When I was pregnant, many people asked me if I was going to breastfeed. I always let the word, “yes” roll right off my tongue, and felt totally at ease with it. I had no idea otherwise. I didn’t research as you know and didn’t read books about it either. I didn’t even chat with other girls much about it. And if I did have those conversations, they seemed pretty uneventful. So when it came time for baby E to get here, I didn’t sweat the whole breastfeeding business.
Well that was blissful-thinking and very short lived. Because the moment the nurse came in to hand me my sweet boy to feed, I immediately felt the pressure (and I’m sure started sweating then, literally!) To my surpirse, it didn’t feel natural like I thought it would nor was it easy.
I was in a state of panic for much of the time during my hospital stay. He had trouble “latching on” and at the time, I had no idea what that meant. I just knew staring down at my screaming and hungry baby, that I needed to get the hang of it sooner than later.
The nurses would come in and wake me up from a twenty minute-slumber (the “no sleeping” thing began) rolling Emerson in crying. They would hand me him and say, “Are you good?” and turn around to leave. After a few times, I finally caved in, “No! I need some help, please stay a minute!” (so frantically, kind of funny looking back)
They were all very nice and tried to be as helpful as they could. But the more nervous I got, the the more difficult the whole process became. Even after knowing that this would negatively affect my breastfeeding, I still just couldn’t relax and was constantly worried that he wasn’t getting enough to eat. It also felt a bit embarrassing in front of our visitors because I was so awkward at it.
When we came home, it didn’t get much easier. My milk was not flowing in abundance like I naturally thought it would. I am sure it had a lot to do with how stressed I was during that time. (adjusting to it all) And the more anxious I was, the less milk came in. I remember many times, holding pumps up to the bubbies for forty-five minutes and getting only 2-3 ounces of milk at a time. It would make me want to scream! That may have been the time I threw the boppy pillow at my hubby.
I did my best for the next five months, supplementing with formula when I had to and even eating the breastfeeding cookies (those exist) that my husband so kindly made for me. (Any excuse to eat cookies was enough reason for me to try it) I felt disappointed with myself and in some way felt like I had failed. I truthfully expected this experience to be second nature and more than that, I expected to enjoy it.
We did survive it as a family and I was so thankful for the support I got from my dear friends and family cheering me on. There were certainly many nights I did cry and envisioned throwing my breast pumps in a bonfire! (no joke) But with that also came many nights that I looked down at my little angel and felt so proud that he depended on me. I made sure that no matter what, he was content and happy.
I realized through it all that breastfeeding is a very personal choice that you have to make for yourself and your little one. There are many opinions out there that will make you feel as though breastfeeding your baby is the only option you have. But if you are so frustrated that you’re unhappy, worried all the time and getting the mommy blues, I think its time to take a step back and consider your other options. They do exist.
If you are planning on doing it, I urge you to read up on it first so you are prepared to handle whatever problems that might occur. There are several support groups that can help, mommy breastfeeding blogs, lactation consultants, and dare I say it, there’s formula too.
If all else fails, just believe that you know what’s best for yourself and your baby. You do the best you can and then when that’s not enough, do what’s best for you. Because you’re the one that has to be calm, collected and together first in order to take care of your little one. This precious time goes by so quickly; you want to be present and cherish the moments you have with them.
I have such admiration for women who commit to breastfeeding for as long as they can. (It most definitely is a commitment) They are warriors. It takes dedication, determination and perseverance to overcome the hurdles they might endure. To the same respect, so are the women who tried their best with it and for whatever reasons, were not successful or it simply wasn’t for them.
The whole mommyhood process from pregnancy to the aftermath that follows, earns itself the right to decide without judgment, pressure or feelings of guilt, whether breastfeeding is the right choice for you or not. I know I’m not the only mommy who struggled with it but my hope is for more women to be aware that if they are struggling, it is very natural. Sometimes more natural than breastfeeding!
And whatever you decide to do or not do, you are deciding thoughtfully and with the most unconditional love. That’s why you’re the momma!
Sending lots of strength,
photo by Darling Juliet Photography