In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August), I thought I would share my story.
I feel that with all the information moms–to–be are given prior to the birth of their babies, there is very little truth about breastfeeding, at least not unless you dig into personal blog sites and real life stories. Let me tell you this. Breast feeding is HARD. Maybe not for everyone, but for a very large number of women. It’s not something that always comes naturally. Not all boobs are built the same (Surprise!) and not all babies are built the same (Even bigger surprise!)
So here’s my story:
The first time I was able to hold and attempt to feed my baby was a very happy moment for me. It felt so natural and so right, until a stranger came in and essentially manhandled me so that baby could latch properly. I guess I needed that though. Apart from one pre-natal breastfeeding class, I had no idea what I was doing and apparently I was doing it wrong.
I was lucky enough to have a lactation consultant at the hospital that paid me a visit and gave me some great tips. She also informed me that unfortunately I didn’t have the best anatomy for breastfeeding and that Little Love had a small mouth and was a lazy eater. So add all that together and we were in for a rough ride. And then she left. And I was alone.
As I mentioned here– breastfeeding hurts. I cried and I bled. I wanted so desperately to get to the hospital lactation class but never made it because ironically I was waiting for the nurse to come in and treat my bleeding nipples. I would highly recommend nipple shields – If not for every feed, then just for those times when the pain is too much and you need a feed or two to recover.
Once we got home, breastfeeding was still a hot issue for us. Our first doctor’s appointment told us that although Little Love was a chunker, she needed to be eating more she also had a minor tongue tie which was a concern but not enough to get it clipped. I was instructed to nurse and then bottle feed the last few ounces. Which meant I had to nurse and then pump, and bottle feed while I was pumping. Or nurse and then bottle feed and while baby was sleeping I pumped. It sucked. I was exhausted and stressed. The fear that your baby is not getting enough food is real.
Eventually it got easier, I don’t know when and I don’t know how but we figured it out. The pain got less and the crying reduced. Although there were still often tears during those midnight feedings when you feel like you are probably the only person in the world that has to be awake and sitting in the dark at this ungodly hour. I’ve said this before.
It got easier, until I started work. Another fact that I was not told was that I should start pumping WAY before I did, in preparation for going back to work. I had heard that you may not get as much from pumping as baby gets from nursing but I didn’t realize what a different that was. I immediately started having supply issues. I tried the teas, I tried the cookies, and I tried watching videos of my darling child while pumping. It didn’t do enough to relieve my stress. Being back at work, juggling meetings around pumping sessions, some which lasted 40 minutes just to get enough to barely cover the next day’s feeds.
Eventually after some strong words from multiple people I started to supplement with formula… GASP. I know, I know, breast is best. But what about when it’s not. What about when baby is not getting enough food and mom is not getting enough sleep because the few hours that she is able to sleep she’s either pumping or too stressed to sleep?
I kept pumping. I hated every second, but I kept it up as long as I could. Little Love got some breast milk bottles and some formula bottles. And she was OK. And I was OK. And then she got more formula bottles and less breast milk bottles and she was still OK. And then one day I just said I’m done. No more pumping. I wanted to celebrate and have a pump burning party but then I thought that would be wasteful and we may need that dreaded machine in the future. But I did have a moment of silence when I removed the pumping sessions from my work calendar and my world opened up. OMG I have so much time! To work, to eat, to not be attached to a machine.
I still nursed. In the mornings and before bed, and I treasured that time. We made it to 12 months. About 9 months longer that I ever thought possible. But that was my goal and we made it. We did not do it exclusively and the last month or so it was very sporadic but we did it. Thanks to formula I had the mental capacity to continue to have the treasured nursing moments without the stress.
I ask this of you. Please don’t ever assume that everyone can breastfeed. Please don’t judge when babies are getting formula. You don’t know everyone’s story and unless you have the nerve to ask and the capacity to care then the soapbox is not yours to stand on.