And then, my epidural wore off and I woke up in a little place called, “real life.”
I wanted a natural childbirth; that didn’t happen (the first time). I only wanted to gain 25lbs with the pregnancy (I gained 65); I wanted to nurse the baby for a year; that also didn’t happen. I got over my birth experience, I got over the weight-gain, but that whole breastfeeding break-up took much longer to get past.
You see, after Baby #1 was born, I had a fever and she was taken to the nursery for about 12 hours until my body temperature returned to normal. During that time, she was given bottles. Though she nursed immediately following her delivery, our nursing relationship was never the same after our initial separation. She was a ferocious eater who wanted her food as fast as a bottle would deliver it – and not a second slower. And, that was that. We worked on it for about four months (I carted the double pump around, tried every different nursing position and technique, used this shield and that), but she was feisty and I was frustrated. I was increasingly stressed, anxious, and the baby was screaming all. the. time. This was turning into an every hour of every day battle for super baby and I. I begrudgingly went back to work and it just wasn’t happening. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do. From then on, it was 100% mix, shake and deliver. She was healthy, happy, and life went on. I still felt bad.
I tried everything, but I couldn’t get over that deep, disgusting, feeling of failure. What’s worse – condescending looks, questions, comments, and stares from people who just didn’t get it. Because, you know, everyone can breastfeed…right? Right (insert sarcasm). Sometimes bottle feeding, for the sake of mama’s mental health, trumps the old “breast is best” mantra. It does.
Then came Baby #2. I was bound and determined to nurse him, also. Things went well for a few weeks and then he couldn’t hold down his food. At all. While we were seeking a diagnosis on him, I was asked to supplement. He desperately needed it. When he arrived at the hospital, he was dehydrated and they could hardly get an IV going in his tiny little veins. He had surgery for pyloric stenosis at 7wks. My supply was already down from supplementing and there was no more nursing after his surgery. He needed to get strong, healthy, and giving him a bottle was the fastest and easiest way for me to do that. I still felt bad.
Baby #3 came. 10 days later, I was sent to the ER with mastitis and I was incredibly sick. I told my husband, at one point, that I thought I was going to die. I will spare you the details, but tell you that the baby was given a bottle soon after. I probably could have and should have continued on with her, but I felt so sick and just wanted her to grow and be healthy. I still felt bad.
Baby #4. She’s been nursing, happily, for almost 7 months, and could be nursing for 17 more. The difference? I’m not stressed. I did a lot of research about nursing issues and how to solve them. I focused, relaxed, and made it a top priority to fight through. We also didn’t have any of those other obstacles to get through this time. I have had immeasurable support from my friends and sisters and I have asked question after question. For that, I’m SO thankful.
I truly wish things would have been different with the first three. That’s my personal preference. But, I am glad that I can tell my story from both sides. YES, you can keep trying. YES, you can make it work even if it hasn’t multiple times before.
To mamas: Be sure to ASK for help. There are always other moms willing to answer questions and give advice. We all know that breastfeeding is that most-natural thing that somehow doesn’t seem to come naturally to a lot of us. It is hard work at first, but IT DOES GET EASIER. If it doesn’t work out for your, for whatever reason, your baby will loved, cared for, and will love you back as much as he or she would if you continued nursing him or her. There is no reason to carry guilt about not breastfeeding your child.
I highly recommend breastfeeding for the health benefits that it offers mom and baby. I also recommend exhausting every option before you quit (including getting to that 6wk mark where it becomes A LOT easier), but at the end of the day…just do your best and love your baby.
To my fellow lactivists: I know most of you are well-intentioned, but before you wince at a mama who bottle-feeds, consider that you don’t know all she’s been through. You don’t know how hard she’s tried to make it work and you don’t know how bad she may or may not feel. Bottle feeding isn’t always for convenience. She knows formula is more expensive and bottles can be a hassle. Please love your fellow mamas and offer support, not judgment.