my breastfeeding story: a six month retrospective

Well, if I were going to come out of the woodworks for anything, it should be for World Breastfeeding Week, don’t ya think? Yes, I owe you so much more (including FJ’s five month pic from a few weeks ago), and yes, life has become so much fuller and rich with so many stories to share…but for now, this is what I have to share with you. In just over a week I will make it to a milestone of six months of exclusive breastfeeding for my little FJ. I see no end in sight and would like to nurse her for at least two years and let her wean on her own terms. I have been grateful for the journey we have been on together. We have had no latch or other rough issues, and physically our breastfeeding journey has been a very smooth one. Emotionally, however, has been a bit of a different story.

Latching on at birth

Latching on at birth

Becoming a mother felt to me like jumping into the deep end of an icy cold pool; I wasn’t ready for the shock of it all and it was nothing like I expected. I kept thinking, “someone should have told me it would be like this.” I mourned my former self — the one who could lie on the couch for hours if and when I wanted, read a book with two free hands to flip pages (what a luxury that feels like now), and just not constantly have a little tiny dependent on you for everything — to be kept warm, clean, and fed.

Sometimes during the early months I had to remind myself, “It’s not the breastfeeding that’s exhausting you — it’s parenting a newborn.” And that was true. But still, while I have always been very committed to seeing breastfeeding through, sometimes I saw the allure of having someone else available to help with feedings, especially because I had a baby who fed at least every hour for her first three months of life. I will say that rule didn’t hold true for nighttime, when, although we bedshare, she actually got a 5-6 hour stretch from very early on. (And now here’s where I must include a disclaimer: she has not been doing that stretch lately, but then again poor babe is teething and probably otherwise going through some big developmental changes.)

During the early weeks FJ and I stayed skin to skin for hours at a time. In fact, in the hospital I never had clothes on at all. (I’m pretty sure I shocked a nurse or two with that one.) But it was glorious. I truly think it helped with bonding and they say it helps with your milk production too. While I can’t be sure, we certainly didn’t have any problems there. I’d bundle up in my husband’s thick, soft robe and close it around the two of us, just breathing her in and letting her alternate between sleeping and nursing on me.

The evenings in those early months were the roughest. While she didn’t fit the textbook definition for colic, she cluster fed like a maniac in the evenings. I was almost never without a nursing or fussing babe, from about 5 until 11 or 12 at night. For months hubby brought me water and snacks to the couch as I posted up there for hours, often with tears in my eyes. What made it worst of all is that she would often thrash, flail, and cry while nursing. I knew she wasn’t in pain or having reflux or other issues that needed attention, as she did this rarely during the daytime. I simply knew it was a common occurrence during this evening “witching hour.” (And why do they call it “hour” anyway — it was always at least five!)

I spent weeks poring through my dog-eared copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and googling countless phrases in conjunction with the Kellymom site name, since I found it to be such a great resourc. Kellymom+fussy. Kellymom+cluster feeding. Kellymom+overactive letdown. Kellymom+infant sleep. And on and on and on. I spent lots of time crying. A couple times I even got in the shower with FJ in her bouncer right outside, closing my eyes under the hot stream and wondering, “if she were gone when I opened my eyes, would I even care?”

Sometimes I wondered if maybe I should try to give her a bottle of expressed milk in the evening , as she often seemed so frustrated at my breast then, when letdowns were so few and infrequent (another common factor in the evenings.) Yet I knew from my reading that I simply needed to keep nursing — that what she was doing was telling my breasts to produce more milk, and eventually they would get it. When FJ was around two and a half months one of my best friends told me, “it really starts to get better at three.” I couldn’t imagine much of a difference in two weeks. Yet…it was true. And then other friends told me that four, and five, and six — every month just continues to get better and better. And…it has.

This has been true for breastfeeding as well as for parenting in general for me. While I still have a frequent nurser, she usually nurses every hour or two during the daytime now. It feels like such a luxury I hardly notice. She can also nurse in 5 minutes instead of in 45, which makes a world of difference. And while she still has a hard time falling asleep, her naps and bedtime aren’t prefaced by almost inconsolable screaming anymore. Now there may be a bit of fussing, and certainly lots of nursing, but it’s enjoyable — punctuated by giggles, by a baby who has learned that when she’s not tired if she simply rolls on our bed onto her tummy and pops her head up like a turtle mommy is likely to laugh at her, and she might get some tickles before bed.

