I have learned that in motherhood, there are no guarantees and in turn there should be no “rules” on how moms choose to parent our children. I have also learned that every pregnancy , birthing experience and child is different. My breastfeeding experience with my two children is a perfect example of this.
My breastfeeding story
With my first born, I was a day shy of 27 years old when he was born and I was, looking back, naïve, optimistic…clueless! I did sign up for a breastfeeding class while pregnant but never made it to that class. I thought it would come naturally. It had for my friends, right? I mean no one told me anything different. (why oh why?!)
So the day my son was born they placed him on my chest to get warm and I immediately (after they sucked the gunk out of his holes) put him to my breast. And he took it! I was smiling. (Through tears, fear and a “what the f- have I done” feeling) In truth I was so overwhelmed. My birthing experience wasn’t what I had envisioned but I was happy to see my son.
Over the next two days in the hospital, I was a feeding machine. Cameron was taking to the breast beautifully and I was feverishly writing down the times I would start and stop each feeding and making note of which breast I was ending with. I was making sure I did the 20 minutes each breast. Trying to keep Cam awake to feed – I was doing all that I thought I was supposed to do. I had met with two lactation consultants and they gave me tips and said I was doing great. But it did hurt none-the-less. After two days, we went home.
Once at home, the engorgement came – what the hell is this?! And my nipples began to hurt so badly; I flinched each time I had to feed Cam. I was not very happy but was told, it’ll get better. I cried. A lot. My mom was convinced I had baby blues (I did and that is normal, I now know, and it would pass). But I went to the doctor, my OB, to talk to him.
We determined that yeah it was only baby blues BUT he offered me two options – take an anti-depressant pill or pop on an estrogen patch to help balance my hormones. I opted for the estrogen patch.
I wish I had opted for a third choice that was never offered to me – “wait.and.see. This too shall pass. You are normal. Your feelings are normal. Just wait.” Option. No, I never heard any of that. I felt like I was abnormal in my feelings and so I took the patch, plopped in on to my butt and was on my way.
Fast forward two weeks and three lactation consultations (you sure can’t say I didn’t try my damndest!). … I go to my son’s 2-week appointment and he has lost weight. I was strictly breastfeeding and while I wasn’t waking him as I probably should (I welcomed the sleep!) I felt like we were doing ok. In hearing that my child wasn’t gaining, I felt like an instant failure. After-all, it was all on me, and my boobs…we were his lifeline and he wasn’t growing (the way the drs thought he should)
My pediatrician first asked, “Are your breast getting full anymore”. Hmm, come to think of it, NO! I told him about my visit to the other doctor and the estrogen patch. He chuckled at me and said, “That will dry you up. No wonder he’s lost weight. I’m sending you home with formula. Supplement.”
Now this was foreign to me. I didn’t know that I could do both. Truthfully I didn’t even have ANY formula at home or any bottles. I was going to breastfeed damn it! So on our way home from a devastating appointment, I ripped off that patch, stopped at Target and bought three bottles. Armed with bottles and a bag FULL of formula from my pediatrician, I was anxious to get my son some food!
My son downed that bottle like a quarterback downs a beer in college. Fast! I was sad – I had been starving my child. But inside me, I was also relieved that I didn’t have to bring him to my breast, to endure that pain. I could take a moment while my husband fed him. My son was happy, eating and not starving. Ahhh.
(A lot happened between the above paragraph and the one below but basically these are the highlights…
1. Started formula feeding
2. Met with yet another LC to be told I could re-lactate – it’d take syringes, and tube feeding while breastfeeding – she’d come over everyday and I’d be her “project” (she wanted to write a paper on it… “Relactating The Ohana Mama” don’t ya wish that had happened? I don’t)
3. Renting a hospital grade pump to pump while breastfeeding (have you tried this? It scares the crap out of your child and unless you have three arms or are super women, it’s TOUGH to do!)
4. I gave in. I returned the pump to the hospital and bought a mega box of formula at Babies R Us. And felt good about it (to myself ). I did hide it to get it to the car for fear another mom would see that I was a “failure.”
Then set in the depression – now THIS was depression. That little thing I was feeling where I cried at the most random of things those first few days after child birth…THAT was baby blues. They are normal.
This? This was…me feeling like the BIGGEST failure ever! I wanted to hide the bottle of formula for fear others would judge me. Yes, I would go to mommy and me yoga and literally time it – feed a bottle in the car beforehand – then race out to feed another one on our way home – never to let the more successful breastfeeding and crunchy moms, which I adored, in my class see me bottle feeding (gasp!).
