So this is kind of a sensitive subject for me to talk about, but after reading this post, I felt encouraged to share with you all my experience.
I have two kids. Both kids are brilliant, healthy, happy, adorable, strong, loved. LOVED beyond anything I could possibly imagine. When I had my first baby, I was 23 years old, literally having transitioned from being a student to a mother overnight (I took my last college final the day before I had my baby.) And I had him by C Section, due to breech presentation. I was pretty drugged up after the surgery and they had taken my son to the NICU for some breathing problems so we didn’t get to be together for a good five hours. After they finally brought him to me, I tried breastfeeding. Well, despite the fact that it was really painful to hold him on my stomach, I had no milk or colostrum anyway, so he wouldn’t latch on after the first time trying. I pumped a little, but nothing came until the third day. I kept trying to breastfeed, but it was not working at all. Finally the lactation consultant offered me a nipple shield (a piece of rubbery plastic that fits over your breast) and that finally worked. So I kept nursing my son with the nipple shield, but he never seemed satisfied, so I supplemented with formula.
Before I had my baby, I went to one of those breastfeeding classes. The lady there said cheerfully, “there are no breastfeeding problems that can’t be fixed!” So I naively went on my way, knowing that breastfeeding would just work for me, as it had worked for my mom and all her daughters and daughters-in-law. But here was something I was unprepared for: I hated breastfeeding. I hated it for how much it hurt, how long it took, and how it seemed like I had to do it every hour, since my son always seemed hungry. I hated how after I took a shower and finally got all the spit up, poop, pee, and sweat off of me, I needed to whip out and breastfeed again. And it wasn’t just as simple as that…I lived with my in-laws so I had very little privacy, and I had to adjust the nipple shield every time, which takes a bit of a trick to get it to work just right. I kept offering my breast to my son without the shield, but he refused every time.
Finally, two months old, he took it without the shield. Happy day! I was amazed at how easy it suddenly became. But I was stupid…I thought my milk supply was drying up and there was nothing I could do. So I let it dry up, when I could have pumped a lot and got it back. So at three months he become a formula-fed baby. And all was well…except for the horrible guilt and failure that lurked in the back of my mind.
When I had my second baby, I was much more determined to make the breastfeeding work. But as usual, my baby didn’t get a drop from me until he was several days old, and of course I didn’t want to let him go hungry. First rule: Feed the baby! But he wouldn’t open his mouth wide enough to latch, so I tried the nipple shield, which worked for a week until he refused due to a slow let down. I then went to see a lactation consultant who suspected tongue tie. I then saw my pediatrician who referred me to a ENT, who said nope, no tongue tie. I was pumping all during this time, and getting plugged milk duct after plugged milk duct (still get them…arg!) and struggling. One day I just went in the shower and cried harder than I’d cried in years. I wanted SO badly to make this work, but it just WASN’T. AGAIN.
So I pumped and bottle-fed. I thought I’d try again when he was a little older. But when that time came, all the agony, tears, and frustration came flooding back and I just couldn’t bring myself to try again since I’d finally gotten into a rhythm that worked for me. So I made my peace with it, since I knew that I’d really tried, I’d really given it all I had. And the other night I had a friend hold my baby while I prepared formula for him, kind of wondering what she was thinking of me, but ultimately, not caring. I still pump and he gets a lot of breastmilk. And my son is the happiest baby alive, and we spend tons of time giggling, tickling, and grinning like idiots at each other. My breasts still hurt every day and I can’t WAIT until I am done pumping.
So that’s my story. I have never truly successfully breastfed a baby for a sustained time, and I’m good with it. And I don’t think that 1st) any person who has never had problems breastfeeding should ever pass judgement on a woman who is bottle-feeding, and 2nd) women should not carry that guilt around with them if they do not breastfeed, whether by choice or not. It is freaking hard just to be a mom all the time. Our jobs are so important…we are in charge of not only sustaining LIFE to a human being (or several) but also making sure they are successful, smart, well-mannered, kind, generous, loving, happy, healthy, active, well-balanced, and behaved.
P.S. I’m not fully convinced that I would have lost all my baby weight had I successfully breastfed anyway.