In honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in the US, I reached out to mom friends and asked them to share their breastfeeding stories. Not every journey ends with exclusive breastfeeding or the way we imagine it would end. Here is Jennifer's breastfeeding story.
I had a last minute “planned” c-section – I use “planned” loosely because it technically was scheduled, but it wasn’t the plan. Such is life…right? So in my hospital bed, I was left healing from a major surgery, balancing family who flew in from two states away, and taking care of this precious little life. Including this new, weird, unnatural natural thing called “breastfeeding.” In hindsight, I think that pressure of getting it right is what did me in. I was so stressed out about getting her to latch. I was tense. So stressed out. And I now realize that she probably felt that.
We left the hospital with a good grasp on it. She was eating. I was producing. Everything was great, I thought. Until her 2 week check up, where we learned that she lost almost two pounds since birth. The doctor suggested that I pump and supplement with formula. I was crushed. I’m even teary-eyed as I write this. Her doctor was so sweet and passed no judgement, so this isn’t on the doctor. It’s on me. But I felt like the worst mother in the world. How did I not know my child was hungry? How was I unable to feed her properly? What kind of mother was I? I broke down in tears. Her pediatrician validated my feelings (something every mother needs), but reminded me that feeding my child is number one priority.
So we went home. I pumped. And supplemented with formula. I started supplementing more and more and pumping less and less. Those stories of women pumping and getting 10 maybe even 20 ounces? Yeah - that was not me. By the time I went back to work, my milk supply was almost completely gone. During this entire process, I still tried nursing our daughter. I would do it every morning and every evening. But always followed up with a bottle of milk and/or formula. And it worked. She got chubby again. But a little piece of me was crushed. Especially when other moms just assumed I was producing enough milk for my kid. They just assumed everything was going well. Which lead me to believe there was something wrong with me.
I know this is not the case, now. But in the thick of it, I was heartbroken. I started keeping a daily journal about how I felt. I’d have long talks with my husband and some close friends. And they said all the right things. Some even encouraged me to stop. But I couldn’t let it go. I kept a log of how much milk I produced when I pumped and would go back and see how that amount was getting smaller by the session. Stress definitely played a role in this. But I thought I was doing the “right” thing.
One day, she all of a sudden stopped nursing in the morning. Out of the blue. And I was heartbroken, again. I felt rejected, unwanted, and unneeded. It was a horrible place to be in. But I was thankful that she still nursed at night. Until she didn’t. One night she screamed and screamed and pushed me away. I was devastated. I bottle fed her, put her to bed, and tried again the next night and the next night and the next night. Until I finally stopped trying. She was 7 months old. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That’s when I stopped trying to breastfeed. And that’s when I stopped pumping.
If I could do it all over again, I’d let a lot of it go. I wouldn’t track how many minutes on each side she’d nurse from. I wouldn’t track how many ounces and how long I pumped. I would throw that all out the window. I would seek a consultant - something everyone told me to try, but I was too ashamed to admit I needed. And if none of that worked, I probably would stop all of it. Yes, breast milk has AMAZING nutrients and is so good for your baby, but in my opinion, it’s not worth it if it steals the joy of having a newborn.
I share this, because I know I’m not alone. I know there are others out there going through this right now. You hear all the stories of successful breastfeeding journeys and I know it hurts your heart. Know that you are not alone, there is nothing wrong with asking for help, and if none of that works - you’re still a good mom if you give up trying to nurse altogether.
Jennifer lives in Austin, Texas with her college sweetheart turned hubby and their super fun two year old daughter who is obsessed with dinosaurs and outer space. She is the owner of Stamps & Co., a wellness and beauty company and blog dedicated to embracing life as it is right now and living to the best we know how to do! You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.