I'd been conditioned to think that since I was a woman, breastfeeding would be the most natural thing I've ever done. I forgot in all of this that all humans are different and that's part of the beauty of life.
I hate to admit it, but before I got pregnant, and even when I was pregnant, I was already a judgmental mom. I started watching documentaries about natural birth and breastfeeding years before I even entertained the idea of having children because it fascinated me.
Women's bodies are amazing. We are capable of growing, birthing and feeding a brand new life and I was on board for doing all of it naturally because biology is perfect and I was made to do this—or so I thought. I looked at moms who opted for epidurals and thought, "If only they knew about natural birth and how amazing it is," or those who formula fed and thought, "How sad," because breastmilk is magical and formula will never be able to measure up.
I hate to admit these things, but I have to admit them so you know just how much this journey has changed me.
Our birth plan was simple—deliver at the birth center with our doula and midwife, stay there for four hours, go home, breastfeed forever, be happy. I'm lucky to have had a fairly short labor of nine hours, but afterwards was nothing like I'd imagined. I ended up transferring to the hospital to repair a third-degree tear. Lovely, I know.
We started to breastfeed at the hospital, and it hurt like they all said it would. I had trouble latching, but he was still nursing so I just tried to be patient. I had a rough first few days as my body tried to balance out hormones. I was shaky, hot, sweaty, mad, sad, and all-around miserable.
I called the midwife who told me this was normal and advised me to stay in bed and "breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed." So I did. The next day, my son started crying like crazy when I tried to latch him, and refused to nurse for a full 24 hours. The pediatrician told us to supplement with formula and I gave in because I felt sick, tired and I wasn't going to starve my child.
When he finally started to latch again, it was clear that I didn't have enough for him. He would get sleepy after only a few minutes of nursing, sleep for a few minutes, and then wake up crying and wanted to eat again. I spent a couple days feeding him every 15 minutes and didn't wear a shirt or see anyone during that time.
I met with a lactation consultant who listed a whole slew of things that could potentially be wrong with him. I also learned that I had an infection on my nipple and he developed thrush, which made all of this infinitely more complicated and painful.
I was still determined to breastfeed, so we saw two lactation specialists, an ENT and Osteopath to evaluate the little guy, and I tried every natural remedy in the book. I took supplements and tinctures, drank dark beer, pumped multiple times in an hour, saw another lactation specialist, ate almonds, stayed hydrated, pumped, nursed, pumped, nursed, until I just couldn't do it anymore.
I got to the point where I just said without emotion "tried it" whenever someone gave me advice to increase my supply. I was exhausted. I woke up to pump every morning and sobbed because I would only get dribbles and my baby just wasn't getting that ever so magical breast milk despite all my best efforts.
I've heard so many different opinions about my son and I on our journey that I don't think I can definitively say what the root cause of all of this was. The opinion that made me feel the most at ease was from our ENT who flat out said that not every baby is a fit for every breast.
Until then, I'd been conditioned to think that since I was a woman, breastfeeding would be the most natural thing I've ever done. I forgot in all of this that all humans are different and that's part of the beauty of life. I had to stop blaming my baby, and I had to stop blaming myself for "failing" at this. I had to give up the notion that this was, in fact, a failure, because it wasn't.
This journey made me bake myself an entire humble pie and eat every last crumb. I started to look at breastfeeding and motherhood from a much different perspective. I came to terms with the fact that feeding my baby formula and the tiny bit of breast milk I did have was infinitely better than having a baby that couldn't thrive and a sobbing mommy. I became grateful that I live in a time where formula exists to provide nourishment to my child.
Every mom out there is incredible. I'm proud of moms who breastfeed exclusively. I'm proud of moms who use formula. I'm proud of moms who do both. I'm proud of moms who have natural birth. I'm proud of moms who use modern medicine to take away the horrible pain. I'm proud of every mom who chooses to do the best thing for her baby and herself. The sisterhood of motherhood is incredible and I'm grateful to be a part of it and share my story.
Originally posted on Fed Is Best.