Can I ask up front for grace on this one? I admittedly withheld such gentleness from other women before my own experience, but I am asking you for it now. No public flogging, at least, okay? Pretty please? Because I am about to talk about the wonderful act of breastfeeding and how I gave up that good, good thing.
I want to preface by saying that I believe breastfeeding is the optimal nutritional choice for our little ones, and, in addition, it is a beautiful, natural, awesome-in-many-ways ability that God crafted within our female bodies. But it’s hard and complex and in our generation has become something about which we seem to feel justified in judging other women. I’m not okay with that, and I say that as someone who has experienced both sides.
Caroline had a textbook latch from the beginning. My hospital was pro-breastfeeding and provided around-the-clock lactation support. I had studied up. I should have succeeded. But every time we nursed, my delicate little girl ended up in a red-bodied, scrunched face, totally pissed off crying fit.
We kept at it every three hours with nurses supporting us at each feeding, but in the wee hours of our last morning in the hospital, my favorite nursery nurse gently told me that Caroline had lost 11% of her body weight, and that meant we had to supplement. I hated seeing her drink that stuff, and I hated even more that she seemed to like it so much.
When we came home, I was still determined to figure it out. It took time; I knew that. That first night at home, though, something painful started to happen: I began to truly dread feedings. All my interactions with my baby seemed hard and tearful and just plain negative. What I didn’t know then was that I was developing symptoms of postpartum depression as well, which clearly contributed to the difficult emotions–and lack of positive emotions–I was experiencing. I looked at the long stretch of days and nights before me and decided I could not go on feeling that way about my baby and myself.
I moved onto pumping exclusively, which solved the problem of the screaming fits and revealed the likely culprit. I was producing next to nothing. As I struggled with my production, I cried and prayed and dreaded so many moments of my baby’s first several days.
Eventually, it was enough. Not enough milk, but enough of sacrificing the peace in my family for this ideal set up in my mind. While I can give you logical reason after logical reason that I wanted to breastfeed, the truth is that it became a pride issue for me. I had seen other women give up so quickly, complaining about how extremely difficult or painful or impossible for them it was, and I had thought they were weak. Then it happened to me, and giving up breastfeeding salvaged what peace and happiness I could find in those early weeks.
If you happen to experience something similar, you should know that you can stick with it, overcome many obstacles, and be successful breastfeeding. Most women say it takes about 6 weeks to get the hang of it. But….if you find that peace is leading you in a different direction, then it’s okay. Like so many choices we make in parenting, sometimes the optimal choice truly isn’t the best when you look at your family holistically. I wish breastfeeding would have worked out for us, but I have zero regrets about my decision to give it up, and I’ve had many sweet bottle moments with my girl.