breastfeedingjourneyBefore giving birth, I didn’t fill our home library with baby books (I merely skimmed parts of Babywise), and I only took two classes – one which was very ‘Baby 101’ and another on breastfeeding. I left the hospital, where the latter class was held, slightly traumatized. After watching video on video of women self-expressing (which I didn’t even know you could do), I began to worry about the process. Was it going to hurt? What if I couldn’t produce milk? What if Isla had issues latching?

Well, just a few weeks later, Isla was born on Wednesday, June 4, and the very next day, I knew the answer to my first question – yes, it was going to hurt. Contrary to what the nurse had told us (“It only hurts if you’re doing it wrong!”), I felt agonizing pains shooting through my chest every time Isla latched on. I had arrived at the hospital prepared with Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads and Lansinoh Lanolin Cream, thinking I’d use both to battle any potential discomfort. It turns out, the initial pain can only be slightly reduced with both of these products (which I do highly recommend). 48 hours after Isla was born, I began dreading breastfeeding, knowing that the pain was so severe. I would hold Sasha or my mom’s hand and squeeze it tightly for the first 60 seconds until the pain would dull slightly. I thought to myself, ‘I would rather be in labor than go through this 7 times a day!’

After arriving home from the hospital, I couldn’t take it any more and broke down crying on the Friday night. My mom is amazing and quickly ran to Walgreens, as she told me about Medela Contact Nipple Shields that she promised would help.  And ohmygosh, did they ever. I honestly think I would have become a strictly pump and bottle feeder had I not discovered the nipple shields. They were life savers.

Four days later, we were busy celebrating Sasha’s birthday with his family at our house at lunchtime. I began to feel feverish and achy, which I worried was the flu. By the time my family arrived for dinner festivities, I had no appetite and felt awful. My mom was staying at our house to help, and she asked to see my boob. When I showed her, she quickly clicked around Google and diagnosed me with mastitis (bright red splotchy patches on my chest made it pretty obvious!). I made an appointment with my ob-gyn the next day, and she confirmed that I had this infection and said there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. Cue me sobbing. Ugly, tired tears. She comforted me and reminded me that being a mom is incredibly difficult and that it would all get easier. She scheduled an appointment with a breast specialist the next day and put me on antibiotics in the meantime.

I went with my mom and Isla to the specialist, and she told me that I didn’t need to get the infection drained (something I had read about on the internet and was petrified). I was just to take two prescriptions for 10 days until the mastitis was completely gone. That was a fun experience, as one medicine was to be taken with food every three hours, and the other was to be taken 1 hour after eating every four hours. To a tired mom, that equation was like rocket science.

Using the nipple shield, breastfeeding quickly became enjoyable. We would have a million visitors at the house, but when Isla needed fed, I got to escape to her tranquil room and she would cuddle with me and drink my milk. She would normally fall asleep in my arms, especially in the early days, and I would just soak up every minute. Feedings took about 45 minutes in the early days (only 5-10 minutes now), and it was so nice to relax and have mother-daughter bonding time.

I continued to use the shield until Isla was 3 months old, when I began to wean her off it. It took a few weeks of having slight latching problems, but nothing so bad that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who chooses to breastfeed. If I began to have any cracks, I would apply some lanolin, and I’d be healed in a number of days.

breastfeedingOne of the only breastfeeding photos I have of Isla is appropriately at the top of a mountain in Durango – 3 miles into our Animas Mt. hike (nothing like some nice sweaty milk!)

When Isla was around 4 months old, one of my best friends was visiting from Oklahoma for the day, and in the late afternoon, I began feeling like I had just had the world’s most intense workout. I was so sore. And then I began to feel feverish. And I knew that mastitis had struck again. This time, I was quick to call my ob-gyn’s emergency line and got medicine immediately. After a few days, I felt as good as new. This happened for the third time about a month later. I had definitely had enough with mastitis. I read many, many websites offering tips on how to prevent mastitis, and I became diligent on pumping at night when Isla began to sleep longer hours and always used cream when my nipples looked cracked. Feeding Isla in different positions and varying sides also helped.

My breastfeeding goal before Isla’s birth was to make it to 6 months. Now at 9 months, I think I will try to wean her at a year. But I wouldn’t be against prolonging that. I’ve read that mothers should not breastfeed while they are pregnant, so perhaps I’ll stop when that happens. I try not to think about it, as I never know what will happen tomorrow (maybe I’ll ‘dry up’ or once I start working, be too busy to feed or pump). The point is, my take on breastfeeding really, really changed over the last 12 months. I was nervous about the pain and worried it would be too much of an inconvenience to have someone dependent on me every 2-3 hours. But I love it. I love when I go into Isla’s room in the morning and she reaches hungrily for me, knowing I’m going feed her. I love that when she’s hungry and we’re cuddling, she will nuzzle for my chest. I love that she makes excited noises whenever we sit down in her glider, as she knows what’s coming!

