My Truth About Breastfeeding

May 21, 2019

    My thoughts 4 months into breastfeeding our first son, Ezra.

    my truth about breastfeeding
    photo by Pura Soul Photography

    We are officially 17 weeks in to breastfeeding over here.

    17 weeks of non-stop feeding and nourishing Ezra since the moment he came into this world.

    Most of you know that Ez was born premature (more on that here) and fueling him as much as possible has our top priority since day one. He has been exclusively having my breastmilk since we came home from the hospital and I would be 100% lying to you if I said it was easy. It may be the one of the most beautiful ways to bond with your child, but it is the furthest from easy.

    There is a lot that happens with breastfeeding that no one talks about. At least I never received any type of warnings or heard much about the challenges that come wth it.

    I used to scroll Instagram and see these magical photos of moms and their babies nursing so beautifully. Like it was a magnetic force or something bringing the baby and mama together and the baby just latches on so perfectly. Sure, I am guilty of taking (one) photo like this but what no one really saw was how many takes it took to capture that shot. You didn’t see Ez falling off my nipple or not wanting to feed in that position that day. Or when he screamed non-stop in the photoshoot from above. Part of me hated myself for sharing it on Instagram in the first place but when I look at it, it does remind me of the true beauty behind breastfeeding. The beauty that can be heavily masked by the massive amounts of chaos that takes over most of the time.

    When I was pregnant, it was a pretty common question to be asked how long I planned to breastfeed for. And it was also assumed I would indeed breastfeed. Barely anyone even asked if I had an alternative plan. Being somewhat nieve, I would say “oh a year or so!”. Acting like it was nothing and it was going to be so simple and easy balancing being a new mama, working full-time, breastfeeding, getting sleep and some how saying alive over here.

    I’m extremely grateful to be nursing in general (despite my blunt commentary this blog post). And I’m especially grateful to do so in a time where breastfeeding is so much more widely accepted than it was in the past. It makes it easier to whip my nipple out in public places. When my mom had my brother and I, it wasn’t really common to breastfeed. Nowadays if you don’t, you almost get a dirty look (especially in the wellness space).

    And while it may be easy to judge a new mom for not wanting to breastfeed, no one has a f!cking clue what is like to do this until they are in the thick of it. And let me tell you, we are in the thick of it over here friends.

    I had a relatively easy transition into nursing Ezra. My boobs didn’t get overly sore and my nipples didn’t blister like many women have experienced. It almost felt like I worked out too many days in a row without taking a rest day (granted I have never done that in my life since I don’t work out too hard…ha!). But eventually my boobs got used to it and they started to get the hang of things. Just in time for Ezra to be nursing on them directly instead of using one of those plastic nipple guards we needed to use for the first 3 weeks he was born. Ya…if you are wondering wtf that is, I don’t blame you. I had no idea until the nurse told me to use it to help him start latching easier. 3 weeks later we had created a monster who wouldn’t latch on without this dumb piece of plastic guarding my nipple. I eventually ripped it off like a bandaid around 4 weeks because I couldn’t take it anymore. Ezra hated me for it. He screamed even louder than he did during the other 23 hours of the day.

    Ez has had a feeding schedule of every 2-3 hours since the day he was born. I always joke that “I can run but I can’t hide”. My boobs give him life and fuel him the same way it’s fueling my own body. Which by the way, had a really hard time physically adjusting to breastfeeding. I walked out of the hospital weighing less than I did before getting pregnant. And while people make comments about my body often and ask how I am so thin after having a baby, blah blah blah, they are quick to judge and say I don’t eat. Or say I am so lucky I lost my baby weight and didn’t need to do work for it.

    Lucky? Are you effing kidding me? I don’t call looking like a 4th grader pre-puberty after labor, lucky. I felt like I looked disgusting for the first couple weeks after Ez was born. I refused to see people besides my family and had to more than double my food intake to even stay at the same weight and stop losing more weight. This is a prime example of how everyone’s body is truly so different. I wasn’t prepared for this. I honestly never even thought about my post baby body until I felt I didn’t even have a body anymore.

