Breastfeeding my two babies has been one of the biggest triumphs of my life. It has been rewarding for both myself and my babies, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
But my GOD has it been HARD. So I decided to write a short exposition on my experiences about my journey and decisions along the way.
The other day I was chatting with my sister, who does not yet have children of her own. I recounted all of the breastfeeding complications I've had, which was shocking to both of us when summed in one go. In two year's time, I experienced:
- Clogged Duct
- Reynaud's (vasospasm)
- Nipple shields
- Tongue ties (2 kids, 3 revisions)
- Lip ties (2 kids, 3 revisions)
- Refusing the breast and only wanting the bottle (baby 1)
- Refusing the bottle and only wanting the breast (baby 2)
- Nipple blebs (milk blister)
- Leaking like a sieve (think of the fountains in Florence)
- Forceful let down
- Milk protein allergy
And I've only had two children. She thinks I'm nuts. Maybe I am. So why do I do it?
A) I'm lazy, tired, and sleep deprived. Baby cries, put on boob. Baby's tired- put on boob. Baby's fussy- put on boob. Great. Now let me clean up the milk my 3 year old spilled while I was dealing with the baby as I simultaneously fold seven loads of laundry, reconcile my business bank accounts, and change a soiled diaper. Oh, the baby's crying again?
B) It's the natural norm - babies are meant to eat breastmilk as the main staple of their diet. Yes- I have supplemented with formula when I needed to (no shame in that!), but I also value breastmilk as top priority.
C) I hate cleaning dishes. I REALLY hate cleaning dishes. Especially in winter. My hands get dry, covered in eczema, and red. I already have plenty of dishes to clean, so no thank you to more bottles.
D) Breastmilk is free - and I like saving money!
E) My babies rarely got sick while being breastfed. We mamas do what is best for our babies and ourselves, and this is what was right for me, even though others disagreed with me. I received a lot of pressure from a number of people to stop breastfeeding throughout both journeys. The concern was rightfully focused on my own health, especially when I was experiencing horrific pain from nursing my tongue-tied son for 8 weeks (hello hamburger nipples), or recovering from mastitis. I'm currently getting side comments about weaning my 19 month-old daughter. (Which is REALLY hard to do when she's with me all the time, and persistent AF.)
So let me begin. My first child was born at 38 weeks, just under seven pounds. When he started nursing, I was expecting 2 to 3 weeks of pain. What I had was a massive oversupply, rock hard breasts, and excruciating pain due to my fair complexion. I would scream silently every. single. time. he latched.
Additionally, my let-down reflex was forceful. My son would pull off as soon as the let down occurred (which hurt), and milk would come up and out of his nose. He did not appreciate it.
I went to many IBCLC's, breastfeeding groups, and called the warm line at the hospital where I delivered, crying for help. As time progressed, my skin cracked, I used APNO cream, and developed several yeast infections. That felt like my milk was shards of glass.
Dealing with all of this, first time parenting, and post partum anxiety tough. Most of my friends and family thought I would have an easier time if I fed my baby formula, because it would eliminate a great deal of stress and pain from my life.
At the end of the day, you do what is right in your heart and soul, because YOU know your children and yourself better than anyone else. And not even because I grew and gave birth to my children- I spend more time with them than anyone else. I bathe them, I dress them, I wipe their butts, I listen to them cry and whine and laugh and snort milk out their noses. Moms understand their babies when they can't talk.
I'm raising a glass (of wine) to all the mamas out there who persevered and did what's right by them, whether it be bottle, pump, breast, formula, or all the above!