Sometimes, breast feeding really SUCKS. Yeah, I said it.
What’s often described to be the most “natural” thing in the world for women, can sometimes be the most confusing and emotionally exhausting thing we experience as moms. To make matters worse, the shaming many mothers endure for choosing to bottle-feed formula to their hungry babies creates even more of an insecurity for us new moms — as if we don’t have enough going on in our heads! For the sake of this post, let’s just agree that feeding baby is the #1 priority, and although breast is truly “best,” formula is NOT rat poison. Deal?
Okay, thanks. Let’s move on.
My First Breast Feeding Experience
About 3 years ago, I had issues breast feeding my first son. We had a latch issue, plus, an over-supply and forceful let-down, which led to lots of crying on both ends. I resorted to nursing my son with a nipple sheild for several months, until we were both able to get back on track. However, due to months of poor nipple stimulation caused by the nipple sheild (it was never supposed to be a long-term solution), and a lot of pumping (for when I was too exhausted to wrestle baby), my milk supply dwindled. At 10 months, Bubba became a formula-fed kid, until we switched him to cow’s milk 2 months later. It was a journey, to say the least. I really hung in there, went to a few consultants, and took whatever “boosting” supplements I could. However, it was not enough. But guess what? My child is thriving; eats pretty well, and has a close bond with his Mama, so it’s all good.
My Second Chance
Fast-forward to June 2015. I was about to give birth to my second kid, another boy, and I became fixated on the idea of Exclusively Breast Feeding — and actually getting it right this time around. I found that I missed the feeling on nursing (is that weird?) and couldn’t wait to start again with all the knowledge I had gained during my last bout, and what I had learned since Bubba weaned. Lucky for me, Little Dude latched like a pro in the hospital! I was home free!
…Or so I thought.
Just like the first time around, my milk came in with abundance and avengence. My poor new baby choked on forcefully let-down milk during every nursing session, which created a lot of drama. LD got to a point where he would refuse the rest of the feeding, so I’d pump. It was discouraging. I wanted to be an EB Mama, and dreamt about nusing anytime, anywhere; but attempting to nurse in public proved to be tough with my over-supply and forceful let-down. I worked on pumping techniques and a block-feeding schedule, and with time, my baby learned to navigate the rough milky waters, and we were good again.
…Until we weren’t.
On the DAY Little Dude turned 3 months (also happened to be Bubba’s 3rd birthday!), He started teething in a big way. He screamed like I have never heard him scream before, off and on for a few hours. It was terrifying. I called his doctor frantically. We almost admitted him to Urgent Care because we couldn’t put our finger on the issue, and then I noticed a tiny white speck on his lower middle gumline. He’s TEETHING! You can imagine this threw a wrench into our newly-perfected breast feeding routine. The baby went on a “nursing strike,” but would reluctantly eat from bottles (which he also used as a teething toy). I was back to pumping and bottle-feeding until LD started feeling relief, and then he magically took my breast again. Hooray! Back on track.
…But only for a month.
Yes, the honeymoon was suddlenly over once again, when I started noticing LD eagerly latching, and then a few moments later, getting really upset. He would end up being so worked up, he’d refuse to nurse. At first, I thought I was drying up. I Googled everything possible to “up” my milk supply, and started pumping every 2 hours. I’d get less than an ounce each time, which really freaked me out. I was convinced I was drying up 4 months post-partum, and desperately started researching formulas to supplement. Soon, I realized that it wasn’t my supply, it was my eager child. I noticed when the let-down happened quickly, he nursed just fine; when the let-down took a few minutes, he lost his patience. You see, bottle nipples provide “let-down” streams of milk immediately. Why should he have to wait? Just like his older brother, my LD figured the bottle was better.
So, what did I do?
I gave him what he wanted. My main priority was to feed my hungry kid, and I wasn’t concerned with my breast milk coming from a bottle — as long as he was receiving it. So, I became an Exclusively Pumping Mama. Guess what? It sucked too. What seemed to be an easy solution that also freed me from being “tied down” to my baby, quickly became a nusiance (who has time to pump all day? Especially with two kids to look after?), PLUS, my milk supply actually started to drop due to less nipple stimulation–surprise, surprise. I ended up pumping half a bottle, and topping it off with Gerber Goodstart Gentle Supplementing formula. Between always being hooked up to the pump, constant bottle-washing (with dry, cracked hands!), and watching my milk supply drop, I had a small meltdown.
I cried and cried. I scoured the web, confided in my Mommy Friends, and spoke to my baby’s Pediatrician. What I ultimately heard was:
Don’t sweat it. You tried your best. You made it this far. Feed baby formula, so he doesn’t go hungry and so you can stay happy and sane for your two children.
Hearing those words made me feel two things:
1. Relief — Can we move on with our lives now?
2. LD will be 6 months-old in two months, I bet I can get him back on the breast and survive until then. That way, he would have received the highest level of nutrience, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Call me a masochist, but I had to keep trying to breast feed that little guy. Something told me it wasn’t over just yet. Today, LD is just about 5 months-old, and we are back on the breast! Sort of. I think he has ANOTHER tooth coming in on the bottom (he already has two!), which has made him nurse shorter sessions (usually ending in him pulling off and crying). We are no stranger to this scenario, so I am at peace with supplementing the estimated missing milk, or pumping my breast and feeding the remaining milk to him once he has calmed down. It’s hard. It can sometimes suck. I don’t know where we will be at the 6-month-mark, but I DO know that I am fortunate to have been able to nurse my children at all, and have enjoyed the process (when it goes well).
KUDOS to all the Mamas who have stuck it out during hard times, and to the Mamas who made the decision to switch to formula when breastfeeding truly wasn’t working. Now let’s stop beating ourselves up about all of this and take a minute to enjoy being Mothers, and enjoy our sweet babies–while they are still babies. <3