Things I think but do not say about breastfeeding on the internet…

I am sick of being called a liar. I am sick of being told to keep my mouth shut. And I am most certainly sick of the idea that we should only talk about the good parts of breastfeeding lest we scare someone off. I am also sick of being told that any woman that just tries harder can successfully breastfeed. Breastfeeding is hard work. It is worth it, but (and this is a huge but) it is ok if it doesn’t work. It is ok to stop. Being a good mother is more important than how you feed your child.

I had a near perfect set-up: support system, check; baby-friendly hospital, check; vaginal birth, check; trained medical personnel, check; pre-birth classes, check; baby to the breast in under 15 minutes, check. The only big strikes against me were pitocin and epidural. Oh, and, apparently my breasts.

I never felt my milk come in. I never felt let down. If I squeezed my nipple really hard, some milk would come out. That and the occasionally milk dribble down Spencer’s chin were the only indications I was even making milk. The baby wasn’t gaining, my boobs were still pre-pregnancy size. Turns out that the whole boob thing is a pretty good indicator of low supply. Only problem with that is that the internet pretty much convinced me that low supply was a myth perpetuated by the formula industry to give lazy mom’s a way out of breastfeeding. But why was I worried? 6 weeks in and Spencer had just barely regained to birth weight. We were considering a gain of 3 ounces in a week a victory.

So, onward I struggled. I took two different medications, four supplements, two teas and tried any number of dietary milk boosters. The only thing that kind of worked was Reglan. Spencer slept for 6 hours one night and I actually got a little bit engorged. Only problem with Reglan was it basically made me insane and I was taken off of it. A month later, domperidone was tried. My doctor wouldn’t prescribe it off label, but it was pretty easy (at the time) to order it. It helped, but not enough. I still took it for a year.

I breastfed Spencer for 19 months. I supplemented with formula for 10 of those months and for 2 months I starved him trying to be a good mom and exclusively breastfeed him. People said he was fussy, he had colic. He was hungry. For weeks, I starved him. Because the internet told me breast was best and that formula was poison. I nursed for 45 minutes (at least) every 2 hours and then pumped for another 30 minutes. I didn’t leave the house. It consumed me. I don’t even remember the first two months of being a mother. I only remember the tears and the endless doctors appointments.

So, what is the end result of all that breastfeeding?

  • Breastfeeding gave me PPD.
  • Breastfeeding gave me PTSD (if the night terrors and tactile issues are any indication)
  • Breastfeeding ruined my sex life. (Ask my husband how long we went with out having sex because the thought being touching me made me want to vomit.)
  • Breastfeeding made me terrified of having another baby.
  • Breastfeeding cost me thousands of dollars (in supplements, medications, equipment, pumps).
  • Breastfeeding made me ashamed.
  • Breastfeeding made me want to throw myself out of a window.
  • Breastfeeding was the only way Spencer would fall asleep except for being driven in the car. I felt trapped and kept nursing.
  • The internet made it all worse.
  • I have no one to blame but myself.

I am not ready to write all of my story in full detail on my blog and may never do so publicly. If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these same issues, please feel free to email me at any time.

 

 

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25 Responses to “Things I think but do not say about breastfeeding on the internet…”

  1. Suzanne says:

    It is so true and so shitty that you can’t just SAY these things without people judging you. And I am so so sorry for ever being one of those people who thought you could just “try harder”. You are a brave and wonderful mom to share this and I hope it helps someone else struggling.

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  2. Lynsey says:

    Thank you for finally telling it like it is! I, too, struggled big time with breastfeeding and finally had to do pump/bottle after 2.5 long months of fighting with the boob. I applaud you for your honesty. Thank you for sharing this.

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  3. Emily says:

    Wow, I’m so sorry you went through all of that. I had some of the same issues with my first one, and it was brutal. The guilt I felt about doing poorly with breast feeding was tremendous. I still feel sick when I think back to my older son’s first few months.

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  4. Alena says:

    I was actually told that I was lying when I said that my milk just didn’t come in. That EVERYONE’S milk comes in. Um no. It doesn’t.

    Oh and I had a lactation consultant yell at me when Sophia was barely a day old because I “let” her have 2.5 oz of formula in one feeding and that she was going to become obese because of it. I’ve heard said LC was fired. But if only she knew that Sophia’s appetite has amazed a NUMBER of pediatricians as she was taking in twice the normal amount at 2 months old. That is just her appetite. Any less and she would have screamed non-stop until she got more. No, thank you.

    Hell, my boobs were probably aware of what was to come and thought “nu uh, never mine. Eff that mess!! We are NOT making that much boob juice. Nu uh. No way!”

    Breast may be best. But breasts don’t always work.

