Breastfeeding, It's Not for Everyone
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I missed the opportunity to post during world breastfeeding week, at the beginning of the month. I didn't think I had anything to share regarding breastfeeding, because I wasn't able to do it. But just because I wasn't able to breastfeed my child, that doesn't mean I don't have something very important to share with other mamas about breastfeeding.
I understand that babies who are solely breastfed for at least six months are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory problems, and are less likely to be obese. However, this is not a guarantee. There are many other factors that go into your child's health; if they attend regular day care, what home conditions are like, and also genetics. My son was mostly formula fed (except for the first two months when he had some pumped breast milk), and he has never had any of these problems. His pediatrician even said he was one of her healthiest patients, even though he is only 3% on the growth chart scale.
Although I completely agree with breastfeeding and all it's health benefits, bonding experience, and financial savings, I wanted to share a different perspective. Not every child will take to breastfeeding, and not every mom will be successful at it. I wasn't, and it sure wasn't for a lack of trying. It doesn't make me a bad mom that I wasn't able to breastfeed, but I sure felt like a failure.
Silas was able to latch in the hospital, which I was extremely surprised and grateful for. I literally had no problems, and everything seemed to be going so smoothly. Naturally, I thought that meant he would do just as well at home. However, when I got home, he wasn't getting enough milk to feed properly.
He would wake up every 2 to 3 hours wanting more. I would nurse him, and he would still be fussy acting like he wasn't getting enough. Even though I would nurse for 45+ minutes. He would eventually fall asleep, because he was just so tired from nursing, or worn out from being frustrated.
After about two days of this nonsense we decided to supplement with formula. Silas had just slept for 4hrs when he woke up really hungry (obviously). He was so frustrated from trying to nurse, he gave up and just kept crying. I knew he couldn't go any longer without food, so we gave him a bottle of formula, which he sucked dry. I knew then that I was going to have problems with breastfeeding, and we immediately made an appointment with the lactation consultant from the hospital.
She gave me all the right tips, suggestions, equipment and helpful encouragement that any new nursing mom could want. She even gave us more bottle nipples and extra formula if that's what we had to do to supplement until he learned to nurse. I had every intention of nursing, and only supplementing with formula until he was latching on properly and consistently.
Well, he never learned to nurse. My body did not produce enough for him to make it worth his while. Even with all the training, lactation inducing foods, praying, and wanting it really bad. I wasn't going to force him to do something that obviously wasn't working for either one of us. Stress isn't good for nursing moms or baby.
I did end up pumping for the first two months. I knew I could produce a small amount of milk, and I wanted him to still get the benefits of breast milk. But it was a long hard road. I would pump every 4hrs, every day, and only get 1 to 2 ounces a day. I'm sure you mamas can imagine how frustrating, time-consuming, painful and intense this schedule would be for a first time mom with a newborn. After two months I decided it was a waste of time to continue, and he would get all the nutrients he needed from formula and turn out just fine. I had done all that I could, and at least he had gotten SOME breast milk with all its amazing health benefits. I could now stop beating myself up over the fact that I couldn't breastfeed.
Although, my situation is quite different from others, because I had very specific factors working against me that I need to share in the spirit of full disclosure. I had breast reduction surgery when I was 22. I remember specifically telling the surgeon that I wanted to be able to breastfeed in the future, although I knew the surgery would have an impact on me being able to do so. He made it seem like it wouldn't be a problem, as long as I wasn't trying to nurse in the immediate future after my surgery.
So, going into nursing, I thought I would still be able to breastfeed. Especially since it had been several years at that point, and my body had time to fully recover from my surgery. Even though in my mind, I knew there would be a possibility that I wouldn't be as successful as someone who hadn't had this surgery. I still held onto the hope that I could make it work. My surgery did not stop me from trying. When it was apparent that I wasn't able to breastfeed, I pumped. I did what I could, with what I had.
I just want to take a minute to encourage all the first time moms and wannabe breastfeeding mamas, that it's OK if you're not able to breastfeed. If I could have chosen, I would have preferred to solely breastfeed my son. It just wasn't an option for me. Do what you can, and don't let anyone make you feel guilty about how you feed your child. I personally never felt like people were looking down on me because I was formula feeding, but I was disappointed in myself that I couldn't breast-feed. Considering my situation, that was an unfair expectation to place on myself.
There is enough about new mommy hood to scare you and make you feel completely helpless, don't let your child's nutrition be one of them. You know the best way to take care of your baby. If you can breastfeed great, but if you have to use formula don't beat yourself up over it. I think we can all agree the main goal is the health of your baby, and that they get the nutrients they need - however that has to be accomplished.
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. What was your experience with nursing? Anyone else have a similar surgery?