*Please note: These are my personal thoughts/opinions. Your thoughts and opinions on breastfeeding may be different based on your experiences. Please feel free to share your thoughts on breastfeeding but be respectful of others thoughts as this is not a debate, simply a new moms experience thus far.
Looooooooong post. I haven’t been around too many adults lately, so please forgive me for wanting to talk!
A new mom who just held her baby for the first time.
She has been up since 7 am the previous day with very little sleep during her hospital stay. She has been pumped with fluids and medicines and her hormones are all over the place. She has been in labor since 6:30 am and that evening she was cut open in front of a bunch of strangers and at 8:46pm she got to hear and quickly see her son for the very first time. She was then “put back together” and finally got to hold her son for the very first time 40 minutes later. She is filled with so many emotions and is trying to take it all in as this tiny little miracle cuddles up against her skin and while nurses and doctor still poke and fuss around to make sure both mom and baby are ok. Family want to see this precious life and everyone is just overjoyed during this time while mom is trying to take in what has just happened.
Then, amongst all this, someone comes in to see if you can feed your baby. Your boobs are out and being manhandled but it is all to no avail as your son won’t latch. Tears fill her eyes and at that moment this new mom has no idea what to do and how to provide her son with the one thing he needs. She is being told by different people what to do but all she feels is overwhelmed by something as simple as feeding her son.
This is how I got introduced to breastfeeding and honestly, it left me feeling so overwhelmed and completely discouraged about the entire thing.
Up until this point I had always thought, or assumed, breastfeeding was easy. Why did I think this you ask? Well because that is how it is made to look. I read a little bit about breastfeeding and from what I read the baby will know what to do. I had heard from people (including my Doctors) that breastfeeding is wonderful and an easy way to feed your little one and such a great way to bond with your child. I even watched a couple videos on breastfeeding and it looked easy! (In retrospect I think the children in the videos were at least 4 months, no way they were showing a newborn trying to eat….because it is hard!) Because of all this, it always seemed like breastfeeding would be the “easy” part of all of this new baby stuff.
Boy was I wrong and totally unprepared.
I will say it. Breastfeeding is HARD. It is painful. It is frustrating. And it is not something every child (or mother) easily gets.
I will also say this, and it may very well be an unpopular opinion, but 7 weeks in and I am not a fan of breastfeeding…at least not 100%.
First off, IN MY OPINION, I feel that breastfeeding advocates (such as nurses, doctors, baby websites) are so focused on encouraging breastfeeding and all the benefits of breastfeeding that they play down how frustrating it can be at first. I can only assume that it is because maybe if they talk about the negative people may not want to breastfeed….especially a new, tired and emotional mother. But in the research I did, I did not see a lot about how hard it can be. Sure, they mentioned issues but the way that they talked about how easily these issues can be resolved made me think that I had nothing to worry about. Put baby to boob; let him/her eat until finished. If the baby isn’t latching properly, just keep trying and he will. UH…OK?!
So the frustration I felt begged the emotionally charged questions from a new mom. “What am I doing wrong?! What is wrong with me?! Why can’t I do this?!” Which are all questions a new mother should not have to feel or ask…..though I am learning are very common questions in all aspects of child raising.
Now, had I known that breastfeeding could be hard would I have chosen to not breastfeed? Absolutely NOT. I would have still given it a try. But as an already stressed mom I would have been a little more mentally prepared and not so shocked by the process and confused by what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t get it.
So like I was saying, Henry didn’t latch properly right away. We ended up having to use a nipple shield to help him latch. I was actually not stressed about that at first and it made sense as the lactation consultant said it was like nipple training wheels and in a week he should be fine. Of course a tiny little new person may need a little help at first….that makes sense!
But to try to get him to latch and suck properly was a constant struggle from day 1. We found out early on he was tongue tied, which made it harder for him to latch properly as he couldn’t reach his tongue out far enough to fully get around the breast. (And boy do I gots some breasts for him to get around!) He would get frustrated because he couldn’t latch properly and couldn’t suck properly. I would get frustrated because, well I had NO idea what the hell I was doing and couldn’t feed my child in the most efficient way. I felt horrible because I couldn’t feed him correctly and I was in pain as he would just suck and suck my nipple to try to get food. After a few days he was drawing blood and not producing enough wet diapers in a day so that is when I decided to pump milk for him so he could eat. Of course our little piggy loved it. Honestly, I was willing to ignore the pain I was in when I fed him IF it meant he was eating well and taking to breastfeeding. But he wasn’t.
