Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My battle with breastfeeding

This post may be kind of long... So this may be one you want to skip. I have to write down my thoughts because this has been weighing on my mind and my heart since Elsie was born.

Before Elsie was born people use to ask if I was going to breast feed. My answer was always yes, and then we would move on. A very simple yes! If only the act of breast feeding was as easy as the words are to say. If you know me, you know that I am a planner. It is hard for me when things do not go the way I envisioned them. When we were in the hospital, I tried to breast feed Elsie immediately. She didn't really have an interest. That first night I just kept trying every couple of hours. The nurses just kept telling me that newborns are sometimes just not hungry and could go about three days before they decide to eat. I continued to try and sometimes she would latch on, but it would hurt terribly and she wouldn't suck. I asked to see the lactation specialist several times, but she was always busy. The day we were leaving she stopped by to help me. We worked on it for almost two hours and Elsie was just not interested. She would scream every time we put her on. Finally, the LS told me that we may need to try a nipple shield. I was ok with it, but a little disappointed. We tried it and got Elsie to latch but then she started chewing on the shield which was attached to my nipple. It was very painful. The LS told me that because she was chewing, she wasn't swallowing. She told me that I was going to have to pump to feed her. I was devastated. She came and spent a couple of hours with me and I felt like she completely ruined this wonderful experience for me. My mom went to target and bought me a pump and Trammel consoled me. How could this be happening. I had planned this from before I found out I was pregnant. It was just something that I had always planned to do. It is what is suggested, it is what people expect, it is the norm. Right?

I cried all the time during Elsie's first week. It was so hard watching her eat from a bottle when I wanted nothing more than to feed her myself. She was eating every two hours. I was having to pump 30 minutes before she ate and then she would eat and I would put her to sleep. Then I would have about 45 minutes to sleep. It was a rough few days.

One of Trammel's friends recommended a lactation specialist that they used. I was willing to try anything. We called her, she came the next day. Within the hour, she had Elsie latched and eating (with a nipple shield). She was still chewing a little, but I was so excited she was latched I ignored the pain. We were able to do this for a couple of days. My nipples were so sore, but I thought it was normal until I saw they were cracked and bleeding. They looked like they were falling off. Literally! I had to take a couple of days off from breast feeding to let them heal. I had to put topical cream on them every time I pumped (which was every three hours). It took two days to heal, but they were on the right path. I had decided that I was going to nurse her again the next morning. However, I woke up the next morning and felt terrible! I had cold chills and body aches. I called my doctor. I had developed mastitis, a breast infection, in my left breast. It was so miserable. I kept trying to breast feed her, but she screamed bloody murder every time I put her on. She would scream for 10-15 minutes and then I would cry. I felt like I was torturing her. How had this happened? Why was everything going against us?

I had wanted to breast feed so badly. I wanted to feel that bond. I wanted her to be happy. Did you notice a lot of I's in those sentences? I realized that I was no longer doing what was best for E. I have an extremely happy baby! She eats well, she sleeps well, she smiles.... Why was I killing myself (and making her suffer through it) just to fill my own desires??

One early morning, after a 15 minute battle to get her to eat, and many, many tears (from myself and E) later... I decided to stop trying to nurse Elsie. I decided to pump exclusively and give her breast milk. This is a commitment and a second job (on top of being a mom). However, it makes me feel better about my decision.

This decision has made me feel like a bad mom. It has made me feel like I am not doing what is best for her. I sometimes feel like I have given up too easily. What if tomorrow she decides that she wants to nurse? What if she stops chewing on my nipple? Things could get better, and I am throwing in the towel. But can I really live on the what if's?? I made a decision. I made the best decision I knew how to make. My baby doesn't scream any more when I go to feed her. I don't cry every time she eats because it hurts so bad. She actually smiles at me when she eats now. But the best part.... She is HAPPY. I will pump as long as I can. I will try and feed her breast milk as long as possible. But when I have to switch to formula I will be prepared for that. I am a good mom. I made a tough decision, but we are both better for it.


  1. S- you are a good mom! i had to exclusively pump for both my girls. both were born 6 weeks early. ava did not have the ability to suck, being born so early so we had to use a special bottle, called the haberman, to teach this. Once she had this down- it had been 2 months and nursing was no longer a real option. i pumped for 9 months for her. i wanted to throw my pump out the window one day-so i weaned her to formula for about 2 months and then she went to milk. hadley was in the NICU for a month- and was tongue-tied so i did not get a chance with her either. i pumped for 8 months, formula for 3. i felt like a failure too at first--but let me tell you--pumping/feeding a baby is MUCH harder than just nursing, she is STILL getting YOUR milk, and she is HAPPY--so you are HAPPY. do not beat yourself up. we can only plan so much--god has other plans for us! if you have questions, i have been there- so do not hesitate to ask me! you're doing great!

  2. This was a great read! thank you for sharing! I feel like this is a very important topic that is never spoken of when someone is expecting. I had no idea how hard it was going to be and wanted to give up so many times. Talking about breast feeding is so important too because it helps us to remember that if we don't make it we are NOT failures! Again, thank you for sharing!