Breastfeeding, or my own personal hell

You know what I was great at? Being pregnant. Compared to what comes after labor and delivery, being pregnant was a breeze. Sure, I had a little nausea in the beginning. I had days where I was uncomfortable and had terrible heartburn. I got sick of peeing all the time. But it was manageable. I was simultaneously grossed out/fascinated by what my body was up to during those months. I loved feeling my baby kick. I read the books, took the classes and felt pretty confident about everything. Of course I felt scared at times, but overall it wasn’t bad. But then came the fallout. My labor experience sucked. But once it was over, I hoped the worst was over. Boy, was I wrong. Because guess what? The hospital sends you home when you have never felt worse in your life and they send you home with a newborn.

And this brings me to breastfeeding. Before I had my baby, I had decided I would breastfeed. And I had decided those first few weeks, I would breastfeed round the clock, on demand. I would look just like those moms in my breastfeeding book: lovingly looking at my newborn as I nursed him on a cloud of pillows. When I heard about people using formula instead of breastfeeding their baby, I’d internally shake my head, thinking, “How hard is it to breastfeed? It’s natural. It’s an instinct.” Well, not for everyone. I lasted 12 days.

In the hospital, breastfeeding wasn’t so bad. I was so out of it most of the time. And there was always a midwife, nurse or lactation consultant grabbing my boob and positioning it correctly in my baby’s mouth. My baby latched, albeit not always correctly. Pretty soon my boobs looked as if I had been nursing a family of raccoons. Angry, fully grown raccoons. I did not look like the ladies in my breastfeeding book. I looked terrified every time I put my baby to my breast. Then the intense pain would hit. Pretty soon, I dreaded seeing my baby get that hungry look on his face. I wanted to run and hide every time I noticed his telltale hunger signs. I was tired, my boobs were bleeding and I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby at all. I mostly felt tired and resentful toward him. Not good. Things still didn’t improve even after a visit to the lactation consultant a week after I gave birth.

So I finally made the decision. Broken down, exhausted and at the end of my rope, I told David to give the baby some formula because my boobs were so sore, I didn’t even want to try pumping until they healed. The first few days of formula were hard on me. The guilt consumed me. I cried and cried. But things eventually got better. No one from the La Leche League came to arrest me. I looked at my sweet boy with his bottle and felt so relieved. David told me I seemed so much happier. And I felt happier.

I began pumping, little by little. I called the lactation consultant who has been so helpful. I cried on the phone to her about how I felt like a bad mother. She didn’t judge me for quitting. She was so supportive and told me all the things I could do to try to increase my production. One of the things that meant the most to me that she told me was that I had to do what was best for me and my baby. And if breastfeeding was making me that miserable, then I was making the right decision because my happiness was what was most important.

Brandon still gets formula, as pumping isn’t as efficient as I would like it to be. I pump a lot, with little reward. I am happy that he gets a few bottles of breast milk per day, but I know I can’t keep up pumping all day for too long. I keep reminding myself that once I decide to quit, he will be fine. Formula wouldn’t be on the shelves if it were bad for our babies. And I know lots of people who weren’t breastfed that are wonderful people, despite the books wanting you to believe that your kid will turn out to be a real asshole if you don’t breastfeed.

I know lots of people who have soldiered through the hard days of breastfeeding. I admire them for that. And I truly wish I had been able to do the same. But I know myself, and the emotional toll was getting to be too much. As for the people who have zero problem breastfeeding and don’t experience any hardship, congrats to the 2 percent of you out there. Excuse me, 1 percent. The other 1 percent have what I call “baby amnesia” and recall all things related to having a baby fondly. These are the people who could have had an episiotomy from top to bottom, delivered their baby sideways and still claim they had an easy childbirth. Anyway, I have to think breastfeeding is a challenge for most because there are numerous books comprised of hundreds of pages on the subject, classes on how to breastfeed and actual jobs as lactation consultants. If it were that easy, I don’t think there would be so much guidance out there on how to do it right.

As for Brandon, he is thriving and happy. He still looks at me differently than he looks at anyone else–he knows I am his mama. And we bond every day, despite my decision to not breastfeed him. So no matter what anyone thinks of me for quitting breastfeeding, my most important critic is that little boy and he seems just fine with my choice.

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April 25, 2011. Uncategorized.

4 Comments

  1. Lynn replied:

    Damn, I’m sorry you went through this. Don’t feel guilty. Formula is not poison; babies thrive off it every day and grow up to be just like anyone else. Having a sane, happy mother matters so much more!

  2. Christi replied:

    It does suck and no one tells you that. I was not good at it and would wince in pain the whole time. My problem was I had little production but didn’t know that with our first. I’d feed him for the prescribed time and then wonder why he cried when he was finished. At about 7 weeks when we were visiting family my Dad listened to him crying and told me he was starving and to give him some formula. I couldn’t do it and cried because I felt like such a failure. That baby couldn’t have been happier once he had a full belly. He slept through the night soon after that too. We supplemented the other two right away with formula as I knew what to expect. The girls were also way faster with a bottle so selfishly I didn’t want to breastfeed for 45 minutes. I would pump and feed them as much breast milk as I could. I think I actually breastfed about 8 weeks with the girls – maybe less, and continued pumping through 3 to 4 months before the production just wasn’t worth it.

    The moral of this long comment is that they turn out just fine on formula. Those first few days and weeks getting your breast milk is great but pretty soon he is going to be eating cereal and big kid food. It goes quickly and you won’t even remember these early days. Our kids are healthy, happy, and smart and they all had formula very early on. Keep trying but don’t feel bad if you quit altogether.

  3. Crista replied:

    You made the right choice. Your sanity is way more important than breast milk. I have never met anyone who is smarter or more well adjusted because they were breastfed. Enjoy feeding time again!

  4. Melissa replied:

    Don’t feel guilty at all! Not every woman is made to breastfeed. It threw me into deep depression with my first and she lost so much weight due to my lack of production. With my 2nd I decided to do both from the start. And still hardly produced. You have to do what is best for your baby and YOU! Hope you are well on your way to recovery:)

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