Monday, July 2, 2012

Bye Bye Boobie

Today was my very last day of breastfeeding.  Reading that, you may think my child is close to a year old.  In reality, she has spent a mere eleven weeks on this planet.

As I sit here in tears, I have to wonder why making this decision is so difficult for me, since the experience of breastfeeding has been nothing but horrendous since day one.  You hear that it’s a wonderful way of bonding, that the nutritional value is incomparable, that the convenience can’t be beat.  Who wouldn’t do it?!  For me, it was painful from literally the very first time I put my daughter to my breast--and after two lactation consultants at the hospital told me her latch was great--that I was doing it “right,” I figured this was just simply how it was going to be for a while.

I had heard breastfeeding was difficult, and potentially uncomfortable at first.  I spent less than thirty-six hours in the hospital, and on day two of being home, found myself engorged, sore, cracked, and bleeding, not to mention dealing with severely inflamed painful breast tissue in my arm pits, making it difficult to get dressed or shave.

I remember on day five telling myself “you only have three-hundred-and-sixty days of this left.”  DAY FIVE!  It is now day seventy-six, and I need to have no days left: This is the day I finally give up, the day I finally say that I’ve had enough.  And I know it shouldn’t make me feel like a bad mom, nor a failure, yet it does.

I have had consults with lactation consultants--spent countless hours trying to re-teach my infant how to latch properly, I’ve bought every size of every nipple shield, tried every position, used gel pads, Lanolin, and prescription APNO cream.  I’ve been checked for infections such as Mastitis, taken multiple quick breastfeeding hiatuses to let my body heal, while pumping seven times a day to keep up my supply.

As great as we all know breast milk is for babies, I can’t imagine my overall mood due to physical pain and frustration isn’t negating the said benefits.  Giving breast milk to your child is not what makes you a good mother; being emotionally and physically available to your child is, in reality, what makes you a great parent.  My current life consists of immediately handing my newborn off to my husband the second I’m done nursing her, so I can soothe myself through the tears.  There is no holding my daughter on my chest because of the continual pain breastfeeding leaves me with.  My new life will be making eye contact with her while feeding her a bottle of pumped milk (if I’m lucky enough) or formula, talking to her while we both enjoy that moment--me, not in pain, her, actually getting full off of a feeding; we will snuggle skin-to-skin because I will be healed enough to do so.

I have so many friends who have had challenges with breastfeeding, and I feel pretty damn lucky to have been able to make it as far as I did.  I share this story not to seek support for myself during this difficult decision, but rather hoping that another struggling mom reads this, and for a moment, doesn’t feel so alone.

8 comments:

  1. Oh Mama! I support you 100% in your decision. I am sure there will be some people out there who will tell you you should have stuck with it, but I am not one of them. I am all about a Happy Mama = Happy Child = Happy Life. You do whatever works for you and your child.

    I cannot imagine being so uncomfortable for so long - cheers to you for sticking it out as long as you did!

    And no matter what people tell you, your child will be absolutely fine being formula fed. ABSOLUTELY FINE. And no different than any other child out there. Most of our generation were formula fed!

    I was only able to give M breast milk for 16 weeks of her life - and all of it was pumping. I was ecstatic the day I stopped pumping and got my life back. I was so much happier, sleeping so much better, enjoying M so much more.

    This is one of the things I dread about this second child coming in less than 7 weeks. Breastfeeding was the source of such stress - even with all the support every talks about getting - 2 lactation consultants, creams, shields, etc, just like you.

    I think it just works for some and doesn't work for others, and that is JUST FINE. Don't let anyone tell you any differently.

    XOXO

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  2. Sorry that you are done. But for other mama's out there struggling with breastfeeding, quitting isn't always the answer. There are loads of supports out there, like La Leche League (sometimes support from other moms is better than LCs). To each their own. Breastfeeding shouldn't be something people "dread", it's really too sad that it is perceived as such a burden and so difficult in our society.

    Funny how much time and effort moms put into planning and decorating the nursery, but most don't do anything to prepare for breastfeeding (like seeking out other BF-ing moms or supports before the baby is born, etc).

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  3. Mama - I hear you! I too wanted so badly to breastfeed my baby. After my milk finally came in 5 days after my c-section - it never came in enough. I didn't have a choice but to supplement for my 9 lb baby in the hospital - by day three she had lost a pound and was brought to me limp and without energy. It was clear she needed something I couldn't give. It broke my heart! Let me repeat - broke my heart! I was hysterically crying for the first 10 days of her life.

    There is a difference between people who don't want to breastfeed or take the time (their body and their decision) - and those for a physical reason are unable to breastfeed. There is a lot of pressure out there to breastfeed - but ultimately some of us need to do the smartest (not always easiest) thing to do to ensure our children are feed and can strive as growing minds and bodies.

