There is such a huge stigma surrounding how to feed your baby.
Let me kick off this post by letting every mama know that as long as your baby is growing, happy and healthy, it doesn’t matter how you choose to feed them.
I didn’t think I would ever like breastfeeding. Growing up, I never dreamed about breastfeeding my future child(ren). I was very indifferent on the topic all the way up until Emily was born.
The first time she latched and breastfed was the most magical moment of my life. You can see that moment here.
From that moment on I was very adamant about strictly breastfeeding. We, of course, had formula at the house as a backup, but I only wanted to use that in the event of an emergency (infection in my breasts, supply disappears, etc).
Come mid-November, things had changed. When Emily got super hungry, she would refuse to latch. It was take near an hour to get her to latch to eat a decent meal. It was so frustrating every time I tried to feed her, as she would fall off or refuse my breasts.
Breast milk is stored in the milk ducts, which aren’t just readily available at first suck. The ducts themselves need to be stimulated (whether by pump, mouth, hand) and it takes up to 2 minutes for the milk to truly be released. Emily HATED that. She wanted milk right then and there. And there were times I couldn’t provide that for her.
One extremely bad night ended in hyperventilating crying from me and Emily, words between me and Connor, and I finally broke and made a bottle with formula. It was so hard for me to make the decision to give her a bottle of milk that wasn’t my own, but she needed to eat and I wasn’t producing.
She sucked the formula down, didn’t die, and fell right to sleep.
No harm no foul. The seal was broken (literally).
Moving forward, we agreed that when Emily was having a particularly rough feed, if I didn’t have breast milk pumped, she would have a formula bottle.
Fast forward to the 3 month milk supply drop. At around 3 months, your milk supply regulates. You’re only producing what and when your baby is demanding to be fed.
Em started getting more and more frustrated around meal times when the milk wouldn’t be readily available, but I was also producing a lot less than I should have been.
Following my diagnosis of COVID-19, I began feeding Em more formula and began pumping less, only breastfeeding overnight (if needed). She was sleeping 7 hours a night so we would feed her a bottle around 10 and she would go until 6:30 in the morning before needing food.
This trend continued marvelously. Emily wasn’t really breastfeeding, and was maybe once or twice a week suckling for comfort.
2 weeks ago from yesterday (February 16), was the last night I breastfed my baby girl. It’s a little sad! Such a huge part of your infants life, the food that kept her alive and growing made solely from your body, no more.
While I’m a little sad that chapter of our relationship has ended, I know that moving to formula full time was and is the best thing for us. Now, Emily is starting solids (yay!) and is still a happy and healthy girl.
I feel guilty that I had such a stigma surrounding formula. No matter how your baby gets fed- breastfeeding, pumped breast milk, formula, what have you- is the right way.
It’s been three weeks since our world grew. THREE WEEKS since Emily Ruth entered our lives. The time is flying yet crawling simultaneously. Looking at her, it feels like she has been in our lives for years.
Motherhood is nothing like I thought it would be- both the good and the bad.
While 99% of the talk of having a baby is exactly that- the baby- the other 1% is just as important to take about. Postpartum recovery is nothing short of amazing and incredibly tiring. The physical and mental hurdles that a mother has to face once her child is born is not something that you can prepare for ahead of time. With raising a child, you can read all of the best books, all of Heidi Murkoff’s What To Expect series. You can take in all of the advice from your mom, mother-in-law, friends, coworkers, and strangers at the Subaru dealership. Raising a baby is something that every mother has done, and every mother will have “the answer”.
When it comes to your own postpartum recovery, no one has “the answer”.
My Postpartum Health
Physically, I feel amazing. I LOOK amazing. My body went through the most amazing journey these past 10 months. It created (with the help of Connor) and grew a HUMAN! A legitimate, tiny version of us. The female body… Growing up I always wondered what my pregnant body would look like. Would my belly be round or hang low? Would I gain a lot of weight in my thighs? Would my feet grow? Well, let me say that before giving birth, I truly never felt more beautiful than I did during pregnancy. I LOVED my belly. I began to appreciate my stretch marks. While I felt like I was going to fall asleep at any moment, and sitting/standing/walking/living made everything hurt, I loved what my body was doing.
After giving birth to our daughter, my perception of my body changed again. Now, 3 weeks PP, I can truly say that I have never been more beautiful than I am now. Yes, my stomach quite literally shrunk down and I weigh less than I did pre-pregnancy. My face is a bit thinner, although it is now graced with tired bags under my eyes. But those aren’t the reasons I love my NEW body.
My stretch marks are beautiful, natural symbols of what my body went through to create our daughter. In my uterus, I grew our child along with her placenta, an organ that my body created to sustain our daughter’s life for the 9.5 months she was inside of me.
My breasts, as HUGE as they are, are currently creating the milk that my daughter will eat and live off of until she can begin eating solid foods. Every 2 hours, my milk “comes in”, pins and needles and all, biologically knowing when it is time to feed our baby girl. One month ago, I was not pleased at the way my breasts looked- they were so different than my pre-pregnancy breasts. But now, I look at them with awe as I watch Emily eat from them 10 times a day.
My c-section scar is the most beautiful mark on my body. It showcases what my body went through to bring Emily into the world. It is healing beautiful and I can’t wait to show it off. My body is beautiful.
I have not yet been cleared to work out. I try to take a long, daily walk with Emily to keep up my physical and mental stamina. I do the laundry, wash the dishes, and tidy up around the house. in 4 weeks, I should be cleared to begin working out, getting myself on a physical journey that will make me feel good inside and out.
