I was super prepared. I had it all planned and organized. I would breastfeed until I saw that first tooth come in, and then it was bye-bye boobie. But, there was a different plan in store for me, one that involved blisters, agonizing pain, and harsh guilt inducing lectures from nurses frequently visiting my rapidly weight dropping newborn.
At first, everything went beautifully. He was born, I latched him within the first thirty minutes and we just clicked. I was like okay what’s all the fuss about that was a piece of cake. Then in came a nurse fresh into her shift took one look and said “oh no no that’s all wrong you’re going to need a nipple shield” and sent my husband off to find the first of many breast feeding aid contraptions we would soon be on the quest for. He came back with it and she opened the package handed it to me and said “Here use this.” I tentatively asked “Um doesn’t it need to be washed and boiled first.” She rolled her eyes and responded “No, just run it under some hot water it’s fine, it’s new out the package.” My gut told me this wasn’t right but my exhausted and aching self just went with it anyways. My son made a face and scowled at his first introduction to plastic within an hour his life. But we carried on that way but it wasn’t going quite as smoothly anymore.
He nursed on and off for a few hours then it was time to call in the family. We held off on the phone calls because we wanted just a short while to sink into our new roles and absorb the chaos that had just ensued. Then came the slew of visitors into the late hours of the night and my son slept for hours but everytime I would ask if I should be doing a feed again the rotation of visiting nurses would say “Oh no newborns usually go about a period of six hours without eating. Their tummies are tiny yet.” Whether that was right or wrong I don’t know but I do know that the more I had tried in that first 24 hours the better we would’ve gotten at it as a pair, onlookers present or not.
A few days and several frustrating nursing sessions later we arrived home to a house full of visitors and I sat there exposed and bare to people I had only met a handful of times because our room was much too warm for me to throw a blanket over us to cover up. Not to mention it takes time to get the baby latched on properly so fiddling with trying to keep yourself covered and keeping the baby on and AWAKE was a real struggle.
The next week was horrible. We had been told he was near dehydrated and loosing too much weight so we had to really put him on a strict around the clock feeding schedule to get his weight up. Problem was about two minutes in to the feed he would fall fast asleep all snuggled up and cozy. The nurses told me to wake him with a cold damp cloth and keep on feeding. So one feed would blend in to the next and soon all that was left was a extremely skinny baby and one exhausted and desperate new mother.
We took him to the doctors for his two week checkup and he said plain and simple “stop all this nonsense. Formula is not rat poison. Pumping doesn’t make you any less of a good mother. Take a break, get his weight up, and end this exhausting madness.” And just like that I felt like I had been released from my inner turmoil and battle of breastfeeding hell.
I’ll admit it to you all breastfeeding was absolute torture to me. I shudder at the memory. Seeing my “breast friend” pillow makes me cringe as I remember the days I was pretty much a zombie sitting uncomfortably on our rocking chair torturing the poor child to keep on nursing. And then came our final nurse visit at home and she said “you don’t have enough milk. He’s just been using you as a pacifier for hours.” I glared at her wondering why it hadn’t dawned on her before to let me in on this possibility.
Once it became common knowledge in my family that I had low milk supply came the countless suggestions of how to get it up. Well if you REALLY love your child it will just come in. Lay him on your chest and just be patient. DON’T give the bottle. Yeah, okay, tell that to the kid who had now learned the joys of easy flowing milk from our bottle feeding sessions. He was having four oz from the bottle after “nursing” with me for fourty minutes. Clearly he was getting close to nothing from me. But it made no sense to me since he was flourishing in those first few days and I absolutely knew the colostrum was there at that time, so why no milk?
I don’t think one single factor can be pinpointed for why those first few weeks turned out to be absolutely horrendously the exact opposite of the picture perfect quiet and serene moments I had envisioned for my new little family. Instead I had a revolving bedroom door, several embarassing moments, and a whole lot of family dynamics that needed sorting out as we all adjusted to the changes that a new baby brings.
This isn’t a post to complain or make you all feel sorry for me or my son. All I felt needed to be said is that sometimes things don’t work out how you expect them to. But all that matters is you try your absolute best and shut out any external influences and just do what is best for your child.
Ultimately I ended up committing to a full time pumping schedule (and still am to date). What you got to know about exclusive pumping is that you are now running on two schedules. You have to express milk the same amount of times and at the same intervals as the baby’s feeds. So for us that was every 3 hours around the clock. That means we were doing an hour to two hour long bottle feeds (my baby isn’t a very enthusiastic eater) and then I would have to pump afterwards – even at night, even when the baby was asleep. That was the toughest. Peeling myself out of bed when I knew I technically did not have to. But I did it. I stuck to it no matter how hard it got. Because I wanted what was best for my child.
Did that matter to anyone though? Did that stop them from passing judgement? No. Try explaining to your 80 year old grandmother that the baby IS being fed my own milk I just require a machine to excrete it because he just stopped latching after one too many bottle feeds. Try explaining to people that it wasn’t a easy choice, perhaps not a choice at all to go this route. And yes I cared about losing that bond. There is no better feeling of completeness of knowing you are nourishing your child directly from your body as he lovingly gazes up at you.
Bottle feeding is not the lazy or easy way out. It is double the work, it is hard and mentally exhausting. As many aspects of motherhood are regardless of if you are breast or bottle feeding.
So there’s my long drawn out story about my battle with breastfeeding. I do have times where I feel like a failure and I know how very easy it would’ve been to be able to feed him whenever wherever. Now going out has so many restrictions. When did I pump last, when am I going to pump next, often conflicts with when his next feed is. A little hard to get much done when you only have an hour in between to spare.
Every day is getting easier though. And I know all this will soon be a distant memory. And when that baby fever hits, and surely it will, I know I’ll forget all this agony and have that idealistic image of me happily feeding my baby without a care in the world once again.