Shortly after that we got his tongue clipped and we attempted breastfeeding again. He wouldn’t latch properly so we used the nipple shield and went to a lactation consultant (who was great, and took so much time to work with us and giving us advice but it still didn’t work for Henry and I). He would take forever to eat and never seemed satisfied or he would also fall asleep on the boob; I mean he had to work so damn hard for food and it took so long to eat I could see why! And we both got frustrated with the nipple shield as it would fall off and I would have to put it back on with a hungry and frustrated rooting baby trying to find the nipple. We would feed him bottles, but every day I would try to breastfeed. The lactation consultant called him a lazy eater and said he was now use to a bottle and I should stop the bottle and just feed him for as much and as long as I could for a few days to get him use to breastfeeding. I, on the other hand, being at home by myself after those first 2 weeks could not physically or mentally just feed him ALL DAY LONG and was not willing to give up the bottle. Was that selfish? On the contrary…..it was best for BOTH of us. He got to eat and rest at regular times and I had my sanity.
However, feeding him on a bottle meant I had to get up every few hours and feed him, put him to sleep, and then pump. It was daunting. A nighttime feeding that should last 30 minutes would last an hour or sometimes more if he was fussy. And then an hour later it was time to do it again. There were many nights I would cry as all I wanted to do was sleep and not have to get milk for Henry.
Then amongst the frustration we find out he has reflux. For a week, nothing could soothe him except constant sucking. The nipple shield became an ubber pain in the ass because he would just want to suck and suck and it hurt so much and wouldn’t calm him down. After week 3 we got him on reflux medicine and his temperament changed drastically. Bottle feeding was great because we could monitor how much he ate plus keep him upright to help with his reflux.
At this point I still had frustration with breastfeeding but it was mainly coupled with my exhaustion, getting use to taking care of this new little life, and not being able to properly feed him using the breast (I was seriously determined to nurse him, particularly at night). But I didn’t HATE breastfeeding at this point and though I didn’t like it I was still thought I should try it because that is what the nurses and my doctor said was best.
And then amongst the reflux, inability for him to latch, the lack of sleep…..my supply began to decrease. *sigh* I would go 5 – 7 hours between pumping some times because I just didn’t have TIME to pump. I don’t think I was mentally at a good enough place to just let him cry for 20 minutes while I pumped, so I didn’t. Or when he napped he didn’t always like to be put down so I held him when he wouldn’t nap in bed just so he would infact sleep and give me a chance to mentally unwind. But because of that my supply decreased while he increased how much he was eating at each feeding. I went from producing enough milk to freeze some of it to barely producing enough to feed him. One night we even had to defrost frozen milk because I didn’t have enough.
It was at this point I HATED the idea of breastfeeding.
I was SO frustrated and nearly gave up right there. However, thanks to fenugreek, friends advice, and just forcing myself to pump, I started to get my supply up but it was two weeks of constant pumping that did it. Which luckily he was sleeping longer periods of time so I was getting a little more sleep which helped. But I thought; was this really what I had to do to feed our son? I mean I will do ANYTHING for him, but I have never heard other moms talk about how SO MUCH of your day is wrapped up in feeding or keeping your body ready to feed. This can’t be normal. Maybe I just had high expectations for a newborn.
Then when he turned 1 month and was really fussy as he was waiting for his bottle I decided to just try the boob….and he latched! No nipple shield, straight up boob. I was thrilled and so proud of our son!! I thought “great, I will be able to nurse him now at night and get my supply back!” But as it turns out, just getting him to latch didn’t mean nursing would be easy. He would either eat out of both my boobs and still be hungry, eat and keep throwing up (mostly due to the reflux and laying flat while he ate for 30 minutes), or eat for 5 minutes and fall asleep. It was short-lived excitement followed again by frustration. Why is this so hard for us?!!!
So after another little breakdown I decided it is back to the bottle and pumping. I pump before I go to work (and get the largest amount of milk at this time), pump at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. Occasionally I nurse him before he goes to bed if we are both OK with it as it helps him to sleep and then I pump again before I go to bed. And that is what I am doing now. It works for Henry and I and I am not going to keep trying something that doesn’t work for us. Sometimes nursing works and sometimes it doesn’t (seriously, it is like we both have to be in a good mood for this to work right), but I am not going to feel guilty anymore because I can’t always nurse properly.
