The hardest thing I ever did

Breastfeeding. Wow, what an absolute love/hate relationship right there. But of course with any intense relationship, there’s always a backstory with some baggage…and did I have baggage.

When I was pregnant with my first, my daughter Reagan, I told myself I would breastfeed because it seemed like the “right” thing to do. I had no information about nursing beforehand, or bottle feeding for that matter. When I gave birth, I remember being in the hospital bed and holding her for a few minutes before they whisked her away to check on her. No skin to skin, no mention of nursing, nothing. And what did I know. Also, nothing. I don’t remember how long it took before they brought her back to me, but the nurse did ask me if I wanted to try nursing. I said sure, let’s give it a try. Reagan was not a needy baby. She was always content, even when hungry. She fell asleep right then and there. And that was the first and only time she ever went to my breast. I had no clue. They asked if she wanted to sleep with me in the room and I said absolutely. I was up all night watching her and every time she quietly fussed, I gave her a pacifier and she was content and went back to sleep. No one came in the room to ask if she needed to eat. I still think back on that night often and shudder. I inadvertently starved (I thought) my baby for the first night. I thought she needed to rest and would have cried if she was hungry. It legitimately haunts me how misinformed I was and how my motherly instincts were not screaming. This was the last time I would wait on others to tell me what to do.

The next morning a nurse came in and asked how the baby was nursing and I said we tried once when she was born but she didn’t latch and I had no idea what to do. She looked panicked. She said let’s get her a bottle of formula right away and I said okay. I never tried to nurse again because my little one had her bottle now and didn’t need me. I was just happy she was eating. My milk never came in and when I got home, I tried to pump. I got a few ounces here and there but not ever enough to feed her day in and day out. I continued by giving her drops of milk whenever I could for about three weeks. I would just mix it with her formula. I’m sure I was using the breast pump incorrectly, because again, it was my first baby and I knew nothing. I found myself crying about the fact that I was unsuccessful. I beat myself up for it. I had no idea how hard it would be and why I couldn’t do it. I made sure I’d be better prepared if I ever had another baby. When I got pregnant with my second, I told myself I would be a successful breastfeeding mother. No shame to formula feeding. It saved my life and I’m forever grateful. But I knew I would try again.

Three and a half years later, I had my little boy (after multiple miscarriages, but that’s a whole other blog post). I remember after a torturous labor, the nurses asking right away if I was going to breastfeed and I said yes. I remember them writing it down. When they first put Johnny in my arms, I was astonished at the amount of hair he had! I thought, this is definitely why I had major heartburn. Old wives tale or not, it was awful for me. He was so squishy and sleepy, but I tried to nurse him. He wouldn’t latch. Instant panic. I had no idea how to hold him in the best way to nurse, no idea how to calm myself down, no idea how to gently push on his chin to open his mouth. The nurses said we’d try again later. And so we did, multiple times. Nada. At this point, I was so afraid he’d starve, cue post traumatic stress from Reagan, that I asked for formula. They said they couldn’t give it to me because I said I would nurse. Now one thing about me…don’t you dare tell me what I can and cannot do with my children. I hate when people try to tell me what’s good for my kids. Just don’t. But again, that’s another post. I finally reasoned with them that I would pump at home but I was not relying on his latch to be able to feed him. They gave me formula and Johnny was hooked. I formula fed from that point on and pumped at home and nursed occasionally. Every rare time he would latch, he’d arch his head back and scream and pop right off. I would cry, he would cry, and we’d try again and then wind up with a bottle. Failure? Good mom? I didn’t know what I was at this point. This lasted for three weeks (the same as Reagan) before he became exclusively formula fed, which also came with its hardships such as dealing with acid reflux, low mouth muscle tone, colic and possible tongue ties.

If you’re relating to my journey or want to hear more about my breastfeeding journey with my third baby (hint- it as better!) and how it went, drop a comment!

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