Monday, February 10, 2020

My Breastfeeding Experience with Payton & Maverick

Every mother has a different experience with breastfeeding. This is mine.

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that mothering comes in lots of shapes & sizes. No two mothers do it the same. Nor should they. I came across this blog post & was inspired to share my own breastfeeding story. Although I hope this brings you some hope, I'm mostly glad I wrote it all out for my own benefit. It was so beneficial to walk myself back through my own reality to remind myself of what I've already learned about who I am as a mom, especially with baby #3 is around the corner. I'm reminding myself that no matter what my journey looks like with him, what's most important is the health of my family as a whole.

Call me naive, but I just assumed that breastfeeding would come naturally. I didn't do a whole lot of research before having Payton & was shocked when things didn't go as expected.

Payton latched right away & the nurses who checked on me during my hospital stay said things looked good. But then we went to our first doctor's appointment & she wasn't gaining weight. I felt like a terrible mom. What was I doing wrong?

It seemed like I focused on nothing but breastfeeding until her next appointment & still she wasn't gaining weight. Then her pediatrician said "failure to thrive" amongst lots of other things but all I heard was that our little girl wasn't doing well. I translated this as me not being good enough for her. 

I went to a lactation consultant, I pumped, I took fenugreek & brewer's yeast. I nursed on demand. I read every article I could find on the subject. Eventually, I couldn't take going to another appointment & hearing that she wasn't gaining weight. It seemed like I cried more in those six weeks than I did in my entire life. The fear of her not getting enough nourishment eventually outweighed my fear of feeding her formula.

I gave in & introduced formula on the regular. Payton nursed multiple times a day & I made sure, because of all of the health benefits I knew it provided, to breastfeed as much as possible & she almost always nursed before having a bottle of formula. I even took surplus breast milk from a coworker who I knew & trusted.

I went back to work after 3 months, so at this point, bottles were a must anyway. I nursed her before work, once during work (we just live down the street), after work, & before bed. When she was 6 months old we found out we were expecting baby #2 & my blood work revealed I had hypothyroidism, which I learned can decrease milk supply. I felt a mixture of devastation & hope.

I felt guilty about not figuring out the hypothyroidism thing sooner but I was hopeful that getting it under control would change everything with baby #2. Every time I took out a bottle & filled it with formula I felt so much guilt & was sure every mother within eyeshot was judging me. 
Every mother has a different experience with breastfeeding. This is mine.

Every mother has a different experience with breastfeeding. This is mine.

By the time Payton was 9 months old she didn't have much interest in nursing anymore & we gradually let it go. I remember one of the last times I nursed her was on the beach. I asked Josh to snap a photo because I knew we were nearing the end & I was so sad about it. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

When Payton was 15 months old, Maverick joined our family & he latched right away, too. I was excited! I felt very prepared this time around. My hypothyroidism was in check, I asked for all the help I could get in the hospital, I went to a lactation consultant the day after we went home, and for a few weeks following. I pumped from the beginning. I put nursing above visiting with company, something I didn't do with Payton.

Yet, he wasn't gaining weight the way his pediatrician wanted him to & it was painful. My nipples scabbed & I cringed during each feeding. My lactation consultant checked for a tongue tie but confirmed he didn't have one. At her suggestion, I got nipple shields, which helped with the pain but not with milk production. Plus, I lost them so many times in the middle of the night. I decided to just pump as much as I could & bottle feed him. At least he'd still be getting breast milk.

I was a mess. I was not only stressed about feeding Maverick but I was also worried about spending quality time with Payton. I know now that I was in the midst of some serious postpartum anxiety that started after having Payton & just grew in severity through my second pregnancy & birth. Something had to give. I ended up in counseling telling my therapist that he needed to put me on medication because I was going to ruin my marriage.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, we went tent camping when Mav was 6 weeks old. Yes, you read that right. I was exclusively pumping at this point & just could not hold myself together. Even with Josh helping in every way he could, the stress of camping, pumping, cleaning all the pumping supplies, & keeping milk cold pushed me over the edge. I wanted to enjoy my family & being in nature & the world in general. At some point, I realized that my determination to feed my baby with breastmilk was literally making me crazy. I decided for the sake of myself & my family, I had to give it up.

I felt more relief about this decision than guilt. I knew it was the right choice. Don't get me wrong, I still fought guilt & I hated feeding him bottles in public, but I knew me being mentally & emotionally available for my family was way more important. I cried when Josh bought formula but it allowed me the freedom to breathe & invest in Payton & Maverick the way I really wanted to.

I was able to freely make counseling appointments & go on playdates. Josh & I started having date nights again. It might sound selfish, but I needed those interactions to be a good mom. I needed to be in a place where I could smile & laugh & be silly. I grieved the sudden end of my breastfeeding journey but I could tell I was getting better & Maverick was growing & happy.

After a few weeks of counseling, it was clear that I didn't need to go on medication. I needed to keep talking & living & accepting where God had me. My guilt gradually lifted but it came back with a full vengeance when we found out that Mav had a lip tie. Just like my hypothyroidism, I felt so much emotion about not figuring that out sooner. I will never know if his lip tie was the problem but I can't go back & change it. However, I can be grateful for the balance I found in the midst of what was so much crazy-making.

I'm still hopeful that my breastfeeding experience with baby #3 will be different- longer & easier. But what I have this time around is the peace of knowing that Payton & Maverick not only survived all of the feeding craziness but they're thriving in life. They are happy & healthy & funny & smart little humans. I am all those things, too. Well, except little. I have experience on my side this time around. At least I hope so.

Mamas, what was/is your experience with feeding your babies? What are your tips for me as I go into this for the third time?

Every mother has a different experience with breastfeeding. This is mine.


  1. Thanks for sharing my post! I can relate to so, so many of the things you felt throughout your breastfeeding stories. It's so sad that there's so much pressure on us to breastfeed that we can't even enjoy our babies if this doesn't happen the way we think it should. I think it's so awesome that you shared your stories too to hopefully fight against this lie that the only good thing for our babies is breastmilk. Sometimes formula really is better for our families because it allows us to be in a healthy place and that is even more important than the benefits of breastmilk. You are so strong mama! I will be praying for you and that breastfeeding will go more smoothly the third time around but more importantly that you are just able to enjoy your baby and family more than anything! <3

    1. Thank you! I will be praying for you as well as you embark on baby #2. It's so exciting!!!! It feels so good to have breastfeeding supplies AND bottle feeding supplies so that I can enjoy the blessing a new baby is. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story first.

  2. Thanks for this post! For me, nursing was SOOO hard at first, but I was encouraged to stick with it, and we did get the hang of it after a week or so. But then, even though it was so emotionally draining for me, I kept it up, partially because my daughter hated bottles and didn't want to take them, and partially because I didn't want to pump. When we did finally stop (she was about a year old, down to one feed right before bedtime) I was happy that it was over. I was grateful for some of the special moments I'd had with my baby, but my mental health had really suffered, in a way I don't think it would have if I'd pumped exclusively or just formula fed. I don't know what I'll do yet with baby #2 (if there ever is one) but life is a lot better now that my daughter doesn't nurse and I don't feel tied to a rigid feeding schedule.
    I know it's different for everyone though! Really trust your gut and do what's best for you and your baby/family.

    1. Thank you for being brave enough to share your true feelings about your journey. I'm sorry it was so draining for you but also glad were able to have those moments with your baby. No matter how our stories turn out, we're the mom's for our kiddos & that is beautiful.