I managed 6 months of breastfeeding and this was always my initial goal. Woohooo!! My stretch goal is 1 year, the recommended time by the AAP.
Aviana hasn’t been ‘exclusively’ breastfed in the truest sense as we supplemented for a couple of weeks in her first weeks of her life as her weight dropped and was born with IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction). We have also used supplemented when I had problems, unknowingly, with high lipase and Aviana was rejecting my frozen milk. We also supplemented when I was away with work travels to Europe because I had to start my Freezer stash all over again due to the high lipase issue. We have also supplemented here and there on occasion due to convenience when traveling. We have no worries with supplementing, I try to avoid it so I can keep my supply up and avoid needing to pump. But I’d say 95% of the time Aviana is exclusively breastfed.
I have had a relatively easy breastfeeding journey compared to some mothers I have met along the way, listening to stories family & friends have told me. Aviana latched almost straight away, I worried I wouldn’t be able to experience breastfeeding. To me it was an experience I felt like I wanted in my life. After all the infertility treatment, I wanted to experience my body doing something it should ordinarily be able to do without medical help! I also wanted to save some $$, which breastfeeding can enable! Formula is expensive!
I almost gave up breastfeeding when she became almost impossible to feed when she was in her ‘distracted nursing’ phase. It was frustrating and painful as she bobbed on and off the boob. This phase lasted for a couple of months and I found it impossible to feed her when we were out and about. Even when I did find a quiet place she would only stay on the boob for a few minutes. I was consumed with worry she wasn’t getting enough food.
We got over that hurdle, and now there is the hurdle of working and traveling. Pumping/expressing is not a walk in the park, especially when on the go. It requires organisation, time and patience. Plus some extra $$ to buy items that help make pumping life easier! Pumping means I also miss out on the nursing bond with Aviana which is one thing that keeps me breastfeeding that I enjoy and love about it. There are days when I’m dreading hooking up to the pump because my boobs are feeling tender. There is also the stress of whether I’ve pumped enough for Aviana’s requirements. I literally am a ‘just enough’ producer, if I get 5oz to freeze at the end of the week it’s been a great week! So the pressure is always there and that’s mentally exhausting. During the week I only nurse her once in the morning and occasionally in the evening (my favourite time with her).
I have now got to a point in our breastfeeding journey where I feel like I shouldn’t talk to other mothers about it because many of my friends stopped breastfeeding for various reasons before 6 months. Some of them stopped against their wishes. I don’t talk about it because I sense when I do that they are upset they didn’t get to breastfeed for as long as they’d have liked, or that I am judging them for not breastfeeding (which by the way, is simply not the case, how anyone chooses to feed their baby is their right and I respect it greatly). I choose my words carefully, conscious that I can easily offend.
I will say that I am proud I have been able to breastfeed for 6 months because I feel like it hasn’t always been easy. There will be new challenges ahead for sure, more work travel, teeth! Aviana’s growing independence or dependence on me!! I’m not sure what the future holds for our breastfeeding journey. I’d like to aim for 12 months. I do cherish the times I get to nurse Aviana and I can’t imagine giving that up. A friend said to me that breastfeeding is like a drug, it gets tough to give up. And I’m not ready for that drug withdrawal just yet! So for now, I’ll keep pump pump pump pumping it up!!!