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 afterward 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. My son had trouble latching but he was still nursing so I just tried to be patient. Lactation consultants came and went and I felt confident that I was going to be okay when I went home.
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 had no appetite and felt like I had the flu even though I didn’t.
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 wanted to make sure my child was fed.
When he finally started to latch again, it was clear that something was wrong. 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 of 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.
She suggested we try triple feeding. I nursed, pumped, bottle-fed, and made formula when I had no more milk to give. We made an appointment to see the ENT for a lip and tongue tie evaluation which ended up clear.
We took him to an osteopath who gently moved the bones around in his mouth with little pushes here and there on the back of his neck and head. This helped, but I continued to not have enough milk. 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 me 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 son, and I had to stop blaming myself for seemingly failing at this. I had to give up the notion that this was, in fact, a failure, because it wasn’t. I had to let go of my notion that everyone around me was judging me for pulling out a bottle and powder instead of delicately unclipping my cute nursing bra.
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 realized that fed is best and started to be grateful that I live in a time where formula exists to provide nourishment to my growing child.
Every single 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 an unmedicated vaginal birth.
I’m proud of moms who use modern medicine to take away the 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.