Breastfeeding Isn’t Easy, nor for Everyone

While going through pregnancy, I was asked many times if I planned to breastfeed Baby A&W. It wasn’t even much of a conversation between M and I–it was up to me, and I figured it was the best thing to do. I had read articles saying how it helped keep allergies at bay and boost the immune system of the baby. Plus, let’s face it, I was all about the weight loss benefits.

I knew breastfeeding wasn’t going to be easy, and I’ve many stories from those who tried and couldn’t or tired and succeeded, but I still went into it kind of blind, thinking surely it’d be something that just came to you–like maternal instincts are supposed to do. But then Aubrey came along, and I was rocked into motherhood.

Poor thing had no clue what she was getting into with momma and nursing.

Poor thing had no clue what she was getting into with momma and nursing.

Aubrey was a bit of a “lazy nurser”–meaning she didn’t want to try very hard to nurse on me, and would fall asleep often. She was also a little jaundice and lost about a pound from her birth weight, so I was stressing. The pediatrician prescribed that I feed her every two hours, and to pump after each nursing. I was spending 1.5 hours feeding A every 2, between fighting her to nurse, then pumping, then feeding what I pumped to her to make sure she actually got nutrition. It was wearing me down. I wanted to go straight to bottle feeding and pumping, but our first pediatrician said to not do that for another three weeks.

We went to see a lactation specialist, who had taught our breastfeeding class we took a month before A was born. She was great–she spent 3 hours with us, helping to work on A’s latch, checking to see how many ounces she really was getting from me, and being a big support. Unlike some lactation consultants, she was OK with pumping and she said she expected that I would have to supplement with formula–and that was OK. But because the doctor wanted A strictly on breastmilk, she helped us form a plan (which was the feeding, pumping, bottle plan), gave me her personal cell phone number, and wished us luck.

I was feeling more and more depressed, and stressed, feeling like I was a horrible mother for starving my child. I was also exhausting myself with the hellacious schedule that it required. It was all a nasty cycle that just continued, and I felt like M was getting tired of dealing with my tears of exhaustion and frustration because he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to help, and he hated feeling helpless.

Thankfully, we had to see another pediatrician in the same practice due to scheduling for one of A’s follow-ups. Dr. W was a breath of fresh air. She admitted that breastfeeding was difficult for her with her two boys, and how she felt guilty because, after all, she was a health care professional and she couldn’t breastfeed. But she pumped, and supplemented with formula, and her boys turned out just fine. Her wise words of advice: “All that matters is that you’re feeding and nourishing your baby. How you do that doesn’t matter–whether it’s via breastfeeding, pumping and feeding via bottle, supplementing with formula, or using all formula. It’s all the same. Just get food into her.”

That was a turning point, and, thanks to support from my mom, who saw how beaten down I was (my phrase was “Mom, I feel like I’m a dairy cow, and that’s all I am right now.”), I turned to exclusively pumping and feeding A via a bottle, using Similac Supplemental to boost her ounces. Doing such helped her finally start to gain weight and really start growing.

Now that I’m back to work, things have changed even more so. I’m extremely thankful to have a boss who immediately went to work finding an empty room and making it a “Mothers’ Room” for me and any other mother looking for a place to pump in peace. However, I was also dealing with being somewhat of a “single mom” and had to figure out how to pump when A was still awake (pumping in the middle of the night or before she woke up was easy). Because of that, I had to start dropping pumpings because it just wasn’t feasible.

Feeding your child helps you bond, whether its via the breast or the bottle, and no one should make you feel horrible for choosing either way.

Feeding your child helps you bond, whether its via the breast or the bottle, and no one should make you feel horrible for choosing either way.

Now that she’s past the two month mark, and had her first set of shots, I’m feeling more comfortable with the fact that I’m already starting to dry up. I never was able to produce much in the first place–maybe 3 ounces (from both breasts) at a time–so I knew my time would be limited. However, it does make me sad that soon I won’t be able to provide my own nourishment to her, not to mention the idea of buying formula more often than I am now makes my bank account cry.

