The struggles, the triumphs, and coming to grips with it coming to and end.
First and foremost, it’s important that I say it really doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, as long as he or she is fed. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, breast is not best; it is just one of the ways to feed your baby. Fed is best. It’s almost 2021 and we really need to stop pressuring moms to breastfeed. I have heard horror stories of new moms in the hospital being pressured to breastfeed and then shamed when voicing their choice against it. However you chose to feed your baby is up to you, as for me… this is my personal story about my struggles and triumphs with nursing my two boys.
My first born gave me quite the journey of labour and delivery. To make a long story short, my 36+ hours of induced labour was absolutely awful; two failed epidurals, pumped with so many drugs that I can’t even remember all of it, and ending in a C-section. The whole thing left me with a whole bag full of emotions, including the baby blues and feeling like a failure. I didn’t understand why I was not able to give birth to my son the way I had imagined, the way my birth plan was set up. These feelings stuck with me for weeks, until I met with my doctor and she explained what happened in a little more detail. She eased my mind and made me come to terms with what had actually happened. This is a story for another time. So, when it came time to make the decision to either breastfeed or give formula, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I felt like it was something I needed to “accomplish”. It was almost like I had to prove to myself I could do it, because I “failed” to deliver my son. I now know that thinking that way is ridiculous and I look at it in a completely different way. I was just naïve and didn’t know any better. When your birth plan is shot out the window, your whole world can get screwed up.
So, I started nursing.
What a struggle. The first week was by far the worst. He wouldn’t latch most of the time, and when he did, it hurt like hell. On top of being exhausted, I was in pain 24/7. He just wasn’t eating. At our first doctor appointment, it was made clear that he wasn’t gaining enough weight so I needed to try harder. So, all day, every day I tried and tried, but this little newborn just wouldn’t cooperate. I tried changing positions a million times at each feed. I would go from couch to couch, I tried sitting up in bed, I tried lying down, I tried every breastfeeding position possible, and nothing was working. At our second doctor’s appointment she told me he still was not gaining enough weight and that I would need to start supplementing with formula if he doesn’t start to eat…and there it was. I had “failed” again. All I wanted in life was to become a mom, and now here I am, once again, “failing” at it. UGH.
I went home determined to successfully breastfeed my son. My husband, who, don’t get me wrong, was amazing throughout the whole thing, was being a worried new dad and was trying to push giving him formula. I was so against it at the time. I remember trying to nurse and the baby would just be crying and crying, and my husband would say, innocently “He’s starving, just give him formula.” This crushed and stressed me out even more, which stressed the baby out even more. My husband didn’t mean anything negative by it; I can’t imagine being a dad throughout the whole new mom trying to breastfeed situation… But, I knew, that if I just didn’t give up, I could do it. I told him to give me a few more days. I contacted our local heath unit and asked for some help. We are so lucky to have these services available to us. I had a nurse come to my home the next day and help me through it. She gave me so many tips and tricks and followed me for a few weeks until I was ready to say “Thanks, but I’ve got it from here!” It took me about 5 weeks to really get the hang of it and to this day, my husband congratulates me on not giving up. My son became our chunky monkey and nursed well for about 10 months, which is when he started to push me away. It was hard giving up nursing him, but I was ready. I was happy that I was able to nurse for so long. There were times during those 10 months where I struggled. Being a first time mom, I wasn’t always comfortable nursing in public (If it wasn’t for COVID I would totally nurse in public now) I remember I was out shopping at Winners with a friend and it was time to feed the babe. I tried to do it in the dressing room and was just having such a hard time. I remember the gentleman who worked in the store said I was more than welcome to nurse anywhere – We need more people like you, sir. Long story short, me being the shy person I was, we had to leave the store and I nursed my son in the back of my SUV. Sigh. Mamas…. nurse freely!! I remember shopping in Carters once, and my friend was giving her son a bottle as they walked around the store, I locked my shy self in the nursing room (honestly, such a cozy little area, I love it) and tried to nurse…being a rookie, again, it didn’t go too well, but it got easier as the months went on, and I became more confident in myself.
When my second son was born I remember thinking it would be easier since I had already done it before…
SURPRISE! Every baby is different. Shocker.
The first week was a nightmare. This little baby just would not latch, it was awful. At our first doctor’s appointment, again, I was hit with “He’s not gaining enough weight”. I explained my journey with my first son, and that I wasn’t worried, I would get the hang of it. For two or three weeks, I struggled. I even had the nurse come in to try and help again. Eventually he did latch, but he would always struggle on the left side and so I found myself always nursing more on the right (Ugh…Yeah, definitely regret that now…if you know, you know!) The only thing that seemed to work for me was giving him his pacifier, and then removing it right before getting him to latch… which is funny, because everyone told me not to give him a pacifier at all. You do what works for you! I felt like I had the hang of it after the first few weeks and was confident going to the next doctor’s appointment.
“He has dropped in the weight percentile”
My heart sank. WHAT?! How could that be? I was literally nursing nonstop, and pumping throughout the night to ensure my supply was up. Our doctor asked me all kinds of questions and then ended up giving my baby some formula… he guzzled it down. Was I starving my baby? I didn’t get it. The doctor said he just might not be getting enough from me, and with nursing there really was no way to measure. So, I said I would pump, and then feed him from the bottle; my fear was that he wouldn’t go back to nursing because it’s so much easier from the bottle. We fed him like this for another couple weeks and then had another doctor’s appointment. He still was not gaining the right amount. It was a constant struggle. I was doing everything I could. Eventually, the doctor just agreed he was healthy, and a happy baby, just on the smaller side, and that is OKAY. For the next 8 months I nursed with the occasional bottle of formula here and there, and now at 10 months old, he is starting to push me away just like his big bro did. Actually, he’s got his two bottom teeth in and they are as sharp as puppy teeth – we’re both ready to give it up. Kind of…
I still do try and nurse him before every bottle, and I am hoping I can still hold on to our morning nursing session for at least a few more weeks because deep down I am not ready to give it up. I know he is my last baby, and last week, when he started to crawl, it all just kind of hit me. I’ve been pretty emotional about it lately, and don’t want to accept that my baby no longer wants to nurse. I miss the midnight feeds, when it was just him and I, awake, while the rest of the world was asleep. I miss snuggling with him and just being able to hear his little baby sounds. However, I know that there are so many more things to come. This is just the end of one of my favorite stages, and it’s going to take me a little while to accept it. And that’s okay…I am allowed to be sad about it. I really do wish I could be one of those mom’s that nurses for a full year (or even longer, way to go!) but my body, and my baby, have other plans. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow (or lack thereof)