Three babies and three very different experiences
Jacob, my first baby, arrived 5 1/2 weeks early on November 22, 2010. He was whisked to the NICU for a 7 night stay where I learned so much from those wonderful nurses and doctors, including how important and how hard it would be to keep Jacob fed and gaining weight given that he didn't know how to suck, breathe, and swallow at the same time yet.
In order to keep my supply up, I had Jacob try to nurse for a few minutes at a time, then I would pump, then we would feed him whatever milk I produced in addition to a formula supplement. I kept up this trend for three weeks straight every three hours on the dot. Even when my husband gave Jacob a formula bottle at the 11pm feeding, I awoke to pump to keep up my supply.
It was one of the most challenging time periods of my life and I still remember wishing there was an automatic cleaner for those pump parts. We also had to use a nipple shield to get him to latch for the first month, but eventually he learned what to do. Each time we went to the doctor for a weight check I felt a huge sense of accomplishment for getting that baby fed. But boy was I sleep deprived!!! As I returned to work, I brought that pump with me and lasted about through month 5 before we switched all to formula.
Nava, my second baby, arrived exactly on her due date. I was convinced that because she made it to full term we would have an easy time, but Nava proved me wrong and started her high maintenance streak right from the Day 1. Nava knew how to suck and swallow and was a terrific nurser, but she wanted to do it every hour of the day! Unfortunately, after 48 hours, she was also whisked to the NICU to deal with what ended up being oxygenation issues. Nava had to come home after a week in the NICU on oxygen and an apnea monitor. Nursing her in the NICU with tubes up her nose or down her throat was difficult, and once we got home, it also proved challenging. We ended up getting a night nurse in those first few weeks, and while I pumped every night, I think having so many bottles made Nava not as excited to nurse. She would turn away from the nipple, making me feel helpless. One week she didn't gain even an ounce, so the doctors said I needed to supplement immediately - talk about feeling like a failed mother! But of course I knew we needed to get her weight up - We started supplementing with formula around week 6 or 7 and I gave up nursing altogether around 2 months. I felt sad and frustrated, but Nava did start to thrive after she had enough food. Her oxygen came off at 2 1/2 months and her apnea monitor at 4 months, and now at age 3, we can't feed her enough!
Asher, my newest (and last) baby, arrived two days after his due date on July 24, 2015. He is my angel, my gem, my sweet sweet baby who was a fabulous nurser right from the get go. He is the only baby I took home from the hospital when I was discharged and the only baby I exclusively nursed for 3 months. Two weeks ago, I decided he was looking for more than my breasts could give him, and he has been enjoying supplementary formula during the day. Unfortunately, with the bottle introduced, I also notice he is not as into nursing when he is awake, so I have been pumping during the day and he takes the breast in the middle of the night. I am sad about this because I have really enjoyed nursing him, and perhaps we wouldn't have had an issue if I wasn't leaving at various times to do stuff with the big kids, but I am coming to peace with it as I will return to work in 12 days, and will basically be on the pumping regiment by that point anyway.
It's funny how much guilt one can have over nursing. I do feel like I tried my best with all 3 babies, but I am just not one of those moms that produces gallons of extra milk. It was SUCH hard work with Jacob, but he was probably my biggest success because of my commitment to every 3 hours in the beginning. Asher has been good too, but I have been torn in many directions since his birth, and I have to accept that too.
There is no doubt I am jealous of women who nurse for up to a year, but everyone is different and the most important thing is that your baby is growing and thriving, no matter how that happens.