When Breastfeeding Isn’t Beautiful

 

My Story

Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing. So natural, so easy, so wonderful…except when it’s not.

We had a rough start with our breastfeeding journey. My little man was in the NICU for his first 5 days of life due to low oxygen levels. He was so lethargic that we struggled to keep him awake during feedings. If any of you have been unlucky enough to belong to the NICU parents club, you know that they monitor many things, one of which is they weigh diapers to make sure those littles are getting enough to eat.

A few days in and my milk hadn’t come in yet. The diapers weren’t weighing enough, and we were instructed to begin supplementing. For about the 80th time since he had been born, I cried and cried. I felt like my body had failed me and my baby. I pumped constantly in my hospital room, and tried to breast feed him at every scheduled feeding. It was so hard, he was so sleepy and unwilling to feed, and covered in wires and tubes. I was trying to recover from childbirth, it hurt to sit in the uncomfortable chair in the baby’s room, deal with raging hormones, sore nipples, my new responsibility as a parent, my strange post pardum body, and overwhelming fatigue. One day, I fell asleep in the chair with the baby and was berated by one of the nurses. I just wanted to take my baby home. If I asked for help with breast feeding, the nurses and lactation consultants helped us but it was very uncomfortable to have them in my personal space giving me instructions.

We got to go home!

We were finally able to go home, and our little guy was discharged from the hospital. Things improved, I’m sure partially due to reduced stress and also the improved health of our baby. We still weren’t reaching our exclusive breast feeding goals, and every time I pumped any extra milk he would end up needing it just a few hours later. As the weeks went by, and I got closer to returning to work, I still didn’t have even a drop of milk set aside in the freezer.

I KNEW that he wasn’t getting enough milk from me. If I didn’t give him a bottle in addition to breast feeding he would not sleep at all, and was not content. I wanted so badly to exclusively breast feed, but I knew I couldn’t starve my baby by refusing to give him bottles.

The  Meanie

I called the lactation consultant, and she was very unkind. She told me to quit supplementing, because every time I gave him a bottle I was damaging my supply. Absolutely good advice for people who have normal production levels, but TERRIBLE AWFUL advice for someone who is part of this unfortunate minority. She told me I could come in for an observed feed if I wanted, but heavily insinuated that it was unnecessary, and I was mismanaging breastfeeding.

I hung up the phone and cried. I took the baby to his hearing screening, and I called my husband to tell him how it went, and also talked to him about my conversation with lactation consultant. He was livid about the way she treated me, and reminded me that our baby was doing fine.

Pump, feed, pump, and repeat

I kept thinking that we just needed to push a little harder, just pump a little more, just take one more supplement, just try a different tea, just drink a little more water, just eat a little better, and everything would work. But it didn’t. This obsession with my milk production exacerbated the postpartum depression I experienced.

Everyone said that it’s ok, that lots of babies grow up using formula, and I wasn’t a bad mom. And I wanted to believe that, I really did. And truly, no one can understand the pain of this unless they have experienced it. I do realize that I was blessed to be able to partially breast feed my child, but it was still an incredibly difficult and painful experience for me. This isn’t something I am very comfortable sharing with the world, but I feel inspired to write about these experiences.

There is an idiotic stigma attached to the inability to breastfeed, or the inability to breastfeed exclusively. There is no other physical inability that is met with so much judgment in our society. I was lucky to be met with an outpouring of support, but I know other moms who have not been so lucky.

The end of our breastfeeding journey

Our breast feeding journey came to an end just before my little one turned 6 months. I found a wonderful group of ladies with the same difficulty, and they have been an AMAZING support. They reminded me that my baby needed me more than my milk. It was the best choice for us for many reasons. I have no regrets about weaning, and I’m proud of what we accomplished together.

So please, stop attaching a stigma to bottle feeding. Stop the hurtful rumor that everyone can exclusively breast feed, and mothers who don’t are lazy. We all know that “breast is best” but when it’s not an option, FED IS BEST.

 

8 Replies to “When Breastfeeding Isn’t Beautiful”

  1. I find that if I have a good relationship with my pediatrician and I trust him/her, then I’m able to follow the instructions-no matter what anyone says. I’m confident and trusting in their education and experience.

