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.