I’m grateful to be staying home with my babe and to have had the incredible support of my husband through it all. On nights when I was really tired and wasn’t sure I could sit up to nurse her again (when we hadn’t yet worked out side-lying nursing with ease) he encouraged me to keep on going — that it was what I wanted and he would do whatever he could to make sure all our other needs were taken care of. This allowed me to focus on her and on our breastfeeding relationship. Staying home has afforded me the time, energy, and space to nurse her with ease. I truly commend those mommas who are able to return to work for any length of time and nurse their babes — it’s hard work and I don’t believe our system is at all designed with nursing mommas in mind.

Now six months in, breastfeeding my daughter is a true joy and is one of my favorite parts of my day. Just yesterday she and I sat in a chair at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, my feet in the warm waves, her snuggled up against my chest nursing as the breeze blew over us. I closed my eyes and knew finally, without a doubt, that if I were to open them and she were gone, my heart would be broken.



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)


breastfed babies are (often) fat

FJ’s four month checkup was Tuesday, and it’s official: she’s fat. But not just fat — she’s tall too. She weighs in at a whopping 21 pounds, 3 ounces — the 100th (really more than 100th) percentile, and she’s in the 99th percentile for height and 91st for head circumference.  I haven’t been concerned (and neither was the doc) because she’s clearly a healthy child.  It’s easy to doubt yourself sometimes though, especially when others share their (incorrect) opinions about how this early fat could lead to later obesity (when really breastfeeding is one of her best protections against obesity) and otherwise just really act shocked at her size. Plus while I was pregnant I was under the impression that breastfed babies were often on the small side, so part of me has wondered if she is an anomaly.

So I was happy to find this blurb from The Nursing Mother’s Problem Solver online (on accident) while on a pediatrician’s website that I thought was located in Atlanta (but turns out it just had a similar name to one in my city):

For breastfed babies, standard pediatric growth charts function as a reference rather than an inflexible diagnostic ruler. Standard growth charts are based on formula-fed infants, whose growth patterns differ measurably from breastfed babies.

Generally, breastfed babies tend to be chubbier and longer than formula-fed babies during the first 6 months, as measured by the growth charts. It’s not unusual for a breastfed baby to be in the 90th percentile for weight and/or length during that period. Many parents panic that their babies are growing too fast, worry that the babies are getting fat, and restrict nursing sessions to try to control their weight. (This is a mistake: Your baby will be hungry, and your breasts, reacting to the lower demand, will stop making as much milk as your baby needs.) At 4 months, a healthy breastfed baby may look like an infant Buddha, but the often changes 2 months later.

The cliché about older breastfed babies is that they’re long and lean. Once they reach 6 months, their growth slows down-compared with formula-fed babies’ growth-and levels off or falls to the 50th percentile or lower. A breastfed baby who’s 7 months old may be in the 20th percentile according to the growth charts but still is perfectly healthy and normal. A pediatrician unfamiliar with the growth pattern characteristic of breastfed babies may recommend unnecessary supplements of formula, or even weaning.

Now what I want to know is…why are the standard pediatric growth charts based on formula feeding?? I’m truly not trying to bash formula feeding (that’s not my style nor my agenda), but shouldn’t breastfeeding be considered the norm?  I almost can’t believe that formula feeding guides our growth charts, which has me reflecting on the idea that modern culture has become a bit backwards and upside down in terms of what it considers “normal” when it comes to feeding our babies.  Maybe one day breastfeeding advocacy won’t be needed and nursing wisdom and knowledge will once again be passed across and down generations of women, like it used to be.  Until then there is certainly work to be done, education to be imparted, and changes to be made.

Now back to the regularly scheduled moral of my story: breastfed babies come in all shapes and sizes.  As long as yours is pooping, peeing, gaining weight, and is alert, chances are highly likely you are doing a great job.

places we have nursed

Just for fun, and because I am working on getting over my fear of nursing in public, I’ve added a sidebar to my page that is a list of places FJ and I have nursed to date! I plan to update this regularly, and hopefully before we know it I’ll have a huge list and be a seasoned, confident veteran! This week we nursed in the midwife’s waiting room. Obviously we don’t get out much yet. 🙂

Where have you nursed your baby this week?

my breastfeeding tips

Women used to have more support breastfeeding, saw it all the time, and learned how to do it from other women around them, but we just don’t have that as much anymore. As a rookie mom of an almost-two-month-old, here are my tips for success. I’ve found that breastfeeding is simultaneously easy and hard, and always a bonding experience. You CAN do it! The amount of women who literally can’t is a small percentage, but reach out and get help if and when you need it (most women do — I did.) And no matter how long you decide to breastfeed, just know that you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby.

