This is the magical image I had in my mind when my son was born. When pregnant, I imagined that I would pick him up, latch him on and breastfeeding would just happen. We would bond as I lovingly fed my child and he would be healthy and full and we would both be happy.
Shit. Was I wrong!
Even when other women told me it would be tough, when the nurse from the birthing course said it would be difficult – I really didn’t understand what that meant until I lived it.
It was the hardest, most difficult experience of my life. Engorged breasts, sore nipples and a child that would just not latch. Even after seeing lactation consultants, breastfeeding nurses, and reading like a fiend – all I knew was that “breast is best” and I wasn’t able to breastfeed. So I was not doing what was best for my child. And, it broke my heart and spirit.
Three weeks of little to no sleep, of constantly having a baby fall asleep at my breast, of waking him up and latching him on only to have him fall asleep again within a minute. I was lost. Do I let him sleep and just feed him when he wakes up? NO! He’ll lose weight and everyone knows, the greater the demand the greater the supply. He must be fed every 3 hours. Sometimes, one feeding cycle would lead right into the next. It was physically and emotionally exhausting.
I tried to pump. After an hour at the pump, I would produce less than an ounce of milk. It was so disheartening. I was riddled by guilt, self-deprecation, and anger. Why wasn’t this working for me? Why couldn’t I feed my son? As someone who is accustomed to being in control this was a shock. How was I not able to make this work? Why was I not in control? I am positive now that my stress-level certainly didn’t help the situation.
I couldn’t do it any longer; I introduced formula. *gasp* from lactation consultants everywhere. But, my sanity at this point was more important.
Suddenly, everything fell into place. I held him close to my chest, I stared into his beautiful eyes, I sang and connected to my little one in ways I couldn’t during breastfeeding because I was so stressed.
Regardless, with each bottle of formula, the statistics kept nagging me. That my baby would be healthier and smarter with breast milk, whereas formula would make my child more prone to illness and childhood obesity etc etc etc.
I reminded myself that my son was thriving and looking much happier. He needed a mommy that wasn’t frazzled and full of self-loathing. He needed me to be well and relaxed so he could be happy and relaxed.
I can joyfully say that my 4 year old son is healthy, happy, eats very well, is very smart and clever and fun, and has a healthy weight and height. Still…every so often…I wonder what would it have been like had I stuck it out, seen it through…I feel a little stab every time I see a new mom happily breastfeeding her baby. Fortunately, my son’s sunny personality reminds me that I’ve done alright by him.
Baby number two is on her way (yes, I found out it’s a girl! more about that in another post since I was so adamant about not finding out here). As we prepare her room, and I try to remain as healthy as I can for her arrival, I cannot help but think about the few weeks after she is born.
I will attempt to breastfeed my daughter as I did my son. Only this time I will do so with the knowledge that my best, my love, and my patience will get me through a most trying time. I will ask for more help and support. I will not torture myself. And, as with my little guy, I will do everything in my power to ensure she is healthy, happy and feels oh so loved. That is all I can plan for – the rest will take care of itself.
What was your baby-feeding experience like? Any helpful words of support for women who are trying to or intend to breastfeed (or not!)? Share your thoughts below.