    Kudos to you for all your efforts - you should be applauded not to made to feel bad.

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  4. Whew! I feel your pain and your relief!

    In "planning" for the birth of my first child, I anticipated nursing for year, with my child never having formula. But, at 5 weeks post-partum, he still wasn't up to birth weight. I did all the "right" things (met with LCs weekly, took all of the herbs, pumped after every nursing session, etc, but couldn't build up my supply). I did nurse for 16 weeks, but he only got 4-6 ounces from me a day! In the meantime, I had infected stitches and serious/chronic pain from a 4th degree tear and mastitis.

    My maternity leave was horrible--I was so depressed because I couldn't leave the house! I had to nurse for 20, wait 20, pump for 20...by the time I was done with the whole cycle, I had to do it all over again. The few times I did leave the house, I inevitably forgot a pump part and had to race home so I wouldn't mess-up what I had been working so hard to maintain.

    My hope for my second child was to try again--this time with success. I had a C this time and being in the hospital, while good for me, wasn't great for my new baby. Like you, the hospital LCs assured me that he had a great latch, but he was dropping weight too fast! I had cracked, bloody nipples, used APNO, etc. But, by this point, my son saw the breast as stressful--he just couldn't latch or calm down, he was "starving". After leaving the hospital I immediately went to see an LC who discovered that his latch was, in fact, not good. (He was pushing my nipple out of the roof of his mouth with his tongue!) I pumped 8-10 times a day for a month, but again, was miserable! I wanted to enjoy the very short time I had at home with my new baby.

    The day I decided to quit was actually not a hard decision. I felt guilty for a minute, but once I took a deep breath, I knew it was the right decision for me and my son. I always go back to this: A good friend of mine, who is an LC and childbirth educator (and nursed all 3 of her kids past a year) told me once when I was hysterical, "Your job is to feed your baby, and, at the end of the day, formula is food". That always makes me feel better.

    Of course, I wish your experience (and anyone else who wants to nurse but can't) had been less stressful and what you had hoped for, but I'm with you! You're job is to feed and love your baby (among other things, obviously) and that's EXACTLY what you're doing.

    Go on with your bad self!

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  5. Rory Earley7/3/12, 1:25 PM

    I applaud you and all your efforts! Not just with your daughter but in coming out and telling your story. WE ALL STRUGGLE with something as moms and you are brave to tell your story in this super competitive sport called motherhood! Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life! I struggle every day!!

    I've been a mom for 4.5 months and am amazed at how much my son has taught me. The OBSESSION with being the best mom possible and doing the right thing, whether breastfeeding, sleep training, tummy time etc etc is exhausting! As other commenters have mentioned, the guilt & the tears are a constant in my life! I'm just coming around to letting go and realizing that everything doesn't have to be perfect and the "right" way of doing things is what works for you and your family.... NOT always what the experts or La Leche League says.

    Lets start a revolution where moms support each other no matter what! We're all in this together!

    WELL DONE MAMA BIRD!!!

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  6. Ugh, lady, DO NOT feel like a failure. Based on your post, you have seriously gone above and beyond the call of duty trying to make this work. And sometimes? It just doesn't work.

    And in case you haven't stumbled across it yet, there's a great column on Alphamom called Ask Amalah. She touched on this awhile back too:
    http://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/when-breastfeeding-sucks/

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  7. Oh, Mama Bird, give yourself a break! After having my two babies, one thing I have learned is that parenting is as much about attitude as it is about decisions (breastmilk or formula? Breast or bottle? Stay at home or go back to work?, etc.) I think it’s much less the DECISION than my ATTITUDE that’s important. Our attitudes infuse each parenting decision we make, and the better we can feel about our decision, the better our children will adjust to that decision.

    We all want to be the perfect mother and give our baby the perfect experience. But really, we all learn (often the hard way) that flexibility is crucial in parenting. What we envision as ideal often does not or cannot come to pass, for a world of reasons. Our babies pick up on our non-verbal tension, our pain, our conflict. Isn’t it better to find support for a difficult and often disappointing parenting decision we wish we didn’t have to make so that we can be relaxed when with our kids? Yes, we grieve the things we couldn’t do, and the ways we feel we are less than our ideal (and idealized!) “perfect mommy”. But parenting, like all of adult life, is full of disappointments that we learn to deal with.

    Sounds like you absolutely made the right decision for you and your baby. Enjoy the pain-free snuggle time when you give her a bottle!

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  8. I'm so sorry you had such a difficult time.

    I was very fortunate both babies to have had good latches and tons of breast milk, but even so, when it was time to stop, it was very emotional. There is something very hormonal and very difficult about stopping. And I tell everyone, that you have to do what is best for your family, and I do believe it...and it sounds like you did. Even if you made it to a year, I am sure you would have had guilt and feelings of inadequacy for some other reason.

    Welcome to motherhood!

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