My daughter will be one year old soon and the knowledge that my breast feeding days are coming to an end is already weighing on my mind. I have had a love-hate relationship with the process from the time my son was born – mostly love, I’d say, but plenty of hate. Love, when all I have to do is pull my baby to me and all is right in the world. Hate, when I am chained to the baby when all I want is to be by myself (or with friends, over drinks, or simply not have to worry about anyone but myself for a time).
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I do not judge other mothers who chose the formula route. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing bottles over breastfeeding. I wasn’t breastfed nor was anyone else my age that I know and we’re all normal (or so we think). This post is simply about my plight with breastfeeding and why I will miss it, since we aren’t planning for 4eyedblonde 3.0.
I remember when we were planning for Arden, Neil presented the idea of breastfeeding. It wasn’t something I had thoughtfully considered since I had no knowledge of it aside from the obvious. I remember telling him, huh, okay, I’ll check into it and off I went to read about it. It seemed doable from what I could find and I checked off the feed portion of the Planning for Baby checklist I had in my head. I purchased only a few bottles and nipples as a back-up, but put no more thought into it than that.
Until Arden was born…
I remember so vividly all the frustration, sadness, disappointment and anger I felt over the course of the several months that it took to finally have some control over breast feeding him. It started in the hospital when my son wouldn’t stay awake long enough to eat and no matter how hard the nurses and I tried, we couldn’t wake him. We tried rubbing his feet – harder than I thought was necessary, and rubbing his back. We tried rubbing the palms of his hands or bouncing him. The only thing we found to wake him was to take all of his clothes off so that he was cold, and even that didn’t always do the trick.
I would shyly ask the nurses if they knew what to do, was I doing it right, was I feeding him often enough. I was surprised to gain the impression that not many of the nurses had experience breast feeding. And looking back, I don’t think the few that had experience with the issue were any more knowledgeable than I was. They seemed to offer the same inaccurate advice that my husband offered, “If he’s hungry he’ll eat.”
There was a well-regarded lactation consultant who visited me before I left the hospital, but I couldn’t understand a thing she said. She jumped around from point to point, making no sense at all. She would begin a sentence listing the number of calories in each food group I needed, and finish the same sentence saying that boys were more emotionally connected to their mothers (something I thought interesting but irrelevant at the time). I was concerned when I left the hospital, but thought that things would easily smooth out.
When we took my son for his first well-baby visit, we were asked to return with him in a couple of days because he had lost a little too much weight. When I tried to discuss with the pediatrician my intense desire to breastfeed, he quickly shut me down saying that breastfeeding doesn’t work for all moms and formula was just as good. I asked him if we could try a little longer to get breastfeeding and he said yes, but if the baby came back underweight again, we would have to turn to formula because wieight gain was way too important. I left there a little tentative, but ignorantly hopeful.
When I returned a couple of days after that, I was crushed to learn that my son had STILL not gained enough weight. Here’s a formula sample for you to try and thank you for coming. To say I left there with a broken heart was an understatment. I started bawling before he could finish his sentence and continued to cry the whole way home. I was DEVASTATED. To this day I can not explain why I was so crushed when the good doctor tried to smother my dreams of breastfeeding when the entire concept itself was so new to me. But after sharing my frustration with my husband, he encouraged me to reconnect with the lactation consultant at the hospital, so that’s what I did.
That time, thank goodness, I was connected to a different consultant, one who really took the time to answer my questions and give me hope. She explicitly told me, “Don’t give up. There’s still time. You can still do this,” and gave me specific instructions.
From there I went to a maternity store and talked to the very informative owner/CLC/RN who supported the advise I was given and gave me the supplemental nursing system that the hospital CLC had suggested. And let me tell ya, if you don’t know what a supplemental system is, Google it. It’s crazy. So you take what’s basically a tiny canister, fill it with formula, then take the hose that connects to the bottle and TAPE it to the boob, with the hose ending at the nipple so that the baby sucks on both the nipple and the hose. That way the baby gets milk AND the breast is stimulated, because stimulation means milk production.
Talk about humbling. So every two to three hours, I filled up the canister with milk (formula), ran the hose to my boobette and fed my baby. It was so awkward. I was never sure whether the baby was getting any of MY milk because I wasn’t sure how I would know in the first place!
And during the post-baby visit with my midwife (don’t get me started on my not-so-secret love affair with her), she helped me even further by suggesting the use of fenugreek and blessed thistle to help increase my milk supply.
How could breastfeeding be THAT difficult? Right? It’s sort of like the chicken or breastfeeding! What the heck?!
So I returned to the pediatrician with Arden for his one-month well baby visit and felt SO smug when they congratulated me for his weight gain. I got such a sense of satisfaction when the doctor asked me if I was feeding him formula, “No, I’m breastfeeding,” I replied proudly.
“Oh,” he said, reviewing the chart. “Good job, Mom.”
You’re damn right Good job, Mom, ya A-hole.Way to try to cut me off instead of using your hundred years of experience and all your connections to point me in the direction of hope. Thanks for nothin’ ya dimwhit.
All the tears and self-doubt and anger and sadness…all the determination and bull-headedness…paid off.
I have no idea why I was so determined, probably more determined than anything else I’ve ever done in my life, to conquer breastfeeding. I remember my mom – more women’s lib-er than breastfeeding advocate – attempting to comfort me after I vented with her my frustration and disappointment, saying, “Carol? When are you going to just get over it, put away your hopes to breastfeed and just feed the baby formula?”
Thanks for the support, Mom.
“I’m frustrated, Mom. But I’m not done. I might give up some day, but that’s day isn’t today.” That’s truly what I said. And then I swallowed my frustration and got to it – again.
It was such a combination of sadness and relief when I decided, at nine months, that enough was enough. Arden was going to be just fine finishing up his bottle days with formula. And so that was that.
And there was Addy. Who latched on and got chubby wubby and healthy from Day One. I’m sure all my struggles with Arden gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do with her but I couldn’t have been happier at how well it started out. And she has continued to thrive. No muss, no fuss.
In her lifetime, all of almost ten months, I bet I’ve gone through about five containers of formula (pumping isn’t very productive for me). Sweet.
And so, here we are, quickly closing in on the year mark and I know that it will be time to hang up the nursing bras and prepare to let go of that part of motherhood. Let go of something I had to struggle so hard to be able to do.
Just the other day, we rode a shuttle through a national park and when Addy started fussing I knew it was because she was hungry. No problem. I just laid her down and took care of business, no cover, just posture. I didn’t care if anyone saw anything.
This was an about-face from my Arden days when I would run scared like a hunted animal, desperate for a hiding place so that I wouldn’t have to worry about offending someone and the possibility of a confrontation. I was a bundle of nerves – even with the fancy covers I had with me at all times.
But nowadays, I just try to find the most discreet location possible and go on with my life. No one has ever said anything to me; not in the Texas cave, not at the mall(s), not the restaurants, not the aquarium, the zoo or any place else.
I will appreciate these last few months that I have. I know I could go longer but I know when to pull the curtain. Besides, I need to be able to turn to my wine collection in order to make it through another round of toddler years. Uugh. I don’t think I could find a way to justify breastfeeding my two year old while sipping a glass of cab sav. Gotta plan ahead here.