Hello! I’m Colleen Sullivan, author of Meet the Sullivans! I am thrilled to be here sharing my breastfeeding story with you and so thankful to the lovely Julie for allowing me to be here on her fabulous blog!
I am wife to Keith and mom to 15-month-old Owen. In a former life I was a kindergarten teacher, but for now I’m a stay-at-home mom (and loving it). We are born and raised Californians, although more conservative than you’d think, but we’re also attachment parents–there’s no one label for us. I breastfed Owen until he was a year old, an accomplishment I’m very proud of!
Owen (8 months) and Mommy September 2012
There was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed our baby. My mom nursed my sister and I for the first 9 months of our lives (she only stopped because she stopped producing milk), and most every woman I know has done the same for their children. Besides the health benefits for mom and baby, it seemed to be the familiar thing to me. And to be honest, breastfeeding (because it was easy for us) was the easy way to go. I know all the bottle cleaning, sterilizing, drying, etc. would have stressed me out. Plus, I liked knowing that no matter where we went or for how long, I would always have enough milk for Owen.
My breastfeeding journey began in a pre-natal breastfeeding workshop provided for a small fee at our hospital. While I don’t think any class, book or video can fully prepare you for what you’re about to embark on as a new parent, it does help to be as prepared as you can be. In the workshop we learned a few “secrets to success” like how to get a proper latch, nursing positions, etc. Of all the pre-natal course we took, I felt this course was the most beneficial.
After a long and exhausting labor (you can read Owen’s birth story here) we ended up needing to deliver Owen through c-section, which delayed my milk supply initially. Like many babies Owen lost weight in the hospital, so they sent us home with formula to supplement my milk supply. It’s hard to start a new journey already feeling like you’re “failing”, but I tried to not take it personally.
When I was looking back through my pictures to find photos for this post I was a little sad that I didn’t have more pictures of Owen and I breastfeeding, because those were just the sweetest most special times in my memory. Sadly I don’t have those pictures because it was obviously a private time. I remember the lactation consultant in the hospital telling us to take some pictures because I would want to look back on them and that those were her favorite photos of her own and her children are grown.
We took Owen home 4 days after he was born. Everything was going pretty well until about 20 minutes after we had him home. I was nursing Owen on the couch in our living room and after he finished nursing I began to burp him just like I always did, but this time when he burped he spit up blood. We had only left the hospital an hour ago and our baby was spitting up blood. You can only imagine the panic we all felt. It was Sunday afternoon, so it took about a half an hour to get a doctor on the phone, but when we did we were relieved to hear that because the blood was bright red it was not blood coming from him. The doctor believed it to be blood from me when he was nursing–likely from a cracked nipple. He never spit up blood again and our doctor ruled out any other issues the next morning. Thank the Lord.
Milk Drunk – 10 days old
I was surprised by how painful the first week was. The pain was literally toe curling. I was not at all ready for how tender and raw I would be after Owen first began nursing. The lactation consultant gave me Soothies Gel Pads in the hospital and they saved me from any extended pain. We bought more as soon as we got home too. I wore them 24/7 in the first weeks. They would be a great gift for a nursing mother.
In the first year of his life Owen was up all hours of the night. I can count on one hand the number of times he slept through the night that year. The easiest and quickest way to get him back to sleep was for me to nurse him. When we “woke up” in the morning (I put those quotes there, because really? We were up all night long) I would nurse him first thing after changing his diaper. After that I would nurse every 3 hours or whenever he got cranky or needed a nap. We made the hugest mistake in always letting him nurse to sleep. He associated sleep with milk and sucking, and this made it impossible for him to fall back asleep on his own in the middle of the night.
The bond Owen and I created during our time nursing was the most rewarding aspect for me. We spent many a midnight hour cuddled up in bed or in the glider together, and while I missed the amount of sleep I was used to, the comfort that I provided for him in his new environment was invaluable. And despite being a winter baby, when illnesses are plentiful, Owen didn’t have a single illness for the first eleven months of his life. I believe 100% that this was because he was breastfed.
I have to admit, I was surprised how easy it was for Owen and I, and that I was able to exclusively breastfeed him for almost a full year. I was prepared to not be able to. I had quite a few people prepare me for the worst, either through warning me or through their own experiences. I know women who’s milk dried up, who gave up, who couldn’t continue, who’s baby didn’t latch, etc. etc. I feel really lucky that we didn’t have many challenges in this department–although we had more than our fair share of sleep related challenges!
Asleep on his mommy after nursing–per the usual.
It wasn’t all cake though. I had my own issues with breastfeeding too…
Because I stay home with Owen I didn’t need to pump much. I only pumped milk for him in the beginning for when I would be away from him, but trying to make sure I pumped enough milk for him and keeping my supply on track was stressful. I wanted to make sure I could breastfeed him for as long as possible and didn’t want to look back and think that the times we had left him to go on dates (and the subsequent missed feedings) were the cause of my milk cutting back.
He was easy to nurse, he was a barracuda style feeder, according to my first year survival manual: What to Expect the First Year. He would even take a bottle, be it formula or breast milk, so at about 8 months we started giving him formula if I would be away from him. I felt some mommy guilt leaving him and having him drink formula. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have felt so bad about that. There is nothing wrong with formula if it’s what needs to be given.
Sometimes I worried if Owen was getting enough milk. This could have been because that was always the first thing people asked me if he was crying “Is he hungry?” or “Is he getting enough milk?”. Honestly, I have probably asked other moms the same question, but it’s kind of demeaning. It makes you doubt your ability to gauge your child’s hunger and produce milk for him. But all things aside, I did worry because when you’re breastfeeding it is hard to know how much your child is getting.
As time went on Owen and I became pros at nursing together. I could read his signs and knew what to do, and how and when to do it. I could literally do it with my eyes closed–as I often did in the middle of the night.
Our little family together at Owen’s first birthday.
A few words of advice:
-Buy yourself some Soothies Gel Pads and store them in your refrigerator for when you come home from the hospital. You will be sore and these will provide your poor nipples some much needed relief!
-It’s okay to be afraid. Everything is so new for both of you–this is a time of major adjustment for your new little family. It will take time to feel like you’re back to
-Remember that you know what is best for your child, after all, you are his/her mommy!
-Take pictures, videos, journal and enjoy every moment. It goes so very quickly and even though you’re so tired you will look back on those memories with such joy!
Thank you so much to Julie for having me today and for hosting this series! I think the stories of these moms are so valuable to new and seasoned mommies alike. Getting to share our story has been an emotional trip back in time. It’s given Keith and I the opportunity to reminisce and recognize just how far we have all come in the last year!