On the Topic of Motherhood: Our Breastfeeding Journey

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It seems that every topic that falls under motherhood is a bit touchy...
But, here we go!

During my 9 months of pregnancy I did quite a bit or research about... everything really.
Every single site I entered, blog I read, and pinterest article I found suggested that breastfeeding is the way to go. I never thought I wouldn't breastfeed. In fact, I very much wanted to strictly breastfeed from day one til at least 12 months. It was natural and... Free! However, I couldn't understand why bottle feeding appeared to be so looked down upon when I knew a ton of mothers I respected and loved that used formula. They were still feeding their babies, so what was the big deal?

 I spoke to a few moms that told me nursing is much harder than it may seem and they told me stories of the times they just wanted to give up. They informed me that it hurts and can be frustrating but it is the best thing for your baby and they will grow better if you nurse... (ha) I listened to what they had to say and thought "They must be exaggerating. I can do this." I was happy I had that mentality early on, but it ended up haunting me and causing me to get much less sleep than I could have. I wish I would have had more people telling me that the "liquid gold" I was producing was not the only way to go about nourishing my child, because formula is more than "just fine."

Oaklyn came out of the womb practically starving. She was crying a ton and would only calm down a little bit if her entire fist was in her mouth. The nurse looked at me... "Would you like to try and feed her." I looked down at my baby "Sure, I guess so." And then my breastfeeding adventure began...

Oaklyn seemed to have latched on rather quickly. I had no clue what to do with my hands and I just let her suck as she laid on my chest in what looked like a super uncomfortable position. She still wasn't completely clean and she wouldn't let me put my hand anywhere near her while she ate. If I did, she would grab on and try to direct it elsewhere. The nurse laughingly said "She's gonna be a helper!" From there, I can't even remember what happened. They took her away, they wheeled me out, and I was completely out of it. I made it to my hospital bed and they wheeled my clean, sleeping baby in. She was perfect and sound asleep. I oohed and ahhed and sent a few pictures to family. Suddenly she was crying screaming. I picked her up and just looked at her. Hunter then mentioned "maybe she's hungry." I sat down and attempted to feed her. I still had no clue what to do and no one was around to direct me. She was squirmy and couldn't seem to relax and just eat. After what seemed like an hour, we figured it out and she happily ate as I sat stiff as a board so I wouldn't jostle her and have to do it all over again. At one point a nurse came in and asked me if  I wanted them to take her to the nursery for a little bit so I could sleep. She then said "but... we'll have to give her a bottle in there." I made the choice to keep her with me and every feeding from there on out just got more challenging with no real explanation or help from the hospital's lactation consultant. Suddenly that bottle seemed more and more appealing. But, why did the nurses have such a negative tone about it?

We got home from the hospital and I continued trying to nurse and still hadn't given her a bottle. I was determined to figure this out. Every two hours, and sometimes earlier, she would scream and I knew she was hungry. There was no use in trying to use a cover because it just made the already difficult situation harder, so I would sit there completely exposed and my husband and mother could see what was happening. They were just as confused as I was as to why she would scream and scream and not latch on. I would shove it into her mouth and she would shake her little head like a puppy dog. Most of the time, I just wanted to cry as I thought to myself "why is this natural thing feeling SO unnatural?" But, I would usually just get frustrated and hand her to my mom or husband. When my milk came in, I was dying. She could not get anything out of me and it felt like I had a million pounds of bricks on my chest. Milk would leak when I showered and it was soaking my breast pads. It was there, why wouldn't she just drink it? We tried everything, different positions, squirting it in her mouth to get her started, a nipple shield, you name it! The only thing that only kind of helped was the shield. But, it wasn't guaranteed. My mom bought me a manual pump to use until my doctor prescribed me the electric one. I couldn't believe how much relief I had when I began to pump. My mood quickly brightened and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to try to nurse her once some milk was expressed because I thought it might be easier for her to latch on. Nope. We still ended up with a red faced baby that would not stop screaming and a frustrated mommy that was about ready to give up. But, I kept remembering the nurses, the articles I read, and my previous thoughts were haunting me so I would not give her formula.

