My Breastfeeding StoryTuesday, April 28, 2015
This post is long overdue because I finished feeding my child breast milk back in June of 2014. However, after having several honest talks with some of my close friends here in Dublin (who all breastfed their babies before I met them) I realized that I needed to share my story, because I'm not alone. I want to give a voice to others who have gone through a similar situation.
Throughout my entire pregnancy with Baby K, I heard quite a lot about how much you can bond with your child while breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to do it! I read a lot of articles and even took a breastfeeding class prior to giving birth. However, it didn't come naturally to me and Baby K.
We had a lot of issues with latch right at the very beginning and sadly I didn't get a lot of help from the lactation consultants at the Inova Alexandria Hospital where I gave birth. In fact, even after asking multiple times the first two days we were in the hospital, no lactation consultant ever stopped by. It was only after Tolar called and demanded that someone come help us before we were discharged that anyone even showed up. And even with the LC's help, we still had issues. They even brought in a pump so she could get something. Baby K lost weight (as most babies do), but her pediatrician asked that I feed her every two hours to get her weight back up.
So I began a very frustrating couple of days trying to get my baby to eat and make sure she got enough. I made appointments with lactation consultants, seeking any kind of help I could find. And we made some progress, with loads of assistance from the amazing pillow called the Breast Friend. Luckily Baby K's weight increased and we started our journey of feeding every three hours. And I'm here to tell you that I spent two months completely stressed out.
Because we had so many issues, I needed a lot of items to feel like I could really breastfeed my child and I could never breastfeed in public because I needed so much. I needed the Breast Friend pillow, a nipple shield, a burp cloth, a bottle of water and my phone so I could record everything Baby K did. It was so stressful which is not at all how I thought breastfeeding would be. It was messy! I was always soaking wet and so was Baby K. I never felt close to Baby K during those times; I felt inadequate because I realized I didn't like breastfeeding at all. I even made a comment to my mom about how cows and sheep didn't need to seek help from lactation consultants, so why did I? I was so bummed that it didn't come naturally to me. Not to mention how long it took. Baby K would nurse for over an hour at times and I never felt empty which meant that she wasn't getting a lot. I kept on, because that's "what you're supposed to do." Our society says that breastfeeding is the only way, so I kept doing it. And I hated it.
It wasn't until I was telling my sister about all of my problems with breastfeeding when Baby K was about 2 months old that I found a release. My sister told me that if I didn't want to breastfeed Baby K then I didn't have to. It wasn't good for either of us to continue to be stressed out and that there were other ways to feed her. As soon as I hung up the phone with her, I told Tolar that I was going to start pumping exclusively. I wanted Baby K to get breast milk, but the natural way just wasn't working for us.
I pumped around the clock for an entire year and I barely told a soul. Can you believe that? Because of the whole "breast is best" philosophy being shoved down everyone's throats I found myself ashamed of pumping and doing what was best for me and my child. When in actuality, my child WAS getting breast milk. I pumped exclusively while having a newborn who required my attention even when my hands were busy and I found a way to do it. I pumped at work, I pumped in the car, I pumped on vacation, I pumped and pumped and pumped. I stayed up until 11:30/midnight and then got up at 5 a.m. for a year! It was hard work and yet I was ashamed. Only my family and maybe two friends really knew. I sacrificed that special time to bond with my child to ensure that she got plenty to eat. Most of the time when I was pumping, I was in a room by myself while someone else got to cuddle my baby and see her discover new things.
It was the most exhausting year of my life, but I am so glad I did it. Baby K was fed breast milk and I always knew how much she was getting. I contribute my pumping to the success we had with getting her to sleep for 12 hours at night by 13 weeks old (side note, I HIGHLY recommend The Baby Sleep Solution to help with getting your child to sleep).
I want other moms who pump to know that you are AWESOME. You sacrifice so much and make yourself feel like an actual cow just to ensure that your baby is fed. Pumping is not for the weak, that I am sure of. However, I was made to feel like I was. And I want to add that giving your baby formula is not a weak habit either. I FULLY BELIEVE that moms need to do what is right for them and for their baby. As long as your baby is eating and getting nutrients, that is the important thing. It doesn't matter if you have a natural birth, an epidural or a c-section. It doesn't matter if you nurse, pump or give formula. YOU are still an awesome mother who is doing everything she can for her baby.
Because let's get real...when I first met Tolar (or any guy I dated for that matter) I was never asked how my mother fed me as a baby. It isn't one of those questions that makes or breaks a marriage/dating relationship. I've never been asked that question in a job interview either. So let's stop putting so much pressure on each other to be exactly the same. If we were all the same and all raised our children the same way, this world would be pretty boring.
Moms, do what you need to do. And be proud of it, even if I didn't always take my own advice. YOU are the mommy, what you say/do goes. You are making it work in this tough thing called life and you deserve respect and support from everyone around you. Keep your head held high, because your little one loves you and thinks you are AMAZING. Moms, just be YOU bravely!