Welcome to the next edition of breastfeeding stories from our readers. These memories are shared by breastfeeding moms, who like myself wish to spread the word to new moms that breastfeeding can have its challenges, but it is worth practicing, seeking help, asking for support and looking for answers.
We all know the benefits of breastfeeding, but we do not instinctively know how to successfully breastfeed. We need help, advice, support and guidance – even if it is our second, third or fourth baby.
Please let us know if you have a breastfeeding story you would like to share – we will link back to your blog, if you are a blogger. This series will be featured every Monday until we run out of stories!
My crossroads thing that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it included a ride range of emotions. Emotions about leaving my child with someone else 40+ hours a day, emotions about bonding with him, financial worries, nervousness that life will be a hundred times more chaotic than it is already (if that is even possible). Unfortunately, it has also brought along with it stress, worries, and guilt about breast feeding.
In my last post about breastfeeding, I explained how I was never able to breastfeed in the traditional sense even though I desperately wanted to. How I was pumping exclusively even though it was inconvenient, difficult, and (I felt) took time away from the time I am spending with my son. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do. My son isn’t the healthiest baby, so it was one of the best things I could ever do for him at this point in his life. He needed it, and so I continued to work to provide him with the best possible food, even when it was hard. Also, I expressed in that post that I was tired of all that and thinking seriously about switching to formula feeding full time. From the point that I wrote that post forward, I continued to stress and feel guilty about the decision I was ultimately making, stopping pumping and exclusively formula feeding. What kept me from stopping? The possibility that maybe Elliott would breastfeed after recovering from surgery. A new heart meant increased stamina, and there was a small chance he might latch. Maybe I would still need to bottle feed, but I held onto the hope that he may actually do it.
Two days before he was released from the hospital, they did a swallow study. Just one day before, they had finally allowed Elliott to start bottle feeding and when he took his swallow test it was only the fourth bottle he’d had in weeks. He failed his test. He was aspirating (i.e. he was allowing some of his food to go into his lungs before coughing it up). I am firmly convinced they did the study on a bad day; they had given him two doses of Ativan overnight to help with pain and it was likely he was groggy. Also, a bit out of practice. In any case, we couldn’t take any chances. Elliott was going home on a feeding tube. My last little bits of hope about breastfeeding were crushed.
When Elliott came home from the hospital five weeks ago pumping became tough. I dug into the freezer supply I had worked so hard to build up. My supply tapered off, even when I was drinking cup after countless cup of Mother’s Milk tea. With each pumping session it seemed I was producing less than the day before. It wasn’t helping that it was hard to keep pumping, and the fact that my physical contact with Elliott was limited for so long didn’t help either. As my freezer supply then dwindled I began mixing it with formula; first a 50/50 ratio, then down all the way to a half an ounce with four ounces of formula. I switched to soy formula since the regular formula seemed to make Elliott gassy. And then, two weeks ago, I finished up my last frozen bag of breast milk. It was, quite honestly, a sad occurrence. Now I am lucky if I am able to squeeze out an ounce of breast milk a day.
I am going back to work tomorrow, and I feel as though today will be my last day of pumping. I keep thinking that at least at work they are required to give me time to pump, and I can make time for it there. Maybe I could increase my supply again that way, at least to prolong Elliott’s access to breast milk for a few more months by mixing it with formula. The guilt I’ve felt over formula is a bit pathetic. Doctors and experts and mothers and bloggers all preach the breastfeeding is best message until they’re blue in the face, and because of that I continue to feel embarrassed to buy formula at the grocery store. I am not sure why I am doing this to myself. My parents and some older family members have all reminded me that their generation was primarily bottle-fed, and the earth is still in it’s standard rotation. Thousands babies today are formula fed for a variety of reasons. I guess it is time for me to relinquish myself from these feelings of heartache and guilt. In spite of the fact that breastfeeding is best, formula will not make or break Elliott’s health. He will continue to thrive, gain weight, grow.
And so, today. I am doing it. I am going to put away the pumping supplies, my expensive nursing bras, and save them for another day. I will have another chance someday, but as far as Elliott is concerned, this chapter on breastfeeding is over.