks of her life (the fact that our health insurance covered it also helped us to reach that decision).    
So for those first weeks of Quinn's life, I would nurse her for ~40 minutes (she couldn't get much milk though, my poor girl), give her a bottle of donor milk, change/swaddle her, put her back to bed, then go pump for ~15 minutes to encourage my milk to come in (in addition to taking Fenugreek, goat's rue, & mother's milk tea).  Then it was time to do it all over again in an hour.  Welcome to motherhood, FC.  :) happy
She sure is worth it though.

The Ups & Downs
Once my milk did come in, there were several weeks of latching issues.  Quinn latched too aggressively according to the lactation consultant.  There were also blocked milk ducts, cracked/blistered nipples (I know, gross), a dairy intolerance on Quinn's part.....and, of course, my new mom sleep-deprivation state only exacerbated things in my mind.  But Quinn was healthy & FINALLY getting enough to eat through me (based on her weight gain), so I was determined to keep up the breastfeeding.  I'm stubborn.
Ah, the dairy sensitivity.  At around 1 month, we suspected Quinn had developed a sensitivity to dairy.  So I altered my diet & she was like a different baby.  I'd like to think I'm a fairly healthy eater but hell.........I missed cheese & ice cream.  I would even dream of gooey 4-cheese pizzas, not kidding.  It was quite jarring to alter my diet in such a way.  I now have a whole new respect for people who have food allergies & sensitivities.  I got to know the soy & coconut milk products at Whole Foods really well during that time; at least those options were available to me & I learned to embrace (even enjoy) the whole dairy-free experience.  Throughout the next months, I would re-introduce dairy in small doses but it would result in a fussy Quinnie.  So for about 11 of the 14 months of nursing, I was dairy-free (I went back on dairy right before she turned 1 & so far, so good).  Breastfeeding + dairy-free diet + parenting = best unintentional weight-loss plan ever.

It's also worth mentioning that Quinn never really took to taking bottles.  Except for those first weeks of her life, she never truly liked taking milk from a bottle.  In fact, she flat-out refused most of the time.  I get a lot of skeptical looks from parents when this topic comes up but believe me -- we tried lots of ways, for weeks, to no avail.  I made the decision to not keep pushing it on her.  I'm fortunate enough to work part-time from home, so it all worked out in the end.

So for 14 months, my daughter & I were never apart for more than a few hours.  Yes, I missed date nights, girls' nights, & such.  Yes, there were times I felt isolated.  Yes, I sometimes wished I could just "get away" for even just a bit.  But I accepted it & made myself look at the big the grand scheme of things, those long months would seem like nothing.  I'm not saying I'm a mommy martyr or anything.  I just wanted to make this small sacrifice for my girl.

The Emotions
I'm going to be candid about my emotions here.  It's not my intention to scare anyone away from breastfeeding, nor do I mean to sound ridiculous or resentful.  This is just me being honest about my experience.  I feel like so many parents feel it's taboo to tell the truth.
It took me a very long time to enjoy breastfeeding & I constantly chastised myself over it for several months.  I sometimes still do.  What was wrong with me?  Why wasn't I blissfully enjoying the bonding time with my darling baby girl?  Where were the smiles & adoring gazes I saw in all the literature I read?  In addition to the searing physical pain, I had trouble relaxing during each feeding, even after several months.  Quinn is affectionate but she was never the type of baby who would contently nurse.  She has always been a spirited little one, even in her newborn days, which made for very interesting/exhausting nursing sessions.
Breastfeeding was physically, emotionally, & mentally exhausting to me.  I'm not one to sit still.  My mind was always racing with a never-ending to-do list that kept growing.....while I sat sequestered.  Then I'd feel guilty for even thinking about something else aside from my daughter.  I was trying to bond, yet I felt hoplessly bound.
At around 6 months, we eventually found our groove & breastfeeding became easier.   It was convenient & cost-effective.  I started to enjoy the relaxing quality time it allowed me to have with my daughter. It just took me a very long time to get there, for which I still have guilty & regretful feelings about......again, welcome to motherhood, FC.  Get used to having "the feels"!!

We live in an area where breastfeeding is highly encouraged & supported.  I was not shy about nursing Quinn in public (using a Hooter Hider, of course) & very few people ever gave us a second glance.  Still, I would get mixed reactions from people, should the subject of breastfeeding come up.......which it did quite often.  
See, when you're a lush like me & you turn down wine, people want to know why.  So I'd mention that I had a "breastfeeding window" in terms of wine consumption & more often than not, a discussion would ensue.  "You need to do it for at least a year."  "A year is too long, I'd feel weird.  Good for you, though."  "Nothing wrong with nursing into toddler years, that's what I did w/ my kids." "Formula has come a long way."  "Formula is the devil." "You're doing a great thing."  "You're lucky to have your circumstances; wish I could've done the same.....but you know, I have a career."  Ouch.
Yep, I heard it all & I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I usually just kept my opinions to myself.  Each parent has to do what's right for their little one.  Who are we to judge?  

The "End"
A week before Quinn turned 14 months old, she pulled back during one of our nursing sessions, shook her head, smiled sweetly, & hopped off my lap.  I kept offering over the next few days & she'd refuse.  She was never really fond of cow's milk (we introduced it at 12 months), so thanks to other moms' suggestions, we mixed in some almond milk.  She started to drink it all around this time (not exactly chugging it, by any means, but at least she wasn't throwing it).  So just like that, our breastfeeding chapter was over (Quinn's always had her own agenda, that's for sure; Sassafras.).  Weaning was much easier than I anticipated.  Yet it was bittersweet.  She'll always be my baby, but she's no longer baby.  Despite all my difficulties, I was still sad that this journey of ours had ended.  
I fought so hard to make breastfeeding work.  Then I couldn't fathom keeping up with such an all-consuming endeavor.  Finally (surprisingly) I was saddened when it all came to an end.  Bittersweet.

I have nothing but respect for all you moms out there (working, stay-at-home, work-at-home, pumping, breastfeeding, bottlefeeding).  I know what it's like to feel like your body betrayed you & not be able to breastfeed.  I've been there.  I know what it's like to feel so fortunate, grateful, & blessed to be able to breastfeed.  I've been there.  It's an incredible, emotional roller coaster ride.....but it's one I'd hop on board again in a heartbeat.
A spontaneous snap to document the end of our little journey.
I'm embarrassing her already.
{ Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@freckleschic4) have already seen this, thanks for indulging me. }

P.S. If you've read this far (Mom, are you the only one?), I'm incredibly thankful for your time.  A thousand xoxo's from me to you, friends.  :) happy