The Breastfeeding Battle

**I started writing this post weeks ago it seems. For some reason I feel like I can't get on with posting regular, lighthearted stuff until I get this out of my system. So here goes.

Before Jon was born, I had it in my head that I wanted to be one of those mothers who follows her instincts. I acquired a parenting book or two, but I didn't even open them. When people asked if I had read any of them, I replied that I know each child is different, and I planned to just get to know my kid and go with the flow.

I did have a few things I intended to succeed at when it came to becoming a mother. I planned for a natural, drug-free birth, although I knew that things happen that could thwart that plan. I planned to breastfeed--what is more natural or beautiful than providing your child's nourishment and bonding at the same time?

I didn't realize how much I was holding on to these things until Jon actually came into our lives and... what's that they say about the best laid plans? A series of events out of my control took away that natural birth I wanted. And then my milk didn't come in right away, and that's where the battle began.

Breastfeeding was supposed to be easy, as far as I knew. I watched my mom do it with my brother and sister with no problems, I know tons of moms who do it or have done it, it's what nature intended, so why wouldn't it be easy? When it wasn't, I started talking to more and more people and realized that, okay, it's not always without struggles, but if you're determined, you make it work. And also, they have these great folks called lactation consultants who help you through it. Excellent.

So since Jon wasn't getting enough nourishment from me in the first days, we began supplementing with bottles. He'd nurse, then he'd get a couple ounces in a bottle. And thus began the battle.

My milk finally came in, but I had to get my supply up to have Jon exculsively breastfeed.

We met with a lactation consultant, Linda.

We rented a hospital grade pump at her suggestion.

Jon got diagnosed with a milk protein allergy--I was instructed to cut dairy out of my diet completely. Of course I would. Anything for my son.

Time passed and Jon began to refuse the breast after just a couple of minutes--he was only satisfied by the faster flow of the supplement bottle.

We met with the lactation consulant again.

I was steady losing weight, now weighing less than I had in 6 years--I lost about 35 lbs in the first week after he was born, and another 10 by the time he was 5 weeks old.

We decided to get rid of the bottles and use a supplementer--basically a canteen strapped around your neck with tubes coming out that you tape to your nipple. Jon nursed well with it, even though it was a royal pain in the ass.

And then he began refusing the breast unless the supplementer was on it.

Feedings took at least an hour, between the supplementing and the pumping and the struggling to get Jon to actually eat.

Linda kept telling me that eventually he would take less of the supplement and eventually would exclusively breastfeed. I saw no progress toward this, and I was becoming more and more depressed and anxious at every feeding.

When I started to feel resentful towards my son that he wouldn't JUST breastfeed, even though I knew I had the supply he needed, I knew something needed to change. Feeding my son was supposed to be our special time to bond, to look into each others eyes and just be together, the two of us, mother and son. And instead, I watched the clock and dreaded each feeding, having no idea how it was going to go, feeling like I was failing as a mother because I couldn't make it work the way it was supposed to.

There was one Monday when Jon was just over 6 weeks old that I think I talked to 5 or 6 different people, each with a different perspective that helped me realize what I needed to do. And so I decided to stop breastfeeding when Jon was 7 weeks old.

I can't explain how hard it was. What may have been the most frustrating part is that I have never looked down on any mother I know who fed her child formula, yet I just could not make the decision to do that myself. I cried a lot over the next several weeks--I still get sad about it, truth be told. While I have realized that it was the right choice for us, I still wish something had been different. And yet, I don't fret too much over it anymore, because I see how much better I feel, how much better Jon is, how we actually are able to both enjoy feeding time.

I also stopped fretting over it because I have learned that, as a mother, I could beat myself up over a million decisions I have made and will make as a mother, but all I can do is my best.

1 comment:

Melissa E. said...

Do NOT feel guilty about this. You are making the decision that is best for your child. He will be just fine. :) You gave him your immunities, and that is an amazing gift.

I stopped breastfeeding at 7 weeks, too. I never made more than half an ounce per feeding, and my son was frustrated, even with supplementing. The day I went back to work (at 7 weeks), my milk dried up completely. He's 19 months old now, and he's very healthy.

Best of luck with that adorable boy!