Things I learned after breastfeeding for *almost* two years

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

My breastfeeding Journey with my first, Nico, was an absolute fail. Actually, scratch that. I am so proud of that journey too.  My first was never able to latch, I pumped for 6 months, and I did mix-feeding with him as my supply kept going down month by month. Looking back it was more exhausting and draining.

I hated the pressure of not producing enough milk. I hated pumping. I hated the cables around me. I hated spending hours connected to a machine that could be better spent doing other things (lke holding and bonding with my baby).

When I found out I was pregnant with my second, Leo, I just KNEW that I was not going through pumping again. With all the knowledge I acquired with lactation consultants, workshops, and life, I said to myself " you either come out of the hospital with the baby latched, or you are getting the best formula you can get".

So here is what I learned after breastfeeding for almost 2 years:

1. Breastfeeding might be natural but it doesn't come naturally:

With Nico (#1), I learned that breastfeeding is the most natural thing  but that doesn't mean it is EASY or something that just happens naturally. There are so many factors that can affect your experience, so many things to learn.  Nico had a tongue-tie, which made it harder for him to latch. I had flat nipples. Nurses said his sugar was low and he was instantly introduced to a baby bottle.  I did not come prepared, I thought that if I wanted to breastfeed, it would happen "naturally". I never thought of all the external factors. 

With Leo (#2), I went in very prepared.  I followed several experts on social media. Because of my previous experience, I understood my boobs and my body better and I knew how to pump/hand express. Going in knowing all the theory is extremely helpful. I know theory and practice are two different worlds, but it helps to be prepared.

2. Happy Mom = Happy Baby.

This is not a post to pressure anybody to breastfeed.  We can be aware of the many benefit breastmilk has, while understanding that the MOST precious thing is your mental health, your peace, and your happiness. Because if mama is not happy, the baby won't be either. You can try your best (if you want), without having to take your mental health to the limit- if you are not happy, there is absolutely no shame in quitting or doing mix feeding. There are so many amazing formulas in the market, and your baby will be perfectly healthy.

My first never latched on me, and he is the most loving now-kid. We have the most beautiful bond and connection and I know that boob or no-boob, he would be the same with me!

3.  You are getting to know each other- take your time.

With my second, I gave birth in the Covid world, where only partners were allowed in the room; so I had the tranquility of being just us- getting to know each other without visits felt like a blessing. 

With my first, I was very stressed out having people coming in an out of the room, your boob is out and a baby is screaming all confused (they don't know what's happening either). Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I did not want to see my family, but people seem to forget that your body went through so much and you shouldn't be worrying about hosting or showing off your baby like it's little Simba.  There will be time for that later.

Even though your baby was with you for 9 months, you are getting to know each other- and breastfeeding will take practice, time, and patience. You will need your partner's support, your family's support, your friend's support...they MUST respect your decision, give you space or support (depending on what you prefer). 

4. No goals. Take it day by day

To my surprise, he latched very quickly. I was so proud of him...of us.  That first night I even used a hand pump and I was able to get a few ounces. I was definitely producing more milk than the first time around- and faster. However, I never had a GOAL. Everyone would ask me "how long do you plan to breastfeed? 3 months? 6 months? a year? two years?" And I never knew what to answer.  I was happy if I was able to do it for however long, and I knew I would never do it for longer than I wanted. I had no expectations, I could only surprise myself.

And I did...a day by day became almost two years. I haven't fully weaned but every day is less and less.

5. Do what works for YOU (and your little one)

When we got home (Leo was 2 days old), my nipples were sore and bleeding. So I started using a nipple shield- which I absolutely recommend but most lactation consultants won't (side eye). They say that it can confuse them and decrease your supply.  BUT I know that I would have not being able to continue breastfeeding if it wasn't for these little plastic things. 

Like I said, my nipples are more on the flat-side, so they helped him so much- and I used them for 3 MONTHS! As he started getting stronger, he didn't want them anymore, he was already a pro at that point!

