the battlegrounds of breastfeeding: my story

It's World Breastfeeding Week and in honor of that, I'd like to share with you the post I wrote in October 2010, reflecting on my breastfeeding experience. The boys were 7 months old at that point and my breastfeeding experience was not at all what I was so sure I'd make it. I'm hoping this helps any of you who struggled or still has lingering feelings related to your experience.

And afterward, I invite you to share your experience, good or bad. 

The Battlegrounds of Breastfeeding: My Story

I've had this weight on my chest for months and months. I haven't really talked about it because it still is a sensitive subject with me and still causes some feelings of regret and anxiety. But I want to get it out so that maybe some other people can relate with me or for new moms to know not everything works out the way you planned...and that it's ok that way, too.


Before I gave birth I was 100% determined to breastfeed the boys. Yeah, I know breast milk is made specifically for your baby but I wasn't doing it for that reason, mainly because formula is so expensive. I didn't really know how it all worked but I knew I'd figure it out as we went along. 

Looking back on my experience, I feel like it was the perfect storm against me. In the hospital, as soon as I was in the recovery room, the nurses held both boys up to my chest and had them "nurse" while I just sat there. I really felt overwhelmed already because I really wasn't doing it. Over the next couple days, the Lactation Consultants and nurses really helped me learn to get the boys to latch right. I felt fairly confident going home. However, looking back I'm STILL confused on what I was supposed to do. The doctors and nurses told me I needed to supplement with formula until my 2 week appointment and we'd go from there. I had no idea how much they were getting from my milk, but they were sure sucking a lot of formula. 

By a few days in, both boys were drinking almost 100% my breast milk. But I was a zombie. I couldn't feed both boys at the same time so I was trying to get bf time w/one boy for at least 15 minutes (in which they would either be pissed off it wasn't coming fast enough (like it does from a bottle) or I'd fight with them falling asleep the whole time. So, after about an hour of breastfeeding both boys, I'd have to pump. I'd pump for 20 minutes (and would get a decent amount) but the clean up and storage process along with the pumping itself lasted around an hour. The boys were on a 3 hr feeding schedule so I'd have around 1hr or less between feedings to myself. To sleep. Eat. Shower. Bathroom. Record what they were eating. Clean bottles and prepare more for the next feedings...retain my sanity.

I was SO stressed. We were in the process of finding a place to live and were currently stuffed into a studio apartment. My mom was visiting (which was great help) and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend came to visit at one point, too. I didn't know if I was doing anything right, wasn't getting both boys to the breast every feeding so one was on a bottle when he wasn't breastfeeding. No matter what, they were drinking from a bottle every meal. Each step forward with the latch was a step backward with the bottle. 

The stress started to take a toll. When I'm stressed I have no appetite. I was hardly eating. My mom was getting really worried about me, I was pale, weak and tired. I was not enjoying being a mother (I loved my boys but I hated feeding them). That hurts me still to this day. It hurts to think that the first two weeks of their life I really didn't get to FULLY enjoy and revel in motherhood. I cry right now just thinking of that time. And I cried then. I was experiencing many symptoms of PPD. I know the difference from just general baby blues versus what I was feeling. By the 2 week mark, I was literally crying all day. Everything made me sob. I could feel myself slowly giving up and felt like a bad mother for it. 

The night before the boys 2wk appt I was up at 3am with my mom, who stayed awake with me that night. She'd been practically force feeding me all day because nothing sounded good to me and I wouldn't eat. I'd been so stressed I literally couldn't breathe that day. I felt like there was a 50lb weight on my chest. So there I sat  pumping at 3am, hunched over in my chair falling asleep from exhaustion and I knew I'd had it. I told my mom I quit. I couldn't continue. I knew that everyone was saying it would eventually get better but at that point, I'd lost the will to fight to get to that point.  

The next day at the doctor's office, I cried telling the pediatrician my decision. I felt like I was being selfish and giving up on my babies by not choosing to breastfeed them. Like all new moms, I placed very high expectations on myself to do everything perfect. I'd wanted SO BADLY to breastfeed them but was now at a point where I couldn't go any farther. I was crushed. However the pediatrician (and my OB) were extremely supportive of my decision and I IMMEDIATELY felt a huge weight off my shoulders. I literally was able to breathe again. I was also extremely proud of myself because with my milk, I was able to get the boys back to their birth weight by their 2 week appointment. 

That day I ate the first full meal I'd eaten in weeks. I could feed my babies a bottle and not feel like I was taking a step backward each time. I made bottles once a day and was getting more sleep between feedings. I wasn't bonding any less with my boys and was actually enjoying motherhood a million times more. 

I look back on the whole experience with many emotions. I'm proud I tried. Could I have kept going? I don't know. I honestly don't think I had the emotional capacity to fight any longer with myself. I wish we wouldn't have to pay for formula now. I'm glad I have my boobs and my body back. I'm sad the situation wasn't what I'd envisioned it to be. 

In the end, this is all that really matters, isn't it?

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