It's world breastfeeding week as you've probably heard by now. Breastfeeding is such a great thing to do for your babies, but unfortunately it doesn't come easy for a lot of people (myself included.) My journey was filled with emotional and physical blood, sweat, and tears.
When I had my son, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Honestly, leading up to his birth I was so incredibly freaked out by the idea of nursing my baby. I can't even really articulate why but I was. Regardless, I knew God had designed my body to feed my baby so I was going to do it.
Right before my son was born, he took a big ol' gulp of amniotic fluid (guess he was thirsty?) so he spent his first 24 hours of life just spitting all of that up and not wanting to latch on at all. I had a really amazing lactation consultant in the hospital who taught me how to hand express and spoon feed then how to pump and syringe feed. Despite all my attempts and all the attempts of the lactation consultant and the nurses- no one could get my precious baby to latch on to the breast.
So I left the hospital feeling pretty discouraged but equally as determined. I was going to breastfeed this baby hell or high water. I would pump, try to get him latch (while he screamed like it was torture), syringe feed him, clean the pump parts, sleep for maybe 45 minutes then it was time to do it all over again. It was a viscous cycle. I was terrified to give him a bottle because I thought for sure that would be death to my ability to breastfeed him (that's what everyone online says anyway right?) I was DREADING every time he needed to eat. My anxiety was climbing higher and higher every single session. I was barely sleeping because of how much work it was to feed him. This went on for 2 weeks. Then he finally latched on. I cried and cried, I was SO relieved. I thought "this is it, we're going to make it!"
What I didn't know is by this time, I had gotten thrush so to say nursing was painful was an understatement. I cried every time I nursed. The pain continued long after he was done too. Somehow, finally, around 12 weeks old, I heard about a latch clinic put on by For Babies' Sake. I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose so I was going to go because what we were doing wasn't working. They were able to tell me he was misaligned and that a visit to the chiropractor may fix most of their problems. I probably looked at Mellanie like she was crazy. My baby at a chiropractor- nice try. However, I went home in desperate tears and said okay let's do it. GAME CHANGER. Instant difference. I couldn't even believe it. This was the start of the road to pain free breastfeeding for us.
I would love to tell you I had an easier time with kid number 2, but that would be a lie. She had severe tongue and lip ties and also didn't latch for 2 weeks (seriously- why do my kids think that's okay? haha) The second time I knew to call For Babies Sake and the chiropractor ASAP. My daughter went on to need more help like osteopathic manipulation therapy but having the knowledge in my back pocket the second time made it all seem a little bit easier. I also had the IBCLC tell me that bottle feeding her in the beginning was not going to be the kiss of death for our breastfeeding relationships. This allowed me to get so much more sleep than I got when I was syringe feeding my son in the early days. While we still had the physical struggles, I mentally was in a much better place. Most of the time. I'd be lying if I said it was all rainbows and sunshine- there were some days I felt SO defeated and overwhelmed but I had resources and support. Game changers.
So that was kind of a lengthy story of my breastfeeding journeys but I give you all of that will a purpose. I was determined to breastfeed. DETERMINED. but at what expense? My mental health? My family? My childrens' ability to have a present mother? My all or nothing mindset with breastfeeding was adding to my stack of anxiety that was spiraling me straight towards a mental breakdown.
Breastfeeding is NOT all or nothing- I so wish I would have understood that with my first. I wish I would have known and believed that breastfeeding wasn't the ONLY thing that matters.
Breastfeeding has many faces.
- Supplemental Nursing System
- Syringe feeding
- Bottle feeding
- Supplementing with formula
- Cover or no cover
- In public or private
- Induced lactation
- Donor milk
There isn't a wrong way to feed your baby. You will sleep less when your baby is here- but you do have to sleep some. For your health- physically and mentally. Make sure you aren't neglecting that for the sake of your baby. You baby needs you present and healthy.
Grace. I know I say this A LOT but I need it A LOT.
Your baby needs you. They need to be fed and loved. I hope you can make breastfeeding work. I hope you have all the best resources and support that you need. I hope you can find peace with whatever your breastfeeding relationship looks like even if its not exactly what you had hoped for.
You're doing an amazing job. Don't ever forget how important you are to your family. They think you are just the best. Try to see yourself as they see you sometimes.
Happy World Breastfeeding week everyone.