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At every stage of my pregnancy, I was anxious without cause. I was convinced I'd experience extreme morning sickness (and had none at all). (Nope, didn’t feel a thing.) One thing I didn't worry about? Feeding the baby.
I just assumed since my body had been awesome at the whole pregnancy and labor part, I was in the clear. So when I found myself with a very low milk supply combined with a baby with some issues latching, I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to let go of the idea of breastfeeding.
My sweet baby boy latched easily right after he was born. And that was the only time. My hospital stay was filled with calls to the nursery to send someone to help with every feeding. I tried new positions, nipple shields, massage. It took my baby a few tries each time to latch, but he'd eventually get it and eat for a few minutes, satisfying the consultant, and me, that he was doing just fine.
Only he wasn't fine. And by the time we had our first pediatrician visit a few days after birth, he had lost too much weight and was showing signs of dehydration. We left the doctor’s office with formula supplement and reassurance from the doctor that my milk would be fully in soon and to keep breastfeeding, supplementing, and pumping to increase my supply. So, I fed and I pumped. And I fed and I pumped some more.
I had appointments with a lactation consultant. I locked myself in my bedroom for what felt like days attached to my breast pump. I ordered expensive lactation brownies and cookies that were supposed to increase my supply. I used heat packs, massaged, and hand-expressed. I dealt with clogged milk ducts and fever.
I cried when my baby was happily drinking his formula and falling peacefully asleep. I cried when a girl I went to high school with posted a photo on social media of her freezer stash of milk that she was proud of. (She should be proud, it's hard work!) Why can’t my body do this?
I keep struggling with feelings of guilt over not being able to breastfeed my baby. I keep trying to find a reason why this isn't working. If only I had pumped more in those first couple of days. If only I had worked harder. If only, if only. Articles fill my Facebook news feed on the benefits of breastfeeding and I find myself reading each one, determined to try to go another day.
My last visit to the lactation consultant ended with her assuring me I had worked hard and there would be no reason to feel bad about stopping. She reminded me there was no one way to care for my baby and that formula might be best for everyone. I left feeling good about ending my attempts. But the next day? I went right back to pumping.
I’m now six weeks out from giving birth and I don't know how much longer I'll keep pumping or attempting to nurse. It's one of those situations where I know I should probably just stop but it doesn't feel as simple as that. I think I've needed time to adjust and mourn and slowly let go of my expectations.
I know that sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work and there is nothing I did wrong. And I’m starting to discover some of the sweet moments with my baby that I missed those first few weeks when I was pumping so much. I was so determined and focused on my milk supply early on that I wasn’t really enjoying those first days as a new mom.
If you had asked me a couple of months ago about my views on feeding my baby, I would have told you I intended to breastfeed, but, if it didn't work out, I’d be fine moving to formula. I fully believe fed is best and I was formula fed as a baby (and turned out marvelously!).
While I’m still grieving the end of my breastfeeding journey, I have to remember one thing that my baby needs: a happy mom. The stress I’ve put on myself and my body to breastfeed is certainly not helping him or us as we bond. His physical needs are being met with formula and I’m grateful it’s helping him grow bigger and stronger (and cuter) every day.
Did you have a difficult time breast feeding?
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.