When I was pregnant with my daughter, I tried to keep in mind the advice passed on to me by other women, especially my sister and my mom. They told me that nothing ever goes according to plan with a baby.
I’ve since learned how true that is.
The one thing that I knew when I was pregnant was that I wanted to breastfeed her for the first 2 weeks of her life, and then transition to formula. When I was 19 years old, I had bilateral breast reduction surgery. There was a 10% chance that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. So with that in mind, I was mentally prepared to attempt nursing, but if it didn’t work, that was okay. What I didn’t take into account was the hormone rush that happens after you give birth.
It’s a rush of emotions that just crashes onto you and crushes you. It’s like being directly under a waterfall. Your breath catches, you can barely move your arms or legs, and fight-or-flight is a very in-your-face reality as the water drums down on you, making escape seem like an impossibility.
After my baby was born, we found out that nursing was a challenge for both her and for me. We had to use a nipple shield, donor milk, and formula.
Remember how I was going to only nurse for 2 weeks so the baby could get the colostrum from me, then I’d use formula?
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Post-pregnancy hormones took over. It seemed like everything in my life was no longer under my control, except getting as much milk out of me as possible. By 2 weeks old, my baby was taking in more than I could produce, even with pumping every 3-4 hours. I discovered that I had a very low flow and she would nurse for about 1.5-2 hours before she would be full. I did this for 5 weeks, trying my best to give as much of “me” as possible while supplementing.
My blinders were up and I wasn’t going to stop. I had determined I would breastfeed. I would continue. Then one day my husband and I were sitting in the van at Wal-Mart and I was having a meltdown because I had forgotten the pump at my sister’s house. He took my hand and looked me directly in the eyes. He said, “I think what you’re trying to do is great, but I think you need to stop. It’s causing these meltdowns, and you said before she was born that you just wanted 2 weeks. I’m okay with you stopping.”
I’m okay with you stopping.
The best sentence I’d heard in a while. Once I calmed down enough to think rationally, I realized he was right. Breastfeeding is wonderful for many women, but there are women like me who can’t (for various reasons). I realized that it’s okay. Fed is best.
Since I chose to stop breastfeeding, I sometimes struggle with wondering if I made the right decision, but then I look at my daughter and how she thrives, and know I did. Nothing goes according to plan with a baby. All you can do is try your best, listen to those around you, and then make a decision based on what you believe in.
Remember that we all are trying to do the same thing: take care of our babies the best way we know how.