Please excuse our mess as we redecorate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Breastfeeding - Nature at it's most difficult!

Why is it that when a mother chooses not to breast feed her child she will often feel the need to explain herself? I ask this question because it’s something I’ve done it myself.

When my first son was born I had this image in my mind of me sitting in a cozy rocker while cradling my son while he nursed peacefully at my breast. The reality was that I couldn’t do it. Physically all the parts worked just fine, it was my son who refused to latch on. I learned last year that he probably couldn't latch successfully because of a lingual frenum. If he'd he’d been examined while in the hospital it could have been corrected and the weeks of torturous guilt I felt could have been avoided. Not to mention the need for a hospital grade electric breast pump which left me feeling more like a dairy cow than a new mother. Because my milk was not induced naturally my supply quickly dwindled and I had to formula feed. I was left feeling like a failure, not exactly healthy feelings for a first time mother who did not have a network of o supportive mothers to offer encouragement and lend support.

With my second pregnancy I was absolutely positive that I would be able to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months, possibly a year as recommended by doctors. I read up on everything breast feeding related I could. I had a great group of women who had successfully breastfed their babies to lean on for encouragement and support. I essentially knew everything there was to know about breastfeeding and I figured with my knowledge base there would be no way I would have any problems; especially since I’d already done the whole newborn thing. After all I was a pro at being a mother. What I wasn’t expecting were more challenges. I figured since I had such a hard time the first time, I would be so relaxed for my second go that nature would just take its course. (You wouldn’t believe how something which is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world could be so unbelievably difficult.) The first 6 weeks were a blur. With the need to nurse every two hours I felt that my son was literally attached to me all the time. Add in the skin irritation I had to deal with because although he would latch on with out a problem he wouldn’t latch properly. Needless to say I spent many weeks pumping and attempting to be successful again, and literally exhausted because I had two children who needed me. At about 7 weeks my son began to refuse to nurse, I tried consistently to work through this by putting him to breast first, then pumping, and then bottle feeding. Eventually my milk supply dwindled and I gave up.

I’m surprised I didn’t give up sooner, stubborn I am, a masochist I am not, and when I realized that it wasn’t going to work out I refused to think myself a failure. The difference this time around is that I’m not beating myself up over the fact that not only did I not nurse exclusively for the first two months; I’m not going to reach that 6 month goal either. I made a valiant effort, and I’m happy about my overall breastfeeding experience. I am a little sad to know that part is done, and a part of me wishes that I could be one of those mom’s who could nurse with out a problem. Who knows maybe next time! Although my body is no longer producing what is nourishing his body, I won’t neglect the fact that I did carry him in my womb for nine months and tried really hard for two months to breastfeed him. However, I am looking forward to getting my body back to myself again.

To those mothers who can breastfeed and do it successfully I applaud you, it’s hard work, and unless you’ve done it yourself, you will NEVER understand.

To those mothers who choose to bottle feed their babies, I applaud you, be proud of your decision, and stop making excuses. What is important is that your baby is loved and snuggled, and cared for while feeding. He’s still going to look up into your eyes adoringly whether he’s breastfed or bottle fed.

To all the mothers who read this don’t judge a mother for her decisions. Instead of judging support one another because the choice to breast feed or bottle feed is inherently personal and with all the challenges that motherhood brings us we don’t need to add guilt to the list.



JennyPenny said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. I can remember when I had just given birth to my son who is now 5, that one of the nurses at the hospital in NY suggested to try breastfeeding right away. So I decided to give it a try. I can't remember if I was successful or not, but I decided to keep trying. In the end I was successful at breast feeding, but it's not as easy as one might think. I was able to breasfeed for the first 3 months but when it came time to return to work I tried to use the breast pump but soon after I decided to stop. It can get pretty painful when your breast fill up with milk and then they start to leak. To all the mommies that do decide to breast feed its the best thing you can do for your child. To those mommies who can't breast feed for one reason or another don't give up all hope. At least you can still bond with your baby by giving him formula.

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