Breastfeeding Tips from a Quitter

Friday, September 29, 2017

There is an almost insurmountable pressure these days to breastfeed your baby.  After all, breast is best, and anything less is...well, not.  It begins while you're baby is in the womb.  People put your breasts in an interview with questions like "Are you going to breastfeed?" and "You know breast is best right?".  I would casually respond with, "we are going to see what works" which is code for A) my boobs are not your business and B) I'm not against formula feeding my infant.

As my belly grew, so did the pressure to breastfeed and my philosophy of going with whatever works starting drawing a side eye from the parenting community.  The baby boards were abuzz with the overall consensus that you breastfeed or you don't care about your baby.  The benefits were thrust at me from every avenue, breastfed babies are healthier, smarter, they bond better and some say they even come out making their own bottles (OK I admit that was an exaggeration).  So I dove headfirst into Breastfeeding 101.  I became familiar with the positions to hold the baby, the football, the cradle, the cross cradle, the side laying...my gosh the possibilities are endless.  I prepared for the physical pain, the potential for mastitis or a clogged duct or irritated nipples.  I stocked a myriad of chemical free nipple creams and had an entire pumping station in the event I needed to pump.  I was not naive that it could be a difficult journey but I was PREPARED...or was I???

Caiden was a big baby with a big appetite and although I studied the size of a baby's stomach intently on one of those 8,423 breastfeeding pins on my Pinterest board, Caiden did not eat according to that stupid depiction.  Here is an example from Medela of an infant's stomach size from their blog.  The post can be found HERE and is titled The Size of Your Baby's Stomach.I can assure you that day one, Caiden asked for a hell of a lot more than what this photo shows and had I fed him according to these guidelines while I was in the hospital he would have continued to lose weight after birth.  Every baby is different, but for some reason every single infant across the world has the exact same stomach size and feeding needs.  Sounds crazy right?  I knew that Caiden had different needs and I adapted to suit those needs.  So while in the hospital we supplemented with formula.  And when Caiden was content and sleeping after a feeding, I felt like I was doing my job.

But then I went home...and the nursing staff did not come home with me and the realization set in....y'all...breastfeeding is hard.  You read that in the books, you prepare on websites like KellyMom. You decide that no matter how hard it is, you're going to be the mom that breastfeeds your baby.  Then you have the baby and the milk doesn't come...or it comes and it's just not enough.  And the advice begins.  Much like when I was TTC, the advice poured from everywhere.

"Just relax, the milk will come."

"Pump between 1am and 5am and the milk will flow."

"Take this supplement or that supplement."

"Drink more water."

"Eat lactation cookies, oatmeal, and more vegetables."

To keep your growing infant from screaming for hours upon end, you supplement with formula.  And you feel like a failure...but I battled with infertility so I thought, how much harder can it be than undergoing IVF?  Well, I got my answer.

It is HARDER.


I always thought I was blessed with a nice rack so I could breastfeed a baby.  I didn't know that size didn't matter, yes ladies, it's true...SIZE DOES NOT MATTER when it comes to breastfeeding.  Why didn't they work, these monstrous mountains sitting on my chest?  It was hard enough getting a baby, now I have to fall victim to low supply?

I thought no big deal fed is best, right?  It was my own philosophy while pregnant!  I chanted those words, fed is best...fed is best.  But in the back of my mind I heard "failure" and "you're not trying hard enough".  I saw pins and posts from milking mom's, pumping mom's and breastfeeding mom's.  I saw pictures of babies attached to the breast and started to resent my own body.  The same body that grew this miracle baby, I hated for not producing the milk to feed him.  I sought support from my Mom Squad and Kelly Mom.  But the milk didn't increase. Little Bun would feed for an hour and still want more, so I had to top off each nursing session with a bottle.  And as I trudged sullenly into the kitchen to make a bottle from formula, I hated myself even more.

Supplementing as a new mom.  
To keep up with this demand, I pumped after feeds, I pumped in the middle of the night, and I pumped while I was trying to feed him milk from a prior pumping session.  And all the while, I cried over staged photos of mothers with their child at their breast.  I slumped over when I saw milk stashes and frozen supply.  I'd look down at him and just cry.  Here was this miracle, this perfect little squishy bundle of joy, and I'm depressed and despondent.  I looked into information about low milk supply and tried lactation teas and fenugreek supplements, I ate lactation cookies, I increased my greens, I drank so much water I felt like I was drowning.  And as the days turned into weeks, the dark chill of depression crept in.  Familiar with the numbness, I knew something had to be done. For me, it's not as important that his milk come from my breast than it was to be a present and attentive and happy mother.

You see in all the preparation to breastfeed, I never prepared emotionally for what would happen if I struggled.  I never prepared for the social media blitz of breastfeeding mothers and its affects on my own emotional state.

Much like the pregnancy announcements and baby showers, breastfeeding was thrust in my face at every corner and much like during our struggle to conceive, I became hyper aware of everyone else's journey.

My breastfeeding journey ended as quietly as it began.  I reduced to morning and night breastfeeding and supplemented through the day until I stopped entirely.  Now I'm a formula feeding mom but I still get envious and question my decision when I see other mothers breastfeeding.  It's especially difficult to admit I quit.  But I did.  I could have done more.  I could have tried harder.  But I was tired from a war on my fertility and I was not armed with the proper tools to succeed.  I thought I did everything I could to prepare but there were areas I lacked.

So as a former breastfeeder, let me share some things that might have helped me persevere.

1) If you want to breastfeed, you have to commit to it.  It's like exercising.  If you keep it up, it will work for you.  And much like exercising, it might take some time to see results.  Don't back down from it.  If you start skipping pumps or feeds, your supply will be affected.

2) If you struggle, see a lactation consultant in your home.  By now you've committed to it, so go all the way.  Don't assume because you read KellyMom or you have 13 breastfeeding books in your library that you're prepared.  No book or website can give you the support that one on one help with a certified lactation consultant.

3) If you must supplement formula, remember it's not a failure.  What you feed your baby does not define you as a parent.

3) Don't compare your breastfeeding journey to anyone else's.  This was a killer for me because all my life I've struggled comparing my story to everyone else.  If you find yourself in that comparison trap, take a social media hiatus and focus solely on your journey.

4) Don't waste your time or money with breastfeeding supplements like lactation cookies or fenugreek.  Get your nutrition from the food you eat and the water you drink.  You would better invest that money in a LC as mentioned in tip #2 above.

5) Stress affects supply.  Learn it, accept it, and then learn some coping strategies to help reduce it.  Whether it's breathing techniques or even watching Friends reruns for the 7,000 time, try to keep stress at a minimum because it is a supply tanker!

6) Never quit breastfeeding on a bad day.  This is something I remind my friends who still breastfeed. 



Do you have any breastfeeding tips for my readers?  Will you share them below?






  

3 comments:

  1. My milk never came in and Bowen was crying so much!! Granted at 3 weeks he had to have surgery for the issue that was contributing to him losing weight but still it just wasn't working. He got formula and was a plump little happy dude :) I am so sorry you struggled with all of this. We all know know breast is best but we shouldn't be made to feel bad it if just doesn't work.

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    Replies
    1. So true Amie, I still stand by the statement people should just shut up and feed their baby for sure!

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