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  5. nancy d says:

    Thank you for this! I’m still getting over my guilt. Breastfeeding was making me a worse mommy, all that time spent pumping instead of with my baby ughhh anyway…I think I’m happier now, but still feel guilt, mostly because of what other moms say.

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  6. Amanda K says:

    This is the first time I have ever read someone else’s story that sounded so similar to my own. You breastfed much longer than I did (only 8 weeks) but I’m pretty sure if I had gone longer I would have harmed myself. (PPD is evil) Thank you for sharing the not-so-pretty side of breastfeeding and for saying that it’s okay if it does not work out, especially when you do everything you can to make it work.

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  7. Cole says:

    “I am also sick of being told that any woman that just tries harder can successfully breastfeed.” Thank you.

    Mommy tried and tried and tried – and it never worked for us. This is actually one of her major stress factors in anticipating Squishy’s arrival… she is definitely with you on the PTSD about breastfeeding.

    Feel free to delete this – I’m not trying to spam your comments – but here is our breastfeeding experience: http://coleemmett.blogspot.com/2010/04/if-at-first-you-dont-succeed.html

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  8. Denae says:

    Oh Amy! (((((hugs)))) That is hard. Thank you for sharing.

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  9. Andrea says:

    I’m SO sorry that you had such an awful experience. And that the so-called support the online world was giving you was a huge and tremendous guilt-trip. Breastfeeding is not a piece of cake for many, and it’s not the only option. Obviously, you know that, but you’re right, so many people do not. It is such a catch 22, in that we want people to support nursing moms if that is what they want and need, and we want people to support non-nursing moms if that is what they want and need. Basically we need to SUPPORT ALL MOMS. It sucks that you experienced all of this. I send you huge virtual hugs for sharing your story.

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  10. Nikki says:

    I’m really sorry you had such a bad experience. I never felt letdown either but I was told it was normal. I never leaked and I only could pump maybe an ounce at a time. My baby gained only 3oz a week throughout the 10 months I nursed him (and less during milestones) but I don’t think I had a low supply, at least no one ever told me I did. But I loved it. For me it warded off ppd, which reared it’s ugly head when I stopped. You aren’t the first that I’ve heard of though who breastfeeding cause ppd. Weird how there can be two totally opposite outcomes in that sense! I hope you make the decision that’s best for both of you with your next one, even if that involes no breastfeeding. Happy mom = happy baby. And I’m sorry if my tweets earlier caused this post :(

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  11. Claire says:

    I could have written that post…

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  12. Leah says:

    I wish I could have read this 4 years ago and sent it to my sister. I wish I could have read it 3 and a half years ago and sent it to myself. Breastfeeding can be easy. Breastfeeding can be hard. It can also sometimes be impossible and to deny that fact does injustice to every mother out there who struggles to do what is best for her child. Thank you for writing this.

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  13. TMae says:

    I have so much love and respect for you. You are an amazing woman.

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  14. Elisabeth says:

    Your story is so similar to my own, except I only made it 5 months nursing, pumping and supplementing before I gave up nursing and pumping completely. It wasn’t until I struggled to nurse at all that nearly all of my friends, who I thought exclusively BF told me they all supplemented with their babies. After I got over the shock, I couldn’t understand why we were all lying to each other? Why are we making things harder than they need to be or making each other feel guilty for making a very difficult decision? It’s so stupid. Thank you for being honest – we need more of that in this world.

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  15. Katherine says:

    I admire you for having the courage to write this and putting it out there for the world to see. There could be some other mom struggling with this same thing right now and your words will encourage her to do what’s right for her and her family and not what people tell her she should do.

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  16. elle says:

    THANK YOU! I never had enough milk for either of my kids, and I always felt SO freaking guilty for giving them formula because everyone (even lactation consultants) told me I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I literally spent all of my money on supplements and doctor appointments for months. I remember sitting and pumping for 45 minute just to produce one single ounce. I felt terrible because if that want trying har enough, what was? What was I doing wrong?

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  17. becca says:

    i hear ya. for reals. and i’m with alena, with my first my milk simply did not come in. i would pump for half an hour and maybe have half an ounce combined. it was torture and indeed, cayden was starving because of it. so we switched to formula and i felt devastated for a while. he thrived on formula though, so i knew we’d done what was best for him.

    with kiddo #2 i was most definitely apprehensive about my boobs working. but know what? this time it WAS completely different and they worked! i am so grateful to actually be able to breastfeed and enjoy it this time ’round.

    it’s just nice to know that there are other mamas out there that experienced trouble with their boobs. sometimes the interwebs does make it seem like you’re the only one… so thanks for sharing your story!

