To that momma struggling to hold back the tears and overwhelming feelings of grief and failure with breastfeeding, I love you. Go ahead and cry.
To that momma who is weighing the pros and cons of switching to formula, you are not alone.
To the momma who’s kid just won’t latch right, carry on.
To all of you, I promise it gets better.
My Beautiful Daughter
I chose to breastfeed. Unfortunately, it didn’t come so naturally and easy. After I had my daughter, I quickly came to understand why someone may give up breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is hard.
I went to a dark place after the birth of my daughter. I was a postpartum mess as I dealt with strong feelings of grief, dismay and failure.
I couldn’t feed my daughter. I tried and tried, then tried some more with little success. My breasts were manhandled by way too many people as they each attempted to show me the right way to feed my midget; like they were a bag of frosting being shoved into a closed lipped, diabetic’s mouth. And I still looked 4 months pregnant.
I had very few feeding sessions that went well. It was 45-90 minutes of confusion, frustration and utter despair. I would try my best but my helpless little girl would tighten up and screech out in what I later came to realize was gas pain. I felt like a horrible mom. Why can’t I feed my own child? What is wrong with me? She can do it. Why not me?
It got to the point where my husband would get his worried look on his face and take Sarah away from me for a little. “I’m gonna take her for a little. Why don’t you take a bath?” I’m still not sure if it was out of pity, fear or protection; either way I needed it. With that came relief and then further guilt. This new mom was getting her butt kicked. I even missed attending my sister’s wedding because I was such hot mess.
Eventually, I learned that Sarah had latch issues due to a mild tied tongue. That combined with a fast and heavy let down gave little miss a great deal of gas and stomach pain. I, being a new mom, didn’t know or recognize the signs of gas. All I knew was that she couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t until my sister came to visit that she immediately noticed Sarah pulling her legs up- a classic sign of gas. Where was she weeks before? My poor little girl had suffered so much.
My sister taught me what to look for and different ways to get the gas out. There is this one move she called that soda pop, where you lay your baby upside down, their back against your chest while you firmly massage his/her belly with you fingers, then quickly bring them right side up and push their belly against your shoulder and pat out a burp; or spit up in my case. I also learned the miraculous power of gripe water.
I am proud to say I didn’t give up. I joined a breastfeeding class a week or two after Sarah was born and faithfully attending for a year. The lactation consultant, Tracy Grady was my saving grace! She was so patient and supportive as were the other ladies in the group who would see me break down and over encouraging words and personal stories. I joined mommy groups. I bought lanolin. I read. I prayed. I’m pretty sure I even asked my husband to give me a priesthood blessing.
With time, Sarah’s tied tongue stretched out enough and her latch got better. I learned to recognize signs of distress and a variety of ways to treat gas pains. My favorite is the “I Love U” belly massage. Or is it the “Karate Kid belly massage?” You know… wax on wax off. Either way, after three months of what seemed like endless tears, pain and sadness (on both our parts), depression and feelings of inadequacy, Sarah and I began to turn a corner.
I watched what I ate to avoid gassy foods. I endured bites, cracked and bleeding nipples, soreness, milk blebs (blisters on your nipples) ***sorry male readers for repeatedly writing nipples*** Luckily, I never got mastitis. I went through a postpartum depression that my husband and I were not prepared for. Poor guy. I broke down in tears more times that I can count. But in the end, I endured and am damn proud of that fact.
I successfully breastfed my daughter for 16 months. I fought a valiant fight and won. But my accomplishment is not and should not be the standard. Nor should it make someone feel bad about only breastfeeding 3 months or not at all. To each their own.
What I can say is that I now completely understand why people throw in the towel or chose from the start to not breastfeed. I almost gave up many times. If I didn’t have my breastfeeding support group’s weekly meetings and their Facebook page (which I still frequent), supportive family, friends, and my ridiculously inherit stubborn nature, I would have been right there with you and that would have been ok.
Special Thanks to K. Crawford
Each of us must decide what is best for our kiddo and ourselves. For me it was breastfeeding. In the beginning it was an emotional rollercoaster but so worth it. In those quiet moments, where my daughter would peacefully drink as she looked up me with these beautiful brown eyes, I knew it was worth it. When she would place her soft, small hand on my breast while receiving nourishment, I knew it was more than just food, but love and comfort as well. All the tears were worth it. All the pain, the sorrow, the heartache. I did what I felt was right for my daughter and believe that both she and I were blessed for it.
I have since breast two other children. Both sons breastfed from the start without a hitch. One still is. And like Sarah, they too have in their own way shared their gratitude and love while breastfeeding. Those moments when they briefly stop eating and smile (not just with their lips but eyes as well) remind me it is worth it and coincidentally encourage me to continue with David. Someday my body will be mine again, but for now I’m perfectly content sharing it with my son.
For those mommas who are set to breastfeed and are getting their butts kicked, please know that I am with you. I support you and believe that you can do it.