I have always been very honest and authentic about my pregnancy and new mommy experience. I wanted and still want to bring you authentic blog posts. That’s why I took my time writing this one as it is a deeply sensitive topic that I have been struggling to put into words.
Like with pregnancy and childbirth, one is always led to believe that breastfeeding is also a natural right of passage all mothers must go through. In my personal experience this has not entirely been the case. What no one tells you is that while breastfeeding is a natural way in which to feed your baby, it does not always come naturally to all of us.
I found breastfeeding hard and for the first three weeks of my baby’s life I experienced Mastitis (engorged and inflamed breasts, causing fevers and cold sweats) due to failing to latch my baby, spent many nights pumping milk and then also trying nipple pullers, nipple shields all in an attempt to get my baby to drink my milk and or breastfeed.
Much like impotence makes a man feel emasculated, so too not being able to breastfeed your baby makes a woman feel less than a woman. You have questions flying through your head like, “Why can’t I do this? Isn’t it a natural thing to do?’; ‘What am I doing wrong?’; ‘Why won’t he take my nipple?’; ‘Am I a bad mom for not being able to breastfeed my baby?’.
Here’s what I got told that made me feel a bit better, the truth is, you’re both new at it – you and baby, so in those first few weeks, everyone is still learning. Some take to it like a duck to water and others need a bit longer to get into it. My baby and I were the latter.
I was forced to supplement with formula, which caused more guilt and concern for me, ‘Am I doing what’s best for my baby?’; ‘Is the formula going to stunt his growth and development in any way?’
At week three and many a late night of crying on my own while pumping breast milk, I finally went to see a lactation specialist that really helped me to latch my baby correctly and ultimately breastfeed him. By this time however, my milk supply had dropped due to me not breastfeeding regularly.
I had to be prescribed a milk producing medication, called Erglenol, that would helped me increase my milk supply quickly. I still take it daily. I was working with the lactation specialist to help me move to getting exclusively breastfeeding, but as time had moved on, my baby had grown accustomed to the bottle teet and rapid rate he was able to get the milk out of the bottle as opposed to my breasts.
So, breastfeeding always became a trying time for both me and baby.
I must state throughout all of this, my son, Esa was developing and growing normally, gaining a healthy amount of weight each week. So, then this got me thinking – if he is doing well, why should I bother with the breastfeeding, if we both are not enjoying it and aren’t really good at it.
I started thinking perhaps me wanting to breastfeed my baby was more about me trying to appease my ego, not wanting to concede that perhaps this wasn’t for me, after all, there are many women who give up breastfeeding early on and have absolutely normal, bright, well adjusted children.
I however, persevered, because what kept playing over in my mind was this little voice saying, ‘Mother’s milk is best, there is no real substitute, whether you are giving it via a bottle (expressed milk) or straight from your breast.
My lactation specialist even suggested I take whatever milk I did manage to express and add it to my formula milk bottles, which I did.
Without trying to bore you, my son is now almost three months old, I do breastfeed Esa, but in addition to formula feeding him as well. He is what you would call a 50/50 baby, some days 60/40 baby. The reality is, I am doing the best I can, giving my baby everything he needs to grow healthy and strong.
I plan to breastfeed my son for as long as I possibly can, my first goal post is to get to 6 months of breastfeeding, then decide whether I want to go all the way till he is a year old. I cannot say whether I will be able to do it till then.
My message to new moms would be – do the best you can, breastfeeding is the most natural way in which to feed your baby, but it does not come naturally to everyone, it is a skill one learns and is either good at or will never be really good at. The most important thing to focus on is having a healthy developing baby. Breast is best, but a fed baby is better.
Happy, Healthy, Fabulous
Photography: Hemisha Bhana