    It took me about a month to regulate and starting putting weight on. I tested my hormones and everything was fine, which meant it was really just adjusting to this new life of breastfeeding. And my body had an insane reaction to producing milk for Ez. I kept joking he was milking every ounce of me, and it sure felt like the truth. Not to mention I also had a C-section and was in recovery post labor. Meaning I lost any muscle I had since I couldn’t work out or do much for a couple of months. And as someone who didn’t have a big frame to begin with, me losing my muscle also made a huge impact my physical appearance. I was a skeleton walking around with these massive milky boobs (massive for me.. the girl with A cups her whole life).

    I remember going to one of my fave workouts about 10 weeks postpartum and it was my first time back. I was so excited to go. Not really to workout but just to have a couple of hours to myself and have human interaction. Until that took a turn for the worst and as I was washing my hands, a woman who was often in my classes with me made a comment that I didn’t look healthy and she couldn’t believe I had a baby. She also went on an made other negative comments about my appearance but I’d rather not focus on those right now.

    ..Seriously? She was also a mom and still to this day I don’t get how someone who had their own babies and has experienced the adjustment to motherhood, would make such a rude comment to someone postpartum. No one has any idea what anyone is going through personally, but mom to mom you know it’s an adjustment and negative comments don’t help anyone in any instance.

    Another thing no one tells you about is how confusing it is to know if your baby is even eating enough. Sure you can make them latch for X amount of minutes but it is a guessing game to know how much is enough or how many ounces they are getting. You eventually get the hang of it and you’ll know by the amount of dirty diapers, weight gain, etc. but it is confusing! I still to this day get nervous if Ez only nurses for 10 minutes instead of longer he didn’t get enough to eat. I go by his signs and since he has never skipped a meal and has been growing, I think he has good instincts with how much he should eat. Plus I have heard as babies get older, they get the milk quicker when nursing, but who knows.

    Since they also say breastmilk isn’t “as filling” as formula (no idea if that is true or not), I’m assuming that’s why Ez still eats during the night. Yup, that means this chick (and Jord) hasn’t had a full night of sleep since January 25, 2019, but hey who’s counting. It took Ezra until he was 15 weeks to only have 1 feeding a night around 3am. We didn’t cut him off from the other two feedings, and luckily it was something he started doing on his own. His doctor said he could also sleep train to cut off the last feeding but for now we are still doing it. We’re pretty adamant on him growing since he came home at 4 lbs 9 ounces but holy sh!t has this been exhausting.

    The lack of sleep is really what has been killing me the most. Sleeping in two hour increments for over 3 months isn’t good for anyone. By the time you get into a decent sleep you wake up to hearing you bubba crying because they are ready for more. And as someone who doesn’t just face plant into the pillow and pass out, it’s been hard falling back to sleep each time. Thank goodness Jordan has been a flipping superhero and helped every single night. Including the night I had a massive panic attack and somewhat blacked out while Ezra was screaming as I tried to nurse him before bed.

    Ez has gotten bottles 90% of his night feedings so I’m usually pumping and Jord does the bottle (personal choice and I talk about that here). Ezra wasn’t one to fall asleep right after eating so it was quite the process for one person to do on their own. I’d be in a gutter somewhere without Jord, that’s for sure.

    I’m also lucky enough to work from home while breastfeeding. I am bowing down and tipping my hat off to every mama who works in an office and pumps all day. It is insanely hard scheduling work meetings, recipe development time, calls, pretty much anything that requires me to leave Ez for an extended period of time. I leave the two barre classes I take each week 10 minutes early, I’m rushing home from the train to be back on time, I’m pumping and carrying around breastmilk when I do miss a feeding and I am constantly keeping track of what time it is and how long until Ez’s next feeding.