Yes, up until my son was 1 year old I walked a fine line. Trying not to even talk about how I only breastfed/pumped for a month (5 weeks, really!). I once had a woman, a stranger, come up to me on the beach and say “oh, he is so cute!”
Me: “ah, thank you”
Her: “So you breastfeed?”
Me: “um, um, no, not anymore” (eluding that I had done it for a while – I was lying!)
Her:’ WHY?! It is the best!”
Me: “It’s a very very long story, but he is happy and growing” smile smile smile (leave me alone! screaming inside my head!)
My son was about 7 months.
When he turned 1 I felt relief. Because it was recommended that your child breastfeed for at least a year, that was the point when a lot of kids are introduced to milk – and Cam took that pretty easily, thank goodness so no more formula packets to be hidden. I was in the clear! (For the most part)
That entire year I had walked around with guilt. I felt pressured. I felt alone. I felt like I gave up to easily (I still do – and can see holes in my story now, looking back, where I could have turned things around) But you know what? My son was/is HEALTHY! Happy! He crawled, walked and talked early. He hardly ever got sick. All was ok. I did good! I was happy. He was happy. And it was ok that it didn’t work out. And yes I can say that I DID breastfeed my son. For only 5 weeks, but I worked my ass off those 5 weeks so yes I will wear it like a badge of honor! (now)
My breastfeeding experience doesn’t stop there but it gets much much simpler…
With my daughter, child number two – 33 months after having my son and 33 months wiser – breastfeeding, comparably was a breeze! And at 18 months now, we’re still going strong. I said I’d be done with it once Leah asked for it. But now, even with her pulling at my shirt and saying boo-boo, I give in. I have no idea when we’ll stop. Will it be self-led by Leah? By me? Who knows. For now we take it one day, one boob session at a time. And it’s great.
Ironically, although breastfeeding has gone really well with #2, Leah has always been on the low low low end of the scale- she’s uber petite – but so am I. But I knew all along the way, weight check after weight check, she was thriving and meeting milestones. She didn’t match their weight “schedule” but she wasn’t losing weight. My sister-in-law said, “As long as she is moving up, even by just a little, you are doing great!” And you know, not once did any doctor tell me to supplement. They had me come back every two weeks to weigh her (that was stressful) but never did they mention formula. For some reason I find this interesting. (they never gave me an out…or perhaps I had that look telling them “don’t even think about it buddy!” who knows). But an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
What was different this time around?
I took the pressure off of myself. My sister and I talked when I was still pregnant. I was afraid of repeating what happened with Cameron. She was a new mom who worked full time but still almost exclusively breastfed (can you say ROCKSTAR!) She said something to me that I still remember “You don’t have to be an all or nothing mom. You can breastfeed & give formula. Or you can exclusively pump. Or pump and nurse or just nurse. There are no rules and no right or wrong.”
That carried me through. I have been lucky to be able to nurse almost exclusively this time around (it did save me a TON of $$), but that statement from her took the pressure off of me. (Thank you Lara!)
I also got educated! I read a breastfeeding book during the first few days with Leah. During her nighttime feedings (all night, more like it!) I’d grab this book and read it. It was meant for those training to be midwives, but the black and white, (more technical than touchy-feeling) info helped me get through the normal and natural pain associated with having a child suck on your for over 12 hours a day. It helped me when my chest was rock hard and competing with Pamela Anderson. It was my lifeline!
My advice, and this is only from me, a mom who has had only two experiences…
1. Remove the pressure
2. Get educated – learn all you can about breastfeeding BEFORE the baby comes (see our prize for today!) and have good resources for after the baby comes
3. Go with your gut (I should have listened to my inner voice about that damn patch)
4. Hold your head high no matter what you do – a combo of formula/breast? Strictly breast? There are no rules
And yes we’ve all heard and yes it is true (kind of) breast is best. I say kind of because I believe a happy mom is best. Much like in an aircraft – put your mask on first. Then put your child’s on. If you are depressed over breastfeeding, the pressure of it, and are perhaps resenting your child, then is it best?
Breastfeeding is natural, but it may or may not come naturally for everyone. Take it one day/one feeding at a time and set tiny goals for yourself….2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, a year!
How was your experience?
More stories – funny ones- are to come…and not just from me but from YOU, the readers and my tweeps on twitter! Stay tuned!
And go enter the giveaway for today’s giveaway! Even if you aren’t pregnant but have a friend or family member that is, I highly recommend you share this DVD with them, Simply Breastfeeding…go enter now!