-Point your nipple toward the roof of his mouth/his nose, so he takes it up into his mouth, and get him to take it in down to your areola, not just the end of your nipple. So before pulling him toward your nipple, make sure his mouth is nice and gaping wide. You can show him and newborns can imitate that big wide mouth. Make sure his tummy is against your tummy like a velcro strip is attaching you guys. His lips should look splayed out around your nipple. If it hurts, it could just be a little discomfort that’s associated with early breastfeeding, but in general it should not hurt. If it does, call a lactation consultant or the LLL leader in your area and they can help you readjust your latch.


-Don’t let anyone tell you the baby isn’t getting enough food/needs formula supplementation. Just make sure to nurse 8-12 times a day while in the hospital. The baby’s stomach is the size of a marble at the beginning, and all they need is your colostrum. Even if nursing feels really awkward at first, it’ll get better. If you feel like you can’t get a good latch, talk to the hospital’s lactation consultant. Unfortunately some of them aren’t nationally certified, so you may also want to call your local La Leche League leader (then or anytime you have problems or questions). Your milk probably won’t come in for several days or so and that’s normal. In my breastfeeding class we learned that you can’t starve a baby in the first week.
-The baby will instinctually want to latch on right after birth. Try to get some time skin to skin with him right after he’s born, and it’ll be amazing to see how with your nipple right there he will go for it with a little guidance from you. It may feel frustrating at first — arms flailing, IV in the way if you had one, etc…it’ll get better! I considered swaddling her to keep her arms from flailing but the nurse told me not to do that while feeding because it helps them (and your milk production) for them to be able to use their sense of touch.

-Other than lactation consultants and LLL leaders, which are a huge and free resource, here are some other ideas. When I got home I had my mom look at my latch to make sure she thought it looked right, since I was nervous and she breastfed my brothers and me. That helped ease my worries. If you have someone like that I would consider asking their help.

-If you don’t already have a book on breastfeeding that you like, I would highly suggest The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It’s organized by age with common questions for each age, and it helped me SO much in the beginning, when I was like “is this normal???” about everything. I still reference it all the time. It is amazing to see that what I am experiencing is almost always common. Another good website for questions when you feel confused/panicky/like you aren’t sure if you’re doing things right/etc is Kellymom (

-In the early days you will spend a lot of time breastfeeding. I had a hard time telling when she wanted to eat so we just spent a lot of time skin to skin and I would follow her hunger cues (open mouth, hand to mouth…crying is actually a late hunger cue.) I am not feeding on a schedule because all babies’ stomachs and feeding styles are different — with formula, where it’s digested on a regular timetable that you can count on, it’s easier to go by a schedule. Some babies may be ready to eat again in a couple hours, or sometimes they may want a snack an hour later. My baby is a bit of a grazer. This is the part that can be really frustrating. You may feel like you are feeding constantly. The good thing to know is you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, regardless of what some people may say. When babies give you the cues that they want to eat and you feed them, your body is being told how much milk it needs to provide for your baby, so in a way your baby is helping to regulate your body’s milk supply so it’s just enough for him. The more baby nurses the more your body knows to produce.
-Don’t worry about how often you’re nursing or for how long, not really. (In the early weeks make sure there’s no more than maybe one four hour stretch of no nursing, when they may sleep a little longer, but other than that it’s typically every 2 hours or even more…and remember that time starts from the beginning of the nursing session…so if he starts nursing at 12 and say he IS a baby that typically wants to eat every 2 hours, then even if he nurses for 45 minutes he’ll be ready again an hour and fifteen minutes later! So it’s a full time job! But as they get older and more proficient they’ll typically drink for less and less time and more and more regularly — so from what I hear the hardest part is the “4th trimester!”
-To tell if baby’s getting enough milk, don’t worry about nursing session length or frequency — look at diapers in the first six weeks. Poopy diapers (the size of an “okay” circle you make with your thumb and your forefinger) are what you want to count. In the first 24 hours, you want one poop. In the next 24, you expect at least 2. Then maybe 3 a day for the rest of the first week. After that you can expect 6-8 a day. You may have more earlier, and that’s okay too!

-Lots of moms say they have a baby who wants to eat constantly for hours a day, usually in the evening amidst fussiness. This is called cluster feeding and if it happens it is also normal. It can be exhausting but it’s your baby helping get your milk supply up. Mine has cluster fed every evening since she was born. Our most frustrating evening was before we realized this and we were like what’s wrong?? Her diaper is dry and she just ate! Then we read about cluster feeding again and realized she was rooting around for a nipple and that was that. It’s still a tiring time of the day. My husband holds her in between feedings so I can get a break and just refills me on water as I need it. The good thing is that after her cluster feeding time she sleeps for a good, long stretch — it started at 3-4 hours and now is usually around 5, I think. One night it was 8.

