I spent 13 months breastfeeding my first baby and about 25 months with my second.
And holy crap were they different experiences!
I was pretty delusional about how breastfeeding would go when I was pregnant with our first baby. I was sure it would be a seamless and enjoyable experience. I'd gone to all the classes and read the blogs and books and had tons of friends who were a wealth of information. I WAS SO READY FOR THIS.
And then Godzilla was born and it all kind of went to shit. She wouldn't (or couldn't) latch properly and I wasn't producing. Our first days together in the hospital were awful. I never really got the help I needed so my baby ended up basically not eating for the first three days of her life. It wasn't until we were about to be discharged when the nurse simply asked the routine question, "When was the last time she ate?" and I said, "I don't remember, but I don't think she's been eating at all and I can't get her to nurse and I don't know what's wrong and I'm scared."
The nurse dropped everything she was doing and spent the next hour helping me figure out how to use a nipple shield (I had/have flat nipples so it was hard for Godzilla to latch in general...she may have also had an undiagnosed tie, but I didn't know what that was at the time so *shrug*), how to help my baby latch, how to listen for the sounds of good eating, how to detach her, pretty much everything I needed to know to be successful (as much as I could be).
But it would remain a struggle for the next year. Godzilla used a shield for just over six months and I remember panicking every time we'd try to leave the house, that I'd forget a shield and she'd just scream and starve the entire time. My milk production never increased no matter how much I tried (and I tried everything). I was also suffering from postpartum depression that went undiagnosed for several months.
I struggled to even be around my other mom friends who could easily breastfeed their babies. It was so hard to watch them have this amazing nursing journey with their littles, knowing that I wasn't and couldn't have that same experience.
I was sad all the time.
It was a disaster.
So when baby #2 came along, my husband and I put all the stop-gaps into play: we bought new nipple shields and a new breast pump, read more books, stocked up on supplies to help me increase production should I need it, and - most importantly for us - we started buying formula. Just in case.
We weren't going to go through all of that again. If I didn't produce, we'd supplement and we wouldn't feel a damn bit of guilt about it. If that's what we needed to do, that's what we'd do.
We were 100% ready for this new baby and our feeding journey.
So when Mothra came along, we were in for a BIG surprise.
She latched immediately and drank like a frat boy. She was always on the boob. Her latch was so intense, she actually ended up nearly ripping my nipple of my boob...that was super not fun. It took about two days to recover from that and that's the only time she ever needed formula...I just couldn't stomach the pain of her latching while my nipple healed (side note: make sure your provider writes you an Rx for All Purpose Nipple Ointment / Compound Nipple Ointment before you get discharged...you're gonna want it. That shiz is basically high-powered, feeding-friendly neosporin and will change your life).
I produced so much milk, I'd wake up soaked through my bra, shirt, and sheets. I'd had to get up in the middle of the night to pump, just to drain my rock hard breasts so I could get some sleep. I never once needed to use breastfeeding pads with Godzilla, so it was a shock when I'd be out and about (in some of the most awkward places), look down, and see that I'd leaked through whatever I was wearing.
It was a bizarre experience, to say the least. I was so prepared for everything to go wrong that I never considered the option of things going so right! It took a long time to get used to the fact that Mothra wasn't just surviving, but she was thriving, JUST from breastfeeding! (Godzilla lost her 10% body weight in the hospital like babies normally do, but she failed to gain more than a few ounces in the first several months of life. She wore premie clothes until she was about 2 months old. Mothra gained weight like she was a newborn sumo wrestler.)
Breastfeeding is wild. There are no guarantees. There's no "textbook" way to do anything. As with pregnancy, labor, and delivery, it's all kind of a crap shoot. You can plan for everything and still things will probably go a little wonky.
The biggest thing to understand about breast/chestfeeding is that it's your choice. As with every single thing throughout your entire pregnancy, the choices should always be yours. The only thing I hope any person ever feels about their feeding choice is confident and supported. There are so many resources available, whether you choose to feed from your body or a bottle.
Demand that you have a decent amount of time with a lactation consultant before you leave the hospital. Ask you provider for names of local lactation consultants. Look up your local La Leche League chapter. And my personal favorite: KellyMom (an absolute treasure trove of well-researched and scientifically backed information). So feed on, y'all. Feed on. 💗