If there was one thing I was unprepared for after having William, it was breast feeding. It was the one thing I didn’t research and the one thing I didn’t feel like I needed help with. I just assumed once you deliver, your baby feeds from you from instinct. The majority of women in my life up to that point had exclusively breast fed and their biggest challenge was getting their babies to take a bottle. I had no idea that the opposite was more likely the case.
William was born a very average 7 lbs 10 ounces. He nursed like a champ after we went back to recover from my c-section. He had zero problems latching and really got the hang of it right away. However, I never felt the overwhelming feeling that my milk was coming in. In fact, I kept asking what that should feel like and how do I know that he is getting enough to eat. The nurses kept telling me, “oh you will know”.
We were in the hospital for 5 days since I had a c-section and poor William ended up having pretty bad jaundice. Because of that, I was SURE I would notice my milk coming in before I left, but I still wasn’t feeling engorged or like I could tell that William was getting what he needed. I heard him swallowing and he still nursed like a champ but it just didn’t feel like anything was there.
On the third day leading into the fourth, the nurse brought William back from the nursery and had mentioned that they gave him formula because he had lost a full pound from birth. They didn’t use a bottle, but a syringe that wouldn’t cause nipple confusion. When the lactation consultant came in that day, she showed us how to use the syringe in conjunction with nursing so he gets what he needs but doesn’t lose the desire to still feed from me. This. Was. The. Worst. Alex had to help me with every single feeding, the syringe would fall out, William wouldn’t get the suck right, we were all exhausted and I just wanted my milk to be enough for him.
We had to go in for weight checks after leaving the hospital because he had lost so much weight. Overnight into our first weight check, I nursed for the first time without the syringe and felt like he may be getting enough. When we went in for the appointment, the doctor essentially said, “it’s time to introduce a bottle”. William was back up to his birth weight but Alex and I were both so exhausted and it didn’t appear that my milk was doing enough. So we started supplementing with a little bit of formula via bottle and I continued to pump/do everything I could to increase my supply. I drank gallons of water, had a beer, pumped after feeding him, took vitamins and still was only getting 1 ounce via my pump which stressed me out even more because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough for him.
After lots of tears, stress and exhaustion, we finally decided to feed William formula the majority of the time. I was lucky because he would go back and forth from the bottle to me very easily but I just didn’t produce enough to feed him and essentially supplemented with breast milk. I read a lot about these poor moms dying to breast feed their babies and were essentially starving them out of a desire to give them what they weren’t producing. During this time, I looked at sweet William – happy and content and FED. So, I realized very quickly that I was fine with him just being a fed, chunky baby. Fedisbest.org became my favorite site and I really felt OK knowing that my child wasn’t going to bed hungry. At 3 months, he was exclusively formula fed and I didn’t have to do a thing for my milk to dry up. Never felt engorged, never felt pain. I absolutely will try to nurse our next baby as I do feel strongly about the nutrients they receive from our breast milk. But if it doesn’t work, I will 100% be OK as long as my child is fed and healthy and for the most part, happy.
Among my research on how to increase my milk supply and why my milk hadn’t come in, I came across so many moms shaming others for not nursing. They didn’t have these mom’s full stories or understanding as to why they came to that decision. I have plenty of friends who just decided that nursing wasn’t for them, and that’s OK. You would think that as moms, knowing how stressful this role is, we would all be compassionate and kind to one another. I don’t understand the drastic judgement and the extreme opinions when everyone is just trying to do what is best for them and their children. I don’t know any moms who claim to not care about what they do for their child. So instead of shaming or judging, I encourage all of us to support and learn from each other. We are all trying to do the best we can and I truly think there is so much to learn from all the moms who decide to parent in different ways.