I stopped breastfeeding Kylan quite some time ago, but I really wanted to share my experiences with breastfeeding. So many women have troubles with breastfeeding, and they suffer in silence. It seems like a ridiculous thing to feel guilt and suffer over, but you would understand the feeling if you’ve ever tried and failed at breastfeeding before. I want to share my experience so that maybe some women struggling in the way I struggled might be able to find some peace and release themselves of any guilt they may be feeling.
When I became pregnant, there was no question of whether or not I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. I wanted to be the mom that didn’t give bottles, or formula. I had this perfect image in my head of my son suckling on my breast, getting everything he needed. Oh how happy and joyful and perfect it would be. I was so fucking naive it was sick! It never occurred to me that I might have problems breastfeeding. It really should have, considering there are lots of first time moms that have problems producing milk, getting their babies to latch on properly, etc. But I blocked all of those things out of my mind. I was determined that it would work out perfectly.
I had a c-section. I wanted to nurse right away, so as soon as they took me into the recovery room with my son I had them bring him to me. I was very excited, because he latched on right away. He was clearly a boob man, and that made me very happy. He nursed for about 10 minutes, 5 minutes on each side. The entire day he nursed every two hours, like clock-work. It was great….until that night. He was very fussy; he would latch on for a few second, suck a little, and start to scream. I would switch breasts, and the same thing would happen. I was frustrated, but determined not to give in on the first day. I gave it a little break, and as the nurse suggested, got a little milk to come out with my fingers before having Kylan try to nurse again. By 3 in the morning he was still struggling, still screaming, and he was clearly very hungry. I asked the nurse for a bottle of formula. She asked, “giving up so early?” I couldn’t believe her… but at the same time she also didn’t like the fact that I had him sleeping next to me in my bed so I mentally gave her the middle finger. When I gave him the bottle, he sucked it down so fast that he spit up after he was finished. It was obvious to me that he hadn’t gotten anything at all from my breasts that day. That was so disappointing….
All night I racked my brain trying to figure out why I had hardly any milk for him to eat. Was it because I had a c-section? Was it because I was induced 2 weeks early? Was it just my body? I knew it wasn’t productive to think those thoughts, but I couldn’t help myself. I also knew I wasn’t going to give up.
The next day I was visited by a lactation consultant. She was a wonderfully sweet Irish woman. She gave me some very helpful tips, and assured me that there was no need for me to feel bad about giving my son a bottle the first night. A baby’s gotta eat, even if it comes from a bottle. After she left, I felt very motivated and encouraged. Per her suggestion, I continued to offer Kylan my breasts when it was time to eat, even if I knew he may not get something from them. If he didn’t, I gave him a bottle. I was very happy the third day, because it seemed as if he was actually getting some milk from my breast, and we were doing half formula, and half breast milk. I was confident that I might be able to eat least breastfeed him half the time.
The next morning, the day I was going home, I knew I was going to have more problems. My left breast was very sore. I went to the bathroom, and noticed only my left breast was engorged, the other looked like there was nothing in it. It looked like I had a cheap implant in one breast, and that the surgeon forgot to put in the other one. Before going home that day, I got a breast pump. After resting at home for a bit(I was at the hospital for five days, and was dying to relax!), I decided to try out the breast pump. I pumped for ten minutes on each breast, and got a whopping half of an ounce. I was incredibly upset. If I could barely pump a half an ounce, how was my son supposed to breast feed?
The following weeks were awful. I had cracked and bleeding nipples, both of us got thrush, and I also had mastitis. Through all of that, Kylan still wasn’t able to get much breast milk out of me. At that point, I felt like giving up. I couldn’t pump, I couldn’t breastfeed…. it was an awful feeling. I felt even worse for wanting to give up. It didn’t help that I had people telling me, “Don’t give up. You won’t be doing your son any favors by only feeding him formula.” That made me feel worse. I felt like a selfish person. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t help by think that if it were two-hundred years ago, my child would probably die. But more than anything, I hated that this was supposed to be a joyous time for me, and all I could do was feel so negative towards myself.
So I stopped breastfeeding. I realized that by dragging out, I was causing more problems for myself. I was dragging out the bad feelings and the guilt. So I stopped. I felt like I grieved for over a month. That’s how awful I felt. Every time I gave Kylan a bottle I wanted to cry. Sometimes I did. But I knew the feelings I had were normal, and eventually the guilt went away. It took a while, but I finally felt at peace with my decision. Kylan was a happy and healthy baby, so what if I couldn’t breastfeed?
I don’t think I would have felt so shitty about the situation if society didn’t make such a huge deal out of breastfeeding. I got so tired of seeing/hearing people say, “Breast is best”. Well no shit Sherlock, I know that’s what is best! But you know what? Formula is just as good. There are so many women that never have any issues breastfeeding. They have no clue how emotionally draining it is when you can’t breastfeed. And a lot of them aren’t sensitive enough to stop telling you that you need to keep trying, that you can’t give up, and that your baby is losing out if you give in and give them formula. It would be so much easier for women like me to feel better about our decision to formula feed if breastfeeding advocates would just stop shoving their beliefs in everyone’s face.
If you find yourself in the same position I was in, the best piece of advice I can give to you is this; there is nothing wrong with doing what is best for your baby. Formula feeding does not mean that you’re robbing your child of nutrition or the opportunity to bond. My son is a very healthy boy. We bonded incredibly during meal time without me breastfeeding him. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re a failure, especially yourself! You’ll get through it, just as I did. Now that he’s two, I look back and I feel no guilt.