Breastfeeding Woes

In my post From Pampered to Sleep Deprived I touched upon the issues I had with breastfeeding Jacob. I’ll go into more detail about the difficulties I had in this post, with hopes to bring comfort to moms who are going through the same ordeal.

Great Expectations

While I was pregnant, one of the questions most women asked me was if I was going to breastfeed or formula feed my baby. Obviously I wanted to try breastfeeding. A lot of moms told me that it was really tough at the beginning but to hang in there if I could.

When I’d see books and pamphlets of a mother nursing her baby, the picture on the front would be of a woman who looked anything but sleep deprived. She’d be in a cozy white robe with a precious baby in her arms, calmly suckling at her breast. They looked so peaceful and beautiful.

Reality Bites

At the hospital, the nurses helped me all they could. They propped me up with pillows and showed me how to hold Jacob in different positions so he could feed comfortably. They showed me how his lips should look to ensure a good latch. Things were peachy. I thought it was so easy.

Once I was home though, getting myself into that perfect position while holding a frantic and hungry baby was hard. And when he’d latch on, it started to hurt. I knew things would be a bit painful for the first couple of weeks, but it was getting harder and harder.

Hungry Monster

Nearing the end of just day two, Jacob wanted to nurse every hour, sometimes every half hour – I know now that he was cluster feeding to bring in my milk supply. I was exhausted and my breasts were beginning to get raw. Any time he’d cry for a feed, I’d have a little panic attack as I anticipated the pain I was about to feel. And it was as though Jacob could sense my unease because he was so restless while he fed. Neither of us was enjoying it, nor did we look as graceful as those pamphlet photos.

Mastitis: What No New Mom Wants to Have

Due to the fact that Jacob wasn’t latching properly, a milk duct was being pinched and eventually became clogged. On day three I was nursing Jacob in the middle of the night, curling my toes because of the pain and crying the whole time. I cannot describe to you how alone I felt.

All I could think was: Okay I was told that it gets easier, but when? I know it was only three days, but when you’re having trouble breastfeeding your hungry baby and it hurts like hell every single time (every two to three hours is time to eat!) it feels like forever.

The next day I started to feel like I had the flu – perfect! I had the chills, I was achy all over and began feeling nauseous. I also had a fever that was rising by the hour. So off to the doctor’s we went. The nurse asked to see my breasts and as soon as I lifted my top she said: “Oh ya. Oh dear. Honey, you’ve got mastitis.”

On the Mend

I was given a prescription to help the infection subside, but the nurse told me that the fastest way to get rid of the blockage was to feed my son. WHAT?!?!?! You want be to put him back on this red balloon-sized boob that’s throbbing with pain? You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

She was sympathetic. She also mentioned that if I had a breast pump, I could try pumping the milk out. If Jacob wasn’t latching properly the pump would do the trick. Thankfully my sister-in-law gave me a pump before Jacob was born. She didn’t nurse, but pumped breast milk for both her babies because neither was latching.

In a single pumping session, a whopping 8 ounces came out of my breast, what a relief! My husband and I agreed that maybe this was a great solution to the issues I’ve been having with breastfeeding. I could pump, stock up, and he could do some feedings to take the pressure off me. I was on board immediately!

Running on Empty

Switching to pumping was amazing because I wasn’t in pain all the time. But now I had to find time to pump. Ideally, I’d pump right after Jacob had a bottle to tell my body that he just fed – this way my body knew how much milk to produce so I wouldn’t run out.

Well, whether it was because Jacob was getting air with being bottle fed now, or he was just a fussy baby, he was constantly crying and in my arms. I tried to fit pumping in at least four times a day, but it was impossible some days.

Within a couple of weeks, my milk supply started to go town. I was panicking. I ate more, drank tons of water, pumped any time I had a minute, I even took some herbal supplements to increase my supply. But every day, ounce by ounce, my supply was diminishing.

Feeling Guilty

By the time Jacob was one month old, he was on breast milk and formula. I had to substitute feedings with formula because I wasn’t getting enough milk in. At our one month check up the doctor told me he was very healthy.

When she asked how I was doing I told her how I felt: disappointed, a failure, a bad mother. She was quick to tell me that I did the best I could and should not feel guilty about my decision. Nonetheless, I was feeling down about the way things turned out.

Once I began talking to other mothers though, I started to feel better. I was hearing stories that were just like mine, if not worse. And mothers who had grown, healthy children who were also formula-fed babies also gave me more reassurance.

