Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Experience With Breastfeeding

We started out breastfeeding and things seemed to be going well.  The nurses told us Liam's latch looked great and he seemed to be eating, but he was losing weight like crazy.  He lost over 10% of his birth weight, so we had to start supplementing with formula and breastfeeding became a huge struggle.  Since we were supplementing, I had to pump every time after I attempted to nurse him while my husband would give him a bottle of formula and/or pumped milk so that he would be able to eat.

After about 2 weeks with no progress, I made an appointment with a lactation consultant, and we found out he was tongue tied and that's why he was struggling to eat anything while nursing.  He was latching correctly, but he couldn't suck right because of his tongue, so he would fall asleep after just a few minutes because he wasn't getting enough milk flow.  

So we decided to have his tongue clipped and continue to try nursing.  We also decided to try using a nipple shield to help him transition from the bottles he was getting back to nursing.  He seemed to be doing okay, but he was such a slow eater that it would take him an hour and a half to eat.  Then he would nap for half and hour and wake up and want to eat again.  We did this for about 4 days - I never got more than an hour of sleep at a time.  After about 4 days of almost constant struggle and crying, I handed Liam to my husband and said, just give him a couple bottles because I feel like I'm going to collapse and I MUST sleep.  

After those couple bottles, I knew we had just taken a billion steps backwards.  We tried and tried and tried.  Every time we would try and nurse he would cry and cry and squirm and push away.  It became a huge struggle to get him to latch and stay latched.  His latch was too shallow, and I did everything I could think of to fix it, but nothing worked.  I dreaded feeding him, I cried constantly, I felt like a huge failure that couldn't feed her child, I didn't know what else to do.  It was especially frustrating because he seemed so much happier when we would give him a bottle - he could actually eat and then get some sleep without waking up hungry.  Nursing was such a chore and so miserable, that I got to the point where I wouldn't even try very long before I gave in a gave him a bottle.  

Finally, I was able to get through a conversation with my mom about it without bawling my eyes out, and she told me just what I needed to hear.  That it was okay to not breastfeed.  That formula fed babies turn out just fine.  That it's more important to love your baby than breastfeed your baby, and that Liam needed a loving mother, not a miserable one. 

I chose not to pump exclusively because it was just so draining.  I felt totally attached to that pump, and I began to resent it.  And honestly, though it might have been selfish, I wanted my boobs back.  I also knew it would be easier once I went back to work to not have to worry about pumping all the time and keeping up my milk supply.  Choosing not to pump exclusively was probably the hardest part - once you choose to stop pumping, you can't go back.  I wanted what was best for Liam, but I also knew that one of the best things for Liam was having loving, bonding time with his mom, and if I was worried about pumping all the time, I wasn't able to provide that to him. 

So I finally decided to not continue trying to breastfeed and to stop pumping, and to give my baby formula.  And it was the toughest decision that I've ever made.  I partially regret it, but I partially am glad I decided what I did.  I am sad that breastfeeding didn't work for us, and I wonder all the time if it would have worked if I just would have kept trying.  Sometimes I look at Liam and feel like he missed out on something really important and special that a lot of other babies get to experience.  But I have to admit, that everyone involved is much happier now.  Liam is eating and gaining weight like a champ.  He weighed 8lbs 10oz at his one-month appointment (he was born at 6lbs 6oz, and was 5lbs 10oz at his lowest weight).  He is thriving on a routine and he sleeps so much better at night than I ever could have hoped - which mean everyone gets more sleep and is happier.  

I didn't post this story to be judged or criticized because of my choice to not continue breastfeeding.  I know that breastfeeding is always the best choice for baby, and of course I wish that breastfeeding would have worked for us.  I posted my story because I wish I could have read someone else's story when I was struggling.  I just want any woman that's struggling to breastfeed to know that you aren't alone and you certainly aren't failing as a mom.  Think long and hard about it, like I did, and make the choice that is best for your family.

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