This is a breastfeeding post for National Breastfeeding Week—but it’s not one where I’ll be offering sage advice on how to be a super pumper and donate 1,270 ounces to milk banks because I’ve been fortunate enough to have an overabundant supply. To those mamas: bless you and thank you for sharing your liquid gold to moms and babies in need!
Nope, this is a breastfeeding post about my journey through and struggles with breastfeeding, and I hope it relates to someone out there who might be having as much difficulty as I did. To those mamas who are munching on their lactation cookies and smelling of maple syrup (thank you, Fenugreek), know that I deeply empathize with you.
Baby #1: I Tried, Sort Of
I have three kids; my first was born when I was 26 and I was terrified about breastfeeding. I was so afraid that I refused to do my research and prepare myself. Ignorance is bliss, right? After baby girl was born, I tried breastfeeding for a grand total of…wait for it…10 minutes. In the hospital, surrounded by overly helpful nurses and feeling like a hot postpartum mess, I watched as they wheeled in a very hungry, smacking baby into my room at nope-o’-clock in the morning. She was fresh and clean, and I was still a sweaty mess from delivery. All I wanted to do was take a hot shower and sleep for the next week. I was unprepared, exhausted, and the ten minutes of trying to get her to latch and having nurses grab my boobs to “help” freaked me the heck out. I gave up in frustration and that was the end of that.
Baby #2: I Couldn’t Do It
I had so much anxiety over breastfeeding that by the time baby number two barreled into this world two years later, I refused to try again. I couldn’t get my mind past the previous experience. “Baby girl did fine on formula, so baby boy will, too,” I mused. After ignoring the disapproving glances from the delivery room nurses, I gladly popped a bottle into my little guy’s mouth.
I had moments of guilt, don’t get me wrong. “Just nurse until he gets colostrum!” was a resounding cry from those around me. I couldn’t do it. I knew I’d be back on medication for postpartum depression (I had barely gotten over it from the first baby!), I was scared of the pain from both nursing and pumping, and I was anxious about pumping at work. As a teacher, when the heck would I find time to pump? Yes, of course, it’s possible, but I utilized every second of the day and worried about time management. I also worried about standing in front of a room of fourth graders with two giant wet patches across my chest.
Baby #3: I Tried, Then Failed
Just over a a year and a half later, baby number three arrived. This time, I was a stay-at-home-mom and far more confident in my “mom-ming” abilities. I also knew that this was our last baby, so I wanted to give breastfeeding a shot. While I loved the bonding experience that comes with breastfeeding, the process was a frustrating nightmare full of tears (hers and mine). I tried every piece of advice I could garner from friends, family, and Dr. Google: supplements, changing my diet, super foods, hiring a lactation consultant, etc. I had a pitiful supply and baby girl wasn’t having it. My letdowns were – well, a letdown.
We started supplementing breastfeeding with formula at both the advice of the pediatrician and lactation consultant. I remember sobbing in the doctor’s office as I cradled my newborn, feeling like the winner of “The World’s Biggest Failure” award. No amount of cluster feeding, pumping, or “helpful” advice from other moms was going to change that. After all the torture I’d put myself through with my first two babies, I ended up sucking at breastfeeding.
What I Learned
Here’s the thing, mamas: It’s OK. It’s OK to not like breastfeeding, to be afraid of breastfeeding, or to suck at it like I did. Yes, breastfeeding is better for baby, but if it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Here’s my advice for those of you who want to try breastfeeding but are feeling a little freaked out:
- Ask the nurses to step out of the room when you try to breastfeed for the first time.
- Make yourself super comfortable before your hungry infant latches on to a very sensitive part of your body.
- Ask questions about how pumping will look in your workplace. Is there a designated area? Where can you store your milk? How much time will you be given?
- Talk with your doctor about any concerns over postpartum depression/anxiety and how that might affect your desire/ability to breastfeed.
- Finally, trust that whatever works best for you will be OK for your baby, whether that’s breastfeeding, pumping, formula, or using donated milk (another shout out to super pumpers!). If baby is eating, you’re succeeding.