Breastfeeding Can Be a B*tch
- Written By:Alexis Alvich
While I was pregnant, I heard every horror story in the book about pregnancy and postpartum, but nobody really warned me about the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. Before I had my son, I swore I’d breastfeed. I went to classes specifically dedicated to breastfeeding, I read countless books about the benefits and watched video after video. I was practically brainwashed on the “breast is best” approach and made a vow to stop at nothing to breastfeed. Well, I was in for a rude awakening. Breastfeeding can be a bitch. There, I said it.
My son, we will call him H, was born via C-section. I soon came to find out this was my first hurdle. He was almost 10 pounds, he was tongue-tied, my nipples were not ideal for feeding and I didn’t start pumping in the hospital until late in day two. More hurdles. The amazing nurses at NYU worked tirelessly to help me with positioning, latching techniques, hand expression — you name it, they did it. We tried for a day and a half, but nothing. I barely had colostrum, and H was big, so he needed more than what I was producing. I was exhausted – nipples already cracked and sore – but I was determined. We tried nipple shields to help with the tongue-tie. No luck. We started pumping. No luck. At this point, H was starting to fuss a lot, but I didn’t know his cues yet and just thought I’d keep trying.
The evening of day three, H was screaming inconsolably. At that point, I called my sister – a mom herself – and asked her what to do. Two seconds of hearing him cry and she said, “Lex, he’s starving. Go get him formula.” And there it was, the dreaded F-word. In my mind, it also meant failure. I couldn’t do right by my baby and give him what he needed from me. If there was anything I should be able to do, it should be feed him. This should have been easy. I was just devastated.
I sent my husband out for some Similac Sensitive, pulled it together, got a bottle and fed him formula. He sucked it down in record time. He was a big baby and he needed a lot of food. I didn’t know that then, but I soon realized it when he consumed ounces and ounces of formula in a sitting – far more than babies usually ate at his age. I felt terrible for having had him wait so long, and almost selfish for not relenting sooner.
Two days later, I had a lactation consultant come in. Between H’s tongue-tie, my lack of milk production, and my nipple situation, we had everything working against us. She reassured me that there was no way I would have ever been able to breastfeed successfully given all the hurdles we had in our way.
I brought H home on a Saturday. The lactation consultant came over on a Monday, and by Wednesday, we were getting H’s tongue-tie snipped. He latched for two minutes and was over it. That was actually the last time he ever made it to my breast.
I tried pumping for about three weeks or so. I would pump for 45 minutes and get half an ounce of milk. Even after I started taking fenugreek and drinking Mother’s Milk Tea, I would only get one or two ounces. He needed four to six ounces every three hours, I could not keep up. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, and I was in so much pain. I still felt like if I could just give him even a few drops of liquid gold, it was worth it.
At the four-week check up, I shared with my doctor my breastfeeding challenges and he told me to stop. H was thriving and formula was at the top of the list of the best things I could ever feed him. He reminded me that a happy mom equals a happy baby and my state of mind was everything. I went home that day, packed up the pump, stocked up on formula, and called it quits. I was done.
What I learned was that formula was not at all horrible. H has thrived. Anyone who knows him will tell you he is beautiful, healthy, super smart and incredibly verbal. He is fine. I did the right thing by trying, because it is what I needed to do for me, but in the end, I couldn’t have continued to torture myself — and that’s precisely what I was doing. I was miserable in body and mind, and that was no good for anyone around me at the time, especially H.
When I had my daughter, I (of course) tried to breastfeed when she was born. She didn’t latch and she was also tongue-tied. On day two, she went on formula. And guess what? She’s just fine and so am I.
This story originally appeared on Alexis' blog, Mama Wife Work Life.