*Please note that I am not for or against breast feeding. I am not for or against formula. I am FOR a Happy, relaxed, Mom.
When I was pregnant with my first child I did a lot of the things I assumed I would do. I registered for receiving blankets and onesies, I picked out cute bedding for the crib, I took the childbirth class and I endlessly looked through baby name books looking for the perfect name. But I didn’t take a breastfeeding class because I figured, well, breastfeeding is natural. The milk comes from my body, everyone does it, how hard can it be?
Clearly, I didn’t have a clue. Breastfeeding as natural and easy as it seems was anything BUT natural and easy for me. In fact, sadly, I would even say it sucked a lot of the joy of having my first child right out of me.
As soon as #1 was born, the nurse tried to latch him onto my breast. It took A LONG time. When he finally did, it seemed to kind of work but not really. After 30 minutes of sucking, I took a break. 5 minutes later he started screaming. This is how the first two days of our lives together were spent. Him “sucking” and then screaming for more.
I distinctly remember one of my dear friends visiting and asking so innocently, “how’s it going?!” I burst into tears.
“Becky, all he does is scream after he nurses. It takes forever to get him to latch. I’ve tried all the tricks. I’ve met with the lactation consultant 4 times. It isn’t working!”
A successful breast feeder, she tried to help with my technique. Of course #1 still didn’t latch. “It will get better. It will get easier” she assured me. I wasn’t so sure.
My maternal instinct that breastfeeding wasn’t working was right. When we went to be discharged my dear sweet boy was 16% below birth weight. 16%. They aren’t supposed to be more than 10%. We were sent home with strict instructions of waking him every 90 minutes to nurse for 45 minutes. You do the math. I got no sleep that first night.
That first night was miserable. Not just because I didn’t sleep but because I was truly so sleep deprived after three days of this that when my husband handed me my son to nurse I DROPPED him. Luckily daddy caught him. Will. Never. Forget. That. Moment.
The next day we headed to our first pediatrician’s appointment. #1 was now 17% under birth weight. I was starving my son despite all my best efforts. My pediatrician took one look at me and said:
“You have two options. Give him formula until the breastfeeding works better or go see a lactation consultant right now.”
I turned to my husband, in tears, AGAIN.
“Formula? I can’t give him formula. I just can’t. I would be such an awful mom. I am supposed to breastfeed. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this??”
Luckily the lactation consultant had 1 appointment left that day. We RACED to her office desperate to find the answer to keeping our son off formula, desperate to find the holy grail to Breastfeeding.
This is what we learned. I had milk. PLENTY of it. It fact, I was making milk for triplets. But Dear #1’s mouth was formed in a way making it extremely difficult for him to latch. Doable, but difficult. It was common but something that most children don’t outgrow until 9-12 months. We were instructed to do the following to keep milk up while he kept practicing latching.
Nurse for 20 minutes on each side. Bottle feed expressed breast milk. Pump for 15 minutes. Clean breast pump parts.
Total time for this regimine if you add in latching and burping? 1 hour and 30 minutes. That left 30 minutes. 30 minutes. Before I was to repeat the process.
I did this for 2 weeks. In other words, I was to only sleep 30 minutes at a shot for two weeks. Finally #1 was back to birth weight. We did it! I felt victorious. Kind of. Because it wasn’t the breastfeeding that was working, it was the bottled breast milk that was helping him to thrive. Subsequent meetings with the lactation consultant showed that in my 40 minutes of nursing, #1 still wasn’t improving on his intake.
I felt like a failure. And I felt exhausted, angry, resentful, sad, and hopeless. How were other mom’s able to breastfeed so naturally? What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with my son? How could I possible keep this up? This ISN’T the way I am supposed to feel with my newborn son. I am supposed to be all giddy and happy and over the moon in love.
Yeah, I was anything but giddy. I was miserable. And that was just me. What about my son? I had no doubt that at a mere few days, when he was still starving, that he felt my anxiety, my stress. And that at a mere few weeks, that he still felt my anxiety and more so my resentment. I was giving him breastmilk laced with anger. Probably not the best thing for him after all.
Sure I had moments of pure bliss those first few weeks when I wasn’t angry. Like watching him sleep. Like staring into his eyes when bottle feeding and thinking “wow, this beautiful child is mine. All mine.” Like feeling his little fingers curl around mine while bottle feeding. Notice the trend?
And I had LOTS of moments of not bliss, all tied to breastfeeding. Like when I tried to latch him on and it took 15 minutes and still when he finally did it hurt. Like. Hell. In fact one day it hurt so badly that I literally, and I mean literally, kicked the coffee table across the room while swearing. Maybe it wasn’t the act of breastfeeding that hurt. Maybe it was the embarrassment that I couldn’t breastfeed that hurt. Maybe it was the sense of defeat that hurt. Maybe it was the feeling that I was miserable and not enjoying one ounce of motherhood.
You see, there was SO MUCH PRESSURE to breastfeed, to be successful at breastfeeding, to keep trying despite the challenges because that is what “good moms” do, that it made me hurt inside. Because I was trying my darndest to be a good mom and I didn’t feel like one. Not the best way to start mommyhood.
When I kicked that coffee table when #1 was 4 weeks a light bulb went off.
This was NOT for me. I was not happy. I was not enjoying this precious time with my son because breastfeeding simply wasn’t working for us. That latch that sent the coffee table flying was the last time #1 “latched.”
I pumped exclusively for the next 6 months and bottled fed breast milk and then formula.
And guess what? Not only did he turn out okay, but he turned out better than okay. And guess what else? The minute I decided that I was done breastfeeding, I actually starting loving my son more AND bonded with him more. The minute I decided to stop nursing, I felt alive. I felt more in love with my child than I had in weeks. I began smiling and laughing and loving so much more. Because I wasn’t filled with anger and resentment at my son that we couldn’t nurse.
Trying to breastfeed was a horrific experience for me. Truly. But it taught me the most invaluable lesson ever a lesson that doesn’t just tie to breastfeeding.
Happy mom, happy baby.
Happy mom, happy baby.
The Orange Rhino
“I can’t yell for 365 days…but I can still pick my nose!”
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