I know that there is a great debate over breastfeeding and bottle feeding. I truly believe that there is no judgment to be had either way. I personally have loved the journey we’ve been on (no so much the mastitis or cracked nipples – I’d pass on those for baby #2!), but know that it is not for everyone. I do, however, want to offer some words of support for any new breastfeeding mom:

  1. Hang in there, it gets better. As I mentioned earlier, I was ready to quit on day three. Almost three hundred days later, I’m dreading the weaning process. If you’re in pain, try a nipple shield. Count to 60. Read a book. Do whatever it takes to take your mind off the pain.
  2. Ask your family and friends for encouragement. I don’t think I could have continued without my mom being there by my side, reminding me of all the benefits of breastfeeding. Having moral support from someone who feels strongly about breastfeeding is so helpful.
  3. Make goals and reward yourself. I am a really competitive person, so it helped for me to have the 6 month goal. If you’re competitive or work well with goals and rewards, set a time frame in mind and once you get there, treat yourself (new shoes, maybe?).
  4. Buy yourself pretty maternity bras. One of the worst things about breastfeeding is feeling like you are a cow (and you will feel that way!), but if you buy yourself pretty maternity bras, you can at least feel like a gorgeous or sexy cow! Have you ever checked out Hotmilk Lingerie? Ooh la la.
  5. If for some reason, you cannot breastfeed, don’t beat yourself up. Formula is not evil, as you might be brainwashed into thinking from any breastfeeding class. Bottle feeding is an intimate time as well, and mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed should never, ever be made to feel guilty. There is so much ‘mom guilt’ associated with things we are moms are faced with, and I hate it. Let’s just support each other, not judge.

So now, it’s your turn. Did you breastfeed or bottle feed? Do you have any words of encouragement to a new or expecting mom? Please share!

PS I read this amazingly funny breastfeeding post on Pic & Dac the other day. Give it a read!

32 Comments

  1. Lauren Postler Reply

    Going strong almost 6 months now! I remember r emailing you about the nipple shield too — that saved our breastfeeding experience!! Now it’s become second nature and I’m also dreading the weaning process… Trying to get pregnant again so whatever happens first, would love to make it to 12 months though!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      I agree!! That’s our goal too. Ahh, hopefully we have baby #2 around the same time!! How fun. And I’m so glad that the nipple shield worked for you too! It is SO helpful and I try to tell everyone about it!

  2. So glad you haven’t gotten mastisis again! 3 times is PLENTY.
    You’re a great mom and you’re doing exactly what works for you and Isla… that’s all that matters. I love your “no judgement” line… seriously, get over it people!!!!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Amen!!! It really is! I know – the judgment is unreal. I saw a comment on a blogger’s (Emily Jackson of Ivory Lane) Instagram that was unbelievable. So judgy about her son getting fed formula. Why do people care what other parents are doing? So crazy.

  3. This post is so well written and informative. I had no idea nipple shields even existed! Definitely saving this post for whenever I have children!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Thank you, Sarah! I had NO idea they did either, but one day you’ll thank me for telling you! They are life savers 🙂

  4. I love reading posts like this. It truly is interesting to see how people manage BFing. We struggled for the first month, and ended up using a shield too for awhile. Had I not had the support I did from our breastfeeding clinic, I certainly would have given up!!! Palmer weaned herself at 11.5 months and I was ok with that. And great tips at the end!! I think all moms need to hear this! Knowing they can do it!! BFing is tough!!!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Yes, it really is tough! So rewarding, but not easy!! I love that Palmer self weaned! I am praying Isla does that too. That will make the decision very easy for me 🙂 Thanks for reading, Alycia!! xo

  5. I never got mastitis, but oh my, did it hurt at first! My nurse told me the same thing about it not hurting if you are doing it right, which is unfair. I quit breastfeeding a month after I went back to work, which was a tough decision but worked for us. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Doesn’t it?? I never want to scare anyone away from trying it, but it’s so important that they know it’s okay when it hurts because it will get better! I imagine pumping at the office gets old very quickly! Thanks for reading, Shelly. xo

  6. Loved this post! I was able to breastfeed my son for about 13 months. Those early days are the hardest with the pain and being so tired. I will definitely share this with any new mom who has questions about breastfeeding. And by the way, I caught your segment on GDH last week – great job! Love your blog!!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Thank you so much, Chelsea, for reading and for watching the show! I STILL haven’t been able to, because I am self conscious about my frequent use of the word “absolutely” 😉 But maybe one day! 13 months sounds like a dream!! I’m praying for the same. I don’t miss those early days either!!

  7. Great tips! I was able to breastfeed my son for about 13 months. Those early days are the hardest with the pain and being so tired. I will definitely share this with any new mom who has questions about breastfeeding. And by the way, I caught your segment on GDH last week – great job! Love your blog!!

