If I had any doubts about sharing this post on my challenges with breastfeeding, the comments, emails and messages I received after assured me otherwise. And actually, after taking in the response and chatting with a few other new moms, I’ve decided to add a “New Mom Real Talk” blog series. I have a few topics in mind but wanted to continue on the topic of breastfeeding for now. Feel free to skip these posts and just come back for the food.
Photo from L’s newborn shoot courtesy of I Love Parentheses
*****Before I start, I just want to reiterate from last time that this is a no-judgement zone. I respect other parenting decisions and am writing about my experience and that of some friends.*****
So the other day, I got together with a group of four other new moms. All of us had babies in the range of 5-8 weeks old. Some interesting stats:
-4 girls, 1 boy (L)
-1 formula fed baby (after 1 week), 1 exclusively breastfed, 3 breastfed with formula supplement (including L)
-4 c-sections (including me)
-Number of moms who had some sort of struggle with breastfeeding: ALL FIVE
Before I had L, I was prepared for some breastfeeding challenges. I heard it was “hard” and assumed that just meant in the very beginning when the baby is learning to latch, etc. I also figured it would hurt a bit when your body is getting used to things. Let me just tell you, I was wrong. 7 weeks in and breastfeeding is still hard, and painful. To be clear, sometimes L doesn’t want to nurse steadily for a feeding and it can take an hour or more for him to eat for 25-30 minutes. That can be a result of a sleepy baby or gas. Often, I just can’t get a burp out! These days I offer a bottle of breast milk or formula after nursing to make sure he gets enough food. There’s a nice hour and a half feeding for you (for a child that eats every 2 1/2-3 hours during most days). For some feedings, Matt or someone else will feed him via bottle and I’ll just pump. Occasionally I have to do all of the above. Real life: A few nights ago, L was having trouble nursing during his middle-of-the-night feeding (somewhere around 2am). An hour after starting, I finally decided to give up and give him a bottle and then pump to avoid (extra) discomfort. The bottle of breast milk I offered him wasn’t enough so I then proceeded to pump while holding him, then feed him some of that milk mid-pumping session, then continue pumping, while feeding and burping him. Can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, when I got together with the other moms this week, I learned that I am definitely not alone. Another mom is dealing with the same pumping around the clock I did a couple of weeks ago, along with nursing and supplementing. one mom got mastitis (PAINFUL) because she was pumping too much and overproducing. Someone else had to supplement with formula immediately because her baby was underweight. And someone else said that her daughter had jaundice during the first week so she started with formula then and decided to stop breastfeeding altogether afterwards.
It’s just crazy what we do to try to be the best moms we can be. There is so much pressure publicly to breastfeed and whether we admit it or not, we then put that pressure on ourselves. The truth is, though, who are the “they” that say we should breastfeed? Do they realize what so many moms go through just to make that happen? Is breast really always best?
Here are some quotes from the afternoon that seemed worthy of sharing:
“By the time I finish breastfeeding, pumping, and feeding her [formula or breast milk], it’s time to start again.”
“When I stopped [breastfeeding’’], my mom said to me ’so you gave up?’’
‘I might consider stopping but my husband asked me to keep trying.”
“I woke up in so much pain [from the mastitis] but it only took three hours of massaging for me to get it out.’’’
“I had a lactation consultant come over to help and she asked if I was upset because I had a c-section.”
“There is no way I’m doing this (breastfeeding) for more than six months because during the summer I want to actually go out.“
“Once you decide to stop [breastfeeding], you won’t look back. It’s so liberating to be able to go out and eat or drink without worrying about it.”
“My lactation consultant told me to stop eating salads.”
“My boobs hurt all the time.” (that might have been me)
“It was much easier to stop breastfeeding the second time around.” (baby number 2)
“It does get easier.” Pure speculation of what we have “heard” from others. When this takes place we did not know exactly.
So that’s real life and real talk in the life of a new mom. For now, my plan is to do this as long as I can, though if the pain doesn’t go away in the next couple of weeks, I may stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later. In terms of supply, I do think mine is up, though we need to feed L about one formula bottle each day. If you have experiences to share, I’d love to hear in the comments! And if there is another topic you want to see in New Mom Real Talk, let me know.