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Emily & Max’s Breastfeeding Journey

Today we are sharing the breastfeeding essay of reader, Emily and her sweet daughter, Max. Emily is an incredible stylist and influencer on social media. You can follow her HERE!  You can read other breastfeeding essays here and to share your own just email us at submissions@themamanotes.com !

 

Our journey began when my daughter max came roaring into the world 3 weeks before her due date. she was quite ready to make her appearance after resting so {un}comfortably on my pelvis for a few weeks. she was also quite healthy coming in at 6 lbs 11oz and 18” long. we were in awe, a bit in shock {my entire labor + delivery was under 5 hours!}, and thankful for our sweet girl.

I remember going to our lactation class on the first day after she was born and all us weary, robed new moms sitting in a circle with our newborns. the specialist asked if any babies were born at 37 weeks or less. 36 weeks and max would be considered premature and 38 weeks she would’ve been full term. 37 weeks seems to be that weird in-between. well i was the only one who raised their hand and she said that there was a chance she’d have issues latching. we hadn’t tried too much until then but we were definitely not the definition of a success story so it seemed to make sense. she came to our room later and got us immediately started using a nipple shield. to be perfectly honest, i’m not sure if a shield was necessary so early on and i’m not sure if it ended up being the actual cause of her not latching well. using it absolutely killed and it never seemed to get better.

We spent the first several days at home using a syringe with a small tube that fed into the shield. it was…not so awesome and she was getting the tiniest amounts of milk. Whether it was because she was born early, just didn’t feel like eating a lot, or whatever else, max wasn’t gaining enough weight in the first couple weeks. we were at the pediatrician quite a bit in those first couple weeks after she was born, and we got so excited to see what she weighed, feeling ecstatic and proud if she had gained just a couple ounces! and then one appointment her weight had gone down…and of course i cried. i didn’t feel so much a failure in the typical sense, just let down.

We met with the lactation specialist who was wonderful and supportive and encouraged different positions, massaging of my breasts, taking fenugreek etc. but ultimately we decided to hit pause on breastfeeding. so we embarked on a new journey of exclusive pumping. she had had a little formula in the early days and we had no issues with supplementing if necessary. exclusively pumping? so HARD. when my husband was around {he was always up with me at night}, he would feed her a bottle while i would pump at the same time. we weren’t able to let her sleep for longer periods so nights became even harder than they were already. for me, it meant a few times a night pumping {half-asleep} and then cleaning all the parts. When Bill was at work during the day, it was even harder as I would need to feed Max a bottle, put her down and then pump. I was never an over-producer of milk. There were a couple months where I did have a small fridge and freezer stash but it would disappear quickly as Max started to eat more and I had work events that took me away for longer periods of time {meaning less times for me to pump and her needing more bottles}. But somehow I managed to produce what she needed.

Then one day while Bill was at work {Max was around 6 or 7 weeks old}, I decided to just try putting her on the boob. No shield, no pressure. If it worked, it worked. She latched, and that was that. From that point on, we did a mix of breastfeeding and breast milk bottles.

As we approached Max’s first birthday, she was eating mostly solids with a mix of formula bottles {i couldn’t keep up with the pumping} and breastfeeding in the morning. It was our morning routine when she woke up and more a thing of comfort for both of us. We’d get back into bed, I’d doze off and she’d kinda sleep eat. It was nice, until she started biting when she got bored. She was getting 1 or 2 bottles a day, including one right before bed. At her 1 year checkup, our ped said we could stop the pre-bed feeding immediately and Max had no issues with it. I also knew it was time to stop the morning breastfeeding session. she had no issues stopping this either. Her personality in general is not to be too attached to anything, whether that’s a toy or a doll or something else, and it proved true for this part of her life.

I didn’t want to draw out the end of breastfeeding, for both our sakes. So I decided that the last time was going to be the morning of her doctor’s appointment.  Of course my body needed to adjust and it did feel strange not having that bonding moment anymore. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if she was “begging” for it. I’m thankful for our journey together, as all over the place as it was. Knowing I had grown her and was still feeding her from my own body, whether via boob or bottle, felt and still feels really special. And it really is pretty wild what we’re capable of! I look back now and try to really remember what it felt like to breastfeed. Like giving birth, it’s kind of a distant memory that seems a little fuzzy but it makes me smile.

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