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Me and the Girls

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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. 

28 Comments

  1. It is a touchy subject isn't it? Thank you for sharing. With my first son there were times where I was in the shower shaving my armpits and I seriously thought to myself 'if i just shave off my nipples then i won't have to keep trying to make this work'. I was definitely a typical 'breastfeeding is no problem' expectant mother and after six months of crying and screaming and bloody nipples a lactation consultant finally helped me and it worked out perfectly. besides the nipple pain that never went away, at least there was no more blood. The second went a lot smoother because i finally realized he needed food. so I supplemented with formula until my milk fully came in then i breastfed and pumped to keep my milk at FULL capacity. Luckily he was a much better latcher and feeder overall…I don't think i'll ever get over those first months of breastfeeding, traumatic to say the least. now that i know the struggles i definitely don't flinch when i see a mother grab the formula…sometimes it's just what the baby needs. Kudos to you for doing such a wonderful job for your children:)

  2. K.D. Mullen says:

    Good for you! You've got it right. I was also a young mother at 23. I beat myself up pretty good when I was a younger mom too. Now I have 4 children altogether 13, 12, 9 and 2. The first two were bottlefed and the second two were breastfed. And guess what? I know now, at least in my own case, that it made very little difference either way (if anything the first two are even more attached to me!). I can't believe looking back that I let the hype (darn Dr. Sears) bother me at all. The most important thing that matters most with raising children is love and attention! Everything else will fall into place. I'm with you, anyone who passes judgement on whether a mom breastfeeds needs to step back and look at the big picture.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I recently had my third child and after successfully nursing my first two for 6 months each, I was unable to produce enough milk for my third. We had a lot of stress going on when she was born and I think my body just couldn't handle all of it. It has been so hard to give up nursing her, but she was always hungry and it was taking so long and I had to consider my other two kids, too. You are so right, though, about not judging and not carrying the guilt. I have felt so guilty about not continuing to try with her and I have had many people in my life who have perpetuated that guilt with their comments and opinions about my choice to bottle feed. You did the right thing by doing what worked for YOU and your baby. That's all we can do as mommas…what is best for them. Thank you, again, for sharing you experience πŸ™‚

  4. Beth Anne McCann says:

    I tried to exclusively breastfeed for about 3 months…. my baby was hungry! My life changed for the better as I'm sure babies did too when I started supplementing with formula. I still breastfed, but let the baby eat and get what she needed to sustain a full feeling. Now I know with baby number 2 to feed him or her formula/ breast milk and whenever they want. I will not put pressure on myself, especially when I was simply not producing enough… I was p/o 'd the other day when I met a lactation consultant that gave me "Awww…" when she found out that I gave baby formula as well as breast milk! Bug off!

  5. I have to say that this post brought tears to my still hormonal eyes. My son will be 9-months-old tomorrow and I am still nursing him; at least on one breast. My milk started to dry up on the left side only (what's up with that?) and I have what my doctor called a "double-nipple" that makes it super hard to get the milk out by pumping or by nursing. I could only really get a lot out by manual expression and I was not about to do that for 30 minutes at a time, several times a day. However, I do make a *lot* of milk on my right side. Hence the pad on my left side to take up the empty room in my lopsided bra. Luckily for us, my son latched on immediately after birth and has been a great nurser ever since but it was still hard. My nipples cracked and bled in the first 2 months. It hurt so badly every time he latched on that I had to clench my fists and curl my toes to keep from screaming. I stuck with it though. I felt guilty just wishing I could stop. I can't imagine how mothers feel when they can't breastfeed for one reason or another. It's totally a personal decision. You never know what you would do until you're in the same situation.

  6. While it was really easy for me to breastfeed, I have no inclination to feel differently towards you because it was not working for you. I mean, honestly. If I had such a struggle, I don't know that I would be as diligent as you have been. And anyone with a problem with your decision has obviously NOT gone through what you did. I supplemented because I lack iron and didn't want my poor kid to be anemic and because sometimes it was just nice to have that option.

    Also – I hate, hate, hate pumping. You are truly someone remarkable for pumping for so long.

  7. It was really easy for me to breastfeed as well, once my milk came in. I loved nursing my babies and knowing that I was doing that for them. I nursed both of them (now almost 10 and almost 7) for over 2 years each and loved it. There were days when my nipples were so sore from constantly nursing, and I couldn't pump a thing to save my life, although I could hand express. (My hubby thought it was disgusting when I shot a stream of milk all the way across the room….I thought it was hilarious!)
    Even though I am a huge advocate of nursing, I also know that it isn't feasible for every one and that it doesn't come easily to everyone. That is a decision that is between the mother and father and no one else. Sure, you can take advice from the doctor, from a lactation consultant, etc., but ultimately that is up to the parents. As long as baby is getting fed, and is thriving, etc., then I say do it (feed) however you have to.