I feel selfish saying that I can’t wait until I’m done producing breast milk because then I can easily go workout or go for runs on a tight schedule (right now I have to pump for at least 30 minutes beforehand, which requires planning and balancing). I can also relish in an adult beverage or two, which I haven’t done since I discovered I was pregnant (sure I could “pump and dump,” but I barely make enough milk as it is, I felt like that would be a waste of “liquid gold.”). And I can get back to wearing normal bras and clothes that I don’t have to worry about being able to pull up easily to pump while at work. Even just typing this makes me feel like I’ll be judged.

But, truth is, I’m ready to have my body back to myself. I’ve been able to provide more than some mothers are able to, for some reason or another, so I should be proud of myself for at least being able to stick it out as long as I have. I really did give it a good college try, and I provided her with my nutrients the best I could. I can’t be like my co-worker who has a 15-month-old and still pumps 10 ounces once a day–most women aren’t built like that.

And I’m OK with that.

More reading:
Fit Pregnancy: It’s OK if You Can’t Breastfeed
The Lean Green Bean: Breastfeeding is Hard


5 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Isn’t Easy, nor for Everyone

  1. I’m really glad you shared this. I think many women sort of come into breastfeeding, and motherhood, pretty blind.

    My mother has always been a huge advocate for breastfeeding. She’s from Italy so that’s just how it is over there. You breastfeed. It just is. Considering how pro-breastfeeding she is, you would think that she breastfeed her kids until we were like 2, but she had a lot of trouble too. She has flat nipples and 32 years ago they didn’t have the covers they do now. On top of that I was also a lazy eater and considering I was only 5 pounds 5 ounces when I was born, I didn’t really have a lot of excess weight to lose. She only breastfed me and my siblings for about 6 weeks because it was too difficult and too painful. She told me just a few days ago that really made her upset and depressed.

    The thought of having trouble breastfeeding has been stressing me out for years and now that we’re going to start trying it stresses me out more than anything else. Oddly enough, I think reading about other women’s struggles has been helping ease my fears rather than inflaming them, which is what you would think would happen.

    • It is stressful, but it shouldn’t be (easier said than done, I know). I’m so thankful we have this new pediatrician who actually supported me and told me it was OK to do whatever I needed to feed Aubrey. I was never sure how long I wanted to breastfeed, but I knew my goal was at least four months. I might not make it four months now, as I’ve suddenly started drying up (I went from pumping 6 times a day to now just 3 times a day within a week or so). It makes me sad to think that soon I’ll no longer be providing nutrition (no matter how small) for my baby. But, then again, I’m a little relieved because it was a stress to just schedule pumpings and to do everything. I’ve been reassured I made it through the most important time that she needs breastmilk, so I should consider it a success.

  2. I’m exclusively breastfeeding and agree with you and thought that it would be instinct and I’m blessed to have that happen over time (the first two weeks are crazy painful). You only supply the demand, you never are technically dried up and you can always nurse again if you want (and that came from a 40 year old with an adopted child). I think the bond is more than amazing with breastfeeding, I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I have no idea how many ounces, nor care either, found that fascinating that you knew a number. Sounds like you had stress, were under a lot of pressure which is not a good combo for milk production. I do think if you eat right you can still run, breastfeed and get your body back fast, a mom’s body is more beautiful:) read the ingredients of the formula 😉
    I guess we all choose a pediatrician who takes our side when it comes to thoughts, I had to interview 5 to get one who is still not 100% ok with my no vaccination choice.

  3. I hear ya! You made it longer than me – I started exclusively pumping (supplementing as needed) the first night home! Maya was a pig – I wasn’t fast enough, she wasn’t full enough, and I broke after two hours of her screams. I felt soooooo guilty about stopping pumping. I ended up sticking with it until six months but only because I was off work so much with Leah’s illness and then summer break. But I too felt like a dairy cow. There wasn’t a day that I ever felt rested. I was a mess. And my first was formula fed exclusively and turned out just fine! Hormones are a crazy thing. Enjoy your adult beverage once you’re done – I know I did! 🙂

    • Haha Is it sad that I seriously salivate when I think of when I can have that first adult beverage?? We’ve made it to 3 months, so I feel pretty good about things now, and I’ve basically gone down to pumping three times a day now. Every little bit helps–that’s what I keep telling myself.

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