    Do you want to know another stigma? Vaginal birth over a c-section! After having four c-sections, comments still hurt me and make me angry! I’ve had comments like, “Boy, I wish I could open a zipper and have my baby!” and “Did you take the easy way out?” or “Gosh, I wish I could stay home and be waited on, but life goes on.”

    Yes, I planned and persuaded my doctor so that I could have my organs laid out in order to get the baby! Yes, I wanted to have horizontal and vertical surgical scars! Yes, I wanted to have muscles that have been sliced four different times and four different ways! Sit ups are fun!!! I wanted to be told that I shouldn’t have more children because the doctor “couldn’t guarantee the integrity of my uterus”. Do you know what that means in plain English? My uterus could burst at any time, at any stage of the pregnancy and I would bleed internally and the baby could suffocate and die! “Oh, you decided to limit your family?” Yes! So my children would have a mother! Or the best one, “I know a woman that has had eight C-sections. If you have enough faith, you could have more children”.

    What about if we, as women and sisters, support each other and our decisions or questions, fears or troubles? And what if we are met with support and gratitude that our bodies are able to create another being and to sustain that life! What if we are able to recognize the miracle that we are able to have these sweet babies in our arms?

    I’m so happy for your sweet boy! I’m so happy for the joy that he has brought to your families! I love to see his sweet pictures and see the rounded belly and rosy cheeks. Congratulations! You’re doing everything right!

    Rant over!

    1. Thank you Rebecca! Yikes I think that a c-section sounds like anything but the easy way out! And you are totally right, we just need to recognize the blessing these sweet babies are and not nitpick on each other about things that don’t matter. As I’ve assumed this role as a parent, I’ve realized that what is best for my family is what matters, not what people think but people can still be hurtful. Thank you for your kind comment :).

  2. Great post, Hailey! I love your honesty. It’s hard to believe you’ve only been a mom for 6 months. You are growing and so wise, keep trusting your gut!

  3. Dear Hailey! Thank you for sharing your expierience.
    I remember deeply, during my first pregnancy, a ‘friend’ said:
    “And about breastfeeding, if you don’t behave complicate, all will be ok.” Until today, it echoes in my mind. Despite forgiveness, yes, it hurts.
    I had maximum 50ml pro breast, never more. My girl began to starve around week two. I had kind assistence from a professional lactation counselor. We tried EVERYTHING. She ensured me, that I made all that was necessary and possible. But it stayed by 50 ml. Despite all we made, no increasing.
    I was so sad! Probably a hormone fault. My breasts haven’t changed at all during pregnancy, even not after birth.
    Baby Girl growed up with bottle and I became pregnant again. Perhaps I had too much stress after the birth from baby number one? Perhaps all that pumping etc, etc, was hindering me to relax enough? I thougt that I would try again, sleep and rest more, and if it’s not possible to breastfeed, we knew she will growing up good with bottle too. The result: 50 ml. Sadly, not one drop more.
    But I never imagined, how the second time this goodbye could be very hurting too, despite we knew what could happen.
    It’s a first cut, a hard loss.
    Until today I place at conversations that exclusively breastfeeding isn’t possible for every woman, how propaganda here in Switzerland says. It is not true! I hope your and my outing helps other young woman not to be shocked if breastfeeding isn’t possible.
    Please excuse my english, but I had to write this! Our girls are now teenagers and sparkling for Jesus, so much JOY! 🙂
    Barbara

    1. Thank you for your comment Barbara! I am sorry to hear about your experience, but I love connecting with moms who have also had breast feeding struggles. I am so incredibly glad to hear that your girls are doing well now. There is so much misinformation out there, and slowly but surely more people are understanding that not everyone can breast feed. I started watching life in pieces, and the young Mom can’t produce enough for her daughter. I was so happy to see the shout out to us low supply mamas.

  4. My first son was in the NICU for 4 days. We tried breastfeeding, but he had already been on formula, he didn’t latch well, I was in such pain recovering from delivery and I didn’t have much support from my husband. We managed to get to 3 weeks by pumping. I felt so guilty and upset with my body. But I did what I had to. My new son is 2 months old, and we have been exclusively breastfeeding this time with no problems!

    1. Sarah I am so happy to hear that you have found more success breastfeeding with your second child. And every drop counts, you should feel good about those 3 weeks of breast milk you gave your oldest. Thank you for sharing your experience and thank you for stopping by!

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