My mental postpartum journey hasn’t been as rewarding as my physical one. No one can prepare you for what you feel inside after giving birth. The second Emily was out of me. my extremely elevated hormones plummeted into the basement and deeper. What has been so high during pregnancy to ensure that my daughter was getting what she needed was suddenly gone, and I was the one who had to mentally calibrate that change.
It has NOT been easy. As someone who gets overwhelmed easily, has anxiety especially surrounding major changes (uhh having a baby), and overthinks every little thing that crosses her path, this new chapter in my life has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Lack of sleep aside, it has been difficult to work through my emotions when it comes to dealing with Emily. Yesterday was one of the more difficult days we had. Connor working from home is amazing, but it doesn’t mean he can help all of the time. My frustration levels rise very quickly, especially when I have to race naked down the stairs after just getting out of the shower to retrieve our crying child before she interrupts a work call. The dishes are never done. we had a pile of laundry so high it didn’t fit into 2 baskets. Emily’s clothes haven’t been folded or put away in 2 weeks.
Yes, she is my daughter. Yes, I love her more than anyone and anything in this world. Yes, she annoys the crap out of me and sometimes I just want to yell at her to shut the fuck up (which I did yesterday to no avail). Being a mother is NOT easy. Being a mother to a newborn is even harder. It is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done… but the reward of looking at my daughter with my husband is beyond worth it. All of the times I sit here blaming myself for not being a good mom because I can’t get my daughter to stop crying mean nothing compared to the joy I get while breastfeeding her, or the thought of her in a month from now smiling and laughing at her daddy tickling her little belly.
Postpartum is the fourth trimester of pregnancy, the one that has such a stigma over it that women are afraid to even say the word. It is incredibly difficult to raise a child with NO prior knowledge. It is even more difficult to accept that your life has changed forever. That your relationship with your husband has changed forever. That you will never be doing anything solely for yourself. And that is okay. None of the above has to turn into a bad change. You embrace what has come with this tiny bundle of poop and love and you do what you need to do to ensure that the other areas of your life thrive.
Emily Ruth’s Update
Let’s talk about our little Emily Ruth! It is SO hard to believe that our baby girl has spent three whole weeks on this earth. The time has flown… yet it has also dragged. Anyone else feel that??
Emily is amazing. Watching her grow, seeing her discover new things (as much as a 3 week old baby can discover), seeing the changes in her body and mind already… there is nothing better. She is SO STRONG! She was able to hold her own head/neck up at 1.5 weeks… for real. It was amazing to watch! She bops around, she kicks and grabs our hair. It’s incredible watching her figure out what different parts of her body can do.
The day we brought her home, we noticed physical changes in her- in just the 2 days we had her! In utero, babies absorb a TON of hormones from the mother. I mean, think about it. For 9-10 months, a woman is growing a baby. She has the biggest influx of hormones she will ever have in her life. She doesn’t get her period, meaning that this influx of hormones is stopping her body from doing something it has been doing once a month since she was 13. Her hormones have to sustain this new life that is growing inside of her.
Once the baby is born, the hormones received from the mother begin to expel from that little body in various ways. Emily had what you would call “period-like symptoms” for about a week and a half following her birth. She had discharge from her little tee-tee, both milky-like and bloody. This was a hugeeeee shock to Connor and I, giving her her first at-home bath and seeing this… blob… come out of our daughter’s privates. It is 110% normal in female infants, though, so nothing to worry about!
Way #2 to expel the mothers’ hormones- enlarged breast tissue and leaking from the nipples. Again- SO WEIRD if you haven’t read about it/haven’t had other children. This is most common in females, while male infants may have an enlarged scrotum as they expel their mothers’ hormones. Again, this is completely normal, just a little jarring for first time parents to see.
Way #3, and the most common form of hormones, is baby acne. About a week ago, Emily started developing baby acne on her little forehead. It has since spread down her nose and cheeks, onto her scalp and chest, and the back of her neck. This acne has shown in tiny little red and white bumps and has made her skin very dry. Her face is about 75% cleared up now, with dry and red patches scattered around. Seeing acne in a baby is so strange, as I’m sure it will be when she gets her first pimple during puberty.
The most exciting thing this week- her umbilical cord FINALLY fell off! Our baby girl has a bellybutton at long last ❤
I mean, come ON!!! Look at her little bellybutton! I think she’s gonna gave an outie!
Bath time is still hard. We figured out that rather than be washed with a washcloth, Emily likes when you soap up your own hands and bathe her that way. I think she finds it more soothing. She doesn’t start crying until the last 2 minutes, when we wash her hair. She doesn’t like the water running over her face, us covering her ears, or the cold feeling she gets once the shampoo is rinsed out. Poor baby!
Emily has officially met her entire immediate family. It has been wonderful watching our parents and sisters meet her for the first time. Emily is all of their first grandchildren, which means she gets SPOILED! It’s good for mommy and daddy- we don’t have to spend a dime! Emily will get to grow up knowing my mom, dad. and stepmom, and Connor’s parents. She will ALSO get to grow up knowing her GREAT GRANDPARENTS (my grandparents). That is something that is so rare, I cherish the fact that she gets to know two of the people so close to my heart… and now hers!
We love this little girl. It’s still hard to believe she is only three weeks old. Were have our entire lifetimes with this bundle of joy. I can’t wait to witness her first smile, to hear her laugh, to watch her crawl and walk and live and grow into her own person. Our beautiful baby girl is ours forever and ever.
Next week I will be publishing a blog post highlighting the most useful products I have found for both postpartum recovery and for living with a newborn. Subscribe to 2 Cats and a Bébé to stay up to date on my posts going forward!!