When my son was born in 2004 I was 23. I didn’t know what I was doing.
I don’t remember a lactation specialist coming to see me in the hospital. I think the nurse was there to try and help guide me, but they’re so busy doing other things, nurse-type things.
I do remember them coming in every few hours to make sure I was feeding my baby. Waking me up, round the clock, checking my checklist of baby chores to be done and making sure I understood how the first 8 months were going to go. And of course, to make sure my baby’s needs were met, blah, blah, blah.
I can remember trying to feed him every few hours around the clock, nipples chapped and bleeding. I would cry and wince from the pain my helpless little baby was inflicting on me. I would spread gobs of lanolin cream on my breasts to try and ease my pain.
I had tried pumping at that point, but when I did, the milk would have blood in it. Can you even give that to your baby? I didn’t.
I called the doctors office, crying, and they told me it was ok to bottle feed.
If I knew how much I would spend on formula, I would have tried harder. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough or doing it right. I do feel like I was trying as hard as my body would let me, but maybe I could have held out a little longer?
Isn’t breast feeding supposed to be instinct for a mother? Shouldn’t it be one of those natural acts that our body’s supposed to do, to supply the needed nourishment our babies need to survive? Why was I failing?
It took a while for my chapped nipples to heal, I would try and continue to breast feed, but every time I did, the wounds would open back up and the pain would return.
Once you start formula and decrease breast feeding, your milk supplies shrivel up and your breasts become useless, after an immense amount of pain, feeling like your breasts are going to split into a million pieces. But the pain does go away.
So formula it was from then on out. I thought it would be easier to feed my son formula. It wasn’t. You have to measure the water, measure the formula, and then warm it to body temperature. All while your baby is crying and hungry. It’s even more difficult to do when you’re sleep deprived.
After the bottle, we went to baby food, and then I started real food.
We tried all kinds of foods, but my son was such a picky eater. I was completely powerless to the love I felt for him, and honestly I was lazy, so I fed him what he wanted.
He typically wanted Mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets, and that was basically it. I always tried to make sure he had some vegetables on his plate, and would make him eat at least some of them. I also kept fruit in the house and would try to find interesting ways for him to eat them that usually didn’t work.
I tried to feed him other things as time went on because I realized I had to make him a separate meal almost every time we ate. It took up more time than I was hoping to save by just giving him what he wanted.
It got to the point where I was spending more money to buy him the nutritional kid shakes for him to drink, since I was concerned that he wasn’t getting what he needed he from the mac n cheese and chicken nuggets I was feeding him. I also started him on a multivitamin. I constantly felt like I was failing his nutritional needs.
Now that my son is 14, he will eat just about anything I make for him, with only a few exceptions.
I had been so concerned when he was younger, after I had given in to his wishes and feeding him only the things he wanted, that he would never end up eating real food.
I was lucky, but I also started to feed him meals that we were eating too. It was a difficult transition, but it worked out.
He is a teenager, and would always choose fast food over home cooked, but when I do cook for him he will usually eat most of it. I was so worried and I didn’t have to be.
When my daughter was born in 2013 I tried to breast feed again.
This time a lactation specialist came into the room. A man.
I don’t have anything against men, I just don’t feel comfortable having a man that is not my husband look at may bare body or touch my breasts. Call me crazy.
He showed me how to get my daughter to latch on and all the positions I should put her in to see which one worked the best. I had a hard time holding her like a football, so I just did the regular hold.
I thought I was doing a good job, but when she went in for her 3 day check up we found out she was loosing weight. The doctor gave me a flyer for a breast feeding support group and had me start to supplement with formula.
I called my OB, and she started me on a medication to help with lactation and I bought breastfeeding teas and a breast pump.
My breasts were huge, and I was leaking milk constantly, I would saturate those bra pad panty liners multiple times a day. When I showered, my breast would just drip milk constantly. Why couldn’t I feed my child properly?
I tried everything I possibly could to get my boobs to work so I wouldn’t have to go to the support group the doctor gave me the flyer about.
