Since we’re currently in the midst of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought that there was no time like the present to share some of my journey (struggle) on the topic.
The Little One’s entrance into the world wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped it would’ve been. This, coupled with the fact that I knew next to nothing about breastfeeding led to a poor foundation from the very beginning. How was I to know that keeping her swaddled and in her hospital bassinet like the nurses seemed insistent upon would actually make my ability to feed her harder? It took six weeks for my milk to come in. Six.
In those first six weeks, my Babe saw the Lactation Consultant more than she saw her own grandparents. We were there every 3-4 days: checking the latch, doing weigh-ins, getting her tongue-tie clipped (twice), discussing options. It took her 4 weeks to get back to birth weight.
The goal of getting back to birth weight overshadowed any of my long-term feeding goals that I had for us. She was supplemented heavily with generously donated breastmilk from other local moms. Taking almost 12 ounces a day of that, there’s no surprise that my milk wasn’t coming in. Through the exhausting process of using an Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) both on the finger and at the breast, then finally supplementing with a bottle because I just couldn’t keep up on my own anymore, we finally hit the goal.
But what got us there was not sustainable in my eyes. I didn’t want to rely on donors and the hassle of dealing with frozen breastmilk. How long has this one been thawed? Can you grab the cooler? I forgot a bag of milk in your parent’s fridge. I only have enough frozen milk to last two more days! This is not the relationship I had envisioned for us.
So I went about trying to reverse things for a new norm. I switched up my herbal supplements. I went to the highest dose of prescription drug for increasing milk production. I started having the babe on my breast all. the. time.
And it worked! My milk finally came in. So with that, we started cutting back the number of times and the amount of her supplemented feeds.
This wasn’t without having to deal with the well-intentioned opinions of others. Since birth, I’ve been having to state time and time again my plan to not formula feed if at all possible. I’ve had to take on people’s opinions about how we supplemented her (finger feeding, cold milk vs warm milk, contents of the bottle, pace feeding vs old-school lay them back and let them guzzle). I’ve had to take on judgement when I shared the goal of reducing supplements (“How can you think it’s right to control how much of a bottle a baby takes. They know when they’re full. Believe me, I’ve done this a few times in my life”).
For a week, we went without any supplements. This lead to a slower than hoped for weight increase. So, back to the drawing board: chiropractor booked, look for a new Lactation Consultant, visit the public health nurse.
This is my life. My entire life, from morning to night, and throughout. It all revolves around my daughter and feeding her.
Sometimes I want to forget that this is my life; to talk about something else. So it’s hard when this is the go-to topic. How’s the feeding going? Is your milk coming in yet? Oh, is she eating again? Is she getting anything? Should you give her the bottle? I don’t think she’s full.
And then there’s times that I do want to talk about it. Times where I’m absolutely overwhelmed, and exhausted, and depressed. So when someone asks me to tell them what’s wrong and what’s going on, I try to talk about it. This happened this week. And it didn’t end well.
When I started to talk about the next steps that we have to take – chiropractor, finding another LC to help, more weigh-ins and doctor appointments – my struggles were interrupted with the 964th suggestion to consider formula. I WAS NOT ASKING FOR ADVICE.
When I voiced this, I was informed by someone from my “support circle” to never say another word about feeding. They were tired of hearing about it and felt like that’s all I talked about.
This is not support.
I’m sorry that this is my life and I don’t have anything else to talk about. Believe me, I wish I could talk about the latest book I rea, or t.v. show that I watched, or recent coffee date with a friend. I wish I could, but I can’t, because those aren’t a part of my reality. And even if they were, I wouldn’t remember much about them because I am so preoccupied with my life as I know it: my baby and feeding her.
All this to say: surround yourself with people who truly do support you. People who will listen to you cry and fret about the same thing over and over. People who love you and fully understand that you’re struggling to stay afloat. People who will give advice when asked ,and just give you love the rest of the time.
Breastfeeding has been hard. And for those who think that I’ve never heard of formula and that it’s a reasonable option… I know. And I know that you think that it’s best for ME, whether you believe it’s best for the baby or not. But right now, it isn’t about me. I am getting through this. Although it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, I am not ready to stop trying.
Public Service Announcement: be supportive, be loving, be caring. If you can’t muster that up, then your presence adds more stress and heartache to the life of a new-mama than she needs.