  8. The Clark's says:

    Thank you for writing this it is good to know I am not alone in the world of formula-feed-baby/guilt-ridden-mothers. I am a mother to twins and very unexpectedly I got sick at 33 weeks. The only cure was delivery and so off to the operating room I went. The first time I tried pumping was when I mentioned to the nurse a full 24 hours after delivery that I wanted to, and she didn't even hang around to show me how to set up my machine. On top of that since my babies were so early the lacked the sucking drive and the doctors all wanted to know how many calories they were in taking so breastfeeding was not a priority. Anyways my girls didn't want to eat from a bottle let alone mama, I remember being so happy when they finally took an ounce by a bottle so I dry pumped and pumped and pumped but at best I think I got 4 ounces total at best. I killed myself for the first three months (even after I went back to work I had to go sit in a stall and pump with people walking in to use the restroom) until I finally quite. When I hear this anyone can nurse crap it makes me so mad/hurt not everyone can nurse and not all c-sections are bad. Anyways sorry for the long story but I just wanted to add that I feel your guilt and agree that other women shouldn't pass judgment to quickly. Thanks for your bravery at bring up such a tender subject.

  9. I had a c-section, too, after 48 hours in labor, most of it without drugs. That's a whole other hype story. We ended up being in the hospital a total of 6 days, even though my son was born healthy. My milk didn't come in for almost 8 days, but I was determined not to feed him formula and doom my breastfeeding from the beginning. At least, that's what all the books told me. I was immediately given a nipple sheild in recovery with no direction on how to use it or how to get off of it. I was finally able to feed him with the sheild, but he would take an hour to eat and then want to eat again a half hour later. I pumped after every feeding, even in the middle of the night. I made it to 4 1/2 months through sheer will-power and eventually got him off the nipple shield at 3 months. The whole breastfeeding experience was so stressful for me, but I did enjoy the closeness and wish I could have done it longer. I do feel the "formula guilt" but I try not to when I see what a beautiful, healthy 9 month old I have. Thank you for your story.

  10. Angeliquez says:

    oh good lord i so feel for you hun..
    dont beat yourself up about this..its not as hard as you have sed for me,but its not easy.i was constantly leaking and spraying milk every where(cuz of rapid let down reflux),ruining my clothes,my baby's clothes( she is a lil persistent babe but she sometimes just has to let go to breath becuz its just too much to swallow at once,and that makes a mess),the sheets at night when i feed lying down,and so on.And at first,she fed for 45 minutes at a time,it was so horribly painful..and afta just three months or so,baby was like hungry all thetime with mommy feelin like she has nothing left.honestly i used to check to see if it was milk or blood becuz it was so painful.. so even though i wanted to postpone startin on solids til she was 6 months,i had to start sooner and i felt guilty.but nw ive made peace,we do wat we have to.somethings are just beyond us,no one can judge us for that.im still feeding and it still hurts and i still feel like sometimes i just dont have as much as she needs and wants..but as she's started on solids now its easier as she aint not always hungry anymo.
    no judgement huny,we know the pain.

    Things that are beyond us cannot label us as anything.

  11. I love your post. I remember thinking…women have boobs for a reason, so shouldn't breastfeeding come naturally and just work everytime in order make your child stay alive??? Because what would they do in the old days without nipple shields and pumps? I still struggle with the fact that breastfeeding is NOT always easy, natural, pretty and problem-free, when that is the reason that every female on the earth has breasts. But, thank heavens for formula, right?

  12. I think as moms we are often so hard on ourselves because we want to be able to provide ALL our baby or child needs. I'm trying to remind myself frequently that I can be the best mom for my kids but that doesn't mean that everything will always be "perfect" or fit into place like the norm. As we accept our own way of mothering I think it gives us confidence and happiness as mothers. And, like you said, if our kids are happy and thriving that is what's most important. Breastfeeding has come relatively easy for me, but I think we all have things we have to come to grips with and let go of guilt over. Very good post, my friend!

    ps- I ADMIRE you for pumping…I can't stand it and think it's awesome you've been able to do it for so long.

