At this point, I imagine most women have developed an opinion on breast-feeding. Is it best for babies? Does it matter in the long run? Can every women really do it? Is formula just as good? Should you do it for at least six months? Should you do it as long as you can? The suggestions go on and on. When I became pregnant, I decided that breastfeeding was important to me, and that it was best for my baby too. So the only books I read during pregnancy were about how to breast-feed. I read a book recommended by a friend of mine. It was fascinating learning about how our bodies are made for making milk, how the milk comes out, potential challenges with breastfeeding, etc. By the time my baby was born, I had all but memorized this book.
Then, my son, August, was born, unfortunately by C-section after thirty-six hours of natural child birth. We found out later he was trying to come out the wrong way and he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. We started breastfeeding almost immediately. My “liquid gold” was in, but August quickly developed jaundice, and the hospital tried to force formula on us. They told us that if we didn’t give him formula that it was only going to get worse. He had lost 11 percent of his birth weight, and it was too much. Well, we locked them out, asked for the lactation consultant, and breastfed the hell out of August for twenty-four hours. The next morning the jaundice was much better and his weight was creeping up—and we didn’t need the formula. As a side note, no one tells you this kind of thing is a possibility, what they tell you about breastfeeding in the classes, and in most books, is that it’s natural for you and the baby.
A few days later, we went home and the nonstop breast-feeding began. Even worse than that, August kept pulling off me, crying, and then going back on. He would do this every time we began a session for the first few weeks. This was not mentioned in any books or classes either. So we went to a breastfeeding circle. It was there that a lactation consultant told me I had an excess supply of milk and a strong flow, which meant August had a hard time swallowing it quickly enough. My book had mentioned a low supply of breast milk, but not an excess. Once we knew that, I adjusted my position for August and things got better. But it was still nonstop feeding.
He would eat for an hour and rest for thirty minutes, maybe forty-five, in between. And we had to hold August upright for twenty minutes afterward or else he spit up. If you do the calculation, that meant that I had exactly twenty-five minutes to pee, take a shower, get something to eat, get dressed, take a nap (HA!), or just breathe. I’ll never forget, one day, I asked my husband to take August out and give me thirty to sixty minutes alone. We knew at this point that August didn’t need to be fed every hour, so this was okay. My husband left our apartment, and I lay down on the couch for the first time in what felt like months and just stared at the ceiling. It was then that I noticed for the first time that our light fixtures looked like breasts, and I started to cry.
After that, I decided I was just going to last as long as I could with breastfeeding, and just know that I had done my best. Well, would you believe I just stopped breastfeeding? August and I lasted fourteen and a half months. And I only quit because it had become too difficult to breastfeed out of the house because he got distracted and would end up not eating—plus I was growing tired of sitting on the floors in bathrooms to feed him.
Why am I writing this article? Well, I want to get my opinion out there. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and no one tells you that. No one tells you that it can be a lonely journey, and that only you and your baby are in this together. Ladies, be gentle on yourselves. There is nothing wrong with formula. I know, I didn’t end up using formula, but I thought about it, trust me! And there is support out there. Talk to other women who are new mothers, you’ll be surprised at how much they want to talk about it. Find yourself a lactation consultant and make an appointment. They are wonderful! The only warning is that they feel breastfeeding is the only way to go, but if you can move past that, they are a wealth of information and they are happy to spend as much as time as you need. Find a breast-feeding circle, or start one. It’s a lot of breasts in one room exposed, but it really does help to hear other women’s problems. And you’ll be surprised at how quickly you become a source of information yourself.
I never did have that feeling that some women do, which is I loved breastfeeding. I didn’t, but I was really glad that I did it, and I’m so proud of myself for doing it for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad when it ended—it was like losing a superpower—maybe that’s another reason why I’m writing this. Will I do it again, if I have another child? Honestly, I’m not sure. Those first six months were really tough. But between six months and eleven months, it was great and really convenient.
Good luck ladies, and happy feeding!