New Motherhood Challenge: Finding Balance While Breastfeeding

LEVIINBATH
This face though…Levi at 9 weeks.

I  knew that breastfeeding can be quite painful at first, and I had heard many stories about moms who had difficulties due to a poor latch or low milk supply. Fortunately, Levi latched on immediately and my supply was sufficient. Any pain I felt also went away after about the first week. What I’ve been finding tough about breastfeeding is how big of a commitment it is.

For the first month or so I felt I was nursing non-stop. While I loved having Levi snuggled up so close, feeding on demand was exhausting both during the day and especially at night. It also tied me down making it hard to leave him for more than an hour. The lactation consultants tell you to wait at least three weeks before introducing a bottle of expressed milk so it was only three weeks after his birth that I felt comfortable enough to leave his side to go for a quick dinner with David. That night it felt like I was re-discovering the world for the first time.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably read about the big mistake I made with regards to nursing when I went too long without breastfeeding or pumping during the night. I thought I could pump in the morning and have David give Levi a bottle at night so I could get more consecutive hours of sleep. Turns out, when you’re not able to physically nurse your baby you have to pump around the same time so as not to diminish your milk supply. This was a tough pill to swallow for me; how was I to get any relief at night? Thats when it really sunk in just how big a commitment breast feeding can be.

Had I been  giving Levi formula, David could’ve easily given him a bottle every night so I could get those consecutive hours of sleep. Learning this was definitely frustrating and seemed downright unfair. I suddenly became very envious of my friend who was feeding her baby formula. Yet I remained determined to keep breastfeeding. Why? I think because I’m able to, and while I believe fed is best, breastfeeding has so many proven benefits for both mother and baby. I knew I had it in me to persevere; I wasn’t ready to give it up. I did briefly consider giving him a bottle of formula only at night, but ultimately decided against it because I was confident his night sleep would soon improve and I’d be able to rise to the occasion. His sleep started improving around eight weeks and I’m happy I kept at it. I’ve decided to re-evaluate my stance on breastfeeding every month and see where I’m at. Going from month to month feels much more manageable then committing to six months or eight months, or even a year of breastfeeding and then being disappointed if I can’t make it to that point. I’m certainly open to the idea of mixing breastfeeding with formula, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it. One day at a time is my motto right now.

Now that Levi is 10 weeks, I feed him about every four hours which makes leaving him for longer stretches easier than it was before which has been nice for me. I’ve gotten back into working out and I can go for a quick lunch with a friend or get a massage. That being said, everything I do without him involves planning and coordination as I have to time it around his feeding schedule or make sure I’m able to pump around the same time he’s eating. Sometimes booking a simple haircut feels like trying to solve a complicated math equation that has no clear cut answer. He’s not sleep trained yet so he still wakes up and goes to sleep at different times each day so it’s hard to know his “schedule” ahead of time. Still, I  try to leave the house at least once a day either with or without Levi (not including walks around the neighborhood) because it’s good for my sanity.

I had read that while nursing you should focus entirely on your baby and not be distracted by your phone or the TV, and I had resolved to avoid such distractions. Well…that resolution was dropped almost instantly when I realized just how frequently I  would be nursing and how boring it would be at times without my phone nearby so I could text, read, and go on Instagram. Indeed, I’ll credit Instagram and all the mommy accounts on it for serving as motivation for me during the late night feedings when I’m fighting to stay awake.

Now, I try to keep one or two nursing sessions relatively distraction free, but I’ve become skilled at using the other ones to get stuff done. I order groceries, buy house supplies on Amazon, read baby books and fiction, answer emails, and catch up with friends. As a type A personality this type of productivity makes me feel better about myself while helping our household run a bit smoother. Thank goodness for Amazon and Instacart and my mother-in-law who runs tons of errands for me and helps babysit. Meanwhile, during pumping sessions I brush my teeth, apply makeup, and either read or work on this blog. Hurray for multitasking.

Like many mothers, I’m struggling to find the right balance between doing what I believe to be in the best interest of my baby while making sure to take care of myself in the process. If I’m exhausted and unhappy, I can’t be the best mom to Levi. Being a mom is my full-time job right now and I take it very seriously, however, I also believe even the toughest of jobs should still be enjoyable overall. Truthfully, the less frequently Levi feeds, the more enjoyable breast feeding becomes. I savor our night feedings a lot more now that they’re less frequent. I love holding him so close to me and inhaling his sweet, sweet scent. It’s also nice not having to warm up a bottle at 3 a.m.

I’ll admit somedays I would like a bit more freedom to go about my day, but those are the days I remind myself that the first few months are the toughest and breastfeeding will gradually become less and less of an all-consuming commitment. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m still coming to terms with the all consuming commitment that is motherhood in general. I don’t think anything can prepare you for how drastically your life changes when you have a baby. I love routine and organization and these months there’s been little of either. I’ve also always struggled with change, but if moving to New York and then Miami has taught me anything — it’s that change is a good thing. Levi has changed our lives for the better, but like anything else it takes getting used to. Similarly to marriage, motherhood isn’t easy — but hey, the best things in life never are.

XOXO

Val

p.s. when I asked the lactation consultant if there was anything I could do to help ease Levi’s gas, she told me to try cutting out dairy, chocolate, caffeine, and gluten. My doctor also suggested eliminating dairy. Fun, right? Those are only my four favorite food groups but no big deal. I’ve cut back significantly on dairy (not gluten) and I haven’t had caffeine in almost two months. Has it helped relief his gas? Not sure. In the meantime, mama really, really wants a latte.

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