Prior to giving birth, I was 100% on board with breastfeeding. It’s the most natural option for feeding your baby, it’s free, and it helps form a bond between you and your newborn unlike any other. (note, I would never judge anyone for choosing to formula feed or not to breast feed in general. But for me, this was never an option.)
I was naive in thinking that breastfeeding would come so easily and would simply work. You hear some stories about women having difficulty, but that absolutely would not happen to me. You know that sometimes you don’t produce enough milk but that was not an option for me. I was made for breeding; everyone said so (seriously, Travis once said he picked me because I had good hips and would be able to give him babies. come on)
Breastfeeding started out okay. Charlie didn’t want to eat initially and we were told her stomach and intestines were so full of meconium and amniotic fluid that she just needed time. When she did latch, she ate voraciously. We had no issues with going home after only 24 hours in the hospital, and thought things were going great.
Fast forward to Saturday night and me sobbing uncontrollably with my daughter screaming in my arms feeling like an absolute failure. I hadn’t been able to nurse her for hours. Every time I put her to a breast, she would start screaming, waving her arms, and kicking her legs. It felt like she was rejecting me. I felt like a failure as a mother and a woman. I called the lactation consultants at the hospital we had delivered at 4 am and left a message.
We got a call back early in the morning after getting no sleep and had an appointment for that morning with the lactation consultant. I was so thankful that she could get us in right away. Of course, as soon as we go to latch and figure out what is going on, Charlie latches fine and eats just like there had been no issues at all (ugh of course she performs when we had an audience). The consultant was wonderful and gave us some recommendations for the future, and we were off, feeling much more hopeful than we were when we arrived.
Sunday evening got even worse. We called the pediatrician at 2 am to try and decide what to do. We were told to pump and give her any milk that came out in a bottle. This sounded like yet another way that I had failed. I cried the entire time that I was hooked up to the pump. It felt so unnatural, and I felt so miserable, and defeated. Prior to giving birth and all of this ordeal I had been adamant that we wouldn’t use bottles or any sort of “unnatural feeding” for at least the first 3 weeks. I didn’t want to cause nipple confusion or do anything that would interfere with my breastfeeding plan.
After several pumping sessions and bottles to my newborn, we had an appointment to check her weight with the pediatrician Monday afternoon. I showed up with puffy eyes and couldn’t help crying as we sat in the room talking to the nurse and then the doctor. I felt so much like a failure. And sure, everyone was nice, saying that breastfeeding is hard and I can’t expect it to go well right from the start and both Charlie and I are learning how to do this and so on… but I was convinced they were just being nice and I was a failure. We went home with the plan of seeing the lactation consultant on Tuesday and pumping/bottle feeding as needed.
I know that the important thing was feeding my infant. Obviously, that’s the priority, especially with my little peanut who needed to put on weight so badly. I knew that she wasn’t going to starve and that I was making sure that she was staying alive and doing what was best for her… but my plan was ruined. I was so hormonal and constantly on the verge of tears that my parents, husband and even the doctor were worried about postpartum depression. The only saving grace was that my unhappiness was linked solely to breastfeeding.
Tuesday morning, after a long discussion with Travis, we opted to try not pumping, as that was causing me so much distress. Our main goal was still to breastfeed. We tried this first before pumping and a bottle to see how she would take to it. I was nervous that she would have a hard time going back to the breast after using bottles for the past day, but luckily she took it just fine.
At the lactation consultant’s, of course, Charlie did great. Again she had some recommendations for us and was able to help with latch issues that we had (ANYONE who tells you breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt initially is a LIAR. Getting a perfect latch is difficult at first, and even if you do no one is used to having their nipples sucked on so frequently and so hard.) She was a big help and suggested we use a My Brest Friend nursing pillow. (which we love and went and got one right after we left). Ever since then, Charlie and I have been on a much better path with breastfeeding and have been doing better.
What is most upsetting to me is that Prior to giving birth, no one talks about how HARD it is to breastfeed. Sure, you can read some success stories that discuss the difficulty as it’s kind of glossed over. Sure, you can read stories of women who have given up, but the actual difficulties and the real discussions about how truly difficult breastfeeding usually is aren’t there. There’s so much pressure these days to breastfeed and you hear all of the benefits of it to both mom and baby. You hear thst its such a wonderful experience. It’s upsetting. I know that there are support groups and there are places and friends that people can turn to in order to have these real discussions but what about the woman who doesn’t have someone to turn to? What about the woman who gives up quickly and decides that breastfeeding isn’t for them, but is left feeling like a failure?
These are the discussions that need to be had. These are the stories that need to be read. I wish there was more of a platform for these very important, very real discussions.