When I was pregnant with my first child, I was (as most first-time moms are) completely confident in all of my plans. I knew what I wanted the nursery to look like, I knew what daycare I would be sending her to, and I absolutely knew that I would breastfeed.
I couldn’t even tell you why I was so convinced that I needed to breastfeed. I was a formula-fed baby and turned out just fine. I didn’t feel like one method was better than the other, I just knew I planned to breastfeed. And so, as I was making my baby registry, I added all the important items: nursing cover, pump accessories, nursing pillows, assorted creams and nipple shields. I was ready! Then cut to the big day, and she was here! And strangely (to me), my milk didn’t come in. A little colostrum, but not enough to satisfy her.
In the hospital, they helped me supplement so she would stop screaming from hunger, but I still tried to nurse her all day, every day. I pumped, I had the lactation specialist come in, but still in addition to the tiny amount of anything I had pumped, we had to supplement.
Once we were home, my troubles with breastfeeding continued. The doctor noticed a tongue tie in the baby, so we had it snipped. It didn’t help. Then we had a lactation consultant come to the house. She was so incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. I had mastitis which she helped with, plus she showed me proper form and ways to engage the baby at mealtimes.
All the while, I continued to pump several times a day to try to increase production. Add in the special teas, oatmeal, cookies and vitamins, and just trying to nourish my baby had become an all-encompassing, incredibly time consuming process.
And after all of that, I still wasn’t able to exclusively breastfeed.
My maternity leave was coming to an end, and I still wasn’t successful. We were going to move on to a prescription medication to try to help when I said stop. No more. I was missing out on so much of my sweet baby’s first months, panicked that I was failing her.
When I finally said it was time to stop, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. She was healthy, she was happy, she was fed. And so, I put all of my breastfeeding necessities back in the closet and vowed to try again with baby #2.
Almost 4 years later, I was lucky enough to have my sweet second daughter and I planned to try to breastfeed again. But another curveball, she arrived early and had to spend some time in the NICU. It was stressed to me that every little drop of colostrum and breast milk would help her immensely in her early days, and so back to the pump.
In the first few days, I was able to get something to give her but if I’m being honest, the experience was very triggering. I remembered the fear, the failure, and the stress of the first time around. She also wouldn’t latch, and I once again pumped exclusively but this time there was no consultant. There were no teas or vitamins. I again did a mix of breast milk and formula but before very long, for my mental health, I switched to formula exclusively. Could I have made it longer with baby #2? Maybe. But my truth is, the time and mental energy spent to make breastfeeding successful for me wasn’t worth what I was losing.
Perhaps it was naive of me, but I had no idea people struggled to breastfeed.
My daughters are now 8 and 4, and I do feel like the conversation has evolved since then, but when I was in the throes of early motherhood, I thought if I tried hard enough, and put my mind to it, I would be completely successful and the fact that I wasn’t was shocking.