I have always planned to breast feed. No question about it. I am ample chested, my mother breastfed me, her mother breastfed her, I believe in being natural when possible, so on and so forth.
Sometimes life just doesn't go as planned...
When my baby was born distressed and overdue with low blood sugars he had to spend time in the NICU immediately. Because of this, we didn't get our initial skin to skin contact, or introduction to the breast. Instead he was bottle fed, when he would take food at all.
I asked for a pump at the hospital, and one was provided. However, I wasn't taught how to use it properly or told just how often I should be using it between trying to get him to latch when we were visiting him in the NICU. As a result my milk not only came in more slowly, but not as fully as it should. Of course, him not feeding also inhibited it coming in fully.
During our hospital stay I saw three lactation consultants and had my breasts groped by more people than I care to recall, each with their own brand of advice. "You should hold him like this." "Hands go here." "No, hold your nipple this way." "Have you tried self expressing?" To the latter, may I just add that when one has tiny hands and DDD's...it's just hella hard to do, mm'k?
We also tried nipple shields which baby just flat out refused to have anything to do with. And I was sent home with a rented state of the art pump that a consultant insisted would help more and be better for me than the one I'd borrowed from a friend.
After I brought him home we saw yet another lactation consultant and tried a technique that involved a syringe of my breast milk feeding a tiny tube taped to my breast so he would associate feeding with gratification. I called it the baby camel back, you know...like the backpackers use? Anyway. That of course frustrated him as well.
We learned that he could latch and was a natural rooter and that I wasn't doing anything wrong. The problem is that our son had not learned to suck properly. He simply doesn't know how to use his tongue. The consultant suggested a physical therapist, that naturally didn't take insurance.
I stared at this woman's contact information for days, deciding when I would call her. Meanwhile pumping every time I woke up to feed him no matter the hour, and never getting more than an ounce of milk between both breasts.This equated to about a third of the food he needed in a day.
During this time I also tried the copious amounts of Fenugreek that one nurse had recommended. I tried a marathon of pumping every hour that had worked for another friend.
After the first week it also became clear that my husband wasn't going to be able to help with night time feedings. Suffice to say he's not an easy person to wake up. Even when he wants to help, he's barely capable and I literally cannot stir him. This made my time awake even longer, and my nerves even more frayed.
To top it all off I began to feel guilty. What type of mother was I, that I couldn't even feed my child? How bad was I for giving him formula, which contains soy (something I try to avoid adamantly and believe is unhealthy)? Why couldn't I do this simple thing when so many others could?
I know I'm not the first and far from the only to feel this way. What gets me is how few talk about it. You always hear people talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and the pride in doing so. But I've rarely heard anyone talk about their difficulties with it, or the associated guilt and depression with the inability. Which makes it twice as hard when you are one of those that cannot.
I found myself crying every time someone posted something about how good breast milk was for a baby. Getting more and more depressed every time I offered my son my breast and all he could do was chew on my nipple and get frustrated with the poor amount of milk and his lack of ability.
It finally took my husband and both mother and mother-in-law to convince me that I was not a terrible parent and that giving up the pumping and letting myself dry up might save my sanity.
My breasts still leak and ache. And at times it seems like a cruel reminder of what I can't do for my child. But looking back at how hard we tried, I know I'm not a bad mommy. That really doesn't make it easier. I still wish I could do things differently for him. The difference is now I'm more aware of my support network and I know I'm doing well for my baby. As my mom aptly pointed out, children have survived far worse than having to eat formula.
And before anyone suggests it. We have looked into alternative things like organic formulas. Sadly none of those claiming to be organic are truly enough to make me comfortable. Some are even worse for the processes they use. And we did consider goats milk, but would have to then blend in other ingredients to make it nutritionally sound and that would sadly be too expensive as well as difficult to keep up with.
Baby is now getting Gerber Good Start - Soothe, and seems to be plenty happy. He's up to nine pounds. A far cry from his skinny little NICU self!
|These are not the jowls of an underfed infant ;)|