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Breast-feeding part II: The struggle

I've read the phrase time and again, "Breast-feeding is natural, but it does not come naturally." It is a learned skill for both mom and baby.

Trust me, Kenlee and I had to work our way up the learning curve.

We battled through pain, tears and frustration. Within the first few weeks we were met with oversupply, thrush and a general disdain for my left breast.

It wasn't pretty.

I found myself basically strapped to the couch or glider 24/7 in an attempt to keep my baby fed and happy. I was tired, sore, and miserable. I broke down in tears several times feeling like I was going to fail.

But I didn't.

One day, in the thick of my frustration, Kyle told me it was ok if I decided to use formula. I agreed — it would not be the end of the world. After all, I truly do not believe formula is a bad thing. I was a formula baby and I think I turned out pretty great.

But my mind kept going back to the sweet feeling of when Kenlee had a good nursing session. And she was happy. And I was happy. And we'd both relax into a little pile of love and mush.

Also, I couldn't stop thinking about the money. Formula is fine, but it's stinking expensive.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the money savings was a HUGE part of what led us to breast-feeding in the first place. Kyle tried to calm my fears by stopping in the formula aisle and pointing out that store brand formula seemed relatively affordable.

All I could think was: But you can't beat free. And happy.

And did I mention free?

In between all the struggles of those first six weeks or so, I talked to several nurses and lactation consultants. I'd say about five weeks in, I got a follow-up call from one in particular.

Cathy Sito of the Williams County Health Department is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and also my hero. After coaching me through our thrush issues, she called to follow up and see if things were getting better.

Yeah, things were improving, I told her, but I was still so frustrated thinking that things would never get much easier.

Then she told me a tidbit I will never forget. In a survey of mothers, on a scale of 1-10, breast-feeding in the first eight weeks was rated an eight for difficulty — pretty darn hard — while formula feeding was rated only a four.

HOWEVER, after those initial eight weeks, the breast-feeding mothers changed their scale of difficulty down to a one. JUST ONE. Formula, since it is always fed the same way, stayed at a four.

I was inspired, determined and hell bent on achieving that one rating. Thankfully, around the time Kenlee turned eight weeks old, and as I was going back to work, we finally got there.

Today, breast-feeding is a breeze. My only frustration is the fact that I have to pump at work. Pumping is a necessary evil to working and breast-feeding mothers, but I will put up with the inconvenience at work if it means I have an easy time at home.

I'm not saying all mothers can make it through the first eight weeks. The truth is not everyone is able to. However, I want to give other first time mothers hope. There is likely a light at the end of the tunnel, and when you get there it's bright, shiny and happy again.

And did I mention it's free? ;)


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