Breastfeeding and a Mother's Intuition

 Sometimes all the breastfeeding advice in the world can't compete with maternal instinct.

Words by Pamela Hodges

I didn’t want to breastfeed – or at least that’s what I remember telling my mom when my sister was pregnant. 

Three years later, I found myself pregnant and looking at the world through a new lens. I decided to give breastfeeding a try because it felt like the right (and natural) thing to do. I honestly didn’t think I would like it and gave myself permission to move to formula if breastfeeding wasn’t a fit for us.

My son was born and he latched with no problems in the hospital. At least, I thought there was no problem. The lactation consultant, however, felt that his latch was wrong and removed him from the breast (where he was content) to show me the “right way” for him to latch. This resulted in a crying baby and an upset mother. I listened to her advice, but followed my intuition instead and never tried to fix what came naturally for my son.

It was about a couple days after coming home from the hospital when I realized that breastfeeding mattered more to me than I thought. My son was having a hard time latching, which was making him and me both upset. My husband offered to make up a bottle (feeding our son was the top priority after all) and I refused. 

I took my son to a room where it was just the two of us and read through the packet I had received in the hospital. This provided me with some options to try and my body began to relax some. I eventually moved us to the bed and within a short while, we figured out the whole latching thing together. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for as long as I could. 

I honestly thought that night would be the toughest part of breastfeeding. It felt like such a hurdle to jump over and things smoothed out quite a bit after that. It seemed like we had smooth sailing ahead.

My son was around four months old when we encountered our biggest breastfeeding obstacle. My son’s reflux suddenly worsened and he was more upset than ever. We had dealt with excessive spit up and restless nights since he was born, but our pediatrician always brushed it off because he was still gaining weight. 

When his reflux worsened and he started to lose a bit of weight, our pediatrician decided to put him on reflux meds. This didn’t quite feel right and I once again found myself following my intuition. I researched reflux and causes like crazy during those sleepless nights tending to my son. I learned that food intolerances can play a huge role in reflux. 

I had tried removing dairy from my diet when he was one year old and it hadn’t helped at all. I was unable to handle dairy as baby, which is why I tried removing it.  I was willing to try anything to help my son, though, and once again removed dairy from my diet. We saw some improvement, but not enough to justify that dairy alone was the problem.

It was after my umpteenth spit up shower that the pieces started to click and I identified the true culprit of my son’s reflux – intolerance to soy. I had been reading about the connection between dairy and soy, but I didn’t realize that soy was in just about everything until I started looking at packages and thought back to the two cases of extreme throw up that we had encountered on days that we had given my son soy formula to encourage bottle feeding. 

I set out on a new mission and completely removed dairy and soy from my diet. This was not an easy undertaking. Grocery trips took longer as I read every label in the store. Dinner became a challenge as we completely revamped the way we ate. 

It was well worth it, though, when my son’s mood, spit up, and sleeping habits improved with each passing day. He went from a fussy baby that rarely slept to a happy baby that people loved to stop and say hi to while we were out and about. 

Now, at sixteen months, we’re slowly working towards weaning from breastfeeding. It’s not an easy journey but we’re taking it slow and doing what feels right. My son is able to eat dairy and most soy now, which makes meal planning and grocery shopping a bit easier. 

We’re expecting our second baby in November and I’m planning to breastfeed once again. I’m going in with the same mindset, though – if it’s not working out for the baby or me, then we’ll switch to formula. After all, meeting my baby’s basic needs is the most important thing on my list.  

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Pamela Hodges is a military spouse and blogger who currently lives in Michigan with her husband, one year old son, and two dogs. She is the voice behind Hodge Podge Moments and The Coastie Couple. Before becoming a mother, she was a teacher who loved showing kids that learning could be fun. She now shares that love of learning with her own son and the rest of the world through her new blog, Little Learning Moments.