I wanted to breastfeed. No, I was going to breastfeed. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t breastfeed my baby. Women who didn’t breastfeed weren’t trying hard enough or selfishly quit because they needed alone time. Didn’t they know when you got pregnant you gave up your body for at least the next 2 years? Keep reading; I promise I am no longer as self-righteous and naïve as these first sentences lead you to believe.
It was easy for me to be certain of all of this. After all, only 1-5% of women cannot breastfeed. That is what all of my research said. Let me tell you, there is a whole slew of reasons someone is unable to breastfeed their baby. I would never be able to list them all but some of these include nausea during let down, tongue ties, milk production problems, stress, and pain. Not to mention women who plain don’t want to breastfeed. As I struggled to breastfeed I judged myself, I thought other people were judging me and I was stressed to the max. Here is the story of how I came to be an enlightened Fed is Best advocate.
Hailey arrived on her due date. My delivery went better than I expected and we took our baby girl home within hours of her arrival. She didn’t latch in the hospital but I had read all the books and assumed she was tired and I would get her to latch that evening. I did not. My midwife arrived the next morning around 11 am and spend hours with me trying to get Hailey to latch. She determined she had a posterior tongue tie and clipped it for us. She still didn’t latch. I was given a nipple shield which helped a little. We continued that way for about 5 days. On day 5 the scale came out and she was weighed for the first time since delivery. She had lost quite a bit of weight – 11% of her birth weight. This wasn’t alarming but needed to be watched. She was weighed 2 days later and still had not gained what she should have. We determined she was not draining the nipple shield and was not effectively nursing. I started pumping and syringe feeding her. A lot of my friends and family told me not to worry, “Some babies don’t gain weight as fast. Keep doing what you’re doing”. So we continued. I started seeing a lactation consultant and taking the highest dose of Domperidone as well as using herbs that were supposed to help my supply. As my baby wasn’t draining the breast my supply was dwindling. Nothing I did was helping. I was pumping every two hours and power pumping at least once a day. I was trying to drink and eat enough as I had heard that can affect supply (According to Breastfeeding Made Easy by Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC FILCA and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett Ph.D. IBCLC – this is not true). As we continued down our breastfeeding/pumping road I joined Facebook groups and scoured the internet for help. I contacted Le Leche League, I went to multiple lactation consultants and was taking Hailey for daily chiropractor adjustments and craniosacral therapy. I was stressed. It was the middle of winter and we had multiple appointments per day plus I had a strict pumping schedule. Did I mention I was stressed? My husband worked out of town at the time so I was solo-parenting a brand new baby. But I pressed on.
We were at the midwives office one day. I was crying about how things were going. I just wanted to breastfeed my baby and I mentioned that I wanted to know if it was me or her. My midwife mentioned one of the other midwives was a seasoned mother having breastfed a couple kids and was still nursing her youngest. Would I let her try to feed Hailey (who was screaming because she was hungry and I had forgotten the shield)? I said yes without hesitation. Yes please have her try. Thankfully, for my mental health, she wasn’t able to get Hailey latched either but hand expressed some milk to tide her over.
It was determined that Hailey’s tongue tie may not have been clipped enough and she also appeared to have a lip tie which prevented her from flanging her top lip out. She even struggled to latch on to the bottle nipple. It was suggested that I contact a dentist who would be able to laser the ties and get a “cleaner” cut. We spent $500 on this procedure which I still feel a lot of guilt about because it didn’t work. I put my baby through the pain of the procedure, the pain of sweeping the cuts to ensure they didn’t grow back and probably traumatized her for life. I was going to breastfeed this baby if it killed me.
After three months of trying everything I could think of or find on the internet; following all of the advice from all of the medical professionals helping us; I realized I was not going to breastfeed. But she was going to get breastmilk! I would pump. And I did pump for another 2 months. I was supplementing with formula as my supply never adjusted to where it should have been. When Hailey was 5 months old she was admitted to the hospital after a bout of the stomach flu. She wasn’t keeping anything down and got dehydrated. After 4 hours with a dry diaper, I took her to the children’s hospital. I did not bring my pump. We were admitted for 5 days. I could have asked for a breast pump but I was more concerned about Hailey and I was so incredibly sick of pumping. The first morning I was a little engorged but released a little pressure through hand expressing. The second day I leaked a little bit and by the third day, there was no milk left. Suddenly I panicked. Did I do the right thing? Some breastmilk was probably better than no breastmilk? What had I done? Could I get it back?
I wish I could tell you after my milk dried up I never looked back. But I was consumed with guilt for months and months. I felt selfish. Every time the topic of breastfeeding came up in my life I recoiled from the guilt. Finally, during a Mama Coach class, we were talking to a nutritionist who said the words I was longing to hear, “Formula is not bad for babies. It is another choice for proper nutrition”. Like music to my ears. I wasn’t feeding my baby cheeseburgers instead of salad. I was feeding her a product that though man-made had ALL the nutritional requirements she needs.
If you are struggling to breastfeed (or plain don’t want to for any reason), please remember formula is a perfectly healthy alternative and gives your baby all the nutrition they need.
Sometimes I still feel like a lesser mom. Like there is a part of motherhood, a club of “Breastfeeders”, that I am not a part of. Sometimes the breastfeeding meme’s make my heart ache for that closeness, that bond. But I know inside my head that I did the best I could. I tried to overcome all the obstacles and had to make the choice that was better for my family and my baby. We were finally able to leave the house and I didn’t have to drag that dang pump with me.
I really wanted to destroy the pump with a baseball bat, but I thought… If we ever have another baby I may need it again.