In part 2 of an Honest Look at Breastfeeding, I am sharing the story of momma Shannon. Like me, Shannon tried many different ways to make breastfeeding work for her and her son. Shannon’s story has a different ending to mine, which I think is important for all moms to hear. It’s okay for breastfeeding not to work. Her story carries an important message – that what matters as a mom is that you take care of your baby, no matter what choices you make. This is her story.
“I am just another mom with another story, sharing my story of what the honest truth of what breastfeeding was for me. If it was easy for you, I am thankful for you. If you tried suggestions and advice from family friends or specialists and it worked, I am thankful you found a way to do what you set out to do. Here’s my story.
While pregnant I was all for trying breastfeeding. I say ‘trying’ not because I thought I would do anything else, but because I assumed you try…you have a hard few weeks and succeed. I figured it wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant, but worth it and that it is the best thing you can do. I am not an advocate of formula or exclusively breastfeeding. I am an advocate of feeding your baby in the healthiest way you can. I do agree breast milk is the best possible option. In the same way as a mom of a toddler, I feel that a healthy home made meal with protein and vegetables is the best option rather than quick meals or meals on the go. But in the same manner, sometimes we can not provide the best option all the time.
For me, the first few days were what I had read and heard about. Sore cracked nipples. Painful feeds. Not really knowing what and if what I was doing was right. After a few days when my son finally seemed to be able to wake long enough to latch and I had used large amounts of Lansinoh cream, I found a position that he seemed comfortable in, and his latch fully improved – as I was even told by a specialist.
As a first-time mom, I was doing what all the specialists were telling me. Looking back, there were probably red flags that my supply was late coming in and that it was far less than what it should have been. While in the hospital, both mine and my son’s bloods were monitored regularly, as I had gestational diabetes. At one point, they checked his levels, and they were low for a newborn, so they suggested formula to be sure his blood sugar levels didn’t drop too low. I am not against formula. I was a formula fed baby and was just concerned with my son being healthy, as this was a huge concern for me my entire third trimester.
I agreed, knowing he would be fed and have what he needed until I could figure this out. So I was breastfeeding each feed – he would latch for what seemed like forever, and seemed frustrated and never full. I realize this is common early on. I got some help and took some of the herbal recommendations to up my supply which was recommended as it was not a latch problem. I would also pump…all day it seemed. I would get about 1 oz after pumping both sides for 20 mins. It was exhausting and painful but if it worked I was all in. I found first thing in the morning I could feed him and get 2oz pumped but as feeds went on throughout the day it was like the whole supply and demand concept was not true for me. I could not understand what was wrong with me. I had huge guilt about why I could not provide for my child. I was also stressed. Stressed from pressure of doctors, family, friends and complete strangers.
Then my son developed silent reflux. So now the schedule was to feed for 40 mins one side. Sit for 30 mins with him upright to relieve gas and reflux. Then pump 20 minutes minimum. At this point I would have him finally asleep and get about 3 oz of pumped milk and have less than 20 mins before he was awake again for another round. I would be pumping 7 times a day between feeds. I also had to supplement because my son (no word of a lie) would down a ton of milk between 7 – 10 pm up to 8 oz. This schedule was doing me in. I was exhausted not getting any breaks between these feeds holding him upright and pumping and I was STILL not succeeding. Had I felt like I was accomplishing what I was supposed to, I would have gladly done this for months if it provided for my son.
So the next step for me was domperidone. At first I thought I finally had the answer. I got 4 oz during my first pump after taking it. At this point my son would drink 4 oz per feed at least. Night time was double or more. First week I felt so much better – he was probably 5 weeks old at this time. I had more confidence and felt a little less like a failure. I felt I could maybe get through this. And then my supply decreased again. Out of nowhere after a few weeks of still struggling, but getting by okay with a few supplemented feeds here and there. I was having a hard time emotionally, when I began to realize that I was probably not going to be able to breastfeed exclusively.
At this point, I also had a very hungry child who was going through much bigger growth spurts than the average baby his age, and who was getting too frustrated to latch anymore. It went back full circle to hospital feedings where my nipples were cracked and torn up. I felt done. Felt like I was failing. Some may call it selfish, but feeding for me and my son was not the wonderful bonding experience I so often heard of. It was not enjoyable for me him. My son was so frustrated and hungry and it was like he didn’t understand why I wasn’t feeding him. He would look at me and cry. I would cry. This was not a warm and loving environment. It was not at all what I had pictured as our bonding time. He actually became more affectionate with my husband while he fed him with a bottle because there was no frustration and anxiety involved.
So now I was also bottle feeding him my breastmilk. It was the next best thing. He was getting fed, and I still felt I was providing as much as I could. At 4 months I lost my supply entirely. I couldn’t pump, he refused to latch, and domperidone wasn’t helping anymore. It was my end. I felt horrible I only had about 3 days of previous pumped milk frozen that had taken me weeks to pump. I had terrible mom guilt and felt ashamed. I gave up because for us it was no longer the best option. This is my story. It is not a sob story, it is not to try to say one way is the better way or not. It is what it is. I have hopes next time around maybe things will be different and again I will try my best. And if all I try does not succeed again, maybe I will feel all this guilt and pressure all over again. But I will know going into it that it is not always what it is said to be. It is not always going to work out even with valiant efforts. Some people will still say if I stuck it out I could have done it and maybe I could have, and maybe not. But you know what? For me, giving up meant enjoying my time with him. I enjoyed my baby without guilt or frustration that he was hungry or not feeding. He is now a healthy and happy toddler who finds mommy a comfort again. The bottom line is that I do not regret feeding my son – no matter what form it was. I fed my son.”
Thank you for sharing your story Shannon!
Would any of you moms like to share your feeding journey? Did you choose not to breastfeed at all? Did you pump exclusively? Let me know if the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!