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During my pregnancy, I kept hearing about breastfeeding journeys. I never considered why it would be a journey or what they meant by journey, but now, almost 11 months postpartum, I fully understand. This is a story of my breastfeeding journey.
Before I had Baby R, I thought breastfeeding was just that – feeding from my breast. Simple enough, right? I was excited to breastfeed, but planned to pump or supplement with formula in case baby didn’t latch. I wanted to avoid using formula because of the cost. Free boob juice? Heck yeah!
The Latch and Leaks
Well, she latched instantly after the cesarean. I was SO grateful that she latched since her birth went in an unexpected direction.
Our journey started the moment she was born. She nursed for 20 minutes on my right, then 20 minutes on my left. And then every hour and a half thereafter for the next 5 months.
That’s right – baby nursed exclusively, 8-12 times/day every day for 5 months. Nursing sessions lasted anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and in the evening, baby clusterfed from 5-9. All this nursing averages out to nearly 50 hours/week. That’s more than a full-time job! (And the average maternity leave is less than 3 months…psht.)
So, that’s how the journey begins. Baby depends on mom for food 50 hours/week on top of diaper changes, laundry, housecleaning, and the oh so rare and beautiful “me” time.
Apart from learning how to breastfeed, I also had to adjust to nightly leaks and over-production. Whenever Baby R nursed on one side, I always, always leaked from the other. There are many helpful tools to help with this, but I enjoyed this milk catcher. I was able to catch 3-4 oz at every feeding. You can always pump, instead, especially if you are looking for more output.
Being able to preserve my milk and start a mini-stash helped to keep peace of mind in case something happened – from possible surgeries to wanting to go out on a date. I only used 12oz and was able to donate the rest (over 100oz!) to a local family in need.
Also, Baby R spit up A LOT during her first few months in this world. I know they say that babies do that, but I’m certain that she had a mild form of GERD. This made for an even more interesting first few months. I made sure she wasn’t lying completely parallel while nursing, and after each nursing session, I put her in her bouncer for at least 15 minutes to keep her upright. Otherwise, she spit up instantly.
Then, one morning, the very sleepy infant took a firm standing stance to nurse. Who was this new kid?! She bounced and twisted and laughed at my boobs. She no longer wanted to be cuddled and sang to.
Baby quickly became more aware of the environment around her. The once tiny bundle now got distracted by pets, trees, sounds, and lights. So, she stayed latched for a minute or two at a time, only to look around, bounce a bit, laugh at her puppy, and relatch.
This made for extra long nursing sessions. (Or sometimes extra short nursing sessions…) We didn’t start solids until she was 6 months, so at around 5 months when she become distracted, I worried about her weight and caloric intake. Although, the doctor said she was growing normally.
To other worried mamas out there, just follow your baby’s lead.
I tried to make sure she nursed for at least 20 minutes, sometimes switching sides for another 5.
The Efficient Eater
At 6 months, when we finally adjusted to a solid nursing routine, she began eating solids. And that changed everything. She was sleeping longer through the night, so she only nursed 1-2 times at night. I woke up engorged and flooded her with milk every morning until my body balanced itself out. It wasn’t used to all the extra milk like we had in the very beginning.
She had to learn how to nurse all over again, but once she did, she became such an efficient little eater. She finished a nursing session in 10-15 minutes. I always offered the other side, but she usually only nursed for a minute or two. Then, she was up and ready to play!
When she became a more efficient eater, this allowed for more time for other things – learning how to crawl, balance, eat, and play independently.
Once baby started eating solids, she spent lots of her waking time playing with her food. This is one benefit of BLW. This is also the time when nursing slowly becomes less about nutrition and more about bonding and comforting – such a sweet, tender transition. 🙂
She still benefits GREATLY from nursing, although she is eating solids. The WHO advises moms to breastfeed for baby’s first two years of life.
Baby got her first tooth at around 8 months, and now at almost 11 months, she only has 3 and a half. I was terrified of her teeth coming in. As she grew older, her latch changed based on how her gums changed – it was strong. I couldn’t imagine how strong it would be with teeth!
But, I’m here to tell you, it really isn’t that bad. The only biting I’ve experienced is when she had just gotten her two bottom teeth. She was testing her new additions and seeing how different objects felt in her mouth and in between her teeth.
I was expecting sore nipples and bite marks on my boobs, but luckily I haven’t experienced either.
And then, baby started walking, eating 3 meals a day, and sleeping mostly through the night. This is where we are now. I only nurse Baby R when she asks to be nursed and before bed, so around 4 times per day.
People will say, “You should stop nursing when they start asking for it.” Or, “Don’t let her use you as a pacifier.” But if she finds comfort in it, then I will continue to nurse her. Nursing for comfort is one of the most natural parts of mamahood. Plus, nursing is also great for cognitive development.
I love it. I love being able to provide for my daughter. I reflect in awe of what my body and millions of other bodies do every day.
Nursing my baby provides an opportunity to stop, relax, and bond with my baby – leaving a permanent imprint for years to come.
This isn’t to say that breastfeeding is easy. It takes time and patience – patience I never knew I had. This patience comes from deep within – a maternal instinct that only a mother can fully understand. On days when I felt exhausted or in moments when I am busy and don’t want to be interrupted, I tell myself, I have time for her. I look at her and think, I have time for you.
I have time for my baby. I am able to stay home with my baby, and I have time for her. Especially now that she is older, almost 11 months. She nurses for nutrition, but also for many other reasons – because she’s tired, because she’s scared, because she’s happy, because she’s thirsty, because she’s overwhelmed, because she’s bored, because that’s where she finds comfort. And I find comfort in it, too.
Comment below and tell me about your breastfeeding journey.