What an incredible story from my friend Heather. Breastfeeding can be a challenge with one baby. She managed to nurse 2 babies! Go Heather!
When you look at this photo, this second in time, it clearly captures all that is beautiful and deep and serene about breastfeeding. Maybe it’s even something someone would strive to accomplish. It’s grossly misleading.
When I was pregnant with my son, I listened to people talk about their breastfeeding experience. It seemed so easy, so natural, a bit time consuming but totally doable. I listened to their stories and decided, sure, I’d breastfeed, that’s what was best for the baby so why not?!
My son was born at 41+4, he was a big boy (9lbs 12oz) and I was a first time mom. The problems started in the hospital when, immediately after a very long labor, the nurse asked if I’d taken her breastfeeding class. When I said no, she rolled her eyes and made a snarky comment that I don’t remember now. What I do remember is feeling like I had just been damned, like by not attending the class I had clearly made a choice to not provide the best for my son. A bit later a different nurse, or maybe it was the same one, I don’t remember, told me that if he was on the breast more than 10 minutes he was just playing and I should give him a pacifier. I didn’t know better. For the days I was at the hospital, every staff member told me something different as I struggled to feed my baby. We were released and I was hoping it would get better at home. Once we settled in though, I would feed him and a bit later he’d be crying. Someone would say “Oh he must still be hungry!” so I’d try again. When he was crying an hour after that I’d hear a story about how this baby “was drinking 8oz from birth” or how another baby “always passed out milk-drunk after feedings”. I was clearly doing something wrong because when I pumped I’d only get a few ounces and milk-drunk was not a state I’d ever seen my son in. When people would comment “it’s ok if you want to supplement, you have to do what’s best for you” I felt like they were saying “you don’t have what it takes” and when they would say “maybe you need more sleep/food/water” I would hear “you’re not doing everything you can to be successful”. I was struggling, this wasn’t the fairy tale where the baby latches beautifully, you feel the tingle of letdown and your sweet bundle looks into your eyes and an unbreakable bond is formed. I wanted so badly to succeed, to live that fairytale but instead I felt like I was failing. I felt like he wasn’t getting enough. My husband and I were suffering the sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby and I took his grumpiness as further proof that I couldn’t do it. I gave up. I felt guilty. I cried and cried and, in the quiet of the night, I begged my sweet baby not to hate me because I couldn’t give him the best. I lived with the guilt of being a failure for a long time.
In hindsight, I was tired, my husband was tired, my son was doing exactly what he should have been doing. He was cluster feeding and nursing to increase my supply. He was gaining weight and had plenty of wet diapers. People were trying to be supportive and offer whatever helpful stories they thought they could to a tired, emotional mom of a newborn. I had convinced myself I wasn’t doing it right because it should be easy, everyone made it seem so easy. In reality, the reason it was hard was because, for us, it was hard. But all you hear are the easy stories...
Several years later we were expecting again, I w