I've debated sharing my experience with breastfeeding. I beat myself up for months about my inability to stick to breastfeeding. Go ahead. Judge me...
Before my daughter was born, I knew that breastfeeding was something I was determined to succeed at. I convinced myself that I would be selfish to not feed my daughter the most natural form of nutrients. My body was built to do this, so how hard could it be? I had all of my supplies ready, my breast pump all set up and couldn't wait to have the special bonding with my new baby.
Boy was I wrong. From the moment my daughter was born, she struggled to latch. I found myself in the hospital after having a natural birth and telling myself, "no one ever explained how hard breast feeding would be." I met with 3 different lactation consultants and had 4 different nurses practically milking me so that my daughter could have my breast milk. Needless to say, my daughter was extremely hungry and cranky and I was unbelievably tired, sore and felt defeated.
Before leaving the hospital, I finally broke down and asked the nurse, "what will I do if my baby still isn't able to latch and starves?" I had no clue what I was doing, all I wanted was for my daughter to be fed and happy. The nurses finally suggested that I begin pumping to help bring my supply in and to feed her pumped milk. In the meantime, I had a few bottles of infant formula to supplement, which gave me a sense of ease knowing that when we went home, my daughter would not starve.
After getting home, I continued to pump and my milk finally came in the next day (WOW). I thought, great! Now my daughter will have an easier time...wrong. At this point, I had a screaming baby and was in so much pain from soreness of a poor latch. I decided to reach out to my Mommy's group on Facebook and someone had suggested a nipple shield. Why didn't the lactation consultants suggest this? I was so irritated that I had gone days of struggling and even supplemented with formula before even learning about what a nipple shield was.
Over the next week, the nipple shield helped enough to the point of where I no longer had to supplement with formula. I felt proud. I felt like Ava and I had started to figure this breast feeding thing out. I continued to pump in between feedings and started to build a nice stash in my freezer!
Then came growth spurts...oh the growth spurts. Ava would spend 45 minutes trying to breastfeed and then cry 30 minutes later hungry again. I felt like I was literally trapped inside my room. If I wasn't hooked up to my pump, I had a cranky newborn attached to me. The crankiness only got worse. At 3 weeks old, we discovered that Ava had really bad reflux to the point where she would scream and cry when trying to eat. We had to put her on Zantac, which definitely helped after a few days. Once we found out about Ava's reflux, I now had to worry about my diet.
I started feeling extremely defeated. I couldn't eat what I wanted. I couldn't leave the house when I wanted and was literally starting to feel trapped.
I worried about how my daughter would be affected if I fed her formula. I worried about what other Mom's would think. I worried about spending even more money to buy formula. I worried about my miserable attitude towards my husband because I felt so guilty that my daughter never seemed pleased.
I also became worried about myself. I felt like I was no longer able to do things that at one time made me happy. In order to be the best Mom I can be to my daughter, I must first be a good wife and happy with myself. I started questioning if breastfeeding was really the right option for me and Ava.
I let weeks go by, debating on whether or not I could stand another pumping or feeding session. I had my closest loved ones as a support and to let me know that it is ok if I couldn't do it anymore; that I'd still be a good Mom and I gave it my best shot. I had other family members reply in disappointment, "you're giving up already?" I had seen the posts on my Facebook "Breast is Best". I convinced myself that I was a failure for not enjoying breastfeeding like some other Mom's. Sure, I have some awesome memories of my daughter and I when she was feeding. But I also remember the first 2 months of her life and how much I dreaded every feeding. It'd take so much work just to get her to latch. We were both frustrated.
After 2 months, I knew that I'd be going back to work in just a matter of weeks. I couldn't imagine setting up in the bookstore at my school and pumping while eating my lunch, that I sometimes never have time to eat, during my busy work day. Luckily with my frozen stash, Ava was able to drink breast milk at least until she was 3 months old. I slowly transitioned her to a Enfamil Gentlease formula and she was happy. I was happy. I felt ready to go back to work without the stress of worrying that my boobs would be leaking all over if I didn't have time to pump.
I still think back to the first 3 months of her life and wish we could've continued on, but I'm glad that I tried my hardest and know that she is still a happy and healthy baby. I look back at photos of our bonding when feeding together and it makes me miss it at times. Being a Mom is the hardest job ever, and I commend every Mother for the love, courage, tears and faith it takes to raise a tiny human.
"Ew, she uses cloth diapers"? Or, "I can't believe she works full-time". "Wow, she must have so much time on her hands being a stay at home Mom. Isn't that boring"? "How dare that woman expose her breast to feed her baby." "I can't believe that baby still uses a binky." "How can you possibly let your kid co-sleep with you? It's so dangerous and will ruin your relationship." These are just some of the common and judgmental comments I've heard other Mom's say. I know for damn sure that when a woman whips out her boob or fills up her bottle with some formula, I'll be the last person to judge. I encourage you to do the same! FED, loved and cared for is best.
I'm happy to be expecting baby #2 in August and plan on giving breastfeeding another chance. I am much more prepared and educated this time around and hope to breastfeed longer. Whatever the outcome, I'll figure out what is best for me and my child.
I'm a full-time working Mom who formula feeds, uses disposable diapers, doesn't co-sleep and picks my daughter up when she cries. No regrets. One of the greatest things about becoming a Mom is the confidence and strength it gives you. You realize that nothing will ever be perfect, but that's alright. As long as your child is taken care of the way that you choose and feel right, than enjoying the moments together is what matters most. Time goes by way too fast to be bothered by others opinion. So here's to us - boogies, milk stains and all - cheers to my fellow Mommas!