By TMoM Team Member Anna Keller

Before my daughter was born a little more than four years ago, I most definitely had a naïve view when it came to breastfeeding. I was very aware that it could be challenging, but I thought most of those challenges came from a bad latch situation or pain while nursing, and that once those challenges were addressed it would be pretty smooth sailing. My goal was to feed our daughter breastmilk for a year, and I honestly didn’t give it much thought beyond that. My mom had done the same with me, so I was sure I wouldn’t have any issue meeting that one-year mark.

Boy, was I underinformed.

Maybe it was because I hadn’t had close friends who’d breastfed, or because I hadn’t taken time to ask the breastfeeding women I did know questions about their experience, or because I didn’t take a course or anything related to breastfeeding, but it totally caught me off guard when I started running into supply issues around the four month mark. As it turned out, pumping (which I was doing daily, since I went back to my office job when Maggie was 10 weeks old) was HARD – not something I’d prepared for.

Ultimately, we started supplementing breastmilk with formula for Maggie which, of course, ended up being just fine. I continued adding breastmilk to the mix for a few more months, but had stopped breastfeeding completely by the time she was about nine months old.

Now I’m mom to a 3-month-old son, and so far my breastfeeding journey with him has felt a bit redemptive. I definitely went into breastfeeding with eyes wide open this time around, which in and of itself has helped a ton. I also feel more confident nursing him (especially when others are around), which feels really good. Granted we haven’t hit that dreaded four-month mark where things really took a turn last time, but I’m feeling much more optimistic overall. I also didn’t set a goal for myself this time, and I know that if we end up supplementing with formula, that will be 100% okay. I’m going to work hard at breastfeeding (and it’s absolutely hard work!), but I’m not going to put a timeline on it to add pressure to the mix.

I recently re-read a statistic that breastfeeding full time for a year comes out to about 1,800 hours. Comparatively, working a full-time job with three weeks of vacation equals 1,960 hours. It’s pretty staggering when you think about it!

Nursing your baby can be some of the most special moments you spend together. Nursing your baby can also make you feel overwhelmed at times, over-touched, and physically spent. Pumping can sometimes make you feel like a superhero, when you have a pumping session that results in lots of ounces of milk that you can store away for your little one. Pumping can also be isolating, and you can start to resent the time spent tethered to that machine. (The sound – it started to make me feel crazy at times!)

So I guess what I’m saying is, like most things, there are amazing things and there are challenging things about breastfeeding, and it helps to know that going into it. Also like most things, it’s really important that you work to find your own path, and try to avoid comparing your journey to the journey of others. Your experience with breastfeeding – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the challenging – gets to be your very own. Let it be your very own. When things are going smoothly, celebrate. When things don’t go the way you’d planned, grieve.

And I know it’s cheesy, but it’s so true: Fed is best. However you end up feeding your baby – whether it’s exclusively breastmilk, exclusively formula, or a combination of the two – will be perfect, and will result in a growing and thriving baby. And isn’t that what we’re here for in the first place?

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