    Sure, I could pump more during the day and stay on a schedule, but I’m lucky enough to work from home. And I love him being the one demanding the milk and calling the shots over my pump all day.  I love getting to spend those 20-30 minutes with my son and take a break. I get to hold him and snuggle him in between the stresses of work. Just smelling his baby scent calms me down when I am feeling overwhelmed. But I also love my job, my freedom and my sleep. So what does a mama do now?

    …I have no idea!

    If you are reading this blog post and wondering to yourself “if she sounds so negative about breastfeeding, why is she doing it still?” or “How long is she going to do this for then?”

    And while those are very good questions, my answer is easy.

    I’m going to breastfeed Ezra until we both know it is time to stop. There is no plan or set date. The longer the better in terms of the benefits for him, but I can’t put a time on this. I also need to take care of myself too. This isn’t easy and while this blog post may scare people from ever breastfeeding, that is not my intention. I want to share the challenges I have faced personally in this journey with you so that you aren’t caught off guard like I have been along the way. Everything you hear and see is so picture perfect about nursing your babies. “Oh I nursed my daughter until she was 2!” and they just say it like it was nothing and no big deal. And while it may be easy and not challenging for some, it isn’t the case for everyone.

    I am passionate about giving Ezra the best I can in every way. I am his mother, I am his life line right now and behind every massive headache and all of these not so fabulous truths to breastfeeding, lies the most beautiful relationship I am forming with my son. Something that I will cherish for forever. I will also forever remember him nursing for over an hour once and my nipples going numb and me crying for hours in pain, but the bond we have has mother and son right now is irreplaceable. I tear up just typing this.

    Will I breastfeed with my next child and the children we may have after? I sure do plan on it. But I’m not going to be a mom hiding behind that picture prefect Instagram post anymore. This ISH is real. It’s happening and while somedays I want to hide in a cave and cry, I know down the road I won’t regret this experience.

    xx, Rach

    I love seeing you what you make my recipes!
    Don’t forget to use the hashtag @rachLmansfield and #rachLeats on instagram!

    33 Responses

    1. Thank you for this! As a first time expecting mama, I can’t wait for that bond with my daughter. I’ve had a couple friends tell me it’s hard, but not really go into specifics like you have. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Breastfeeding is exactly how you described. No one told me it would be harder than pregnancy or labor. My child is almost 10 months and still wakes up to nurse once or so a night. She has slept through the night twice. So yes, I don’t remember sleep very well. She still nurses every 3 hours, so yes it’s soo demanding. You are doing great!

    3. I appreciate your honesty. Breastfeeding was very tricky for me and I also had to use those plastic shields. I made it past the first year with my oldest but it was hard.

    4. This was a very touching post that I could really resonate with. Memories of my own special time spent bonding with my babies came flooding back as I recalled those very difficult but wonderful days and nights of sleepless “bliss.” I was never really sure back then which emotion was stronger — love and joy so overwhelming I thought I might burst, or exhaustion and frustration so intense I wished I could just curl up and cry. I only wish I would have had the advantage of hearing another woman’s intimate new-motherhood story to glean those untalked about details from. I think it’s such a great thing that you have chosen to be transparent about the difficulties involved in nursing your baby, rather than joining the ranks of today’s young moms who prefer to portray a facade of new-mother perfection. My guess is that many of those new mothers posting photos on Instagram do not have paying jobs. I personally did not work inside nor outside of my home at a paying job when I had my babies, yet I still found it extremely daunting to stay on top of things. I honestly don’t know how you are able to keep up with your blog and your other endeavors while being a new mom — and still maintain any sense of sanity. I’m sure I speak on behalf of many of your readers and followers when I say that we would certainly understand if you were to take all the time you need to enjoy these special days, weeks and months to the fullest, without the distraction of having to keep up with everything at the same pace that you did pre-baby. The stress of trying to do it all really can take it’s toll on you over time. And even though it might not seem possible to you now, this precious time with your beautiful baby will be over before you know it, and you will wish that you could have spent more time basking in it. I would encourage you to savor it for all it’s worth while you can!

    5. Breastfeeding can be so hard. It was for me, too. I constantly had low supply and every single time they would latch on, I’d get an adrenaline shot of anxiety as letdown happened. I also *gained* weight. I never made it to a year with any of my boys (I have 3), but I nursed each of them for as long as I could, including pumping, and then supplementing with formula. You’re doing great! It’s truly a different journey for every mom.

    6. Thanks for sharing, I literally had to take it day-by-day with breastfeeding both my boys. It felt so overwhelming! But somehow we made it to a year for one and 15 months for the other!

    7. Women are friggin super heroes.. seriously! And you are one of them! Becoming a mom is the most life changing thing a woman will ever experience. I do not have children myself yet, but I am a NICU nurse and I help mommas every day learn to feed their babies. It is so important to recognize that breastfeeding is really hard and that it is hard for MOST women! Sure, there will always be people that it comes easy to and that is amazing for them! But you are not alone! And to have to “do life” outside of nourishing your child is a whole other challenge! And thank God for those spouses that are with us through it all! Thank you for sharing your truth!

      1. awwww that is truly such an amazing job. you must have the warmest heart. all of ezra’s NICU nurses were so kind and we were so appreciative!

    8. This was such a beautiful post. I can relate to it on so many levels. My experience was a bit different – my son had trouble gaining weight while I was breastfeeding and it took three months of stress and worry and pain and pumping until I finally decided it was time to stop. I say this to just remind you that happy mama=happy baby. You do what you feel is best for your baby ALWAYS. Sure, breastfeeding as long as you can is amazing for your babe. But formula fed babies develop just as good and turn out perfect too. Whatever you choose is the best choice- no doubt – but do what is best for you too! Also remember to be kind to yourself!! This phase is tough but goes by fast. Good luck mama xoxo

    9. I hear you Mama! I nursed both of my kids until they were almost 2 and I am glad that I did but it is a huge commitment! The lack of sleep is SO hard! Hang in there!!

    10. Brought me to tears reading this as it’s absolutely what I remember going through just under a year ago. So much is left unspoken. We should all be helping educate each other on this. It is not easy for a lot of mummas and knowing that you aren’t alone in the things you are experiencing just makes it a little easier to keep on going. Thanks for being so real and raw Rachel. Xx

    11. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. I empathize you on so many points. I too had a C-section with my now 10-month-old son. I had to use a nipple shield for 2-3 weeks during that first month as well. My son’s latch was so shallow and painful that I would be in tears in pain almost every feeding. My mom gave me and my siblings formula and told me it was a fine option but I really wanted to breastfeed and felt the pressure to do so. I was so ready to quit, until I talked to other mom friends who breastfed and went through similar pains. It was so common and I hadn’t heard it so much before. I ended up sticking with it, even after being afraid to get rid of the nipple shield. We are still going today but I agree pumping is hard. I am a middle school teacher and there are NO good times to pump, so when I do get a pump session or two in, I am happy. It is our legal right to be able to pump, but no one makes it easy and so many moms I have talked to are so inconvenienced due to work restraints or their work schedule that they stop breastfeeding earlier than they would like. After my son was born and my friends would ask how everything was, the first thing I would tell them was how hard it was for me to breastfeed. They appreciated it too because some of them hope to be moms soon and would rather be prepared than blindsided by any potential breastfeeding challenges. It has been great to connect with other moms on this journey and to also know a fed baby is best. Mom friends are great to have when they are supportive. I am sorry that woman said those negative things to you. There will be people who aren’t supportive, but don’t let them affect you as much as you can. Save your energy for your loving on your loved ones. You just keep remembering that no one else can be a better mama to Ezra. Keep it up, mama!