My initial goal is to make it to three months doing the pumping thing….which if everything goes as it is now will not be a problem. After that I will try for 6 months. If we make it to 6 months I will reevaluate our situation and see what is best….but not feel ONE ounce of guilt if we switch to formula at any time. Infact I hate how parents are made to feel guilty if they formula feed their children….Terry and I were formula fed and we are just fine! Well you know except for the unexplained twitches and spasms we get. :) heehee
Here is the thing, I believe breastfeeding/nursing CAN be a wonderful thing but that is only if both mom and child are into it. My son does like nursing but pretty much because he enjoys the comfort of being close to me. It sucks because Terry can feed him and he is content after his bottle. If I feed him a bottle he will have eaten plenty but still root and want to nurse for comfort…which leads to him eating way too much and throwing up. But as I said above, if I try just nursing we run into other problems. Overall, he just loves eating and has no problem with just taking a bottle….and when he is hungry prefers the bottle. But then after the bottle wants the comfort of being close to me. I really have no idea what to do. What do you do?!?!
Besides the feeding issues with Henry, I also am just not a fan of breastfeeding in general. It is partly because I feel like I have my boobs out half of the day! Pumping in general is just ridiculous. I mean I am milking myself. Like a COW.
Yes, it is absolutely beautiful and amazing what our bodies can do. But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. Though it has only been a week at work, I absolutely HATE grabbing my bag and all my stuff and heading to a back office to pump where I lock the door and sit in the corner of a dark room so none of the construction workers outside the window can see me. And I sit there, hoping I infact DID lock the door and no one walks in on me. I sit there holding two bottle up to my boobs just ready to be done pumping.
I think from the beginning I became frustrated with breastfeeding because I had a difficult time with it amongst all the emotion and frustration and it put a bad taste in my mouth (teehee) and though it has gotten better and keep trying, I have yet to enjoy it because neither Henry nor I still have the hang of it. As amazing as it is, it really doesn’t seem natural to me. And at this point I don’t love it…..but I don’t hate it either. I am totally indifferent about it and want to do it for my son for as long as I can. But to me it is nothing more than something extra I am able to do for Henry. And for him I will do it and not regret doing it AT ALL. But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy pumping 7 times a day. It doesn’t mean I like that my nipples always feel sore and are freak’n HUGE. It doesn’t mean I like to leak when I get too full. It doesn’t mean I like sitting in the back seat of my car pumping with a hand pump because my husband and I are out all day and I need to pump. It doesn’t mean I enjoy 20-30 minutes of the same sound the stupid pump makes. It doesn’t mean I like cleaning ALL the bottle and pieces to the pump and taking with me a cooler to keep the milk in. It doesn’t mean I like that I feel it is ALL about pumping/breastfeeding in my life right now. It doesn’t mean I like that I feel I have NO control over my body and that it is no longer mine. And I don’t like that in the 5 hours I spend with my son when I get home an hour and a half of that I have milk coming out of my boobs.
So to end this ridiculously long rant and post I guess I am just sharing what was never really shared fully with me…..that breastfeeding is frustrating and hard. And that it is 100% OK if you don’t enjoy it or don’t get it right away. Do what YOU want to do and don’t feel an ounce of guilt if breastfeeding doesn’t go as you planned. You may love it and do it for as long as you can and that is fantastic! You may not nurse but just pump and that is great too! You may decide that breastfeeding isn’t for you or maybe you are unable to do and you feed your child formula and that is just fine too!
I think what all these people forgot to tell me was that it had NOTHING to do with how I fed him but the emotion and time I spend with him when I DO feed him. Feeding him when we are both annoyed and nearly in tears (or in many cases IN tears) is not a special experience for either of us. But feeding your child (however that may be) when you are both happy and looking into each other’s eyes or holding hands and just being content is what it is about. The way you feed him isn’t what matters. And if you do breastfeed, know that you are not a failure if you can’t do it and that it is not always easy and chances are it is hard for most people at first instead of easy for most people. And finally, don’t be afraid to talk about it or ask people for advice. You may get comfort in the fact that you are not the only one who has gone through this.
Soooo….what are your thoughts/experiences on breastfeeding/nursing?! How did it go for you at first?