When I was pregnant, I saw all the articles and studies about health benefits for breastfed babies. I took a breastfeeding class. I wasn’t passionate about it, but I’m the kind of person who NEEDS to do everything right and follow the rules to not feel like a failure. I planned on breastfeeding because I knew I needed to, not because I wanted to.
The first two weeks I cried every time I fed Warner. Partly because of the pain (I’ll spare you the details), and partly because I had a pretty nasty case of the baby blues, but that’s worth a whole blog post in itself so I won’t go there. My husband tried many times to get me to stop breastfeeding in those first two weeks. He said it was more important for Warner to have a happy mom than to be breastfed. I refused because, well like I said, I’m a rule follower.
After two weeks, it got easier. The pain lessened, I had it figured out, Warner had it figured it out. When we visited home, I loved it when he would start showing hunger signs because it meant I got to have him all to myself for 20 minutes while he ate. When we were in public and he got hungry, it was so easy to go to the car and feed him (I wish I was brave enough to just sit down and breastfeed in public but I never got there). I didn’t have to worry about taking bottles anywhere, I didn’t have to pay for formula, and I knew he was getting the best. In fact, I kind of felt like a boss woman. Like wow, I’m literally giving my child everything he needs to live. I’m keeping him alive with something my body makes naturally. Wait, I actually LOVE this breastfeeding thing. Being a first time mom is questioning yourself 99% of the time, but breastfeeding was the one thing I knew for sure was going perfectly, and it was empowering.
I exclusively breastfed for three months, and then it was time to go back to work. My husband and I decided to give him one to two bottles of formula a day while he was at daycare because there was no way I was going to pump enough while I was at work to send all breastmilk bottles to daycare. It made the time I was home with him even more special because it meant he could still nurse while we were together. He exclusively breastfed mornings, evenings, and weekends.
He had two nursing strikes after I went back to work, but each one only lasted a few days. One was due to an ear infection and the other was due to a sore in his mouth. Both times I somehow knew it wasn’t over, so I just pumped and gave him breastmilk in a bottle until he got over the strike. No big deal.
Until about four and a half months. When he just STOPPED latching. Literally overnight. For a few days I thought it was just another nursing strike. I would still try to breastfeed him every time he was hungry but he would yell and scream and push away, so again, I would just pump and give him breastmilk in a bottle. This went on for about a week until my milk supply started to get affected because of him not latching. I noticed each time I pumped I was getting less and less. I freaked out. I started taking four pills a day to try to increase my supply. I drank the teas. I drank so much water I felt like I was going to throw up. I pumped more often. And, I cried. All the while he’s still refusing to latch, which isn’t helping my sanity or my supply.
During the following three weeks, I cried as much as I did during my first two weeks of motherhood. I cried every time Warner got hungry because I knew what was going to happen: I was going to try to breastfeed him and he was going to yell until I eventually gave in and gave him a bottle. Taylor would rub my back as I cried. I told him I might as well not even be a mom because anyone could change a diaper and feed a baby formula. I said through tears that the only thing that made me feel like a good mom was gone. I worried that I had no way of making an emotional connection with Warner anymore, that I had failed at doing the healthiest thing I could do for my baby. I said that I was a bad mom for having to work, because if I hadn’t had to work I could have focused more on breastfeeding and this never would have happened. I felt like the only constant in my life was ruined.
Bless my husband, he would tell me how proud he was of me for breastfeeding for as long as I did. He would say how happy and healthy Warner is because of me. He would tell me it’s okay to stop trying to breastfeed because I had given Warner such a great start.
But it didn’t help. It stung every time I had to mix a bottle of formula. It hurt every time I saw another mom breastfeeding. It made tears well up in my eyes when I scrolled past another article on Facebook explaining how much BETTER breastmilk was for various reasons (which by the way, I don’t think ANYONE is arguing against that, so in my opinion all those articles do is make moms feel crappy about themselves, but I guess I’m just bitter).
It’s been three weeks since Warner latched, and my supply is still steadily dwindling. At this point I’m still pumping several times a day but barely making enough to give Warner a full bottle of breastmilk a day. It’s probably not even enough to give him any benefits, but it’s the only thing I can do to make myself feel even a SMIDGE better about the situation. My eyes are watering as I’m typing this, because once I got into the groove, I was so sure I was going to breastfeed for at least a year, and maybe even beyond.
So now, let me tell you a couple of positives. Number one: I took Warner to the doctor for a well check on Friday, and it was the first time in THREE appointments that he hasn’t been behind on the growth curve (thank you LORD)! When the doctor told me that he was on track, I thought for just a second, maybe formula is actually doing SOMETHING good. Number two: I will always cherish the breastfeeding journey that WJ and I shared, even if it was short lived. Number three: Taylor can get up for night feedings and somedays I actually feel rested for the first time in five months.
For the next few weeks I’m going to work on cutting myself some slack and getting used to our new “normal” because hey, nothing ever goes as planned.