A Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey

My breastfeeding journey has been anything but expected. Literally everything about it has surprised me.

First I was surprised by how difficult it was and then by how easy it became. I was surprised by how convenient it could be and yet how inconvenient it felt at times. I was surprised by the sometimes love/hate relationship I had with breastfeeding – loving the bonding and closeness, but feeling frustrated over struggles to get it right. Most of all though, I was surprised by how different nursing each one of my three babies was…from the first latch all the way to weaning, they’ve each made their own path.

In honor of Breast Feeding Awareness Month, I thought it would be appropriate to reminisce about my beautiful, challenging and altogether unexpected breastfeeding journeys and to maybe share a little bit about what I’ve learned along the way.

With my first child, pretty much everything concerning nursing was a struggle. I had low milk supply, my daughter had a terrible latch and the combination of the two was a recipe for disaster. Nursing was like a 24/7 job and I was trying literally EVERYTHING to get it to work for us. I took herbal tinctures, drank milk-boosting teas, ate all the galactogogues under the sun. We had our daughter’s frenulums snipped to help with tongue tie and she had craniosacral therapy to encourage a wider latch. I pumped after every feeding and supplemented her with donor breast milk via and SNS system (to avoid nipple confusion). I went to multiple lactation consultants and joined a weekly nursing support group. It was exhausting and I started to become resentful and angry about breastfeeding. Then one day, I decided to let it go. I realized that while breastfeeding is a beautiful way to feed a baby, it isn’t the end-all-be-all and if my journey looked a little different than the journey of my friend/neighbor/mom/stranger-at-the-mall it was OK. So I gave up pumping and just nursed on demand as much as I could and ended up supplementing with formula the other half of the time. I was sad to let go of the idea of “exclusively breastfeeding” at first, but when I let it go I became a much happier mom and actually grew to love nursing. I was still able to nurse my daughter until she was 17-months until she self-weaned out of the blue and of her own accord (which honestly suits her personality perfectly).

With my second little one, I mistakenly assumed that breastfeeding would go the same as it had before. I prepared myself for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised when my chunky little boy latched right away and nursed like a champ. He gained weight like it was his job and I felt such a sense of accomplishment knowing that I was the one who created those chubby, little wrist rolls with food I made…with my own body! It was truly amazing to me. Nursing was so convenient the second time around, because I was able to do it anywhere and everywhere with little fuss. The downside was that my champion nurser also didn’t like to take a bottle. We tried many of them and he would have none of it, which made getting away for date nights or solo time a bit harder. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to be able to bond with my son through breastfeeding and we continued until he was also 17-months-old. He would’ve gone for longer, but I was 10 weeks pregnant with Baby #3 at the time and I was ready for a break. He weaned begrudgingly (which also suits his personality).

This third time around, nursing has been a bit of a mixed bag. Our little lady had difficulty with her latch initially which caused me significant pain and cause her to be a bit slow in getting back up to her birth weight. My midwife actually suggested trying “The 24-Hour Cure” when she was about 10 days old, which worked wonders for us. The “cure” was to stay in bed for 24 hours, skin-to-skin with my little one and nurse on-demand. I only got up to use the bathroom. I filled my nightstand with snacks and drinks and snuggled in for a 24 hour marathon binge watching of “Fixer-Upper” seasons 1 & 2. Within a few days my milk supply was up and Alice’s latch had improved and now nursing is a breeze.

As far as taking a bottle is concerned, we introduced it earlier this time around since she needed a very small amount of supplementation in the beginning and I am SO glad we did. While she still prefers nursing to taking a bottle, she is willing to take one under the right circumstances and it’s been really nice to have the option of bottle feeding so we can leave her with the grandparents on occasion for a little date night.

{Alice + Her Grammy}A Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We Do

Alice has really liked the Munchkin LATCH bottles and having tried a TON of brands in the past I have to say I’m super impressed with it as well. The nipple is made to mimic the way a breast works, so it makes it easy to switch back and forth with less confusion for baby which was a big reassurance for me. The accordion-style nipple actually stretches, compresses and moves like a breast so Alice can get a good latch and control the flow of milk.

The other nice thing about being able to bottle feed this time around is that it’s given us a simple way to include the big kids in bonding with their baby sister. My oldest is completely obsessed with her baby sister and is always begging to help out in any way she can so getting to feed her thrills her to no end. A Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We DoA Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We DoA Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We Do

Little brother likes to help out in his own way too…although that mainly involved smothering her with snuggles. He wakes her up quite often, but it makes my heart happy to see him loving her so sweetly.

A Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We Do

And although feeding a baby sister is a fun responsibility, I’m pretty sure cleaning the bottle afterward is Fern’s favorite part of the job. Snuggling a baby is nice, but playing with soapy water and bottle brushes is equally enticing when you’re four-years-old.
A Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We DoA Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We DoA Beautiful, Challenging and Unexpected Journey // via The Little Things We Do

I am so thankful to have had these three very different nursing journeys and to have learned along the way – growing as both a mother and a person. Above all, the most important things I’ve learned are:

1. Give it time

Breastfeeding is hard work and there is a big learning curve. My biggest struggle was expecting it to come completely naturally to me and when it didn’t I got frustrated. Breastfeeding is a relationship between mama and baby and like any good relationship it takes time to develop. Going into it with the mindset that it takes time can make all the difference.

2. Take all the help you can get

Because breastfeeding can be challenging – and let’s be honest – kind of like a full-time job in the beginning, remember that it’s OK to take all the help you can get. Allowing your husband or mom or a friend to give you a break on occasion by giving Baby a bottle can make such a difference for your mental well-being. I know that sometimes even just getting away to go grocery shopping for an hour by myself was all I needed to come back refreshed and ready to be an attentive mom again. Extra help can also come in the form of a good lactation consultant (they’re worth their weight in gold!), setting up a well-stocked nursing station, or finding products that can help you take short-cuts when it comes to nursing/pumping/bottle-feeding (like quality bottlesthese brushes or these sterilizing bags that are all seriously so brilliant)

3. Expect the unexpected

Remembering that every child and every breastfeeding experience is different really helped me to avoid disappointment and frustration. Over the course of nursing three very different babies, I learned to expect the unexpected and to let go of feeling like I had to do it any one way. I finally learned to trust my instincts and do what worked best for each one of my babies and as a result I have LOVED all of my nursing experiences and wouldn’t change any of them…struggles and all.




*This post was created in partnership with Munchkin. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


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