This is my story of planning to nurse my baby and how nursing did not go as planned for me.
I want to talk to you guys about the subject of nursing a brand new baby, especially if this is your first baby. I want to do this because I really struggled with breastfeeding and I know there are others out there who will have an experience like mine.
If I had read another Mom’s similar journey, I really think I could have coped with my situation a little bit easier. So, please take a read and maybe I can help another Mom out there. But really, anyone can read this post and take away a few key points!! Let’s remember to be kind to each other. Let’s also remember to be kind to ourselves and our bodies.
My breastfeeding story:
It has been a few years since my girls were babies, but breastfeeding for a new Mom is something I have wanted and needed to talk about since that time. I am a Mom that really wanted to exclusively breast feed but my body had other ideas.
My doctors and hospital are certified “baby friendly.” My husband and I took all the prenatal classes to help us get prepared for taking care of a tiny infant. Much of this was practical basics- how to hold a baby, how to bathe a baby, how to help a choking infant, etc. There was also copious information and books on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, it seemed, was the ONLY option. I tend to agree and still do agree, that breastfeeding is best for babies in most situations. However, I have never been willing to judge anyone else for not breastfeeding her baby.
Now let me be clear, I did realize that there were alternatives to nursing a baby. It was just that, based on the hospital classes and my own desires, I had begun to believe that breastfeeding was the only option.
As a first time pregnant mom I was trying to do everything just right. I didn’t realize that struggling for perfection is really unhealthy for me!
I did not yet realize that perfectly laid plans never really come out quite right with little ones. And I had not yet learned that it is OK if things aren’t perfect! It’s OK because we live our best lives when we are mindful of the current moment!
The big day finally arrived, and our beautiful daughter was born. I did my best to help her latch to my breast, and it seemed that she was doing fine. The nurses were helping and observing and didn’t seem to have any concerns.
It didn’t seem much milk was really there, but I was reassured that it can take a couple days for breast milk to come in fully. During the two days in hospital it seemed that the breastfeeding was going well after all, in my mind, there was no other way to feed a baby. There was never any mention of formula as an option.
Nobody was weighing the baby either daily or after feedings to make sure she was getting food and gaining weight. At the time, I didn’t realize why that would have been so helpful. I assumed that everything was working as it should based on the doctors and nurses evaluations. We were discharged from the hospital and sent into the world with our sweet new baby.
Looking back I now know that if I was choosing to breastfeed exclusively, I would have the baby weighed before and after feedings. At a minimum the baby should be weighed a few times a day, in my opinion. This is one way to make sure the baby is actually eating something. Unlike with a bottle, when nursing a baby you can’t actually see if they are eating anything.
At home my sweet daughter tended to nurse on the breast for a very long time (over an hour). And she seemed to remain fussy despite feeding. I understood that babies can be soothed by suckling, even if they are not still hungry, but deep down I wasn’t sure and suspected that something wasn’t quite right.
At one point my wonderful mom who was staying with us and helping, suggested offering a bottle. I gasped at the thought- everything I had been taught and read and what I really wanted was to breast feed. In that moment and in that frame of mind I thought offering a single bottle was going to ruin all future attempts at breast feeding. I refused to offer a bottle and we kept on.
Baby’s first check up was when she was 2 days old. My nipples had become extremely ulcerated and excruciatingly painful when touched even slightly. There really was not any significant change in shape or size to the breast tissue that would indicate the milk had come in.
The pediatrician was looking over our baby with concern. She was nearly jaundice/yellowish and had lost a significant amount of weight. The doctor asked how feeding was going, as far I as I knew I was doing all the right things. But after looking at the baby, then looking at me- she said “this baby needs food, can I get her formula right now?! She needs to eat!”
That moment will never fully leave me. I felt as if I had unknowingly been starving this sweet tiny person I loved with as much love as I have ever known. The amount of guilt, sadness and depression that came with this was intense.
We immediately got formula and supplemented her feedings and thankfully she gained weight over time and was and is a healthy little girl. Things could have been much worse had she be born a bigger baby to begin with or if more time had passed before that first visit with the pediatrician. If she was born any bigger, she would have needed even more calories and starved even more, this could have had bad brain effects!
In the weeks that followed I had several consultation with lactation specialists, pumped and pumped, took herbal supplements and did everything in my power to produce breast milk for my baby. Breast milk never came even after 3 weeks of pumping and attempted nursing. My body just did not produce any milk, lactation wasn’t going to happen.
My baby, at her 2 week check up had been fed formula and was doing great. The pediatricians were the first people in my entire pregnancy and birthing experience that even mentioned formula as an option.
The pediatricians told us over and over that formula is perfectly fine- a fed baby is the most important thing.
20 months later I delivered my second daughter at the same hospital. I asked for (and even had to push for and nearly demand) formula and fed that baby. There was no way that I would let her go hungry. The lactation nurses didn’t like that very much, and signed me up for a pump and all the same things as before. I tried, I really did, but as I suspected the milk never came. But my baby was never at risk this time around.
I still wish that, in all the literature I was given, there was even a slight mention of breastfeeding alternatives like formula for those that are unable to produce milk. That really would have made me feel confident enough to believe in myself.
What I learned about breastfeeding:
- If you are physically able and would like to pursue breast feeding, do it! That’s an amazing and wonderful time for Mommy and baby. You can provide nutrition, immunity, bonding with baby and an ability to connect in a very special way.
- If you don’t elect to breastfeed or are UNABLE to breastfeed, don’t. It is you and your family that matters most. Ignore any pressure from outside that you HAVE to breastfeed.
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. Be confident in yourself- I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I was so desperate to “do it right” I wouldn’t supplement with formula. But I didn’t produce milk, and my baby needed formula.
- Being a planner is fine- but remember it is impossible to be perfect as a parent! It is OK that plans change as you go. Be mindful and live in the present! This is a lesson that applies to many aspects of parenting, and I remind myself of this constantly.
After reading this I hope that if you are a Mom and struggled (or are struggling) with breastfeeding, know that you are still a great Mom. Accept yourself and know that you can still have a wonderful, healthy child that you are completely bonded to without breastfeeding. If you are not a Mom yet, make your best plans, choose what paths you will take. But remember if that plan doesn’t work out, it’s OK to change it as you go! If you are keeping yourself and your family’s best interest at heart it will work out well!
That is my story of planning to nurse my baby and how nursing did not go as planned for me.
Please leave me a comment below! Have a great day.