Breastfeeding Struggles- It’s OK
I remember when I found out I was pregnant for our first baby, I immediately began researching how to breastfeed. I searched all the need-to-knows, what to do, what not to do, diets, supplies, care, timing, etc. ALL of the things. I felt so prepared. I was told it would come naturally, any way. Fast forward to being in the hospital after delivery. The beginning of our breastfeeding journey started out great! Gabriel latched wonderfully, and I felt like I was conquering the world. Until he was circumcised and refused to eat for seven hours. I saw a lactation consultant every thirty minutes to an hour to try to get him to settle down and eat. On top of that huge stressor, I was in so much pain, everything was uncomfortable, and it was quite difficult. I didn’t let this get me down. I was told that it was normal, and it would only get easier from there. I was told we would “get the hang of it.” Oh man, were they wrong.
The first week back home was a living hell. Gabriel cried non-stop. I recruited my mom to come and stay with us to help take shifts at night. He stayed on my breast 90% of the day, or tried desperately while he cried and screamed constantly. By his two week check up, he did not gain weight and was still weighing less than his birth weight. He was so frail. Despite my huge efforts, it wasn’t enough. His pediatrician is all for breastfeeding, of course. However, he demanded that we supplement formula. “The second you leave here, please buy some formula. It is OK, I promise. Sometimes you just can’t make enough to support them. It happens. There is just nothing you can do. He needs more nutrients.”
BOOM. I felt like I had just taken a huge blow to the gut. When the doctor walked out, tears quickly filled my eyes. I felt so guilty for depriving him. So horrible. I wanted so badly to be enough for my boy. I didn’t want to spend gobs of money a week. Everyone and everything you read on the internet or on social media told me that it was impossible for you to NOT make enough milk. Your body is magical and senses that your baby needs more, and in turn makes more. That I just wasn’t trying hard enough. That I wasn’t dedicated enough. That I needed a new pediatrician. That I needed a new lactation consultant. That my baby would be sick, and it would all by my fault. That I didn’t care about my baby’s health. I’ve heard it all. On the contrary, actually. I cared so much about my baby’s health that I had to give up the one thing I wanted so badly as a mother- to breastfeed and have “that bond.” I couldn’t help but wonder, “what is wrong with me?”
We supplemented formula every other feeding. While I gave him a bottle, I was pumping. When he started sleeping longer stretches, I was pumping faithfully. I was hoping to build a supply, and the ultimate goal was to no longer need to supplement. I tried. However, I maybe got two ounces a session. When I started pumping, it just validated that I truly was not making enough for my boy. I did this for over six weeks. That is okay, though. Guess what happened when we started giving him formula? He started gaining weight, sleeping, and was all around SO much happier. We had to do weight check-ins with his pediatrician and he made me feel better about the situation each time we went in. It was evident that my baby needed formula. He is now two, and I can count on one hand how many times he has been sick. I have a crazy strong bond with the sweetest, silliest, cuddliest little boy ever. God gave us amazing bodies to support life in the womb and then after the baby is out into the world. God also gave us brains, scientist, doctors, and technology to be able to sustain life! I’m grateful for that!
After I realized my supply was not increasing, and I was hardly getting anything, I stopped pumping. I stopped breastfeeding. The reality that I “failed” and it was over was ultimately harder than breastfeeding. It wasn’t until seven months later that I had answers. I had untreated hypothyroidism and multiple health issues, which apparently contributed to my low supply. It was too late at this point to breastfeed Gabriel.
I then had so much confidence when I got pregnant for Magnolia. I was sure that since my health issues were under control, and since I was so educated on the topic after my roller coaster the first go round, I was ready to conquer this. You would likely find it comical because I had tons of articles saved, highlighted, notes in my phone, grocery lists, don’t lists, etc. Then I got sick. It landed me in the hospital for a week at 33 weeks pregnant. The nurse came in and asked me, “Are you planning to breastfeed?” I proudly responded, “Yes! I couldn’t for my first child, so I’m so excited this time!” Her face dropped, “I’m sorry dear, you can’t breastfeed with your condition and with the medication to treat you.” BOOM. There goes the gut punch. I wallowed in self pity for the remainder of my pregnancy. But, you know what? My girl is here and she started out with formula, and she is healthy and thriving. So I’m done feeling like I’m not worthy. I’m done feeling guilty, or like a bad mother. I’m done letting Negative Nancy on facebook steal my joy. I’m not ashamed, and I’m proud of the mother I am. If you’re riding my same struggle bus, well, I hope you’re done feeling guilty. You’re a damn good mother for making sure your baby is fed and well.
The point is, you don’t know every mother’s story or their struggle. There is not a one size fits all for motherhood. If you were/are one of those people mom shaming on Facebook, then shame on you. I hope this sheds some light on the topic and gives you perspective. Be kind to one another and be supportive! I have your back, mama 😉