I always dreamed of breastfeeding my babies, even before I was pregnant. Of course, I didn't realize what a challenge that could be until the time came to actually do it. Despite great hurdles and a dry spell or two, I managed to exclusively breastfeed my first baby for nine months. It didn't exactly go as planned, but I did it, and I did it with just one boob.
It wasn't by choice. And it also wasn't because I was missing a breast.
It all started with one simple question from my mother-in-law at the time. I was blissfully feeding my baby on a rocking chair when she offhandedly asked: “Are you sure you have enough milk?”
Wait. What!? I froze.
I suddenly felt nauseous and insecure. Why was she asking me that? I had read about breastfeeding anxiety, and how it can make your milk supply dry up in a flash.
“Yes,” I mumbled. “She's thriving. The doctor thinks she's doing fine.”
She arched her eyebrows as if in disbelief.
In the next couple of days, during my stay at her place for my baby’s christening, every time the baby whimpered, cried or woke up from her nap, her grandmother would once again ask: “Are you sure you have enough milk? I don't know, I mean, she's crying (or sniffling, or whimpering, or …).”
And guess what. A couple of days later, I woke up to dried-up boobs. She’d called it! I finally did not have enough milk! I think I cried louder than my baby did.
Once back at home, in different city, I took to the internet and found answers to my breastfeeding questions. Turns out any source of stress, including the fact that someone questions your ability to breastfeed, can cause a dry spell. What to do?
I pumped my breasts with questionable results. I let my baby latch on and suckle even though little milk was available to her. I stopped taking my mother-in-law's calls for a bit. And I cried some more.
But I pushed through it, giving myself a reasonable time to start supplementing my baby's diet with formula if need be. I relaxed, meditated, drank lots of fluids. My Spanish doctor even recommended I drink non-alcoholic beer to increase my milk supply!
Within a week, I had recovered my full milk supply and then some. But … surprise! My milk flow only returned fully in one breast!
And so for the next nine months, right until I weaned my baby, I sported one gigantic boob and one rather small one. At first I felt awkward and a bit like a failure. Why in the world had I allowed my mother-in-law to question my milk supply? And how did I let it get to me like that?
My doctor assured me I had plenty of milk and explained that sometimes one breast makes up for any lack in the other. She added that I was very capable of exclusively breastfeeding my baby with only one breast.
And that’s exactly what I did!
My instinct told me to keep on trying with the small boob, but who was I kidding? Only one breast was doing its job. And a rather good one at that.
To my relief, as I weaned my daughter, the big boob deflated and more or less matched the other in size (we always have one that is slightly smaller, anyway). When I had my second baby, there was no dry spell. I guess I was better prepared mentally and emotionally. I successfully breastfed my little one with both breasts, which remained the same size—huge—from beginning to end.
The one-boob breastfeeding experience taught me that there really is no right or wrong way to breastfeed, as long as the baby is thriving. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!