I don't feel my supply was ever affected, and he was the one who was done with the nipple shields. So yes, listen to all the expert advice but remember that every family is different and what works for you might not work for me.

6.  Sunflower Lecithin is a lifesaver 

Around week 2, mastitis came knocking on my boobs. I was not pumping but I was using the haaka on the other boob every time to have a little bit of a milk bank- surprise surprise, that slow drip every time became half of our freezer. 

But back to mastitis, my boobs started feeling sore and sensitive to the touch. So I made sure to empty them without over-estimulated them with the haaka. But it did not work, I started getting chills, fever, and an unexplainable boob pain.

I tried all the home remedies, I did hot and cold towels. I breastfeed in different positions. I used the haaka with epsom salt (apparently that's not recommended since 2023). But the symptoms and pain did not go away until I started taking the sunflower lecithin pills. I have recommended them to so many people.

Every time I felt that my boobs were getting a bit of a clogged duct, I would take 2 pills, and it would instantly go away.

7. The 3-Month Breastfeeding Crisis is REAL

It is very common to hear older generations saying that they stopped breastfeeding around the 3-month mark. This happens because there is a crisis, a REAL one.  The first few months, you feel full (boobs feel so full of milk), and there is a type of electricity when it's time to eat.

Then you will start to feel "empty" and your baby will want to be glued to you all day- maybe even a little bit cranky and "hangry". Many people assume this happens because the milk is gone and your baby is starving.  In general (we are all differet, but i general),  this is VERY normal. Your baby is going through a growth spurt, and he/she will become more efficient emptying your breast.

If you start supplementing with formula, your body will not learn to produce MORE- and there comes the cycle of truly not having enough and needing formula.

I truly believe that everything becomes so much easier after the 3 month mark. If you make it out of this crisis, getting to 1 year is a breeze! They become experts, feedings get got this!

8. Don't be afraid of TEETH:

This is another bump down the road, many people stop when they start getting teeth- which is absolutely valid as this also happens when they start eating solids. But if you want to continue breastfeeding, I promise, they won't hurt you...well, probably.

My advice: they understand more than we think. If your baby ever tries to bite you, DON'T LAUGH! Be very serious and tell them "that hurt mom, don't do that".  If you laugh, they will think it's funny and do it again!

9.  Because I love fashion, let's talk BREASTFEEDING FASHION:

When Leo was little, I did a video about breastfeeding fashion. I will link it right here! But quick summary:
- Two piece sets have been my favorite for special ocassions. They look like dresses but you can easily pull up your shirt to breastfeed.
- Another go-to: one shoulder tops and off the shoulder tops! 
- You can always wear a cami underneath any t-shirt- that way you feel more covered when pulling your shirt up.
- There are a lot of cute breastfeeding-friendly dresses, they weren't my favorite but it is always an option.
- I recommend getting 2-3 breastfeeding bras- as they are soft and comfy.

10. You don't have to breastfeed in public.

I truly applaud women who are able to just take their boob out and feed their child. It is the most natural thing and I would never roll my eyes to it.

However, I cannot do it myself. I am very shy and I preferred having our own private time.  But yes, I breastfed in cars, boats, planes, airports, in the middle of the jungle, in theme parks, and everything in bertween. I breastfeed while holding him on a carrier, with a sling, while walking, haha. It's crazy to look back.

When he was little,I would always try to find a quiet corner and cover myself up until he was fully latched Then he started crawling and moving a lot, he would switch from boob to boob or play ,so I would either fully hide in a room/car or offer him solids to help him forget about the boob.

This has been such a beautiful experience, I think I probably could do a part 2 with some weaning tips.  We are currently doing 1 feed a day in the morning- and some days we skip them! So I know time is coming up!

Hope you find this useful! I'm trying not to tear up because I can't believe we did it... we did it Leo!