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  18. Lindsay N. says:

    THANK YOU for this post! I only lasted 6 months breastfeeding my son….in the beginning, he wasn’t gaining enough weight, so we had to supplement with formula and I felt like such a failure. Every time he would cry (if my mother was around) she would pretty much force me to BF him. I didn’t enjoy it, and felt awful about the whole experience. I’ve learned a lot for whenever we have our next child; including things like it’s OK to supplement, and I definitely want to talk to a LC.

    You’re awesome for trying your best, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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  19. H2Mommy says:

    I had a similar situation. I breastfed my twins for three months and, like you, never actually made milk. I was strapped to my kids or a pump and they would scream because there was nothing for them. I’d make maybe three ounces every few hours total. I finally had to give up after realizing that all the suppliments and pills were not doing a thing. I still feel guilty and doubt that will ever change.

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  20. Brigid Keely says:

    I had a miscarriage a year before I had a kid, and after the miscarriage, my milk came in big time. I never had problems with engorgement, but I leaked milk constantly for at least two months. So when I had a successful pregnancy, I was all “hey, I’ve got this!” and expected breastfeeding to go easily.

    It didn’t. My milk never really came in. And pretty much everyone I’ve talked to told me I’m wrong, I just didn’t feel it or something but… the most I ever produced while pumping was something like an ounce, from both breasts combined, over a very long period of time. Yes, there was some milk being produced. But it wasn’t enough to keep a baby alive with, and it was nowhere near as much as I produced after the miscarriage. But, you know, people who don’t live in my body OBVIOUSLY know more about my body, how it works, and what it’s doing than I do, right? I mean, I went from accidentally shooting streams of milk across the room to producing nothing but OBVIOUSLY I just wasn’t doing something right and should have waved a magic wand to find a solution. If only I’d worked hard enough! If only I’d believed in myself more! If only I’d loved my baby more!

    Fuck that noise.

    I have another friend who was sexually abused before her marriage and although she had a physically successful breastfeeding experience with her baby, it caused her a great deal of stress and anxiety because she was reliving her abuse. She quit after 6 months (I can’t believe she held on that long, I wouldn’t have) and her formula fed baby is now huge, adorable, and super smart. And she gets all kinds of shit from people for not doing “the right thing” and breast feeding him longer even though she was feeling literally suicidal and going into sobbing jags after feeding him. But hey! Breastfeeding! It’s just so important, right?

    Our culture and its attitude towards female breasts and breastfeeding is fucked up, but there’s this really sick competitiveness among certain parents that’s wound through that as well. I agree that breast feeding education and advocation are very important, but the way it’s done is frequently harmful (and often condescending as well) and generally, in the USA and Canada and parts of Western Europe, coming out of a huge place of privilege as well… women who are educated, have long maternity leave, have a support network including lactation consultants, have the space and time and permission to pump at work, don’t have physical issues, etc etc etc. And that goes COMPLETELY unrecognized.

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  21. I am so sorry to hear about your struggles. That totally sucks and it sucks that you didn’t feel supported or that you couldn’t say these things. It sucks that people didn’t think you tried hard enough. I’m sorry for all of that. I admire you for your efforts and for this post.

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  22. Merry120 says:

    Wonderful post! I think we all need to support MOMS not breast feeding moms, not formula feeding moms….all moms! I had an easy time with breastfeeding but I know so many moms that didn’t and tortured themselves trying to do “the right thing”. It totally sucks that we all try to live up to other people’s ideals and that the internet makes it so easy for them to preach those ideals to the masses.

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  23. Marci says:

    damn those boobs of ours!! I’ve dealt with my share of milk production problems too. I was always under the impression that formula was made to help feed our babies when we were unable to make milk ourselves. Anyone who makes a mom feel guilty for feeding her child can a)stop being so damn judgey and b)kiss my ass and the asses of moms everywhere.

    Thank You for talking about this publicly. There are many of us that feel quite similar.

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  24. Kavita says:

    I was unable (did not try hard enough/had a bad LC/assumed it would be easy/ gave up/ was not educated enough in nursing…blahblah)to nurse my first daughter beyond 2 days…pumped for 6 more weeks…then added formula. I too had PTSD about it. It made me feel inadequate….the guilt of it still haunts me…and now that I have a sucessful breastfeeding relationship with my 2nd daughter i feel even worse about what happened with my first. It’s so nice to hear your story. Thank you!

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  25. Addie says:

    Thank you so much for writing this blog post.

    So many people judged me for making the decision to not breatfeed, and it continues to this day. I agree with everyone else about how we should support moms no matter what. It’s very frustrating when mothers are unwilling to supplement with formula, even when there child is at an unhealthy weight! Formula is NOT bad. My 4 month old is very healthy, and has only ever had formula. If that makes me a bad mom, then so be it.

    Thanks again for writing this!!!!!

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