This is mostly for my own sake of remembering how nursing went for William and I. But I'm sharing it here as well, because as I have discovered, many people do struggle with nursing and knowing you are not alone is helpful.
From day 1 nursing was a challenge. William latched fine, but my milk seemed slow to come in. It was my understanding that this was normal, but William lost too much weight so the nurses asked that we begin formula on day two or three (see, I already can't remember!) I started pumping that same day, after every feeding. William liked to sleep when snuggled up close which made getting a full meal difficult. Chris would finger-feed and tube-feed to give me a break (in hopes of not going through nipple confusion during the first few weeks). Those first few weeks are really a blur. There was a lot of feedings, almost every two hours (not every 3-4 like the books say) and pumping afterwards.
After a month, I had a follow up meeting with the lactation consultant who recommended that to get my supply up, I do interval pumping for an hour before bed. 12-minutes on/12-minutes off. I did this for a week and William gained weight. I took that to mean I should keep doing the interval pumping and did so every single day for 12 months. I was also pumping at least one more time during the day, often twice. By William's first birthday, I was so ready to be done with my pump.
From 1-4 months old, I would nurse him at night and then either Chris or I would top him off with a 2-4 oz bottle. We did this 3 or 4 times a night. At four months old, we needed to make a change to his night feedings. We just couldn't go on like this. So, we gave him two or three 4 oz. bottles each night (almost half of his daily intake) and I stopped nursing him at night. But I would still get up once during the night and pump to avoid being engorged.
At 6 months, we attempted to sleep train, but it didn't take. So, we went back to the nightly feedings until he was 9 months old. There was a point where we thought he was just so hungry we fed him three 6 oz. bottles a night! (18 oz was more than half of his daily intake!) Thank goodness, at 9 months, the sleep training clicked!
William also went through a phase of resisting me right around six months old. I would attempt to feed him but he would arch his back and detach almost immediately - which hurt so very much. My pediatrician said he may be self-weaning and it was okay if I wanted to stop. I didn't think that was really what was going on so I continued. Eventually, he stopped behaving this way and nursing seemed to finally become "normal" We had three feedings each day, usually after he woke up from his naps when he was most cuddly. We also offered a bottle during each wakeful period before he went back to sleep to ensure he was not still hungry.
So my day went something like:
- 5 a.m. = nurse
- 7 a.m. = breakfast of cereal and fruit
- 8 a.m. = small bottle
- 8-10 a.m. = nap time
- 10 a.m. = nurse
- 11:30 a.m. = lunch of veggies and bread
- 12 p.m. = small bottle
- 12 - 2 p.m. = nap
- 2 p.m. = nurse
- 4 p.m. = large bottle
- 4-5 p.m. = third nap if I was lucky!
- 5 p.m. = dinner
- 6:30 p.m. = large bottle
- 7 p.m. = bedtime!
William is such a snacker! He really has never been into large meals or feedings and that continues to be the case even now as we are in the process of weaning and eating 100% solid foods. This schedule seemed to stick and from 7 months to 12 months, nursing was actually a joy.
After his one-year check up, we got the okay to end the bottles and breastfeeding and introduce cow's milk. We are taking it slow. Over the last month, we have cut the bottles down to one bedtime bottle with formula and nursing once in the early morning. He caught on to the straw cup fairly easily and didn't refuse the cow's milk, although he still isn't drinking the volume that he needs.
It has been such a long up-and-down road with feeding William. Some days I was an emotional and exhausted wreck. Other days weren't so bad. I felt awful for having to use formula, both for the expense and the immunities he wasn't getting. But no matter what I tried, my supply was just never enough.
I grew up on a farm and every lambing season we would have at least 1, if not 14 bottle-fed lambs. Sometimes it was my job to mix their formula and feed them . . . so often I remembered that while mixing William's bottle. They smelled the same! (Eww.)
I'm so glad William is a healthy, strong, little boy. I'm thankful I was able to continue nursing for a year. But it wasn't easy and I often wanted to give up. And when the time finally came for weaning, guess who finally learned how to sign "milk"?
Weaning has also been challenging and I often doubt my decision, just as I doubted my decision to continue nursing. But I know this is what I need to do for us now.