  13. THANK YOU. I HATE breastfeeding too. Despite the fact that my kid is a champion eater it makes me crazy. I always feel half-undressed. I'm constantly getting all hot and sweaty. I am strictly doing it at this point because it is the best for my boy. Thank you for being so brave to share this!

  14. sweettooth7 says:

    Thank you for sharing. I was also unsuccessful breastfeeding my two babies. Both got as much milk as I could pump, but I never produced enough to pump for more than two months. My babies were tongue-tied, but doctors just kept telling me I was doing something wrong or I wasn't trying hard enough. When I finally got to the ENT (a very old man) had never clipped the tongue of a baby. I had to tell him how!
    I am sorry to hear you went through all of that. Thankfully, formula is healthier than it has ever been. And just think, when our parents were babies, they were fed canned milk. Thank you again for sharing and good luck with all the other aspects of motherhood.

  15. I had a very rough time nursing my oldest. She went a week without getting a drop really. It turned out she had a bad sucking reflex, I had flat nipples and absolutely no milk! We did a nipple shield and supplemented through it (not an easy feat since you need about 8 hands to do it and you only have 2!) and then used a pacifier to get her to suck. It's hard to go through, but anything they can get from you is better than nothing. And even if they had gotten absolutely no breastmilk, I'm sure you're still a fantastic mom! You're ability to breastfeed has absolutely nothing to do with your abilities as a mom. I remember laughing my way through the breastfeeding class I took because they were showing a little breast "pillow" that had an areola the size of a quarter and a nipple that went out three inches and they were telling me how to latch my baby on with a breast like that, when mine was nothing like that. Now I'm on to expecting my fourth child and (like you) don't think I'll be able to lose baby weight by breastfeeding since I've never been able to before, and I'm perfectly okay with supplementing this baby from the very beginning because my health is important too! Thanks so much for sharing your story! Other moms need to hear these things!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree not all moms can breastfeed no matter how much they want to or try. I have been blessed to exclusively breastfeed my little boy since birth, but when I went back to work at 4 months, I had to sit in the bathroom stall and pump. Embarrassing and uncomfortable to say the least, but I have persevered, so I completely understand your frustration with pumping!

    I also understand feeling guilty. I think as Mom’s we put way too much pressure on ourselves. I have personally battled feeling guilty because I had to return to work. I beat myself up for a long time, but finally have accepted my situation. I understand that I’m helping our family and providing for him too.

    Thanks again for being β€œreal”. I really appreciated your honesty! Have a great day!

    PS: I found you through Make It and Love It. I love your quilts and will definitely try to make one myself soon!

  17. Ian and Kristen says:

    I don't think you should ever feel bad about not nursing. Babies can be perfectly healthy through formula! With my first baby, I couldn't get her to nurse so she was all formula fed once I stopped pumping at 6 weeks old. People would always tell me, "oh I'm so sorry that nursing isn't working for you! That is so hard to miss out on!"
    I just thought, "I am perfectly fine with it! I can bond with her just as much while I'm feeding her a bottle as I could while nursing! I don't feel like I'm missing anything!" Abd besides, I liked the fact that I could leave her with my husband or her grandma from time to time when I had somewhere to be and know that I didn't have to worry about her being hungry, because they could feed her!
    I am now nursing my second baby and I have to be honest- I kind of miss the strictly formula routine! Ha ha! I like that nursing is saving me SO much money that is not spent on formula, but it is a frustrating thing to try and get right all the time!
    Don't feel bad, you are taking perfectly good care of your babies and doing all the things you need to do to keep them healthy!

  18. Hi, I'm a new follower over from make it and love it. I have 3 children and nursed my 1st one for the entire first year, never had a stitch of formula. and I hate to admit I was turning up my nose at my sis-in-laws who never even tried nursing, as was stated above, "what do you think women have breasts for??" However, now that my 3rd child is 7 months old, I must admit my attitude toward nursing has definitely changed. I never liked nursing, although felt like I "should" do it, (and because I'm cheap:-)) but I decided to supplement with formula from the start with my son (since my first would never take a bottle). I really hated nursing, and would feel so guilty (and get guilt trips from family members about giving him a bottle, or how many bottles he got that day). But, tell you what, I stopped nursing and switched to all formula when he was about 4 months, and I have never felt better. Literally, I'm not physically drained anymore from nursing. and I can be just as nurturing snuggling him up with the formula, and not resenting it. It's unfortunate we mothers read all those crazy breastfeeding hippies lectures and believe that we're terrible (or that others are), if they don't nurse. As long as the baby is being fed and being loved,that's all that should matter.

