First off let me say, I am not a doctor or a lactation consultant. This is my experience and while I’m sure others have similar experiences, nursing is something that is a very personal choice and experience. I hope that anyone that is experiencing difficulty will find some comfort in my story.
I remember sitting in the baby feeding class and hearing about how difficult breastfeeding would be. I definitely believed them and took notes on how it would take at least six weeks for it to be easy. Breastfeeding hadn’t even been a decision for me… I mean its free food that has so many benefits, why wouldn’t I breastfeed? I never truly understood HOW difficult it could be.
Our little one was born on a Monday. On Wednesday, the day that we were supposed to go home, our pediatrician came in to our room and asked “has your milk come in?” I didn’t really know if it had or not but I had heard that you would know when it did, so I assumed it didn’t. She told us that we would have to supplement with formula until my milk came in. I blinked back my tears as the pediatrician assured me that this was temporary and there’s ways to supplement now where the baby is still nursing at the breast AND it would be a great way for my husband to be a part of feedings (another way of saying this is going to be difficult to do without another person).
So we supplemented. After a few days my milk came in and I was told that I could just nurse my baby without supplementing. I did that for a few days. but she was constantly grumpy. I thought it was tummy troubles… turns out she was hungry constantly. After another doctor’s appointment, finding that her weight hadn’t changed and she was getting hardly anything from me, I was told to supplement again. This started a long period of visiting lactation consultants, reading anything I could get my hands on about how to increase milk supply, taking any supplement that I could that might possibly help, pumping, power pumping, taking “nursing vacations”… I did anything and everything I could that is supposed to help… it didn’t.
I was determined not to give up. I would hear my friends talk about how they nursed their baby while they slept. They would talk about how relaxing it was and how they read books or watched movies while nursing… I was jealous.
After spending the holidays locked away in a room for the majority of the time nursing, pumping, and supplementing, I came home and started thinking that maybe it was time. Our little one always seemed happier after having a bottle anyway, and by the time I was finished with everything I had to do, it was time to feed her again.
Of course, the minute I considered giving nursing up I was overcome with all the feelings of guilt… had I really tried everything, will she be less healthy, less smart, less happy, less attached, less comforted… even so I made the decision to stop. It wasn’t an easy one. I had to give myself permission to quit trying, and to try not to think about all the what ifs. I had really hoped that nursing would work out for us, and if it had been a mathematical equation, I could have made it work. But it wasn’t, it was a process that two humans were having to learn to do.
I grieved the end of my nursing time and grieved the loss of the idea of being the one that was able to provide my baby with everything she needed. While I was grieving, my sweet baby was getting a full belly. She was sweetly cooing in my lap while I was giving her a bottle. She was making the decision that she only wanted to take bottles from me, aside from her night bottle, she liked to share that time with her dad. The first time that I went out with friends and I was able to just hold her, give her a bottle and continue carrying on a conversation, I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off me. Feeding my baby could be an enjoyable experience for both of us.
Everyone’s experience is different, but this was mine. It was a struggle, and not just the “oh it’ll be difficult at first” kind of struggle. Someone once said to me “happy mama, happy baby” and while I don’t agree completely… I do think there are some sacrifices that we make as mom’s solely for the benefit of our children… in my situation, I did everything I could and finally had to let go of control. In the end, it made us all happier.
Breastfeeding is a great great thing. Its beneficial for you and your baby, and heck, its free food! But, there are times when quitting is necessary. I hope that you have peace in your decision, knowing that you are giving your baby the best of all you have. Now go and get some sweet cuddles from your happy baby!