Accepting It and Moving On

After a month or so of feeling like a failure I took inventory of my feelings. Why was I feeling guilty? Because my healthy baby wasn’t getting breast milk from me? Or was it because I felt inferior to breastfeeding moms? If I was being honest with myself, it was the latter.

I finally decided to hush the negative voices in my mind and get on with life. Jacob was happy and healthy and you know what? So was I! For the first time in weeks I started to feel like me again. I wasn’t so sore and tired all the time. And I was in a much better mood.

I had the best intentions for my son, but things didn’t work out. That’s just the way it is. If ever someone makes me feel guilty for not breastfeeding, I sing a song in my head while they’re talking to tune them out. And that’s that!

For mom’s I know who breastfeed, I think they’re amazing. I know firsthand that it’s NOT easy. So when I see a mother nursing their baby, I’m so happy for them, and that they pushed through. Maybe when I have another baby it’ll be successful. But at least I know what to expect this time, and maybe that’ll help 🙂

Do any of you have similar stories? I’d love it if you shared!

10 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Woes

  1. Breastfeeding can be enjoyable and frustrating. I have experienced both feelings over the last year. I applaud you for trying to and knowing what is right for you and your baby.

  2. This could have been my story with my 4th child!! I breast fed my first three will little problems, but this time around was a different story. He had latching issue, and we finally figured out he had a milk allergy. Long story short, I don’t think people understand how emotionally difficult it is to really want to nurse and try to nurse with all your might, and sometimes it doesn’t work out. I loved this post!!

    1. Thanks for your comment! And you’re right, the emotions that come along with breastfeeding issues are hard. You feel guilty most of all. But also like somethings wrong with you 😦 Glad I have a lot of moms like you that let me know it’s OKAY! Sometimes it just doesn’t work. 🙂

  3. Hey Cristina, I really enjoyed your candid post and as a first time mom I can relate to the overwhelming pressure of trying to be a perfect mother. Thankfully, I have stopped judging myself and realized that as long as you and your baby are healthy and happy that’s all that truly matters. I believe that both moms who breast feed and moms who don’t experience feelings of self doubt. Being a mother is the hardest job in the world and what I have learned is that no ones opinion should matter but your own. My best friend always tells me that as long I follow my gut I can trust that I am making the right decision for my baby and me. As a mother who breast feeds I have had to experience the negative backlash from society because I still breastfeed my 17month old son. Mothers are shocked that I have decided to continue to breast feed my son after his first birthday and one woman actually warned me that I may be causing social damage to him lol can you believe that! Not only have I had to endure the most ludicrous comments from strangers but my own father criticizes me every day and asks if I will be breast feeding my son up until his wedding day, which I guess is kind of funny but deep down it still stings. So whether you breast feed or formula feed your baby there will always be someone to share their irrelevant opinion with you. But as long as we remember that mommy knows best then let those ignorant people share their judgemental comments because were not listening anyways 😉
    Love Conny

    1. Hey Conny 🙂 Thanks for such an honest comment. I think no matter what, moms will be judged. It sucks, but it’s something we all have to put up with. I’m sorry your own dad makes such comments. He may think he’s being funny, but it’s even worse when harsh judgement comes from the immediate support system that is our family. You’re doing an amazing job. Your son is healthy, happy and beautiful. For the woman who said you’re causing social damage to your son, wow, who made her Dr. Phil?!?!?! Some people should keep their comments to themselves.

  4. Cristina! First of all, congrats on your beautiful son 🙂 I came across your blog via Linked In – I mostly avoid Facebook so I missed any posts you’ve probably put up there. Just had to say that I can totally relate to this post – I had a really hard time breastfeeding my son also & it was a huge disappointment to me. I’m only starting to feel ok about it, almost 7 (yikes) years later. I totally had it in my head from the time I found out I was pregnant that no matter what I would breastfeed. But my son didn’t latch & I tried pumping, but couldn’t produce enough milk. The hardest part about the whole thing for me was getting attitude from other people about it. Then I’d start feeling guilty, like maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Anyway, I think it’s good that other moms like you are talking about this issue – maybe those people will realize that just because it came so easy &” natural” for them, it’s not always the case for everyone.

    1. Thanks Pam 🙂 Guilt is a bitch, isn’t it? lol And women will always come across some judgement no matter what. But when it comes to being a mother, especially for the first time, it’s the WORST when someone passes you off as a lazy mother because you’re not breastfeeding. Little do they know how hard we tried and heartbroken we already are. Thanks for sharing such an honest comment 🙂

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