This week is Breastfeeding Week, so in honor of that I thought I’d write about my experience and breastfeeding journey.
My son is now 8 months old, and he’s exclusively breastfed and I can’t believe he’s that old and I’ve been able to breastfeed him for this long! I think most moms who want to breastfeed are at least a little nervous that it will even work, and then when it does, we are always nervous something will happen like a drop in supply or mastitis that will make it hard or impossible to continue.
I’m really lucky that I haven’t had any major problems breastfeeding and I am so glad for all the resources I found before and since my son was born. I read Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding and I read a lot of Kelly Mom articles on the subject as well! I also have a Facebook mom group that I love and all of our babies are around the same age, so it’s nice to be able to ask questions and get support.
In the beginning, it was really tough. I didn’t have much in person support save for one of my friends who breastfed. It was hard to know if I was doing anything right and after a few days of cluster feeds, it started to really hurt. I had to switch to pumping for an entire day before I could see a lactation consultant. Thankfully, there was one at the hospital where I gave birth, so my husband and I went there and I had a session with the lady and it was SO helpful and it felt like such a lifesaver. She told me I had a good supply and gave me a new latch technique to try, and since then my son’s latch has been so much better and it’s never been as painful as it was those first few days.
I felt like a failure when I gave him a bottle of formula. Because I wanted to breastfeed so badly and I knew once you started formula, it could be hard to keep your supply up. Thankfully, my son didn’t have any issues taking a bottle and then going back to breastfeeding, but I know a lot of people struggle with nipple confusion, breast refusal, bottle refusal, etc.
Around 2-3 months after he was born, Sejun would have crying fits and it was hard to know if I should try to make him sleep or if I should try feeding him. Sometimes he was super sleepy and hungry but refused to eat or sleep. My husband would come home and I’d be crying and begging for him to hold the baby so I could get a break. But my husband can’t breastfeed so eventually I had to try again. Sometimes he’d nurse with no problem, and other times he’d scream. Eventually, this settled down, but it was really hard.
At around 4-5 months old, he started getting more distracted during nursing sessions, which is normal since babies become more aware and interested in their surroundings and they are more mobile.
I still breastfeed him pretty often – usually when he wakes up and right before he goes down for naps or sleep – and now we are feeding him solids, too. I think I will be sad when I have to stop but also relieved that I don’t have to be the only person who can feed him.
I used to think I’d pump enough for my husband to take over a night feeding so I could rest, but I hardly ever had the time or ability to pump because I was always holding him for the first few months. So my husband never really gave him a bottle; maybe once or twice if I had a doctor’s appointment and had to go out alone.
Breastfeeding definitely isn’t for everyone and it definitely doesn’t come easy for everyone. I am glad I’ve had the experiences I have and I’m happy that Sejun is happy and healthy. Sometimes people ask me questions like, “Can you give him a pacifier?” (if he’s tired or fussy when we are out – the answer is he never liked pacifiers and doesn’t need one) or “When will you start formula?” (never if I can help it – he’ll be weaned onto solid food eventually).
I know a lot of people struggle with breastfeeding or feeding their babies in general and I feel like I’m automatically bonded to other moms because I can relate to them now that I am one. I wish it were easier for everyone to get the support they need. Breastfeeding moms need a lot of emotional support – it’s a mental load as well as a physical one.
In Korea, thankfully my hospital had a nursery and they called me down to breastfeed every few hours after I gave birth. I know there is a push for “Baby Friendly Hospitals” and when I was pregnant I thought that sounded great, but from hearing a lot of peoples’ stories, it seems like they do a lot more harm than good sometimes. For one, a lot of BFH don’t have nurseries, and it would have been so hard for me to rest and recover the two days I was in the hospital afterwards if I also had to sleep next to my newborn.
Breastfeeding in public is not a thing here, but there are a lot of nursing stations and private nursing rooms now – shopping malls, baby photo studios, etc. have them and those are really helpful. Otherwise I usually take him to the car when we are out somewhere and he’s hungry! Thankfully in Korea tinted windows are the norm and I have a lot of privacy in the car.
Now that Sejun is 8 months old, I have more friends in person who are moms and it’s so nice to be able to talk to them about breastfeeding, weaning, etc.
I have friends who formula feed, exclusively pump, breastfeed, combo feed, etc. and it absolutely only matters what mom and baby want and what’s best for the baby! Every baby and every mom is so different. I hope we can become less judgemental and more supportive to all parents and their choices. And I hope to continue supporting others as best as I can!