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!