For the last 18 weeks I have breastfeed my daughter with varying levels of success. It’s been a very challenging experience to say the least.
Today I made the decision to stop completely and give over to formula.
The fact that it is breastfeeding awareness week makes my decision all the more a slap in the face. The irony of this is not lost on me.
Breastfeeding, the most natural thing in the world, the thing I most wanted to do with my first child, has been pretty much disastrous for me.
I have mixed emotions. Sadness and frustration as well as upset and grief as well as relief.
We started off with latching issues. The videos and diagrams make breastfeeding look simple. It was FAR from simple. A hungry baby on virgin nipples hurts. After 3 days of struggling to latch, I was too scared to put her back to the breast and opted for expressing and feeding via syringe.
After 3 days I picked up the courage to put her back on the breast, and we struggled to perfect her latch and my positioning.
Then we both got Thrush. That was horrid. It made feeding unbearable. So for a few days I opted to express. It cleared up pretty quickly thank god.
Finally we were getting somewhere, then after 5 weeks, I ended up in the hospital, with suspected appendicitis. 3 days in the hospital where I was away from her. With no way to express. I had no pump, the maternity unit was in another building across the hospital compound and hand expressing was a disaster which wielded nothing. My milk ducts became clogged and my boobs were sore and swollen and lumpy.
After 3 days in hospital, I was discharged and we started to try again. The first thing I did when I got home was put Emma on the breast.
Then 3 weeks later, I came down with Bells Palsy and had to take medication which meant that I could not breastfeed, instead I had to express and discard my milk. For 10 days. It was difficult. My baby was on formula, no breast milk at all. Despite regular pumping my supply dwindled.
I cried on so many occasions. Not being able to feed my baby was heart wrenching, of course she had milk, but it wasn’t my milk. I felt like a freak, my face distorted and uneven. I sounded like a drunk. I spent most of my days in tears. I suspect the stress of it all didn’t help me reaffirm my supply.
Since then we have struggled. No matter how much I expressed with my breast pumps, I couldn’t produce more than an ounce of milk. Putting Emma on my breast and she nursed but I never felt my let down, and despite an hour of nursing she would come off the breast and cry for milk.
When she was hungry I would offer the breast and eventually she would just scream at me, refusing to latch. It was stressful and saddening for me. I often felt like a failure. The Husband was there, a shoulder to cry on, supportive, told me I could give up if I wanted to or I could carry on. I wanted to carry on. I wanted to succeed.
Instead she only ever nursed successfully in the middle of the night if she woke or very early in the morning.
Eventually she stopped nursing then also. She would latch, but only nurse for comfort or she would just laugh and not nurse at all, instead she’d just play around with my nipple.
I spent the whole day yesterday, every hour putting her to the breast, and it didn’t go well. She screamed, she laughed, she refused to latch.
I really wanted to be successful.
I really wanted to be able to feed my daughter.
I wanted to breastfeed for more than 18 weeks.
I wanted to have more times like this.
I remember the moment in the hospital, on day 4 when I decided to brave the breast again. The Husband was sat cuddling Emma, and I was say on the bed expressing. I asked him to bring her over so I could try again and he said to me “are you sure?” And I said “yes, I want to do this”
I positioned a pillow on my lap and got her into position and I put her to the breast, we worked on getting her latched and when she did, and I felt my letdown, I said to The Husband, “look! I’m doing it!” And I asked him to take a picture.
I am incredibly sad that I haven’t been very successful.
I feel incredibly disappointed in myself, and guilty. Although I shouldn’t. I overcame a lot of obstacles and continuing trying when others would have stopped.
I feel jealousy towards other mothers who can and are breastfeeding their babies.
I feel relief too, which in turn makes me feel guilty, but relief because I’m going back to work in 10 days and whilst my company is pro-breastfeeding, the logistics of it in my line of work are not really compatible.
I work in more that one location, sometimes in places where there isn’t a lot of facilities. I get a 20 minute break, which is barely long enough to eat something much less express milk, and then there’s the situation of where would I express. Somewhere clean and safe. You can forget the bathrooms. Then there’s storage. So I feel relief that I won’t have to worry about these things, immediately followed by guilt because its a shitty thing to feel relieved about.
I feel hopeful that for future babies I can try again.
I feel glad that I was at least able to breastfeed for a short while, because I know that there are mothers out there who cannot breastfeed their babies at all. I’m happy that I at least got that chance.
I feel anger that there is constant debates about breastfeeding vs formula feeding.
I feel overwhelmed by all of these emotions.
I feel thankful that my daughter has me. She has a mother who loves her so much that is hurts. It’s a constant stream of love and adoration.
I feel appreciative for a very supportive and loving husband. I feel lucky that I’ve chosen an amazing man to be the father of my child.
It’s breastfeeding awareness week and I made the decision to stop breastfeeding.
As the song goes, Isn’t It ironic, Don’t Ya Think?