World Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7. Who knew? I sure didn’t, until this year, when my fellow mom bloggers took to social media to post pictures of their little ones nursing, with their post proclaiming “breast is best” and touting what a beautiful experience it is to nurse their child and how they wouldn’t have it any other way. And to them I say, Bravo Mama!
I, on the other hand, have no such picture to share and I am at peace with that.
As a non-mom, I always thought breastfeeding was simple. I’d be at my girlfriend’s house visiting with her and she would gracefully draw her child to her breast, and her daughter would latch and eat like a champ. Easy peasy, right? As I was nearing 6 months of pregnancy, multiple friends broke the news to me that breastfeeding is anything but easy, especially in the beginning. So I did what any good planner would do: I signed us up for a breastfeeding class. And I say “us” because I was advised to bring my husband. Neither he nor I could figure out why he should be there, but I didn’t want to be the only husbandless prego lady in the room, so he dutifully joined me. After a two-hour class, we were fully armed with everything we needed to know about latching, clogged ducts, mastitis, , football holds, and even leak guards. If it was nursing related, we were officially in the know!
Approximately one month before my due date we received sample formula in the mail. I was going to toss it in the trash – no need for formula; I was going to be a lean mean nursing machine. My husband convinced me to put it in the pantry, just in case. I had no idea at the time how grateful I would be to him for that! Over the course of the next month I bought every cream, leak guard, nursing tank and pumping accessory I could find. I’m a planner, remember!?! I was going to nail this nursing thing. It was difficult for others, but not for me. I was ready!
And then April 2, 2017 rolled around. At 12:34am Juliet graced us with her presence and by 12:36, she was lying on my chest. Skin-to-skin. I immediately applied her to my breast, just as I had been instructed. I knew she wouldn’t really get anything during that feed, but it should get us started on the path to a successful nursing experience. I tried to nurse her all night long and in to the next day. I think every nurse in the nursery came in to help us. We had a 2-hour session that ended with both Juliet and I both in tears. It was not going well. Every holding position I tried felt like she may suffocate or break. I just wanted to go home and nurse my baby the way I thought would work.
We left the hospital around noon the following day; I got home and continued trying to nurse. It was working a little – she was getting my “liquid gold” but she was not a happy camper. She seemed as though she was in pain. Was she just hungry? Was something else wrong? I had no idea, but I knew something wasn’t right. Around 4am that night/the next morning, after nursing her for hours on end through excruciating needle-like pain, I ventured to the pantry and made her first bottle while silently thanking my husband and telling myself that I was not a failure but instead was doing what felt right for my newborn baby. When my husband awoke the next morning I confessed to what I had done and he responded with complete support. I, on the other hand, was embarrassed. Friends and family would come to our house during that first week and I would have a bottle stocked away upstairs and I would take her upstairs to feed her so that nobody would know I wasn’t actually nursing her. I didn’t want anyone to know that my lean mean breastfeeding machine plan had failed.
At our first pediatrician appointment we found that our daughter had dropped too much weight. Our pediatrician advised me to stick with the formula and mix in breast milk to try to get the added nutrients. With each ounce of my milk that she drank, she would writhe in pain. I gave up dairy and caffeine, no broccoli for me! Still in pain! Her bottom broke out in a diaper rash, complete with sores that were so bad they were bleeding. My milk did not agree with her. I kept pumping with the hope that after her tummy got a little more developed she would be able to tolerate my milk and in the meantime we tried 6 different formulas until we found the real liquid gold. Actually, based on the price tag, we refer to it as “liquid platinum” – Similac Alimentum, a hypo-allergenic formula.
Juliet’s tummy never accepted my milk, but I’m pleased to say that she is a very happy baby who is gaining weight as she should be and is a strong and healthy four-month old. I didn’t get to enjoy the breastfeeding experience as most moms do, but I am no less of a mother and my daughter is no worse off than the other children who were breastfed.
I’ve mostly found the motherhood community to be a supportive group, but the bold statement of “breast is best” is alienating to those of us who were not able to do so. If you were successful in breastfeeding, I am overjoyed for you. To those of you who were not, for whatever reason, know that this mama applauds you for making what was likely a very tough decision.
To all moms, I say cheers to happy, healthy and strong babies – no matter what they eat!