When I first brought Nola home from the hospital, if you would have told me that I'd still be nursing her almost 14 months later, I would have slapped the shit out of you. I hated breastfeeding in the beginning. First of all, it hurt. I've mentioned it before but constantly latching Nola felt like someone had taken sandpaper to my nipples, rubbed them raw, and then sprayed them with lemon juice. It was agony. On top of that, I was worried about how much milk she was getting since I couldn't see it.
My mom and tons of other women told me about how much I'd eventually love nursing and how much I'd miss it when Nola weaned, but I just couldn't believe they were telling the truth. I'm I'm honest, I felt bullied into breastfeeding a bit. Almost everywhere I turned, it felt like it was assumed that I would breastfeed or at least that I'd try it out. When the beginning of my feeding journey started off rocky, and I even floated the idea of giving Nola formula to give myself a break, I essentially got told to keep at it because my breast milk was what was best for her. While it wasn't an easy experience for me, a year later I'm still nursing Nolie and I love it. I'm so protective of the time we spend together while she's feeding and I know I will actually miss it when it's over. But it was by no means easy for me--emotionally or physically.
I had an adequate supply, meaning I didn't produce more or less than what Nola needed. Over the course of the first couple of months, when my body was trying to regulate my supply, I used a Haakka or an Elvie Pump on whichever breast Nola wasn't nursing on at the time. I ate oatmeal every day, drank an obscene amount of water, tried every lactation tea, cookie, tincture, powder and pill on the market (to Shep's chagrin and no avail), and generally was tied to either my couch or my bed because Nolie wanted to eat every 45 minutes.
It wasn't until she was about 4-5 months old that I started to get a little more freedom. That's around when Nola started consistently sleeping through the night and napping regularly. I was finally getting more sleep, but the downside was that my supply took a hit because I wasn't removing milk overnight, the time when prolactin (one of the hormones that regulate milk production) levels are highest. Around then, I noticed I wasn't nursing Nola as frequently as before. Shep and I decided to start supplementing Nola with formula for her last feed of the night. Our desire was to free me up to have some time to not be attached to my kid and also to start building up a freezer stash since we were going on a long trip in a few months without our baby.
We introduced solid foods when we returned from our delayed honeymoon and I started to spent more time out of the house writing. At around 9 months, we were down to maybe 3-4 nursing sessions a day, down from 8-9. One day, Nola just refused to nurse and that was so traumatizing to me! I called a lactation consultant and she told me that I was experiencing a nursing strike. She worked with me to get my supply back up which meant adjusting my pumping schedule (hello again middle of the night pumping sessions) and increasing my consumption of foods that would help support my milk production (she recommended this book and I really think it helped).
Over the course of a week or two, Nola and I slowly found our rhythm again and I've learned that if I don't take care of myself, my body doesn't have the extra energy to make enough milk for nursing. When Nola turned 11 months she had one more nursing strike. I was ready to let go this time but as luck would have it, on her birthday, she decided to wanted to nurse again and has kept up with that ever since. Currently, we nurse in the morning around 7:30 a.m. I usually pump for about 15 minutes per side around 10:30 a.m. and then I let her nurse as much as she wants until bedtime around 7:30 p.m. I pump for the night around 10:30/11 p.m. and then start the whole process over the next day.
For a lot of people, this is extra as fuck! I made it a year--which is what doctors recommend if you're able--why would I continue to pump/feed as often if I don't have to? The answer to that is because I want to and because Nola asks for it. When she is ready to stop, I know she will let me know. But until then, I'm happy with our routine. I believe that fed is best and a healthy mama means a healthy baby. If in your case that means supplementing with formula earlier than you want to (like I did)...do that shit. If that means not nursing at all...I've got your back. I will also note this: I had the privilege of being able to stay home with Nola for her first year of life and that greatly extended my ability to keep my supply up to feed her.
Ultimately, try not to compare your journey to any one else's. I remember looking at Instagram photos of moms with freezers full of breastmilk and feeling like such a failure because I couldn't produce that much milk and because sometimes I supplemented with formula. Mom guilt is bullshit. We're all doing our best but when you're in the moment, especially when it comes to feeding your baby, it's so hard not to play the comparison game. The truth is, no matter how you choose to feed your baby, you're already so amazing. The best mama for your baby is YOU.
You got this mama!