Ok… this one is personal for me. Breastfeeding. I absolutely love the idea of breastfeeding. The actual actions and process is a whole other story. Because of many different issues, I was never able to breastfeed either of my children. It’s one thing I’m still sad about. But why?
DISCLAIMER: There are many ways to feed your baby – I completely support all types of feeding! Some are due to medical issues, some are because of personal choice. I am just sharing my personal story. You do you, mama! Your baby is fed, well cared for and growing, so you are doing it right! The type of food that goes in them doesn’t have to come directly from your body and doesn’t necessarily go in to their mouths. I have always supported women’s rights to take care of their child how they see best. So please do not take this as me disavowing anything other than breastfeeding. It is far from it. This is just my personal story and hopes with my children.
So, why did I get sad when I couldn’t breastfeed my children…. Disappointment. In the hospital with my first, the pediatrician made it very clear his stance on breastfeeding to me. We had to formula feed her in the hospital because my supply was being stubborn and she was crying incessantly. He was so adamant that I do not continue bottle feeding my girl or I would never be able to breastfeed. This stuck with me. And in my vulnerable state, it really made me feel like a failure. I remember the second he left just sobbing, full on sobbing because I was failing my child already. Thankfully we had great nurses and they comforted me and let me know I was doing everything right.
My babes both had tongue ties and lip ties. My first wasn’t diagnosed until 6 weeks. It was corrected at 10 weeks and by then she loved her bottle. We tried for four months to breastfeed. By the end of our attempts she had such a strong nipple aversion that anytime she even got close she screamed! I was devastated! I was already suffering from postpartum depression and this just sent me in to a downward spiral of self-loathing and self-hatred. I would regularly think: How could I screw this up? It’s supposed to be completely natural. How am I such a failure at something that’s supposed to be easy? And the even more unreasonable… Why does my baby hate me? She won’t even come near me without screaming.
It was hard! I had started pumping early on and had a decent supply by this point. I decided to pump from then on out. There were early mornings I would be pumping alone in the dark and just crying. Just crying at the connection I was missing out on with my little girl. Eventually, with some time and support from my husband, I was able to accept our circumstances. I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her, but I was at least providing her with my breastmilk.
Pumping is hard! I typically had to pump longer since I wasn’t breastfeeding. I would usually pump for about 30 mins. As I wanted more sleep, I cut back how many times I pumped in a day and increased my time to 45 mins per pump. The “let-down” wouldn’t happen until about the 10 min mark (sometimes later) and because of my infrequent pumps, I had to make sure it was all out to avoid blockages. It was an involved process. Don’t think that women who pump just sit there. If this is their only form of extraction, it was a lot of mental preparation, physical massage and warmth. We couldn’t just lay back, because the liquid would be working against gravity to get in the bottles, so we have to lean forward – not comfortable.
The bonus to pumping, especially when I was able to sleep 8 hours between pumps, is that my husband could do night feeds while I slept! Or he could feed her during the day, or whenever I was too tired, or just needed some me-time. It was good for him too. He was able to connect with her while feeding her. I pumped for 11 months and with my oversupply, she was fed breastmilk exclusively for one year. After that she had formula, but was mainly eating solids and other drinks.
Then my son came. I thought, this is it! This is my chance to finally breastfeed. He latched ok, but after the first feed, he would start unlatching within a minute of latching on. He would not stay on for longer. Noticing this, and with my previous experience, I brought my pump with me to the hospital and started pumping. I still tried to breastfeed him, worked with the specialist at the hospital, and just couldn’t do anything. He lost a lot of weight for a newborn. The pediatrician almost didn’t let us leave the hospital, but since he knew we were going to our provider the next day, he let us go. He had a much more prominent tongue tie and with his major weight loss, we got him in for a revision right away. It didn’t seem to help his latching on and off. We saw a few IBCLCs and they noted that he wasn’t sucking as hard as he should.
If you have read any of my other posts, you would know that we discovered he had hypotonia (low tone). This affects every aspect of his body, including his mouth, jaw and neck muscles. After about 2 months of attempting, and failing for different reasons, we resorted to the bottle and me pumping again. Another disappointment. I wasn’t devastated like the first time, but I was still saddened to know that this wasn’t going to happen. We also knew he was my last (due to my age and health). It was bittersweet. This time around, I didn’t pump nearly as long, stopping at 8 months. After my over supply wore out, we used formula.
When you set it up in your mind how you want something to go and then it doesn’t go that way at all, you can be heart-broken. And I was! This was a personal goal I had and failed. But looking back, I’m so happy I was able to pump. This gave family members and close people in our life a chance to also feed our babes from a young age.
I salute all those mama’s out there who are able to breastfeed. I salute all the mama’s out there are are not breastfeeding, for whatever reason! Having a child and caring for that child is difficult. There’s so much information out there and it contradicts itself over and over again. Us mamas have to do the best we can with the information we’re given. This includes how to handle breastfeeding or not breastfeeding our child. DO NOT let anyone tell you that the way you’re choosing to feed your child is wrong!