  19. The Noalls says:

    I'm over here looking from Make It and Love It, saw this, and wanted to leave you my support, too. I had much the same. It took me a good few months to let go of the guilt I felt for finally giving up on breastfeeding, and I still feel the fear when I contemplate trying again with my next baby. Anyway, if you're interested, you can go here to my blog to read it. (I hope that works. First time I've tried it. :)) Anyway, thanks for sharing! Good luck with your giveaway!

  20. New reader from Make It Love It also πŸ™‚ I have a 1 year old daughter and I didn't breastfeed once with her. I was never very excited about the idea, even though many people made me feel guilty, and it turns out that she has allergies that would have prevented it anyways. She is the happiest, healthiest baby I know. As far as the women who love to give "breast milk vs. formula" lectures, I have taken the advice from a wise woman who said, " No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
    Just from reading what I have of your blog, I know you are a wonderful mother! Part of that is being good to YOURSELF and doing what makes you comfortable and happy. Good luck πŸ™‚

  21. Anonymous says:

    Sweetheart, I don't know when you posted this, but I appreciate your honesty and you are exactly right about passing judgements.
    I have had 6 children and was only able to breatfeed my 1st. Every child after that had one complication or another and I wasn't able to breastfeed. I struggled with guilt at times, mostly induced by judgements from others. I struggled with the total overwhelming anxiety that happened when I breastfed if the child would take the breast. It took so much time like you said, it was painful, it was frustrating, it was exhausting and so forth. (oh, by the way, I gained weight when I breastfed) I don't understand why something so natural isn't easier and euphoric like so many explain. I'm sorry you didn't have a pleasant experience, but being a mom in all the other ways is what is important. Breastfeeding is only for a few months out of their whole lives, so, I just don't think anyone should ever feel guilty not breastfeeding if it doesn't work out for them.

  22. Okay, I'm another newbie to your blog (oh my heart, I love that quilt. I hate quilting but just may have to take it up again!) and I just have to say: Word. I tried nursing my first baby and it was horrible. I hated it. He hated it. We were both miserable. My husband was more gung-ho about nursing than I was (um, mostly because he doesn't have to experience the searing pain involved.) so when I had my 2nd, I felt this immense guilt that I was so resentful that I had to nurse. I remember it was 2AM, I'd just had a C-Section so I was in crazy pain from having just been cut in half and I thought, "Why am I doing this to myself??" I asked for formula and never looked back. I cannot wait to have another baby, walk into the hospital to deliver and proudly proclaim, "Formula feeding!" ;o) Breastfeeding is great, but not for everyone. All that matters is that the baby eats. We as women need to spend more time supporting one another rather than passing judgment because someone feeds their baby differently.

  23. The same thing happened with me and my son. He came a month early, and that (along with quite a few other things) caused him to be completely gray when he was born. He had to be bagged and revived, and then he was taken to the Level 2 nursery for the first five hours of his life.
    After that, we had the same feeding problems as you, and so we tried a nipple shield. Didn't go so well.
    Eventually, I just gave up. Matheson is now 3 months old and is one of the happiest, calmest little boys I have ever seen.
    I'm still experiencing those feelings of guilt over him being a formula baby, but at the same time, I don't care, because it's easier for all of us.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It's good to know that I'm not alone. <3

  24. So, props on this post. I know it has been 2 years since you posted, but all moms should read it. My son was born around the time you wrote this, so it would have been helpful had I found you two and a half years earlier πŸ˜‰ I had a terrible time with breastfeeding, and the BEST advice I ever received from my OB — supplement with formula. Just do it. Formula is expensive and I’m always running out of it, but I resented my cut, bleeding nipples and the searing pain associated with it. The lactation consultant (I’m sorry, IDIOT!) said “nurse anyway!” I kid you not. Nothing is worse than crying (and crying, and crying) because I don’t want to nurse my hungry, screaming baby. So you know what? I did both. And it was very confusing to many mommy friends—how do you still make milk? You don’t dry up? Wait, you do both? How does that work?

  25. Hi πŸ™‚

    Its 2:40 in the night and i am reading ur blogs… cant explain whats happening inside of me… more like ‘healing’..
    just to hear someone went through the agony and pain of birth and delivery just as much as i did.
    thank you for sharing… really.

    loved the potty training guide πŸ˜€ was under stress as many were forcing … I am encouraged that u taught ur kids at around age 3… i have hope … my son is 16 months πŸ™‚

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