Today I want to talk about something that is heavy on my mind lately: BREASTFEEDING.
I’m just going to put it all out there so if you would rather not hear about boobs or babies, I suggest you go check out one of my recipe posts (my mocha cheesecake is a wonderful place to start) 😉
Breastfeeding – something that literally keeps me up at night, occupies my brain space too often, stresses me to the max and downright confuses me half the time. But, “they” say it’s supposed to be natural and us mamas have nurturing instincts; apparently we were MADE to breastfeed.
Nope, not me, I’m not buying it. Breastfeeding has become a bit of a trend and hot topic in recent years and the ridiculous amount of pressure from peers, family, blogs, news, etc. is a lot to handle for those of us who just don’t feel 100% about it. Yes, I know that the AAP recommends breastfeeding until your baby is 12 months old and the WHO say that 2 years is a good stopping point – I’m almost 3 months in and about to throw in the towel.
A little backstory:
When I had Charlee, my milk took about 5 days to come in. I hadn’t done a ton of research on breastfeeding (Hey! How hard is it to feed a baby with your boob?) so I wasn’t sure what the normal timeframe was. Well, when I took Charlee in for her 2 week checkup, I was told that my sweet girl lost weight and she wasn’t eating enough.
I starved my baby for TWO FREAKIN’ WEEKS. To this day, that bothers me. Did I do it on purpose? No. Did I feel insanely guilty and embarrassed that I wasn’t aware that my baby wasn’t getting enough to eat from me? Yes. The lactation consultant at the hospital had told me to put baby to my breast often and at least every 2-3 hours. I did that. She told me to drink a ton of water, eat oatmeal and get rest when I could. Check, check and check. She inspected Charlee’s latch and made sure that I knew comfortable nursing positions. Everything started out great but apparently went downhill, starting with my milk coming in late.
I cried. And I cried some more. And then more. And more.
What was wrong with me? Why could all of those other mothers who talk about how beautiful breastfeeding is, nurse their babies with ease and contentment? Why didn’t my milk come in when it should have? What kind of mother doesn’t realize that their child isn’t eating enough?
At that doctor visit, the doctor suggested that we supplement with formula. Well they may as well said that I had to walk around with a big fat F printed on my forehead. I was ashamed that I wasn’t doing enough and my sweet baby would have to drink *gasp* – FORMULA.
Throughout the next few weeks, I obsessed over Charlee’s eating schedule and amounts. I pumped constantly and bottle fed because it made me more comfortable knowing exactly how many ounces she was getting. I gave her formula but would literally cry every time I did. It was a ridiculously unhealthy situation. I never felt comfortable nursing in front of anyone so I would retreat to the nursery to breastfeed which is where I spent a lot of time since the breast pump was also in there. I began to feel isolated and depressed.
I went in for Charlee’s 2 month checkup and thank goodness, she was gaining weight nicely! When the pediatrician asked how breastfeeding was going, I simply began to cry. I couldn’t even speak. The tears did all the talking and I’ll never forget what her doctor said (and I think of it often), “When listening to the flight attendants give the safety briefing prior to your flight and they discuss oxygen masks, whose do they tell you to put on first?”
It clicked. It was the reassurance and grace that I needed to hear and that I needed to allow myself to feel. I needed to take care of myself first and foremost.
I used the remainder of the breastmilk that I had accumulated in the freezer and once that was gone, Charlee was off of breastmilk. She was almost 3 months.
Fast forward to present day:
I knew what to do and what to expect this time around. I wasn’t going to put so much pressure on myself this time. I wasn’t going to allow the media and mommy blogs and Facebook groups to shame me into believing that there is only one “correct” way to feed William. I went in with a clear head and an open mind.
Well here I sit at exactly 12 weeks postpartum and just as torn as I was with Charlee. Everything is totally different this time around. William latched wonderfully from the get-go, he has gained weight beautifully and I somehow was able to get through the first couple weeks with very few tears. Well that’s where the easy streak ended. At around 3-4 weeks after having William, I started experiencing the worst nipple pain I could ever imagine. I asked my mom friends and even online groups what could be causing this awful pain. People responded with things like…
“Oh mama, everyone struggles in the beginning.”
