Breastfeeding. This word encompasses feelings of attachment, exhaustion, bonding, frustration, love and imprisonment. For some moms, breastfeeding comes easily, others find it more difficult and many choose not to breastfeed at all.
After a battle of infertility due to hormone abnormalities, I was relieved that I was able to nurse and become part of the "breastfeeding is easy" group. That is, until our son Declan turned four months old.
At first I thought, could it be a cold, teething, four-month regression or is he simply hungry? My sweet baby boy went from happy smiles and sleeping through the night to almost constant crying and waking up 3-4 times a night. After a week my husband and I decided it was time to call the pediatrician and lactation consult. Both said to give it another week, increase my pumping and supplement with two ounces of formula after I nursed. Since I was opposed to formula, my lactation consultant had to remind me that "formula is not gasoline" and that Declan would be fine. After another week with no improvement, I decided to listen to my mother's intuition and not the "experts". Despite adding the two ounces of formula, Declan was hungry and my body was no longer keeping up with his appetite.
My husband and I decided to take the next month and try everything in our power to increase my milk supply. After a grueling month of excessive pumping, slowing down workouts, taking Fenugreek supplements and all the other wive's tales, the hardest part was the fighting with our baby who no longer enjoyed breastfeeding.
Declan would bite my nipple, thrash around, scream and fight me. He was easily distracted. Feeds would take 45 minutes and I would still have to supplement with a bottle.
The month was definitely physically exhausting, and I was not prepared for the emotional exhaustion that came with this milk supply fight I was having with our son. While I was never the Mom that loved breastfeeding, I didn't mind it. Since the health benefits of breastfeeding were clear, I thought my personal goal of breastfeeding for one year was doable.
Because I had one year so stuck in my head (along with social pressures), I wrestled for weeks with the decision to supplement regularly with formula. The pressure I was putting on myself and perceived judgments from others convinced me I was inadequate as a mom. I was mad my body was not doing what it was "supposed to do." I resented the questions from others about nursing, felt like I was letting my husband down and I wasn't emotionally ready to stop nursing Declan.
I blamed myself for weeks and that only served to extend Dec's and my battle while ensuring I tried everything possible before quitting breastfeeding. That proved selfish, as Declan was uncomfortable and hungry.
It was finally a teary phone call with my lactation consultant and friend that convinced me to give up breastfeeding and move to formula.
She told me exactly what I needed to hear. As a mom you are making constant sacrifices and reinforcing your love and bonding with your baby hundreds of times a day -- the way you play with him, snuggle him, dress him and talk to him. Feeding your baby is a necessity and how you feed your baby doesn't define who you are as a mom.
I had taken this one small part of what our son needs and put so much focus on it that I allowed it to define who I was as a mom.
I had been correlating being an amazing mom to the ability to breastfeed successfully. With Declan "weaning himself" and my milk supplies rapid decrease, I was down on myself as a Mom.
After I acknowledged I had been ignoring the hundred of ways I bond with Declan daily, was I able to let go of the feeling of failure and gain the confidence I would be ready for the next new mom challenge. Bring it on Declan!
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