With Honest Feeding Stories, you’ll hear from parents like you about one of the most intimate and important experiences of family life. Happiness and heartbreak, serenity and struggle, joy and tears — it’s all here in their own words. Presented with our support and without judgment, these stories remind us that the choices we make to nourish our children are truly unique.
Early on in my pregnancy I heard story after story of moms who had detailed birth plans typed out (wanting to eat this specific snack or hear that particular song when the baby came out) and when the actual birth went nothing like the plan, it put a damper on the first few days of their baby's life. Immediately I knew I wouldn't have a birth plan. Easy peasy!
I did, on the other hand, have a "plan" for breastfeeding. That plan was to breastfeed for a year. Everyone I knew who wanted to breastfeed, did it and had very minimal complications; and those who didn't breastfeed, never really shared a whole lot about their decision to use formula. I knew there would be a learning curve, but I figured I would work it out easy enough and that'd be it!
When my son Roy made his debut on June 21st, those first few days were a range of emotions: clueless to whether Roy was actually eating anything when he was nursing, amazed that he seemed to latch right on, concerned that he was going to suffocate on my giant boob (I was used to non existent size boobs and all of sudden milk made me look like Kim Kardashian), and annoyed at ALL of my friends because nobody told me how bad nursing hurt!
After a few days, we seemed to have a figured out what we were doing and Roy put on weight very quickly. Everything seemed to be going as planned. Yay!
But then for some reason Roy started crying, sometimes screaming, through many of the afternoon feedings. I remember crying to my neighbor asking her why he was doing this. And, as it goes with babies, there are always 500 different things it could be — did I eat something spicy, was he gassy, is he sensitive to a particular food — the options were endless.
I saw a lactation consultant who, of course, witnessed a perfect feeding and congratulated me for doing everything right. Despite seeing numerous pediatricians as we battled colds and all of those first few weeks of doctor appointments nobody seemed to notice anything wrong.
But the crying continued.
I had days when I dreaded feeding Roy. I would get anxious whenever it was almost time to feed him and would have Hart of Dixie playing when I started each feeding to keep me calm and not focused on the pain (the pain that yes, I was still experiencing) or the inevitable crying that would come from Roy. Mornings and evenings seemed to go okay, but the afternoons when I was home by myself could be so rough.
My husband Rishi, my mom, and my friends all told me it was okay to not nurse — that Roy needed a happy mama and if that meant not nursing, then that was okay! Formula had come such a long way and it was just as good for him!
But I'm stubborn and when I put my mind to something, I do it. I didn't want to fail… or what felt like failing to me.
So, imagine my surprise when I took Roy in for his two month appointment, the doctor looks in his mouth and tells me that he has thrush! Turns out, he had an awful case that took two rounds of different medication to clear up.
Finally the crying was explained.
I had noticed some white in his mouth from time to time that I thought maybe was thrush but it was usually right after (or during) a feeding so I assumed it was from my milk. And as a first time mom, I didn't really know what thrush looked like and I didn't want to panic over every little thing.
After Roy's thrush cleared up, and mine did as well (that explained why my nipples were still hurting!), breastfeeding got better for us.
But, since the first two months were hard, it seemed like Roy still didn't love breastfeeding. I would often times fight him to nurse in the afternoon and would usually end up giving him a few ounces of pumped milk, since he never seemed to nurse very well and he was always on the small side. That ended up being a full bottle for most of his afternoon feedings and slowly switched from me pumping those bottles to giving him formula, since the stress of not producing enough was weighing on me.
By six months we had switched over completely to formula. And do you want to know what? I was relieved. Those first two months had been full of anxiety, guilt, frustration and anger feeling like I was failing at the one job my body was supposed to do. And the next four felt more like a battle, than simply giving my child the nutrition he needed. Yes there were times of joy and love when we were cuddled up, nursing peacefully, but by the end of our breastfeeding experience the hard times clouded the good.
Now we're now pregnant with #2 (due in October!) and this time I'm going to take it day by day. I know now that sometimes things are out of your control and no matter how much you want to breastfeed, it might not happen as you had planned. At the end of the day, your child needs to be fed and you need to be happy. However that happens, is perfect!
I didn't know anyone else who had an experience like mine and I vowed to not let any other mom who wanted to breastfeed, but couldn't for whatever reason, feel alone. We should all support one another no matter how we choose to feed our children.
~ Jen, Minneapolis, MN
This post was originally published on Jen’s blog, Paisley + Sparrow.