-Babies also have days where they go through “growth spurts” and want to feed all day. This is normal and doesn’t mean you aren’t making enough milk. You are doing great!!

-Find ways to be comfy and mix it up, because you will be nursing a lot and it can be very tiring. Try propping up with pillows, the Boppy if you have one, sitting in your glider sometimes, sometimes on the couch, and sometime side lying on the bed. This is a great position when you are tired.

-For us, bed sharing was a lifesaver. That’s not for everyone, but at least sharing a room in the early weeks or months can really help. You will be feeding him a lot, and this will help you get as much sleep as possible. Even if you’re not bed sharing, consider trying side lying nursing in bed (on your side, not between you and your husband) and then put him back in his basinette if you have one when you’re done. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, that’s okay too. Whatever works for you! (Safe co-sleeping tips:

-Try different nursing positions. This is good for your breasts and can help you find something that works really well for you and the baby. Our main ones were the normal cradle hold although many moms use the “clutch” hold too. We also liked to do the “laid back” breastfeeding position, where you lay propped up on your back and he is lying on your tummy facing you, with his body lengthwise against yours. Another we do a lot is sidelying.

-After the first couple days I had a little cracking that went away after applying lanolin for a couple days. That can be a sign that the latch isn’t great though, so ask for hep if it continues. I think it just happened because my nipples weren’t used to being sucked on 24/7!

-Sometimes I felt like she didn’t want to breastfeed because she’ll pull off my breast and fuss, or do what we call “shark” around here (shake her head from side to side like a shark or alligator.) Now I know she does that when she wants the milk to let down faster, and that’s common (especially in the evenings when women’s milk supply is naturally lower). So don’t feel sad if he does that…it’s normal. And keep breastfeeding even though it may be tempting to use a bottle…because this is how she is telling your body she needs it to make more! I’ve learned to let go of my expectations of what breastfeeding would “look” like (calm, peaceful, baby always quietly sucking…it is like that too but not always, or at least not for me!)

-Using pacifiers and bottles is a very personal decision. If you are going to use them, I’d suggest waiting until breastfeeding is well established, about a month.

-Spitting up: Not all breastfed babies spit up a lot or need to be burped a lot. Ours does, but because she is gaining weight well and doesn’t seem to be fussy when she spits up they consider it a “laundry” issue rather than a “medical” one.

I really hope these tips help! I was definitely worried about breastfeeding not working out, and I had some bad dreams about it too actually! I truly believe you can do it.

Breastfeeding at 7 weeks

Now we can even do it standing up for short periods of time! This was taken at home while getting ready for our day.

my top pregnancy read recommendations

There are so many options out there in terms of what you can read during your pregnancy. Now at 40+ weeks, looking back on this wonderful and joyous experience, I feel like I’m coming from a pretty good perspective to give you my opinion of what was helpful to me during this journey. So for what it’s worth here are my picks for my top pregnancy reads. If you are going to read nothing else but a handful of things during your pregnancy, then these are the reads I would recommend going with:

  • CHILDBIRTH/CONFIDENCE: — Ina May’s Guide to ChildbirthRead this book to gain confidence in your body and in the fact that your body knows how to birth your baby! Even if you don’t agree with all of the “crunchy” ideals, I think this book will be of great benefit to you and your psyche as you prepare for birth.
  • BREASTFEEDING — The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding — If you read one book on breastfeeding, I’d recommend this one.
  • CONNECTING WITH YOUR BABY Meditations for Pregnancy — Hubby and I read these weekly meditations throughout my pregnancy, taking turns reading each week.  While again a little crunchy, I don’t think it would be off-putting to the “non-crunchy” crowd and I think it’s a great way to connect with your partner (if you have one/if possible) and your unborn child.  It was written by the creator of the hypnobirthing method. If this book doesn’t resonate with you, I would suggest finding one that does.  We looked forward to this time every week.
  • PREGNANCYBabycenter updates — I do NOT recommend What to Expect When Expecting or any similar book.  I was unable to find one that I didn’t feel was alarmist; they all seemed to focus a great deal of energy each chapter on the things that could be going wrong, and that wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for my pregnancy.  I had a basic awareness of issues that I needed to be aware of, and beyond that I didn’t think it would be healthy for me to focus on the potential negative.  Instead, I found that the weekly pregnancy updates from were actually very mother- and baby-friendly, and informative.
  • BABY CARE — Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book — Again, this book is not fear-based and is breastfeeding and attachment parenting friendly.  If you are interested in those concepts, I would absolutely recommend exploring this book.

