After my first son was born and put on my bare chest in the hospital, he wiggled down and found my breast just like in the videos on YouTube—just like the lactation consultants told me it happens. It was beautiful and perfect. That’s pretty much where he stayed until we went home from the hospital. We had some minor hiccups in the beginning with his latch and it was horribly painful for the first 6 weeks, but once we got through that period, we had a beautiful experience.
When he was 11 weeks old I had to go back to work full time. We had created a beautiful rhythm and I was blessed with an abundant milk supply. I had quite a bit of milk stocked up before my return to work so I was fortunate that there wasn’t an enormous amount of pressure in that department. We would nurse in the morning before work, I pumped three times a day at work and then we would cluster feed from the time I got home until he nursed himself to sleep each night. We did this for a year.
When I was pregnant with my second, one of the things I was most looking forward to was that I was going to get to breastfeed again. It was as much for me as it was for him—I had missed it so much. You can imagine the confusion when my newborn had no interest in waking enough in the hospital to latch properly and start off on the right foot. There was no wiggling down my chest. There was no desire to latch at all.
From the moment he was born he was in discomfort and it still hadn’t been resolved by the time he was 9 months old. The painful indigestion, acid reflux, gas, grunting, squealing in pain, and not being able to calmly relax while being held was heart wrenching. I knew my little guy was uncomfortable and I was doing all of the things I had learned, so why wasn’t it getting better?
We visited the pediatrician often, multiple chiropractors, physical therapists, lactation consultants, GI specialists, naturopaths, homeopathic experts and who even remembers where else we were!
My plan was always to take him along to New Mom School groups with me and if he got fussy or tired, I would just throw him on my boob and we would be all good. Asher had other plans. There was no calming this little guy with the breast or even by me holding him. He hated to be held and REALLY hated to be worn. What newborn doesn’t like to be held? Apparently mine. He was so uncomfortable and nothing was helping. I eliminated so many foods from my diet and I discovered that my whole food prenatal vitamin was a huge culprit, so now I was even more depleted because I couldn’t eat anything and I couldn’t take any supplements to help me. But even with his medicine and my restricted diet, he still didn’t tolerate my milk.
Each day was an internal battle whether I should give up the fight. Was it me still fighting for what I had been anticipating for 40 weeks? Was it the voice in a new mom’s head that says “breast is best”? I am here to tell you that breast is not always best. It wasn’t for my baby and it wasn’t for me second time around.
It was heartbreaking to get there but I am so thankful I did. I was making myself crazy by exclusively pumping. I no longer had the quiet private office to pump in three times a day, the fully stocked freezer and a baby who loved nursing. I now had a 3-year old toddler who had to be shuttled to and from school, dozens of other new moms who needed my support at New Mom School, and a baby who still felt unbelievably uncomfortable no matter what I did.
As my overwhelmed, heartbroken self was dropping my son off at school one day, a mommy friend saw it in my face and put her arm around me as we were walking our kids into class. She looked right at me and said, “Stop giving your baby to someone else to hold and telling Jack you can’t play right now while you pump milk that he isn’t tolerating.” There it was. Exactly what I needed someone to say to me. Hearing it from that outside perspective made complete sense.
On my way home that day I stopped at the store and purchased a can of hypoallergenic formula and it finally gave my baby some relief. You can imagine how guilty I felt that I hadn’t done it sooner. With a lot of tears and a lot of relief, I made the decision to give up breastfeeding.
It’s a very strange process to dry up your milk and see it literally pouring down the drain in the shower. My heart was heavy as I thought about all of the women who wished so deeply they had enough milk to feed their babies and here I was wasting it. In fact, a mom in one of my groups was struggling with the opposite issue. Her baby loved to nurse, loved her milk but she didn’t have enough no matter what she tried. And she tried it all. We commiserated over how ironic our situations were and how maybe we should just trade babies!
Breastfeeding is a complex system that needs to work for both parties. If it’s not working for mom AND baby, alternatives should be considered. New moms have to be the best they can be for their babies even if that means changing a plan you were dead set on prior to giving birth. A mom who is tremendously overwhelmed and feeling an enormous amount of stress has much more of a negative effect on her baby than not breastfeeding. Babies are sponges and react to what we are feeling.
A calm and confident mom is so crucial to our babies’ development and the foundation for building a healthy, secure attachment; the most important thing a baby needs at the beginning of their life. Whether you are breastfeeding or feeding formula in a bottle, approach each feeding in a relaxed manner and use it as quality time to connect with your baby. They are only that small for that moment.
If you need help with breastfeeding, New Mom School hosts a Breastfeeding Support Group at our Newport Beach location at 9.30am every Fri9day. The class is led by Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Shelly Jacobs @firstdroplets. The class is free to attend—you just need to register here.