 I had a bottle I got while I was pregnant and we put the pumped milk in it. Hunter took her and gave her the bottle. To all of our surprise, she guzzled it and her body was much more calm because she was getting full... I continued to try nursing her, but every single time was a nightmare and we usually would just give her a bottle of the pumped milk so she could settle down and not be starving. I made the choice to try to nurse at night and pump during the day but that quickly backfired. I would nurse her and once she would fall asleep I would take her away from my chest only to see that her latch was so poor that all the milk she got out was all over her, me, and the bed. She would wake up anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours later completely starving because not much made it in her tummy. After talking to my mother in law about how nursing just didn't seem to be benefiting me or Oaklyn, I began to pump throughout the night too. Hunter was still playing football at BYU at the time and had to get up around 6 am. I didn't want to wake him so I would let him sleep as I would get up to feed Oaks a bottle, rock her to sleep, go wash the bottle, pump, wash the pump, then go back to bed. By the time I was asleep again, she was awake an hour later and sometimes earlier. I began to dread nights and had a severe lack of sleep. I sunk into a deep depression and decided I hated motherhood. None of it was going as planned and I just wanted to go back in time and erase it all. You would think that at this point I would just give her formula right? Nope... I just kept remembering the negative things people said, so my mom guilt crept in and I could not get myself to do it. I specifically remember going to our pediatrician and a nurse I had never seen before came in to weigh Oaklyn and take her measurements. I was feeding Oaks a bottle and she looked over saying in a very rude tone "Does she always drink formula?" I let her know that it was pumped milk and she said "Oh good, she needs the real stuff. Not the fake stuff." That entire appointment I felt annoyed and almost wanted to go buy some formula just to prove her wrong. But, I didn't because I couldn't seem to shake all the things I had been told.

Here we are now... Oaklyn is 9 1/2 months old and I managed to exclusively pump for 9 whole months. I'm sure I would have gone longer, but I began to dry up. I panicked when my supply took a dive and the freezer supply was quickly disappearing. I went to Target and just stared at the millions of options of formula. I ended up calling the pediatrician and asking which one I should get. I couldn't figure out why, but I was panicked the whole way home thinking about giving her. her first formula bottle. Oaklyn took a bit to adjust but quickly realized it was still food and now guzzles her bottles just the same. It has been a huge stress reliever for me to not have to be constantly pumping and I'm so thankful that I know she is still being nourished and what is being put in her tummy will not cause any problems in her growth.

I've done quite a bit of thinking about this topic and have been wondering more and more why mothers can't just be supportive of each other. I guarantee not many people other than my close friends and my family knew what Oaklyn and I went through to try to get her to nurse and the guilt I felt for not being able to do so easily like so many other moms. I can't believe that I felt embarrassed when bottle feeding my baby because I worried about other people's judgment, and I'm a little bitter that so many nurses made me feel guilty for not being able to successfully nurse my child. Mothers go through so much as it is and we don't need any more reason to feel inadequate. I wish so badly that some of those nurses would have just said "Try your hardest but do what is best for you and your baby. If nursing doesn't work out, formula is still a great option." That's what I'll be telling new mothers. I'll let them know that whatever they choose to do, they are a great mother. I'll tell them to ignore those feeding them false information and to do what makes mama and baby happiest. I have been seeing the hashtag #breastisbest more frequently and I just want to rip my hair out! It isn't always best for mama and baby. I know one mother that tried so hard to nurse and the doctors finally told her formula was best for her baby. I know another mama that also tried to nurse and at 6 months the doctor said that for her health's sake, she needed to switch to formula. I have heard of plenty of other mother's that just don't produce enough or any milk. I am so proud of everyone that breastfeeds and I have nothing against it. I think it is a wonderful thing and I'm so glad that it works for so many! But, for those of us that had a struggle and physically or mentally could not nurse our babies... please support us too. We are all mothers that love our babies and we are all trying our best! I'm still going to try to nurse my next child and I'm hoping it will work better next time around, but if it doesn't, I will be happy to remember the knowledge I gained with my first that breast is not always best. As long as your child has a full tummy and is loved by mommy, all will work out and fall in to place! So to those of you that had a more complicated breastfeeding journey, I'm right there with you! And to those of you that had no trouble with nursing, you go girl! Keep it up and treasure those moments spent so close  to your little one :) I did not share my story to pity myself or have others feel sorry for me, I shared it because I truly believe that sharing our experiences, whether good or bad, can help other mother's in the same situation. It is never fun to feel alone in the middle night. But, I guarantee there is another mother awake going through something similar. So, let's all unite in motherhood and be there for each other. Just remember mama, you know your child better than anyone. Do what you believe is best :)

All my love,
Aleigh Joy

**If you would like other mothers to talk to in the wee hours of the night as you are awake with your babe, check out @sparklingfootsteps on instagram! She has been hosting a #latenightnursingfeed for mamas to be there for each other and chat :)


