I thought I was doing everything right. I waited for the perfect man (for me!) to come along and we were settled comfortably before we became pregnant. My pregnancy was “uneventful” as the medical community defines it (to me it was a miracle).
When my son came into this world it was a very hard labor followed by an emergency C-section. But still, he was a healthy 8 pounds and 10 ounces. My obstetrician’s first words as she pulled him from my belly, “Well, that explains a lot.”
I had read all the books and had the saying “Breast Is Best” drilled into my head. Of course, I was going to breast feed. I was going to do everything “right.” Shortly after my son was weighed and measured and tagged, he was in my arms and I began to breast feed. Everything seemed fine. He latched on and I relaxed and figured, how hard could this be? Women have been doing this for thousands of years.
My first indication that everything was NOT alright was the 3rd day, when my son fed for about 5 hours. The nurses brought a lactation consultant in to fuss over whether he was latching on correctly. “He may just be a baby who wants to suck. You may need to get him a pacifier,” the consultant eventually mused.
Fortunately, the pediatrician in the hospital had me go to his office 2 days after we were released from the hospital. He grew concerned when he weighed my baby. While all newborns may lose some weight after birth, they are expected to quickly put that weight back on. Growth is one of the main predictors of a baby’s health. The pediatrician had us in his office every other day, and eventually every day, to weigh my baby.
My son was not gaining weight. In fact, he was losing it. The pediatrician finally told us that we needed to supplement breastfeeding with a bottle of formula.
I was crestfallen. As I recall, I sat in the office and went into an ugly cry. I just felt like a total failure. How is it that cavewomen were able to feed their babies and I couldn’t even manufacture enough milk for a newborn? I took vitamins for God’s sake!
I refused to give up, but I did start giving my son a bottle of formula. I also made an appointment with a lactation consultant who tutored me on how to get my baby on my boob (seriously?) and to rent an industrial-grade breast pump to increase my milk supply.
Any mom will tell you there is no sleep with a newborn. Hard to imagine, but it was even less for me. I would feed my baby from the breast, and when
he was done, I would pump for an additional 20 minutes. The amount of milk I created was paltry. It was even worse than paltry, it was pathetic. It would take 30 minutes of pumping to create even an ounce of milk!
The 1am feedings were ridiculous. My son would feed on me for about 30 minutes, and then I would go downstairs to pump for another 30 minutes!
After a few weeks, I realized the lack of sleep was seriously leaving me brain damaged. It was time to stop the Super Mom effort and get back to being a human. I gave up on the 1am feedings entirely and let my husband give our son a second bottle. And you know what? My milk became more plentiful with more sleep. It was, for me, the single best thing to do to increase my milk supply. I still didn’t make enough milk because my son was growing like a weed and my milk supply was always a few steps behind.
Even though I was never able to really breast feed in what some might describe as “successful,” I did manage to do a little breast feeding for about 14 months.
That baby is now going on 13 years old. He is strong and healthy. I have screwed up as a mom in far bigger and worse ways than any breastfeeding mishaps. I sort of cringe when I think of how I overreacted that day in the pediatrician’s office when he told me to give my baby a bottle. But then I realize I was a very hormonal new mom trying her best and coming up against reality.
I don’t judge any mom for any choice she makes on how to feed her baby. I only want her TO feed her baby. And THAT is best.