I have to be totally honest about this. Before I had my daughter, I really didn’t care about breastfeeding, but I took the class and went through the motions with the plastic baby and took copious notes in class and thought to myself, I am not going to to get worried about this because I really don’t know what is going to happen, it’s different for everyone, and right now I am just freaking out about the fact that with every childbirthing class, this whole idea of A LIFE YOU ARE BRINGING INTO THE WORLD IS REALLY NOT JUST AN IDEA BUT A PERSON WHO WILL CRY AND SLEEP AND EAT IS ACTUALLY going to be here and soon!!!!
So I told myself, it’s a natural thing, but I don’t know if she will or won’t so I am not going to worry about it, because until she is here, we don’t know how things will go.
So I reiterate, I didn’t care about breastfeeding. That is until they told me just hours after she was born that we had to supplement with formula because my milk had not fully come in yet. So less than 24 hours as a mom, and I already sucked at it. Totally irrational? yes. How I felt? yes.
So I sat in the hospital bed and tired and sleepy and miserable. I started to cry because the most “natural” thing in the world, wasn’t happening. She was losing weight so it was pretty urgent for us to supplement, I kept telling myself it was ridiculous to be so upset about something that just 24 hours ago I hadn’t cared about at all.
It is maddening and frustrating to have such mercurial mood swings but hey, that is hormones for you. So we supplemented that first night, and I used the nipple shield and kept trying. The lactation consultants I had were pushy and in a hurry and not ONE of them told me it was normal to struggle, they were very matter of fact about how we had to keep trying and even though I was exhausted and so frustrated I wanted to scream, I kept trying because I felt guilty for not being able to nurse my child.
She was fussy and hated it, and never fully latched and the nipple shields (helps to shape your breast to make it easier for the baby to eat) helped a little, but it hurt and it was not fun for either of us so I started to pump (for those that don’t know, this is a machine that simulates what your baby would do and gathers milk from you so you can feed a baby through a bottle but still give them your milk) and made the decision, okay, she is still getting my milk and nursing is just so frustrating for us both, I am going to just pump, I mean it’s not going to hurt anything if I do that so I made the decision to stop trying to nurse. I called my mom to talk to her about it, and she said, “Who is her Mom?” I said, “Me” and she said, “right.. so when her life is hard or there is something that is challenging are you going to let her give up?” I said, “No”.. there was a long silence on the line, and I realized what my Mom was saying was that I needed to keep trying so I did.
So we got home from the hospital and tried every position and it still wasn’t clicking. Occasionally there would be a glimmer of hope and we would have a good session (I went back and looked at the “milk logs” and I celebrated when she nursed continuously for 7 minutes or more, and then we would have one of those sessions where she was fussy and wouldn’t feed. Then a good session, then a bad one.. So it was still hard, it still hurt, and it sure didn’t feel like a “bonding experience”. We kept going, and about 20 days after she was born, my milk supply started to lessen so when I pumped, I wasn’t getting as much, of course I started to worry, which is actually a factor in milk reduction, so let me get this straight, worry about not enough milk can cause you to produce less milk? Are you kidding me?!
It’s not bad enough the milk isn’t here, now that I am worried about it, it actually makes it worse not better? Come on, give me a break!! So I reached out to my friends and fellow mothers and asked them what they did and how they coped. Several of them were kind enough to say, ‘It’s not you, it’s really freaking hard!” “I gave up after the first day, it was pissing her off, and pissing me off and it just wasn’t worth it”- ” I couldn’t nurse, and I have always felt bad about it” , “It took a while but we finally found our groove” -“Keep trying, it’s super hard and frustrating and painful and know that WHATEVER you decide is right for you and your family” so I persisted, though very frustrated and really ready to give up.
Thankfully, we have a great pediatrician who suggested we get a lactation consultant, I had not considered that because it reminded me of the ones we had in the hospital who were so off-putting and I HATED to admit that I NEEDED help. Why? Why? Why? Why do we have such high expectations for ourselves and have so much pride that we can’t say, “I don’t know what I am doing, please give me advice!” or you know, admit you need help and call a professional? – I am lucky enough to have some very kind friends (You know who you are) who put up with my constant texts and phone calls in those early days- So what made me finally give up and admit I needed help? My daughter.
October 30, 2016 11:47 p.m. She is inconsolable, wailing and will not stop crying, no matter what I do, she will not stop crying, I fed her (botched attempts at nursing (AGAIN) and changed her and walked her up and down the floor, I have rocked her and I have done everything under the sun to try to calm her down and she just will not settle. I put her down in the crib and walked away because I could not take it any more. Funny thing, when I put her down and walked away, she fell asleep…I passed out on the air mattress we had in her room from sheer relief. When I woke up the next day (well-rested and clear-headed for the first time in many days), I was going to call a lactation consultant, i didn’t care what it cost but I was going to get some help and if they couldn’t help, I was going to give up on breastfeeding once and for all because it was so heartbreaking for me to fail repeatedly at something so basic.
To Jeremy’s credit, when I mentioned it, he was extremely supportive and said, let’s make sure I am here so I can get some tips on how to help you because it was clear to him how much this meant to me. So I had to wait a few days for the consultant to come see me, but when she did, My God, so much relief! She weighed Vivienne before I attempted to feed her, and then weighed her after so we could gauge how much she was getting in each feeding, She took pictures of the proper positioning, she showed me exactly what to do and why what I had been doing was not working. All the while restoring my sanity by saying things like, “It’s normal to struggle.” – “It’s not innately a skill” – She sat with me for 4 hours and with every passing minute I was reassured that this could work and I could do this basic thing of feeding my child. I am not going to say that it got better overnight because it did NOT, It took a solid three weeks of trying all the different positions and instructions and then finally, finally GOD, FINALLY, we got a great latch and then another and then another, and then it was like we had always been doing this nursing thing.
Time is also an amazing thing, today marks 4 months of consistent nursing and a mix of formula for our child and she is thriving, healthy and happy.
I rarely post personal things, and to me, this is intimate and personal, but if my experience can help even ONE new mom feel better, it’s worth me being vulnerable about my experience.
I was inspired by something I saw online depicting how breastfeeding is hard and that it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, despite what movies and television try to tell you. It goes into some detail about how many mothers can’t nurse and how many supplement with formula and how much judgment they get from society, other mothers, not to mention the judgment we put on ourselves. So please, let’s all agree to stop judging each other and let’s go one further, let’s encourage each other to not judge ourselves.
If you breastfeed exclusively, that’s awesome. If you feed your baby with formula, equally great, I am not here to judge, or say one way is better than another. Only YOU can decide what works for you and YOUR child. I am here to support your right to parent in whatever way YOU see fit.I made my choice and I am happy with it.
What you do for your family and your body is YOUR choice.
Think about it…