I bought a manual breast pump. I would breast feed round the clock and I would try to pump after, or I would just pump a few times and try the breast most the day. I tried every combination possible, but nothing was working. I used heating pads, I massaged them, anything that I had heard about, or thought of, I tried. I was barely able to fill 1/4 of those little pediatric bottles every time I pumped.
Finally I went to the class. I was the first one there, desperate for help.
As the ladies started piling in, there must have been at least 20, I got more and more uncomfortable. Most of them had older babies, 2-6 months old, and started to feed them right in the class, without any issues! Then they started to chat, talking about their carefree breastfeeding lifestyles. Well, they probably didn’t talk about that, but it was pretty frustrating for me to watch.
I felt like I was the only one, sitting in the corner, with an issue.
The doula came over and helped me get my daughter latched on and then she walked away and my daughter came off only a few moments later.
I sat and watched while all the mothers on the opposite side of the room fed their babies and chatted away, like it was a mothers group instead of a breast feeding support group for women having difficulty.
I am NOT a people person, I can’t make conversation easily. And no matter how many children I have, I still feel like I’m doing something wrong when I look at another woman, breast out of their shirt, feeding her baby. It was difficult for me to sit there and continue to redirect the doula’s attention to me, I felt like I would be looked at like the one girl who couldn’t get it right.
I left the class and never went back.
I went home, with a good breast pump that I rented from the facility, and pumped the crap out of my breasts.
In between, I would try to feed my baby, but would fail 90% of the time.
The more I pumped, the more I felt like a failure.
I remember the time I had filled one of those little bottles all the way to the top, little by little. When I had poured the last little bit in, I spilled it trying to get the lid back on. I cried my eyes out. All that work, wasted.
I started bottle feeding formula full time after weeks of trying.
Again, I felt like a failure. I began to ask myself, “If we were living during a time before formula was invented, would my children have died?”
I was really hard on myself.
5 years later, I look back and tell myself that I should have stayed and talked with the doula. I should have reached out more. I should have asked more questions. I shouldn’t have felt so ashamed.
Soon, my daughter grew into a toddler, and I started making my own organic baby food. I read that it was less expensive and more healthy.
If you have tried this, then you understand how much work it is.
I would go and buy organic fruits and vegetables, then I would peel and cook them in whatever way was recommended. Then I had to cool all of it, blend it, freeze it, and finally separate it in labeled packages.
It took up most of my day to clean, prep, cook, cool, freeze, label, then package it all. I also didn’t have many trays to freeze all the food I made at one time, so that took a while too.
Since I had to go back to working full-time during this period I thought it would be best, for my situation, to not continue to make my own baby food, so I started buying jars of baby food at the store.
She grew older and her foods started to change. Since I had learned from my son what not to do in regards to giving in to my child’s every want, I would vary her diet. It helped. She would still prefer corndogs over what I make for dinner but, for the most part, she eats what we all eat.
I don’t know what I’m doing, with either of my children. I learned some from first raising my son, but there’s still so much to learn. They are so different from one another, individually teaching me things about being a parent every day.
What I did learn from both of them, is that I stressed out too much about breast feeding. I wanted to do what was best for them, but I let my own insecurities get in the way.
Even if I had done anything different, it may not have helped. I can’t live on the regrets of the past when they are both happy and healthy now. They were happy and healthy then too, I just didn’t think about it that way when I was too busy stressing out about doing what I read was the best thing to do.
At the end of the day, I just had to make sure they survived and that they’re loved.
When I hear stories about mothers being shamed for not breast feeding, I can only understand my side of the story.
I tried, I tried as hard as I could.
I wish I hadn’t stressed so much about it, or felt guilty about not succeeding. My babies were healthy, they are still healthy now.
New mothers have too much more to be concerned about. Don’t get stressed out or feel like you’re a failure if it’s not working out. Feed your baby, love your baby, and you’ll both be fine. Consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns.