One of the biggest challenges of raising babies and children is keeping them fed and happy. Almost the minute a baby is born, even before the difficulty of labor and childbirth is entirely over, a newborn should be introduced to the world of breastfeeding, if the mother chooses to breastfeed.

When I was younger I had no idea what breastfeeding entailed. I thought, since it is the natural choice for feeding a baby, that breastfeeding just came naturally to infant and mother and that it was easy and convenient to do. When I was expecting my first baby I was given information on breast feeding and discussed it with my doctor. Still, I was not prepared for the actuality of the situation when the day finally arrived.

My baby boy wouldn’t latch on properly and when he did he promptly fell asleep within a minute. Needless to say, it took us several weeks to come to an understanding– I had to be available for feeding 24/7 and he got to eat whenever he decided to. By the time he was six weeks old or so we had a pretty good feeding schedule and he was getting to be a pro at the whole idea.

However, something else that I had not been prepared for was the discomfort that I felt. Not all new mothers experience pain from breastfeeding their babies, but with my first I had such tremendous pain sometimes that I would just sit and cry while my baby was eating. I wasn’t about to quit, because I know how good it is for the baby, but it definitely was not the sweet bonding experience that I had always thought it would be. It hurt 90% of the time until we were finally done breastfeeding nine months later.

My second baby was different. He latched on well right after he was born, and aside from some minor ups and downs through the months ahead it was a much better experience. Even though I didn’t think I was doing anything different I didn’t have the same pain that I did with my first… luckily!

Another challenge that I was not prepared for when I started breastfeeding my baby was the milk supply and demand issue. Again, I’ve heard stories that some women are challenged with too much breastmilk, so they have to express some before or after nursing the baby in order to be comfortable. Others seem to have just enough and can feed “on demand”.

My problem was a lack of available milk, though I tried everything that the lactation consultant and my doctor and baby’s pediatrician recommended to solve the problem. I changed my eating habits to include more fat, I didn’t exercise because I’d heard that that can diminish milk supply soon after childbirth, I pumped regularly to induce milk let down… and still I would only have barely enough to satisfy my babies.

I really wanted to breastfeed my children until they reached one year old. I started both boys on rice cereal and introduced fruits and vegetables between 4 and 5 months, when my doctor recommended because the babies weren’t gaining enough weight on breast milk alone. Even with solids and breast milk I still had to supplement with two or three ounces of formula once a day to satiate my boys’ appetites.

By the time my first was nine months old he’d had it with the frustration of trying to eat from me so we quit cold turkey. I didn’t even get engorged after that– that’s how little milk my body was producing. With my second baby we made it to ten months and then it just made him calmer and happier to have a bottle instead of breastfeed. I’m hoping that this next baby will be a little less challenging and that I can experience the “too much” problem instead. I always hated feeling like I couldn’t feed my children what they needed to grow and develop and be comfortable. It was definitely not what I was expecting when I decided to breastfeed my babies.

Of course, now that my boys are toddlers, the challenge of feeding them has just changed, it hasn’t gone away. Now it’s a matter of getting enough healthy options on the table in front of them and actually getting it into their tummies. I don’t have particularly picky eaters, but still it’s hard to get nutritious meals and snacks into them so they keep a strong immune system and have plenty of energy for playing hard like boys do.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the challenge of feeding children. Let me know what solutions you’ve found by adding your stories, suggestions and comments.

Check out this hilarious video too– this cute baby says it all with his expressions.