What books did you enjoy during your pregnancy?

nursing in public preparation and protection

As I anticipate life as a new breastfeeding mom who is not willing to become a shut-in to give her baby the nutrition she needs,  I have started arming myself with information so that I can be better equipped and more confident when nursing in public. As I know this is a common struggle for many breastfeeding moms, I thought I would share with you what has helped and is continuing to help me.

  1. KNOWLEDGE — The more you know about breastfeeding, the more you know you are making the right decision for you and your baby. For me, this meant utilizing the following resources, which I highly recommend:
    • Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding
    • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
    • Attend a breastfeeding class, and if you have one, attend with your partner. It’s one thing to read about breastfeeding, and quite another to cradle a baby doll up against your breast, tummy to tummy, and practice different holds, or to apply lipstick and see how much further a balloon (aka booby) gets into your mouth when you point the “nipple” toward your nose versus the middle of your mouth. Hands on practice and application! Our class was offered through a local doula group.
    • Attend a local La Leche League meeting. I haven’t yet, but I am planning on it. In addition to providing support for you before or after your baby arrives, I have also heard this is a great, nonthreatening environment for you to practice early nursing in public.
    • Get support from your partner, if you have one. This ties in to having them attend a breastfeeding class with you. The more he or she knows about breastfeeding, the more you can be supported through your journey. This can come in the form of helpful advice or in the form of standing up for your right to nurse your baby.
    • Ask for help from a local LLL leader, lactation consultant (I’d recommend checking to see if they have actually breastfed themselves!), or a private consultant — for example, because we took a breastfeeding class through a local doula group, we are now able to consult with them on-site for free. In-home consultations are also now offered at a lowered rate.
    • Consider hiring a labor and/or postpartum doula. Among MANY other benefits, they can help you get breastfeeding established after birth and answer any questions that may come up while they are with you during the weeks to follow. We have hired a labor doula (more about that later) and will likely hire a postpartum doula as well.
  3. NORMALIZE — Normalize breastfeeding in your own mind! I know for me, even though I support breastfeeding whenever, wherever, and however long you need to, I too am influenced by the sexualization of breasts in our society. But the more I read breastfeeding blogs and see photos of other moms breastfeeding, the more normal breastfeeding becomes to me and the less fear I have about it.
  4. TOOLS — In my opinion, your best tools to “arm” yourself against potential criticism while nursing in public is knowing more about the laws protecting breastfeeding in your state. A while back I wrote about this, and shared with you how to get your laminated, state-specific law cards from Nursing Freedom. (Side note: that site rocks! And check out their blog and Facebook page!) I ordered five, gave a few out to some of my breastfeeding friends, and popped one in our diaper bag to keep with me.

    And here’s another idea: Check out the Ramblings of an Acrophile blog, where yesterday I read (thanks to the Nursing Freedom Facebook page, as a matter of fact) her post on a pamphlet she created to keep with her and to hand out to naysayers while nursing in public.  Very kindly, she has not copyrighted this text, and has even asked that those interested take it, tweak it, and keep it for themselves. I imagine this could be a great tool if someone says something to you while you are nursing in public. Unless they get too feisty, simply smile, reach in your diaper bag, hand them your home-created pamphlet, and tell them to “have a nice day!” Here’s my version:

    Georgia State Law Protects Breastfeeding!
    Ga. Code Ann. § 31-1-9 (Lexis 2009) provides that the breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.

    What do you want your children to learn about the purpose of the human breast?
    The breast is sexualized in the media and in society, and most of us accept that. If these displays of breasts are accepted by society, should the breast’s primary natural function  — to feed our babies — deserve less respect? Think about what you want your children to learn about respect for the female body and the act of feeding a baby.

    Please don’t be scared by mothers and babies nursing in public!
    There are two basic rules: Don’t stare, and don’t distract the baby. You can make eye contact with most mamas, smile, and say “hello”. We will not slap you if your eye wanders down. That is natural. As long as you have the common decency not to let it linger there, most mamas will not mind. Just don’t stare, and there is usually no issue. We nursing mamas want you to relax around us. There’s nothing to be scared of. We’re just feeding our babies.

    Thank you for your understanding.
    Most of us are happy to educate. Don’t be afraid to ask a question.

What about you? Do you have any questions? Have I left any glaring holes — things that have helped YOU while nursing in public that I just haven’t thought about? Oh, here’s one — how about teaming up? I imagine it would be a lot easier to go out with a new mama friend and breastfeed wherever you need to together, or make friends with other breastfeeding mamas on the playground, than to go it alone if you are nervous at first.

I hope these tips help you! They sure are helping me.