  1. It is amazing that you were able to pump for so long and a blessing to have saved money for 9 months. I have had an opposite journey with both of my boys. I had a very very rough start with them latching too but thanks to an amazing lactation consultant and breastfeeding support group I was able to get help and after 8 weeks of trials we had a successful nursing journey. But both of my boys NEVER, like NEVER would take a bottle. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders knowing I could never be away from them for too long (unless it was night time during longer stretches). My husband, mom, sisters, friends, etc. no one was able to feed my boys but me and sometimes I needed a break. Just like how you felt tied to your pump I felt tied to my baby. I am now weaning Max (my second) and it is harder for me than it is for him since I have a over supply. Like so many decisions and trials in motherhood we are always learning something new and trying to exercise wisdom on what is best for our kids and family. I used to be jealous of moms who bottle fed because they had a lot more freedom and could wear dresses while I had to always have a tank top on or a skirt/pants. Anyways, I could go on and on. Thanks for being real and sharing your story. Knowledge is power and if you want to breastfeed your second child, Lord willing, than my only tidbit would be to beforehand find a great IBCLC lactation consultant and go see them ASAP. I have never found the ones at the hospital helpful at all, not sure why this is. Give Oaklyn a hug for us she is thriving and that is something to be thankful for.

  2. Amen to all of this. Seriously. I went through super similar struggles. I felt like a HUGE failure for not being able to breastfeed, and I hated that the world made me feel that way. I tried and tried to breastfeed, and it just didn't work. I pumped exclusively for the first two months and then I couldn't take the stress of pumping and having my baby wake up and me not being able to do anything to help him while my husband was at work. I had clogged ducts, engorged breasts, and ended up with a fever more than once from getting clogged/being engorged. It was just too much for me. At two months I slowlyyy started to wean off pumping but I always had so much milk that it took forever. It took me until after he was 3 months old to not feel the need to pump anymore and very shortly after that we ran out of frozen milk. It was hard to switch him to formula, but I am SO glad that we did. I was happier which made my whole house happier. He rolled over early, crawled by 8 months, and started walking at 10.5 months. Judging by these milestones formula has been more than fine for him. Oh how I hate the world for making me think it would be any different. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Breastfeeding is HARD. I hate it, ha. I have a couple posts on my blog (here: http://www.britt-hanson.com/search/label/Breastfeeding) that you can read about my experience, and I have another post in the works about what decision I made this time around with #2. You're a saint that you made it so long! I am allll about formula. Honestly, I felt bad that I didn't feel bad about switching to formula the first time around. This time around I didn't have any guilty feelings, just relief! :) Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. I have had radically different experiences with breastfeeding all three of my babies. Beckett had to be in the NICU, and because of other complications he had to have formula supplemented with normal nursing to get rid of jaundice and to gain weight. He would never stay awake nursing long enough to get any of the fatty milk, but if it was a bottle he would guzzle it. I had to wear a shield with him always and he was honestly the WORST nurser. Once he got a taste of baby food he wanted nothing to do with nursing anymore. He was six months old and was nursing half the time and taking formula in a bottle half the time. I pumped for two months after he quit nursing. Lincoln was so different. Always hungry and happy to nurse. But again I had to use the shield. My body couldn't regulate milk for him well enough, and I kept getting breast infections. After my third round of antibiotics I called it quits for him, pumped another month, and then he was on formula. Like you said, you have to do what is best for mama (which can mean so many things health wise, whether it's sleep, nutrition, or sanity related). I was bummed to quit because he was so much better at it, but I was so drained and felt awful being on medicine so long. After those two I seriously hated nursing. It wasn't for me, and I had bad luck and experiences with it. Then came Eisley...this girl was a natural born nurser. She had to start with a shield like my boys, but after two weeks I got her off of it. She just knew what to do. She got fast at it so much sooner than the boys. I finally didn't dread breastfeeding like I had before. But it's a double edged sword because the girl won't touch anything else. Won't take a bottle, even if it's pumped milk, EVER. Won't take a pacifier. Didn't want anything to do with baby food until recently. Leaving me to be her sole source of nutrition, and nearly impossible to leave with a babysitter. She is finally starting to eat other food which is a relief.

    Sorry to share my whole history! But it's so true that you just have to do what you feel is best. I felt guilty quitting with Beckett and pressured most especially by my mom and husband. With Lincoln I didn't care anymore and knew I had to do what was best for me. Each baby is SO so different. Third time was a charm for me (both baby and my body figured it out). So sorry you had the experience you did in the hospital and the start of that awful pressure from others. Wanting to do what is best for you and your baby (whether formula or not) is all that matters. You are a great mom!

  5. Beautiful story. I had trouble with my first two and tried to pump exclusively, I made it about four months. Everyone needs to do what works best for them. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for letting me share your link on my page! (http://puresthome.com/blogs/thoughts)