Breastfeeding is one of those terms that almost everyone (male or female) are familiar with. While everyone knows what the term means, not everyone feels the same about it. Some are devoutly pro-breastfeeding, a smaller percentage may be anti-breastfeeding, and some people are just plain offended by it (insert eye roll), or on the fence about it. Regardless of how you feel about it, I firmly believe that until you have actually done it, you have absolutely no idea what it actually entails.
Like a good portion of women, when I became pregnant, I was quick to tell everyone how I would “totally be breastfeeding.” No bottles, no formula…just me, providing nutrition for our child. My husband was all for it. Not adding the expense of formula onto our grocery bill was fantastic, so thankfully we were on the same page.
Leading up to Bear’s birth (his nickname), I was calm and confident about my choice to breastfeed. I had given my doctor very specific instructions to lay him directly on my chest so he could immediately have skin to skin and start nursing. My labor was a doozy, but the moment he was finally born was breathtaking. Except for one minor thing…he didn’t cry. Within milliseconds of giving birth, he went from my doctor’s hands straight to a nurse who walked away with him to the other side of the room. To say I was hysterical would be an understatement. Thankfully though after several minutes and checkups by three different lung specialists, it was determined he was fine. However, the immediate skin to skin I wanted so badly didn’t happen.
Holy ow. From the moment he sucked, I felt pain but assumed that it had to be a painful experience to some degree and went with it. The entire time I was in the hospital I was adamant that I would breastfeed. Even though it seemed to not feel natural, in my heart, I thought it was best and requested to see the LC’s there. By the time we were discharged, I was told I was doing great and should have nothing to worry about.
Those first few nights Bear cried constantly. I would breastfeed him and he would suck, painfully, and be content for a small period of time and then cry again. When my husband went back to work, my mom came to stay with me, and I remember waking up for the 5th time in the night to his hunger screams and pulling down my shirt. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, and every time I put him on, it was excruciating pain, but I still did it. That night my mom saw the tears in my eyes and said to me, “Honey how long are you going to do this??” referring to the pain I was enduring. To me though, it was a no brainer. I wasn’t giving up.
When Bear was a few weeks old, we went to a routine appointment. I was exhausted, and broke down as I told the nurse that he cried A LOT. This whole mom thing was so much harder than I had ever thought it would be. Seconds later, the doctor came in and told me that Bear, in fact, had dropped a substantial amount of weight. “There’s no way.” I thought. “He eats all the time.” Upon further inspection, it was discovered that he had a tongue tie, and we realized that because of this, he in fact was not getting much milk at all from me. He was so hungry that the doctor brought in formula and a bottle and told me he needed to eat: now. I have never seen a child suck down a bottle the way he did at that moment. My heart was crushed, and I felt so torn. Of course, he needed to eat but formula was never a part of the plan.
Leaving the doctor’s office, I called the LC at the hospital and told her what was going on. “Under no circumstance should you give him formula.” I was told. “It will throw everything off, and he won’t want to go back to the breast. It’s ok! We are working with a mom right now whose child hasn’t gained any weight in six weeks. But she’s getting there!” I hung up sick to my stomach. I had just been told to forgo feeding my baby, despite knowing that he wasn’t eating nearly enough to stay somewhat close to birth weight. It broke my heart, but I decided I would pump and do formula as needed. Within days I realized quickly that pumping wasn’t going to work. Because it had been so long without having true nursing, my supply was almost nothing.
It took months for me to feel ok about giving my son formula, I would say mostly because of the adamant push for how breast is far superior. I felt like a horrible mom and will tell my husband how if there wasn’t formula our child wouldn’t have lived. I stayed in that darkness until he finally told me that enough was enough. We had a beautiful, healthy baby boy who was rapidly gaining weight and filling out. As Bear grew, he ate a lot. There was a substantial period of time where he took about 42 ounces daily, and keeping him full was a challenge in itself.
I was determined to breastfeed my second, but unfortunately, we had a situation that was similar to the first. When an LC told us that we could “train” our second to nurse correctly, my laid back anything goes husband told her it wasn’t happening. He had seen the toll breastfeeding had taken on me the first go-round and he was incredibly protective, saying he wouldn’t allow me to feel like a failure again if it didn’t work.
Do I wish I would have been able to breastfeed? Absolutely. But honest to goodness for some women it just isn’t in the cards. Thankfully we have the option to use formula. In hindsight, what I wish I could change about the whole experience is allowing others to make me feel so inferior. Women can be so horrible to one another when this topic arises. We all raise our children the best we can. I don’t love or take care of my boys any less because I didn’t breastfeed. We now have very healthy (and big) children. Bear is almost 5 and is the size of a 7-year-old. Holt just turned 2 and is in 4T clothes. They weigh 50 and 32 pounds respectively. They are healthy. They are happy. They are fed. And THAT’S what truly matters.