Today we are sharing the breastfeeding journey of Dionna who runs our social media and her sweet daughter. You can read other breastfeeding stories here and to share your own just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org !
When I was pregnant with Ellie I never really thought too much about breastfeeding. I didn’t take a breastfeeding class (although thinking back I totally wish I had), and I didn’t read any books about it. I just knew my mom breastfed my siblings and myself, and my husband’s mom did the same with her kids. So I figured I would just ‘figure it out’ when the time came. Fast forward to labor and delivery and thankfully Ellie didn’t have any issues latching. I took whatever breastfeeding advice the lactation consultant gave me at the hospital and then just sort of let my instincts kick in.
Once we got home from the hospital though, it was so. much. harder. than I thought it would be. The latch we had down great, but my milk took five incredibly long days to come in and due to that, Ellie was SO fussy. Which I mean, totally fair, she was probably like WHERE IS THE FOOD AROUND HERE!? Our pediatrician didn’t recommend supplementing with formula because Ellie’s weight wasn’t dropping significantly. She spent what felt like every waking hour latched on for those five days, and I was so physically and emotionally drained. I just kept reminding myself that ‘this too shall pass.’ Soon I thought, once I could pump, I’d get a break and my husband would get to give her bottles while I had some me time. Little did I know that break would never come for us, and that I’d be her only source of food for a very challenging six months.
A couple of weeks after she was born, I felt like we had breastfeeding down pretty well and I started to really cherish those times we would sit in the rocker together. I started pumping about once a day after a feeding to start stocking up breast milk in our freezer. While pregnant, I worked as a food styling assistant and was planning to start taking jobs again with my food stylist once Ellie was three months old. Per the directions of our pediatrician, we started introducing a bottle of pumped breast milk every so often when Ellie was around three of four weeks old. She refused it SO HARD. Blood curdling screaming and crying. We heard that was normal, and followed every piece of advice out there to get her to take a bottle. I would leave the house so my husband could try, we bought probably every different kind of bottle and nipple on the market, nothing worked.
After another month of trying we consulted with our pediatrician and she told us that yes, some babies just won’t take a bottle…ever. She told us that whenever I went back to work, whoever was watching Ellie could try feeding her with a medicine dropper, but that she likely wouldn’t get enough nutrients that way during the day, so in turn I might have very long and late nights staying up to feed her more than regularly. I had NO IDEA that babies could refuse bottles. I guess I naively just never even thought it was a possibility, and so I didn’t have a great plan for what I was going to do when it came time to start working again.
I just couldn’t fathom the idea of someone force feeding her with a medicine dropper while I was away. Food styling is ten hour days and that doesn’t include the commute time, so it just wasn’t going to be an option for me to go back to work as soon as I’d hoped. While finding out Ellie wouldn’t take a bottle we also discovered she had a severe cow’s milk protein allergy and I had to eliminate ALL dairy from my diet. This was another very challenging hurdle (removing dairy from your diet is so so so hard because it’s hidden in so many things)!
I thought I’d start taking on food styling jobs again when she was 6 months old and we started solids, but she was still breastfeeding so much throughout the day, that that too didn’t feel like the right time to go back.
It wasn’t until Ellie was a year old that I felt fully prepared to be able to take on work again. She was eating solids regularly enough throughout the day that leaving her for 12+ hours started to feel a little reasonable. But I still wouldn’t take more than five or six days of work in a month. Breastfeeding wasn’t only a food source to her, but it was a major comfort for her. It’s how I got her down for naps and so leaving her with someone else for the day was pretty challenging for whoever was babysitting.
Once Ellie was fourteen months old her cow’s milk protein allergy had disappeared. We breastfed until she was about three months shy of two (though the last nine months of her breastfeeding was really only for comfort and was only once or twice a day).
I’m so thankful that we were able to afford for me to stay home when Ellie was born, because honestly I don’t know what we would have done. Looking back, I wish I had been a bit more aware of babies refusing bottles. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to prepare myself any differently, but It definitely put a wrench in my career plan that I wish I could have better mentally prepared for. Having lived through it now, I wouldn’t take that time back for anything.
Photography credit: Kristin Dinsmore Photography
Ellie’s romper: Misha and Puff
Dionna’s dress: Free People