My Breastfeeding Journey and My Breastmilk Ring

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Every woman's breastfeeding journey is different and today I wanted to share my journey and to also share how I celebrated breastfeeding both of my boys for 13 months each.

When I first became pregnant with my oldest son, I had plans to try and breastfeed, but I was so nervous I would not be able to do it. TMI, but I am very small chested, and I was in the world am I going to be able to breastfeed him. Also, I have heard a lot of my friends struggles and have heard that many breastfeed during their maternity leave, but when they head back to work it's so hard to continue to pump at work, so they quit after 6 or 8 weeks. So when I started breastfeeding my goal was to take it day by day. I set my goal to be...let's try this for a month, then let's go another month. Every month I said...let's just see how far we can go this month, and I'll stop when it's time. I was so very lucky both employers I worked for were very flexible with my pumping schedule and provided a nice Mother's Room to use. 

My oldest son, who is 5 years old now, came 6 weeks early. He was 5 lbs 2 oz, which was a good size for a baby delivered at 34 weeks, but he was sent to the NICU for 11 days, and they wanted to make sure he was getting as many calories as possible so he could continue to gain weight. This meant they wanted to feed him via bottle (so he would not burn extra calories trying to learn to breastfeed) and they wanted to supplement with formula while my milk came in. Once my milk came in, I was allowed to breastfeed him 1x a day, but then all other feedings were to be via bottle, and they added formula to my breastmilk to give him a boost in calories. 

We continued to have to add formula to my breastmilk for every feeding even after he finally came home from the hospital, until he was 4 months old. This made it extremely difficult to breastfeed, so I turned to pumping exclusively so I could continue to give him my milk, but also be able to add the formula to boost his calories. I got to the point where I was actually more comfortable pumping than breastfeeding, so I made it work and I exclusively pumped for 13 months and had enough in the freezer to give him 2 bottles of breastmilk a day 12 months through 15 months. 

My youngest son, who is 19 months old now, was born via scheduled c-section at 39 weeks due to medical complications. I was able to breastfeed him right away, and he had no trouble latching. But my milk was not coming in, and he was starving and losing weight. So we started him on formula to supplement until my milk came in. After he was 4 days old, I was released from the hospital and he was sent to the NICU at the Children's Hospital to continue to monitor his medical condition. 

At this point I started pumping when I was not in the hospital and he was getting my milk in a bottle when I was not there. I honestly never got comfortable breastfeeding him either, and I got more milk by pumping than I did feeding him directly, so I got into the routine of exclusively pumping for him as well. 

I told myself I would not exclusively pump my 2nd child, because it was hard enough to do this while only having 1 child, let alone now pumping for a newborn while also having a toddler to care for. But then the formula shortage happened, and I was so afraid I would not be able to find formula, so again I made it work and I exclusively pumped for my 2nd child for 13 months and also had a nice freezer stash to continue to be able to feed him.

Why did I choose to pump for 13 months? Well I wanted to get them both to 12 months and then I discovered I could not just stop pumping and I had to wean myself down slowly, or else I would get clogged ducts. So I ended up spending about a month, just pumping when I was starting to feel uncomfortable, to wean myself off completely. I started pumping 1x per day, then every other day, and then finally 1x per week.

When I stopped pumping it was bittersweet. I was so happy to be done with my pump, but at the same time, it was sad my babies were growing up, and weren't relying on me for their sole nutrition. I never thought this was something I would be able to accomplish, and it was a lot of work, so I wanted to commemorate my breastfeeding journey with a breastmilk ring. I found this one from Keepsake Mom and immediately fell in love with it. 

It was a process and took a few months for them to process my milk into the stone, and for them to make my ring, but I am so happy with how it turned out and absolutely love wearing it. Every time I wear it, it reminds me of my boys being babies, and the love and dedication I put into providing them both breastmilk for their first year of life.

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