I've posted before about how much I loved being able to breastfeed London. The benefits I found from it, the convenience and bonding it allows. While I tried very hard not to ever be too "in your face" about breastfeeding, I was open about it and also about how important I think it is. So it's only fair for me to be open about my breastfeeding journey thus far with Winston.
I didn't understand why mothers chose formula. I knew that it was often not so much a choice as it was a Plan B when breastfeeding didn't go well for whatever reason. And I tried to be respectful and not overtly judge any mother for how she saw fit to feed her baby. But inside, I thought it was a selfish decision not to at least try to nurse. And I didn't understand why a mom would go straight to formula without really giving breastfeeding much effort.
I get it now.
It's easy to say "breastfeeding is hard" but it wasn't really that hard for me so it was an easy decision, for the most part, to stick with it and stay away from formula. I didn't fully appreciate how easy my breastfeeding relationship with London was.
I get it now.
I understand why mothers walk away from it. As I sat in my son's nursery at 2am, 5 days postpartum, delirious from feeding every 25 minutes all night, holding a baby who refused to be put down, crying from exhaustion and throbbing, cracked & bleeding nipples ... I would be lying if I said I didn't hate nursing a little. And no one would've blamed me for offering him some formula in that moment.
Well, no one except for over zealous breastfeeding moms who say they don't judge, but secretly are a little bit judgey. Moms like me. The me from two years ago would've blamed me. And that's not cool. So I'm saying it here, not that any of you need any approval from me or anyone else, but I think it needs to be said: I'm sorry.
I'm sorry if I gave you a disappointed look as you pulled up to the check-out counter in Target with Similac in your cart, while I purchased breast pads and lanolin.
I'm sorry for shaking my head at the Facebook picture of your husband feeding your newborn a bottle, as I nursed my daughter for the 5th time that night.
I'm sorry for assuming you didn't give it your absolute hardest try before making the decision that was best for your family. I'm sorry for assuming you didn't lose sleep over introducing formula. I'm sorry for assuming there wasn't an underlying factor that made it damn near impossible for you to continue a healthy breastfeeding relationship. And I'm sorry for even giving it a second thought because it's none of my damn business how you choose to feed your baby.
But please know that I get it now.
Winston latched immediately after birth. The nurses were impressed at the fact that he stayed on the breast for close to 40 minutes in our delivery room. The lactation consultant called his latch "beautiful" and offered little advice other than congratulating me on how much colostrum I had already. By day two, I was sore but my milk had started to come in, so I assumed all was well and normal, that the first few days of breastfeeding are supposed to be painful and I knew it would get easier. By day three, I began to suspect something wasn't right, and at our pediatrician appointment on day 4 I knew there was something off. But after our third pediatrician and two lactation consultants, as well as multiple hospital nurses, said everything was normal, I went home and waited for it to get better.
By our follow up appointment on day 6, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I cried almost every time he latched. The pain was toe curling, like he had a mouthful of razor blades and was chomping my nipple off. I took prescription strength Motrin around the clock to get through the next nursing session. I tried different holds, re-latching, massaging, everything I could think of to help with the pain. They offered to clip his frenulum, which was heartbreaking for me and offered no improvement in the nursing. The following week, he started losing weight. I got desperate. I introduced a nipple shield, and a prescription cream to help heal the sores, neither providing much relief from his bad latch.
At his two week appointment, he was continuing to lose weight and I was devastated. I had cried every day since his birth. I felt like I was failing him as his mother, and I was frustrated that all my effort seemed to be for nothing. After attempting to finger / tube feed with little success, we decided to start a regiment of pumping & bottle feeding. So now, our routine is bottle feeding 1.5oz of breastmilk, nursing until he falls asleep , bottle feeding another ounce of breastmilk, nursing again, and then I pump to try to keep up with him. I'm still using a nipple shield to nurse, a special slow flow nipple to bottle feed, a hospital grade pump, and I'm up for an hour and a half every 2.5 hours. And while I am proud that he is still exclusively breastfed and finally gaining weight, it is HARD. If breastfeeding wasn't so damn important to me, I'd probably have thrown in the towel by now.
So for those of you who have had similar struggles, or worse, or maybe not at all ... And you've chosen to stop breastfeeding ... I get it. And I'm sorry if I didn't offer you more support in your journey, whatever that looked like.