  8. Love this post, Ailee! I agree the there should be no judgement either way because I truly don’t believe breast is always best, I think mom knows best 🙂 You really overcame some challenges and it’s awesome that you’re still going strong at 9 months. I (luckily) never delt with any of the pain/cracking/mastitis etc but I did deal with supply issues and a fast let down (causing my baby to choke every time) because of a lack of support I gave up at about 5-6 months 🙁 I fell into PPD when I weaned her, I don’t think we were ready but without the proper support I was just feeling so isolated. Anyway I am comfortable with it all now, but It took me a while to get here.

    I love your tips, I wrote a post on breast-feeding and have a lot of similar ones. I couldn’t agree more with buying nice bras, I feel like investing in some nicer bras would have helped me. That sounds so vain but it’s true! Great post 🙂 xo

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      I think mom knows best too! Oh gosh, I’ve read that fast letdown is such a hard thing to deal with – my friend had that too and experienced the same issues with her baby chocking on the milk (and being extra gassy!). I’m so sad to read that you fell into PPD after weaning. I wish I could have been there as support!!! I love this BB group so much – I feel like I’ve gained a whole new bundle of friends and a new support network.

      PS I loved your post so much!

  9. Oh man, reading this took me back to the early days of breastfeeding my sons. You poor thing, I had mastitis twice, but it was only once after each baby was born during those first few weeks when your milk comes in like crazy. The second time I even tried to stay on top of it by pumping every night but nope, it still got me!! It’s always interesting to read every mom’s journey with breastfeeding and how much it changes us and our perspectives. Thank you for sharing yours and also for the shout out, that was so sweet!! <3

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Oh goodness, I’m praying that I can avoid it for baby #2, but if you were proactive and still got it… maybe it just happens! I wonder if some people are more prone than others? I loved your post so much – I re-read it yesterday and laughed again. I am SO excited about that happening 😉

  10. I was never able to breastfeed for very long, and you’re right – mom guilt is so real. It’s funny because I felt so much disappointment and judgment from other people, but I think a lot of that was self imposed. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      I hate mom guilt! Why do we have to have it for so many things in life?? I’m sure your kiddos are MORE than fine having been formula fed! Love is love and food doesn’t mean everything! xo

  11. Ailee, thank you for posting about such a sensitive, but important issue. I think breastfeeding is undeniably the best nutrition for wee babes, but no gonna throw any shade on the formula-feeding mommies. Parenting is tough shit, so I keep it supportive. I nursed both babes for a little over a year. Sometimes it felt like the hardest thing to do, but I knew I wanted to keep at it. I’ve had mastitis, thrush and even slept on Laila’s floor (while she used my nipple as her pacifier) for about two months. The book I love is call Bestfeeding by Mary Renfrew.

    Pretty relieved those days are over, but you are so right, some of my most unbelievably beautiful memories are of breastfeeding. That bond is…whoa. Sometimes Etan nuzzles my bust and I know it’s because Momma’s breast = ultimate comforting. Here’s to all the amazing mothers out there, you’re doing it right! xoxoxox

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      I agree with you! It really is tough, and I think being supportive is so important. I laughed out loud about the nipple/pacifier comment – been there, done that. I’ve heard of Bestfeeding before, but didn’t read it. The bond truly is so special!! xoxo

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      It really is so rewarding!! Thanks, Alaina! xo

  12. It’s always interesting to see the journey other moms have been on. We struggled a bit at the beginning and I never thought it would be so painful when she would first latch on! But then we got into a grove and I nursed her for 15 months! She had a dairy allergy and soy allergy so I had to nurse her.
    Glad you stuck with it mama!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      I agree – that latching pain was insane. Like a deep, stabbing pain! It’s crazy – I wish you could better prepare for it. 15 months is awesome – hoping we can do something like that too! Thank you, Tiffany! xo

  13. Ailee, this is so sweet and inspiring! I love your tips! I had mastitis 3 times, and it was the worst. I nursed for 15 months. I am so thankful for the time, but man, I sure did feel like a cow sometimes, especially in the beginning. It gets so much easier once the routine sets in and especially after solids. Great advice and words of encouragement!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      15 months is so great! I would love that. I’m definitely praying that it will continue to work out as it has. Yes, those early days were total cow days. So much feeding!!!!

    • AileePetrovic Reply

      Ah, I definitely don’t want to scare you, but I did want to share honest thoughts on the fact that it is very tough in the beginning. I was absolutely not prepared for how difficult it would be, and I think a lot of others aren’t either, and that’s why many quit early on. It can be painful, but there are things you can do to help (like the shields), and it is SO rewarding (as expressed by many of the moms on this thread!).

  14. Ahhhh mastitis 3 times is waaaay too many! I had it once and it was absolutely horrible. As far as breastfeeding goes….I struggled with it in the beginning, like big time. I didn’t think that I would make it a month, let alone a whole year. Countless lactation consultants, cracked nipples, and multiple nipple shields later, I’m trying to get my almost 3.5 year old to wean. I pumped at work for about 2.5 years (SO glad to be done with that) and had always planned to wean her sooner but she loves it and it kills me to take it away from her. She still makes those adorable noises too even though she speaks in complete sentences haha – something about knowing what’s coming brings a lot of joy. Love the photo of you two <3

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