    12. Couldn’t agree more with Janet’s comment above. I’m also at 15 weeks of exclusively breastfeeding my second son Dominic and everything you wrote I can completely and wholly connect with. Thank you for sharing the real and honest side of breastfeeding bc it is not talked about enough. It is SO difficult and challenging while simultaneously beautiful and precious. You are not alone and I only wish I could’ve been there even that woman made those extremely inappropriate and rude comments to you! Your post is very encouraging for me too bc while pregnant and in the early weeks, I told my husband I would try to get to three months and go from there. And now here we are ? Solidarity mama!

    13. I so much appreciate your honesty with this post. I relate to you in so many ways. My son is one day older than yours and was also 4 weeks early, plus, I have been experiencing the mom shame with my body… I have a similar body type and left the hospital weighing less and honestly felt like I was slowly disintegrating with breastfeeding. I’ve had to double calories but like you, I continue to shrink. I’m a yoga teacher and after going back to work, it’s been pretty hurtful to listen to the body comments I receive. (“You’re so lucky.” “You need to eat more.” “Where did you go?” …blah blah.) I can’t believe what people have said to me. I know everyone has a right to an opinion but the judgement is hurtful. The greatest lesson is to remember to listen to your docs and do what’s best for you and your family. I love following along with your journey because I feel like I have a friend to get support from. Thank you for sharing and keep going!! Xox

      1. almost twins omg! luckily i have been able to maintain my weight now but it wasn’t easy. they said it will level out and after a month for me it did. in the meantime enjoy yourself and don’t think twice about that extra slice (or two or three) of banana bread!

    14. Love this post & your honesty! I totally relate. I’m breastfeeding my 6 month old son, he’s starting to eat solids, (we’re doing baby led weaning) and he’s still not sleeping through the night. It’s hard!! But I love it. And we don’t know anything else. I’ve been asked multiple times when I’m going to start weaning him and truth is I have no clue! Hats off to you for pumping so much though because I don’t have the patience for it. Feels so good to read other mamas stories and struggles with breastfeeding because so many people out there shame you for even talking about it. Thanks! Love to you & Ez

      1. aww!! sending you guys love. pumping stinks.i have been getting lazy with it but i try to at least once a day now to save up milk if i’m not with ez!! xx

    15. yes, yes, yes! Lack of sleep and breastfeeding were the two hardest things for this first time mom. I’m not sure if anything can really prepare you for it, but knowing other momma’s are going through the same experience definitely helps. You’re doing an amazing job!

    16. Hello,
      How are you?
      I read all of your posts about you and Ezra. Just so you know, never ever listen to people’s comments about you or your baby. You do YOU. You do what is right for your baby and your family. Every baby is different, every mom is different.

      Mothers should not be judging others.

      Breastfeeding and lack of sleeping is tiring but it’s worth every minute of it. I struggled with breastfeeding. My milk flow did not kick in till the third month. I didn’t realize that was the case. My baby boy who is 5 months now use to feed every half an hour, and everyone around me kept telling me just keep feeding him and I knew it wasn’t right because he wouldn’t sleep or take naps. So I introduced formula for his night feed and I would struggle and feed him every half an hour during the day. It took a while for me to realize what was happening and what I had to do. So I increased his formula feeds until my milk kicked in.

      Everyone is different, that’s why I’m a strong believer that mothers should not judge or compare other mothers.

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

    17. Thanks so much for posting this, your story is VERY relatable. I just hit 12 weeks with my little boy Noah and it has been a long journey. Everyone said breastfeeding would be hard but no one mentioned how?! Like that I would need to use a breast shield, no one even told me what that was or that the first few weeks I would only be able to successfully nursing using my brestfriend pillow…its hard to leave the house with one of those.

      Love what you put out here in this space for mammas and food! Thank you for keeping it real and honest of what actually happens 🙂

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