I know this is one of the most widely controversial topics among moms, health experts and even people who never want kids. I had my own experience with breastfeeding and this post is meant more for personally therapeutic reasons than anything else.
When I was pregnant, I never thought twice about how we would feed our baby—I was planning on breastfeeding. I know the health benefits to both mom and baby and I was going to breastfeed. That was that. However, like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, breastfeeding is hard. It takes/took a lot of work and that was something that I was absolutely not prepared for.
When Graham was born via C-section, I didn’t get to hold him for about an hour after he came into this world. Even then in the hospital I was wondering if not being able to have immediate skin-to-skin with him would affect our ability to breastfeed. Despite Graham losing weight in the hospital, our breastfeeding journey was going relatively well. When they told us that we needed to supplement because he lost too much weight, I didn’t think twice about giving him formula—he needed to eat and get the proper nutrition and that was my highest priority. I have never been anti-formula and I don’t think anything is wrong with formula; I just never pictured it being a regular part of our lives (just like I never imagined that c-section—ha!).
So we supplemented. Graham was very tired the first several days of his life namely due to the very long labor which was hard on him too and the fact that we could not get him circumcised in the hospital—we had to have it done as an outpatient procedure our first day home from the hospital which left him very sleepy. All of these added together made for a rough first 5 days of life one very tired baby. He was not interested in eating and when I would put him to my boob he would get tired and fall asleep.
We HAD to supplement to get him to grow. We met with the lactation consultant several times while in the hospital because I really wanted this [breastfeeding] to work for us. In the hospital our schedule looked like this—breastfeed for 15-20 minutes, supplement, then pump for 15 minutes. Every three hours. Our lactation consultant highly recommended that we rent a hospital grade pump to have at home because that was going to be key in pulling out more milk, thus signaling my body to make more. My husband didn’t rent, he purchased us a hospital grade electric pump which run anywhere from $600-$1000 used but this is how determined we were to make breastfeeding work for us.
One week postpartum we met with our lactation consultant again because I wanted to try and get Graham to be able to latch so we could eventually phase out the bottles. This was problematic and our lactation consultant gave us two plans to choose from—continue like we did in the hospital and breastfeed, supplement then pump. Our other option was for me to pump every 2-3 hours and exclusively bottle-feed Graham. Being a first time mom, one-week postpartum and trying to recover from a c-section, we chose for me to exclusively pump and bottle-feed Graham. That’s what we (this was a family decision) decided that I could manage without going completely insane and getting even more exhausted.
By one week postpartum, I still hadn’t experienced my ‘milk coming in,’ like I was warned of by many of my mommy friends. Even now, I can attest that my milk never actually came in. I was taking everything they say to take to boost milk supply—Fenugreek, Mother’s Milk Tea, I even made lactation bars with brewer’s yeast, oats and flax meal which are all foods said to help boost milk supply. At my peak, I was pumping 80mls (almost 3oz) in one session…this was from both boobs. I maxed out one day at 9oz total pumping for the whole day, which I was really proud of. I did a lot of Googling and when I would see some moms write that they were pumping 3oz PER BOOB, AFTER feeding their baby, I wanted to roll over and die [because I was comparing myself to them which is a big no-no].
A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t doing well—I was really struggling with postpartum hormones and was feeling very depressed. The feeling would get worse when I pumped but I chalked it up to hormones. I would sit in our bedroom and cry while pumping. I started to hate pumping but was continuing for the sake of our kiddo.
Last week, I got to my very wit’s end. Mood-wise I was feeling so much better except for when I would pump. I would get depressed and anxious, before, during and after pumping. Since I was pumping every few hours, these feelings that I couldn’t shake were taking over. Some women have a more drastic hormone change when their milk ‘lets down’ which can cause anxiety and depression among other negative feelings—this is exactly what I was experiencing.
Thursday was when Graham turned 4-weeks old and that is also the day that was my last day pumping. I could not keep it up. My husband was ready to support whatever decision I made. I talked with my mom and our pediatrician and collectively we came to the decision that our family deserves a happy, psychologically sound mother more than Graham needs 2 bottles worth of breast milk (if that) per day.
It was such a relief yet such a difficult decision for me to come to. Breastfeeding did not turn out how I hoped or planned for it to and I am still mourning the loss of a dream, as my MIL appropriately termed it. Although it has only been a few days, the amount of relief and peace I have is really indescribable. I am no longer spending hours each day pumping and more hours each day being sad and upset with myself for breastfeeding ‘not working’.
It’s somewhat similar to my c-section—it’s not how I planned or expected, but it is my reality and it’s something that I have peace with. One thing I am learning is that there can be no blanket expectation as for how anything will go in parenting or motherhood.
No, I’m not able to breastfeed Graham like I dreamt, but I am happy and I am happy to do the absolute best for my wonderful, healthy, squishy, adorable, formula fed baby boy.