I’d heard lots about how breast is best before my first daughter’s arrival, I just wish someone had been open and honest to me about how breastfeeding is hard for some. Having seen others breastfeed their children, and everyone I knew said things had gone smoothly for them, I just assumed my experience would be the same. It wasn’t. Some how the thoughts of possibly having an easy experience breastfeeding crept into my mind again while pregnant with my second daughter. Yet again I have found out that breastfeeding is hard.
I wish this was a topic that was shared more openly. I wish that my prenatal doctors might have warned me that while breastfeeding may be easy for some, it can be very challenging for others. I wish my friends had been more open and honest about their experience. Now I know that how one feeds their baby can be a very touchy subject, but if you’ve followed our journey for some time you’ll know that I nurse, bottle feed, pump, and use formula. I have done so with both of my girls. You will find no “breastfeeding zealotry” here, or pushiness about why you should use formula. This is a judgement free zone. I just want to share a bit of what I’ve been through in hopes that it might help others possibly find peace about where they are at too.
With my first born I knew things were not going to be easy with her first feed. She struggled to latch, and when she did for a bit, it hurt! Sadly she also ended up throwing up all of the milk, and choking. This happened every single feed. I ended up having a nurse come in, and try to help us each time I attempted to breast feed, but my gut was telling me something was not right. I was in pain, my daughter was hungry, and she was not keeping milk down. I resorted to giving her formula from a bottle within her first 24hrs from being born. While she did throw some up, she was also finally happy.
Down the road, after several doctors appointment we learned that she had horrible reflux. It also was not until a recent dental appointment that it was confirmed she has a tongue tie. I suspected this as she got older, but it was always shrugged off despite all my concerns. Maybe things would have been better if I put my foot down, and got this checked again. Maybe if it had been corrected when she was little our experience with breastfeeding would have been different.
My daughter and I still had a breastfeeding relationship, but it was not what some would consider to be “typical”. In our situation I was not able to nurse every single feed. I caused myself a lot of pain, anxiety, and sorrow by trying to nurse her every single feed. It just was not working for us. We were both hurting. It was hard to see those around me having a positive breastfeeding experience. I felt like I was failing my daughter. Looking back I wish I was not so hard on myself. Maybe things would have gone differently? I did not make enough milk and went on medication to try and help my milk supply. There were some days that I felt so guilty I would attempt to exclusively breast feed in hopes of it FINALLY working for us… it never did. I was just hurting myself physically, and emotionally. I was being hard on myself, and my baby. Pumping and bottle feeding worked a bit for us, but I still had to supplement with formula. I was able to nurse her in the morning, and in the evening. I was also only able to nurse her on one side due to her latch issues, and problems I had – I had surgery almost two years ago to remove a mass from my right breast – I was however able to get a bit of milk out of that side if I pumped. Not much, but a bit. Any ways, first thing in the morning, and late at night were the only time I would have enough milk for her, or I found she was able to latch. There was also the odd time where she just wanted comfort and I could nurse her, but those times I was more so just a baby soother than food supply.
Then you have the whole breastfeeding in public debacle. I was struggling enough, and having a hard enough time to be able to nurse my daughter at all. Trying to do that in public… good grief! How on earth do those covers even work? I don’t know about other moms but I found them very awkward. I also did not feel comfortable just whipping my boob out in public without something covering me. More power to all you moms who are able to nurse without a cover, I could not figure out how to do so discreetly. I’m very conservative about things, and well I am “blessed” shall we say. This made feeding in public something that I feared. I would rather find a private place where I could nurse her because I had so many stressing factors going on. Plus she HATED being covered.
Now I have baby number two, a sweet little girl. I entered into the breast feeding world open minded, but prepared to bottle feed if and when I needed to. Sure enough we were off to a rocky start like the first time. Low/nonexsistent milk supply. Latch issues, but thankfully no tongue tie. There was lots of pressure I was putting on myself, and some from others to exclusively breast feed. This time though things were different. I was more accepting that I might need to supplement, or bottle feed. All that mattered to me was that my baby was happy, and healthy and getting what she needed by any means. I struggled about going on medication again to increase my supply, but I did it because I wanted to be able to provide some milk for her. I set small expectations for the both of us. Again I have found that I only have enough milk for her in the morning, and in the evening for her to be full and content. Yet again I am the human pacifier too.
I’m happy with our breastfeeding relationship. It’s still hard. It is a far cry from being easy for me and my daughter, but that is okay. I finally found a nursing cover I can figure out, and this time I have a baby who doesn’t mind it. I have also found myself being okay with not covering up too. I do my best to be discreet. I still cannot figure out how some of you mama’s are like ninjas and so stealthy about it… seriously, teach me your ways! I found myself battling PPD and anxiety again, and it was not because of my breastfeeding struggle but I did have an article passed my way recently and a line from it really hit home “… if depression and anxiety is caused by the breastfeeding experience, breastfeeding isn’t worth it…” So much YES! for this line. I wish I had been told this my first time round because it was a key factor. I wish I was told to stop struggling sooner. I wish I was told that it was okay to bottle feed, and use formula. That there was no shame in doing whatever was best for baby and mom to be happy and healthy. Breastfeeding is hard for some, and it might be easy for others. I just want to encourage other moms to do whatever is best for you, and your baby. Don’t worry about what others think, or say. I’m still struggling to breastfeed, but I’ve found my happy place with it.