Browsing through old photos of A this morning remembering how little he was and oh yeah, how hard it was trying to nurse the little booger. I thought I would share the trials and tribulations of our breastfeeding journey. Although the experience was fairly atrocious, just look at how stinkin’ cute he was at one week old! *Sigh*
Breastfeeding. Oh, breastfeeding.
While pregnant with A, other moms would tell me how difficult breastfeeding was – something I wouldn’t expect to be difficult. I never understood until I had Andrew. How can something so natural be so freakin’ hard? Well, it is. Personally, it was the hardest thing about being a new mom.
I tried nursing A just a few hours after I had him. The nurse on duty was right there with me, my boob in her left hand and Andrew’s head in her right hand. I had no idea what I was doing so thank god she was there to help. The kid just wouldn’t latch on! He would fiddle around with my nipple, spit it out and start screaming. The nurse kept reassuring me that this happens a lot. She said, “You have to learn how to nurse him but he has to learn how to eat as well. Babies are new to the world and they have to learn how to do everything, even something as simple as eating.” I took that to heart and tried not to get frustrated. Hours and hours went by and he still wouldn’t eat; I began to panic. I specifically remember trying to nurse him for 3 hours in the middle of the night; it was exhausting! After an entire day of trying, the nurse suggested I try a nipple shield and at that point I was willing to try anything. I also pumped and spoon fed him my colostrum, which is your first breast milk that comes in, full of antibodies important to the health of your newborn baby. At least he ate something, even if it was from a spoon. Eventually the nipple shield seemed to work well. Andrew was suckling and he seemed happy.
Leaving the hospital and going home was an adventure altogether. Kyle and I were new parents and I was still learning how to feed my child…among other things of course. Andrew was awake every 2 hours or less wanting to eat. Again, I still had no idea what I was doing and I thought that nursing him for over an hour was normal…over an hour! I would literally breastfeed him (using the nipple shield) for at least an hour. He would typically cry when I removed my breast from his mouth but I didn’t know what it felt like to empty my breasts of their milk so I just thought he was a baby and babies cry. That’s what they do, they cry! I was clueless! I felt like I never slept and he just cried all the time. I was a wreck; I cried all the time, too! My mom stayed with us for 2 weeks after he was born and she thought he had colic because he cried so much. Fast forward a bit: we ended up taking Andrew to the doctor 2 weeks after he was born and realized he had lost too much weight. It turns out he was crying so much because he was starving! Do you know how awful it feels to realize you were starving your baby? I really thought he was eating but it’s so hard to know for sure because you can’t see the milk coming out and you can’t see him actually eating. I could never tell if he was swallowing or not and I thought that since he was sucking, he was indeed eating. I felt terrible! The doctor told me I needed to either figure out this breastfeeding thing (don’t worry he didn’t actually say that, but that’s what it boiled down to), or I needed to add formula to his diet to help him gain weight. I decided to do both; I would continue trying to nurse him but I would also add formula to his diet. I contacted a lactation consultant and we ended up deciding that pumping would also be beneficial. I rented a hospital grade pump because they’re better quality. I pumped, bottle fed him, continued to try and nurse him, AND gave him formula on top of that. A week later he had gained a little weight and he was acting like a totally different baby. He didn’t cry as much and he seemed a lot happier. I was also happy but I was extremely stressed about him not actually nursing. I always expected to breastfeed but I really wanted to breastfeed as well, that’s just what a good mother does right? That’s what I truly believed and pumping was never an option in my mind. After stressing like a madwoman, crying my eyes out, and totally freaking out more than I even should have, I finally decided that I would stop trying to nurse him and just pump for him. I also continued giving him formula because I wasn’t producing enough milk to fill him up. I realized that I needed to be happy in order for him to be happy. I needed to let it go, just accept that this was how we were going to do things. He was still getting my breast milk and I don’t care what anyone says, we STILL bonded while I bottle fed him. One great thing about pumping and bottle feeding: Dad can help, too! It can be a bonding experience for dad and baby so we should look at the bright side right? Once I let things go, I felt great. Andrew was healthy, gaining weight and he was a happier baby.
When Andrew was about 2 months old I started producing more so I cut out the formula and pumped exclusively for another 5 months. It was extremely hard. I would have given anything to be able to nurse him and I actually did continue to try and nurse him about once a week thereafter. It usually ended in both of us crying so about the time Andrew turned 4 months old, I completely stopped trying. That was it; I was done. Too much stress and anxiety so pumping it was! For those of you who don’t know, pumping is a lot of work! The first few months I would pump every 2 hours for about 30 minutes each pumping session, then bottle feed him what I had just pumped, then wash all of the pump accessories, then repeat. I felt like I was doing “double duty”. I eventually spaced out the pumping sessions to every 3 hours, then every 4 hours and so on. I pumped for 7 months! I originally wanted to nurse him for an entire year but I’m proud that I made it 7 months pumping. Every now and then I feel guilty for not being able to nurse him, like I failed in some way. I feel guilty for quitting when he turned 7 months old, too. You know what though? Screw that. I worked my butt off making sure he was getting “the good stuff”. I made it 7 extremely long months and I feel good about that.
I wrote this hoping to bring relief and/or support to those who have struggled, or who are struggling with breastfeeding. It is NOT easy (or wasn’t for me at least). Just know that you are not alone and it is not the end of the world if you don’t nurse your child at all. It doesn’t make you a bad mom and it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It doesn’t mean that your child won’t feel close to you either. Your child loves you whether you breastfeed him/her or not! It’s wonderful to help your child feel happy and be healthy, but YOU have to be happy and healthy, too. Andrew is now 10 months old and guess what? He’s doing great! He loves drinking his formula out of his ba-ba and you know what else? He’s now struggling with eating solids! Haha! Does it ever end?
Remember, you’re all wonderful mommas just doing your best to make sure your children are happy and healthy, and all we can do is our best. You’re doing great, mommas!