“Just keep nursing, your nipples will toughen up!”
“I had that pain too. It will get better down the road!”
Those damn breastfeeding groups on Facebook, they kill me. I have seen some of the worst advice given in them and if you dare bring up the F word (formula), they are likely to burn you at the stake.
I was in pain 24/7. I cried every single time William latched; it felt like shards of glass were in my milk. My nipples turned white. I would grit my teeth and tell myself that it would get better and that I should suck it up. I complained constantly. I dreaded the next feed. I wasn’t bonding with my baby during feedings, I was counting down the minutes until it was done. Everyone was telling me this pain was *normal* and I listened to them. I thought something was wrong with me. I constantly was frustrated and thought poorly of myself – I even doubted myself as a mother. What was wrong with me that I had two babies and I couldn’t properly feed them naturally like everyone else?
It turns out that I was experiencing nipple vasospasms (limited or completely cut off blood flow to the nipple) and was told by my OB that there was no treatment.
On one hand, I was relieved that I now had my “out”. I could now quit nursing because I had this condition! On the other hand, I was completely disappointed but determined to fight through the pain.
I chose the latter.
I can proudly say that now, at 12 weeks postpartum, that I am still breastfeeding. I’m proud of my journey and glad that I was stubborn enough to push through.
But you know what? I think I’m done. I think I’m ready to throw in the towel (if I’m able to push aside my mom guilt). I think I’m ready to not think about breastfeeding 24/7. I obsess over it. I wish that I was more type B about it but I’m not. I still use a breastfeeding app and keep track of every nursing session and every ounce pumped. My plans for the day revolve around how and when I’m going to breastfeed. I’ve spent many hours in my car breastfeeding because I can’t do it in public. I can’t dress how I would like because I have to be able to discreetly feed William. I can’t workout like I want to because my boobs hurt and ache constantly. William is sleeping through the night (most of the time) but I sure as heck can’t because I wake up so engorged and in pain and in a puddle of milk that I have to pump in the middle of the night. I feel like Charlee gets sidelined sometimes. I live in fear of clogged ducts and mastitis. William is 100% a mama’s boy and barely allows for bonding with Justin (or anyone for that matter) – he wants me and only me. Breastfeeding completely consumes so many of my thoughts throughout the day, everyday.
I need to allow myself to quit. I need to not worry about the ridiculous stigma that todays society places on formula feeding mothers. I know many amazing mothers who formula feed, whether it’s by personal choice or necessity. We shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, and we sure as hell don’t need the approval of others.
I’ll never forget something that happened when I was visiting one of my best friends after having our babies, Charlee was around 8 weeks and my friends daughter was 7 weeks. We were enjoying loving on each others little ones when they both got a little hungry. I tried everything in my power to not have to mix up a bottle of formula in front of one of my very best friends for goodness sakes! I was worried about what she would think of me. Do you know what? She sheepishly pulled a bottle from her diaper bag just as I did. The look of relief on her face when she saw that I was using formula was both comforting and sad. Why were we both SO ashamed to feed our little girls? It was only after we realized that we were in the same boat that we felt comfortable enough to do so.
And to be quite honest – that’s complete bullshit.
I’ll end with this…
Being a mother is hard. Putting stupid pressure on ourselves is ridiculous. Feed your baby however you please and quit judging others on how they choose to feed theirs. Stop feeling like you have to meet some dumb expectations of people you don’t even know. We all do the best we can and we don’t need anyone wagging their finger in front of us and telling us what to do. Yes, I know all of the studies show breastfeeding is insanely beneficial but do you know what else is beneficial? Your sanity. Your happiness. Both of those things come into play when we think about raising happy, healthy kids.
Breastfeed for a day, a week, a year if you want. Formula feed from the get-go if that’s what makes you happy. I don’t care what you do as long as it’s what YOU feel is in the best interest of your baby and your baby is fed, happy and well taken care of. And you know what else? Be sure to take care of YOU while you’re at it.