For some reason when you are expecting a baby, people want to know if you plan to breastfeed. This was never in doubt for me – I always had every intention of breastfeeding. Not because I believe “breast is best” (sorry but I hate that term), but more because I wanted that bonding experience with my child.
In the 3rd trimester, I took a breastfeeding course. The whole endeavor seemed overwhelming and complicated, but I vowed to give it my best shot once baby arrived. At the time, my attitude was that I would give it a try but if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. At the time, I naively believed that the only reason breastfeeding wouldn’t work out is if I didn’t produce enough milk. I had no idea there were so many complications and frustrations that could accompany breastfeeding.
When my daughter was born, we did not have that magical moment some other moms do where she instantly latched and our breastfeeding bond was sealed. She was sleepy, had low blood sugar, and couldn’t stay awake long enough to even latch onto my breast. We tried around the clock for the entire time I was in the hospital and it was just a disaster. I ended up having to feed her formula when she lost 12% of her birth weight, and I already felt like a failure of a mother before I even brought her home.
Fast forward a week, my milk finally came in and the lactation consultant I’d been working with finally helped us achieve a decent latch. I was thrilled the first time she fed from me! It felt as amazing and loving as I had imagined it would. However, things have certainly been a roller coaster since then, and at almost one month after her birth, we still haven’t been able to exclusively feed her from the breast. Sometimes she can’t latch at all, sometimes she can and falls off a million times without a decent meal. She’s gummed and chewed my nipples to shreds during the times she is latched on. This is the most frustration and disappointment I’ve experienced since my struggle with infertility.
Why didn’t anyone tell me breastfeeding could be so hard? That for something so natural, it doesn’t exactly come as second nature for some moms and babies? All the times I’ve tried so hard to nurse her only to have to give up and give her a bottle in the end has stirred up so many feelings of inadequacy. Why can’t we get this right? Why does it seem so much easier for so many other women? I have experienced so much frustration and disappointment that I wonder if perhaps I should have just salvaged my emotional health, given up on nursing, and focused on pumping and enjoying my time with her more.
The lactation consultant suggested she has a lip and tongue tie, which we are going to have fixed this week. After a month of hell trying to breastfeed my daughter, I have come to realize that I need to admit defeat if this tongue and lip tie revision do not work. She needs me to be emotionaly strong and healthy, and crying every day about my failure to breastfeed is not what’s best for our relationship. I just wish I had been better prepared that there were so many different difficulties and disappointments that could accompany the feat of trying to exclusively breastfeed.