Let me preface this by saying this is not a debate over breast milk or formula this is simply my experience breastfeeding 2 kids.
Before I got pregnant with Claire I hadn't given how I would feed my future children much thought. I knew they had to eat, the end. Even the early months I was pregnant with Claire the thought of feeding her was in the distant future. As my pregnancy progressed I started thinking about whether I would breast or bottle feed or a combination of the two. By my 3rd trimester every time I envisioned feeding her I was breastfeeding so I started reading on how to be successful. In real life I only had one girlfriend who had breastfed their child for the entire first year. Everyone else I knew either immediately formula fed or breastfed for a while until they had to go back to work. My Mom told me the story of her not making enough milk to feed me and quickly had to switch to formula (although after hearing the advice the doctors gave her it is no surprise why she struggled with milk supply, but that's a whole other topic). I was super nervous about breastfeeding especially since it seemed so hard judging by what everyone else I knew had told me. I really wanted to be successful and be able to do it her entire first year, but told myself not to get too hung up on it and not let whatever happened make me feel like less of a mother.
Within the first hour after Claire was born they handed her to me to feed. I was nervous. Would she know how to latch on? Would it hurt? The nurse explained proper latch and how to help her latch properly and the next thing I know the nurse has my boob and shoves the baby's head towards it! Success! she immediately latched on an ate for nearly the next hour. We had continued success at the hospital and she was having the appropriate diaper output. I was nervous about going home and what the next few weeks would bring. Sore nipples and all I immediately fell in love with breastfeeding. I was so scared that something wouldn't go right and I would have to give it up. The first pediatrician appointment the doctor explained they expected her to be back at her birth weight at her 2 week check up. The next 2 weeks I stressed over whether she was gaining enough. Her diapers were proof she was eating, but would it meet the 2 week standard? I am the type of person that doesn't have to be the best at everything I just want to feel like I at least succeed at what I try and if nothing else know I gave it my all. At her 2 week check up she was exactly back at her birth weight. Whew! Then in the next few weeks I experienced her "cluster feeding" in the evenings. She would eat and fuss 30 min later and eat again. This cycle would last 2-3 hours every evening for a while. At the time I almost convinced myself that between the hours of 6-9 I must have low supply and was so exhausted from all the feeding that maybe we needed to supplement. About that time the cluster feeding stopped. At the time I didn't know this was normal newborn behavior especially during growth spurts and I was too scared to ask anyone. Fortunately I stuck it out. I was very blessed to exclusively breastfeed Claire for 15.5 months until she self weaned. Funny thing is I tried and tried to get her to switch to cows milk once she turned a year and she absolutely hated it. To this day all she drinks is water and a little juice. At the time I worried that she wasn't going to get enough calories especially after she weaned. She was always a slow gainer. Only weighing 17.5 pounds at a year. It's funny the stuff you worry about as a mom, especially a first time Mom. She loved to snack and I guess that is how she made up her calories. For a long time I couldn't even make a 10 min run to the grocery store without bringing a snack a long because she would act like she never was fed. I just noticed the other day that somewhere over the past 6 months the snacking phase seems to be over.
I was fortunate with Luke that immediately after he was born I got to feed him before they weighed him or anything. I expected him to immediately latch on like Claire did, but he didn't. It took 30-45 minutes of trying to get him to latch before he did. In that time I started getting stressed. What was I doing wrong? I reminded myself that sometimes it takes them a little bit to get the hang of it. The nurse came and helped me with no success. Then they called in the lactation consultant. By the time she got there he finally latched on and was feeding well. Still not as interested as Claire was at first, but I did get a good 15 minute feed out of him. The next few feeds gradually got easier and easier. We also discovered he had a tongue tie which made his latch a little more difficult. He did manage to eat and figured out how to work around it, but we did end up getting it clipped at 2 weeks which helped my comfort level when he ate tremendously.
Breastfeeding the 2nd child so far has been less stressful. I haven't worried about Luke gaining enough. I know his diaper output (and the rolls on his legs) show me he is eating plenty. My milk also came in a day sooner. I wasn't prepared for this until in the hospital the lactation consult informed me it probably would. The engorgement was also shorter. My body adjusted much much quicker. With Claire I was full and leaked for months. This time by the end of the first month I wasn't full unless he slept a longer stretch at night and have minimal leaking. I remember with Claire I was terrified for months about having to feed her out and about. I would always go to the car to feed her. As much as I enjoyed feeding her I sometimes felt it held me back. Several friends and I had babies close in age. We would go somewhere and they could easily bottle feed them wherever they were at. I often felt I was slowing them down having to stop and find a place to feed Claire. Before I had Claire I wrongly assumed in these situations I would come prepared with a pumped bottle and go about my day. What I didn't realize is while she would drink that bottle my body was used to feeding her at a certain time and all that milk had to go somewhere! Well that and the little turkey absolutely refused to take a bottle. It made for an interesting week for the babysitter when I lasted all but a week back at work when she was 3 months old.
This time around I carry my nursing cover everywhere and have no issue feeding Luke wherever I'm at. I don't even think twice about it. I feed him and keep going. Having 2 kids is busier than I ever dreamed and for me to not have to wash bottles, warm milk, prepare bottles etc. is one less thing I have to stop and think about. Leaving the house takes an act of God as it is ( and those who know me well know that pre kids I was still late to everything) now with 2 kids I'm just doing good to show up. I couldn't imagine having to prepare food to leave too! Also these two little sweet peas seem to suck out all my brain cells and I misplace my phone, keys, paci etc. multiple times a day there is no way I would always remember to bring a bottle. I love that for me breastfeeding is convenient once I got over my fear of feeding (covered) in public. Luke literally gets fed on the go sometimes. Sister needs me and he is eating so he just has to hold on tight and keep eating! I have also been fortunate neither one of my kids are marathon eaters. Usually 10 minutes and Luke is full and happy. I also love that it is (mostly) free! In order for me to stay home we have had to make a lot of cuts and not having to buy formula helps out a ton.
My advice to anyone who wants to breastfeed is to have a solid support system. Eric was skeptical at first since neither of us knew many people who breastfed. However, he was encouraging from day 1 and of course happily brings me the baby to feed (mostly I think because he doesn't have to get up with the baby, lol). When I was stressing over whether or not Claire was gaining enough he offered paying for a lactation consultant for a few "lessons". His theory the $35 a session they would charge was still cheaper than the cost of buying formula. Even though I thought I was "slowing" my friends down by having to stop and feed they have always assured me I'm not. Every one of them has been supportive and non judgmental as us Moms should be. Being a Mom is hard enough we all should be supporting each other and our parenting decisions knowing we are doing the best we can for our kids. Also don't be afraid to ask questions! If you know someone who has breastfed don't be afraid to talk to them about it. There is nothing like real life experience from others that can often guide us much better than reading a dozen books. Lastly those first 6 weeks are rough for many reasons. If you can survive breastfeeding past those first 6 weeks I promise the worst part is over. The baby starts sleeping a little longer, you aren't as sore and engorged, and your body starts regulating around the baby's schedule.
I am not one to take pictures of myself feeding my kid, but I will leave you with pictures of the fruits of my labor :-)