Thursday, August 1, 2013

It Takes A Village - Struggles With Breastfeeding



Prior to the birth of my first son, I held the firm belief that I would breastfeed exclusively. I figured that since I was going to be a full-time SAHM (stay at home mom) that I had no excuse not to. After all, breast milk was completely free and the best choice for my baby, right?

Well, little did I know, breastfeeding was one of the most difficult obstacles that I had ever faced in my life.

Peanut's first feeding
Before I discuss my pain and sufferings, let me tell you why I LOVED breast feeding my babies (besides the nutritional benefit) - the bonding experience! I truly miss cuddling my babies up to my skin. I will never forget the first feeding with my little "Peanut". Within minutes of the birth of my first son, my doctor had placed my child on my stomach and said "watch this" and my baby struggled like crazy to squirm his way to my chest. My milk really hadn't come in yet, but he nursed for a few minutes anyway.


Needless to say, I was not happy with the first hospital experience. My nurses called my room every two hours on the dot to report how long Peanut had nursed. I tried to get my little guy to nurse no less than 15 min on each side every 2 hours as much as I could...but most of the time that did not happen. Sometimes I could not keep his attention longer than 5 minutes, in which case, the nurse would take him from his room and back to the nursery to feed him a bottle of formula. I was often ridiculed by one nurse, when another would try to comfort me by saying "don't sweat it, your milk hasn't fully come in yet". I felt like I was "failing" as a mom already in two short days. I just did not get it, if breastfeeding was so natural...why couldn't I do it?

Gotta love those post-nursing naps!

With child number 2, the experience was a little different. This time I was in a different hospital in a different state. I was also allowed to have my baby with me in my room the entire time (unless there was a medical reason). I did not have to report to a nurse every couple of hours, so I was more relaxed. Leettle nursed when he was hungry and that was good enough for the hospital staff.

Both children were introduced to the bottle pretty early (within a month), which seemed to put much struggle and stress on what I believed should be an amazing experience. They always wanted the milk quicker than I could give it to them. In fact, most of the time was spent pumping as much milk as I could. My babies nursed a couple to a few times per day (for about 15 minutes or so) and were given a bottle of pumped milk whenever they showed signs of hunger, which was usually 15 - 30 minutes after being taken off of the breast at their will. I felt like my bottom never separated from the couch. A few months later, the introduction of formula came in, which caused further milk depletion. They were nursing less and I pumped less. This process became so incredibly tedious for the next 6 months or so, and I felt like a complete failure. I do not a recall a day that I didn't cry about it. Peanut and Leettle were both completely weaned by 10 months.

In fact, when both of my boys were under 9 months old, the breastfeeding issue actually was the cause of many arguments between my husband and I. Ok, I do not want to paint the picture that my husband is an awful person, because he is not, and is an amazing father...he was my only form of family support in the breastfeeding process. He hated the breast pump and I tried to "pump in secret" while he was not around. In his mind, breast feeding should have come naturally to me, after all, women had been doing it for centuries without any fancy equipment right? Needless to say, feeding and pumping time became irregular and the supply dwindled. I scavenged every health food store for Fenugreek bottles like an addict who needed his next fix, then threw myself on the floor and bawled if I couldn't find it. I had the same reaction almost every time I reached out for a can of formula from the super market shelves...literally.

My Leettle catching some post-lunch zzzz's

Above all, remember that breastfeeding is a learning experience, not only for the baby, but for the mom and family as well. Trust your maternal instincts. If I could do this all over again, I would have tried a little harder to breastfeed exclusively for as long as my babies wanted it (even if they went beyond that magical 12 month mark recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), and would most likely invest in a baby-wearing wrap...anything to be the sole provider of my babies nutrition. Also, it is important to keep in mind that any length of time breastfeeding should be viewed as a success, no matter how long a mother breastfeeds her child.

It takes a village to raise a breastfed child. Do not be afraid to ask for help, those first few weeks are definitely a learning process...no matter if it is your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 10th child. This time is precious, and looking back, I wish that I had never wished it away.

Don't be afraid to rely on friends and family to help you carry out your daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, care of other children, etc. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of additional support of friends and family after the both of both of my children because my husband's job had required us to live away from them (we had moved again before the birth of our second child). After Leettle was born, our church had set up meal deliveries for new parents, which was quite a blessing!

If you choose to breastfeed, be sure to get as much support as you can. There is a huge community of breastfeeding resources and supporters that would love to help you. Be sure to check out the following pages:





If you know of a parent who could use a little help, be sure to lend them a hand to help ease the stresses of post child birth. This can be as simple as setting up meal deliveries via online and encourage others to do so too! Google "meal calendars for new moms" and you will find lists of websites that will allow you to notify a new mom that you (or other participants) will deliver a meal to them and their family. 


Portions of this post were originally written on August 1st, 2012 during the "Let Love Nourish" event celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Reposted in honor of World Breastfeeding Week.



What were your breastfeeding experiences? 
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18 comments:

  1. I feel your pain reading this post. You have gone through what my fears are for when I give birth to my daughter in december. I really Hope I can be successful and breastfeed like my mother did for my sister and I. My sister had her son 3 years ago and she could't breast feed, so now I have the worry stuck in my head that I will not be able to do so either. Hopefully everything turns out alright, thank you for this blog post !

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  2. I had no problems brestfeeding my first child unfortunately my child had awful GURD and was put on formula and medication, He thrived and was much happier for it! I am hoping my new baby doesnt repeat the same issues and now I know that I could explore other options while continuing to breastfeed. I know that breast is best for most and I always tell non-breast feeders that it is great that they gave it a shot! It is truly hard enough to go through issues with breastfeeding because so many lactavists turn a judgmental eye toward the bottle togethers !

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  3. Thank you for being so open about how difficult breastfeeding can be- it really helps to know there are many others out there that face breastfeeding difficulties, and it is hard to not feel like a failure. Unfortunately, I was not able to successfully breast feed my little one at all (he was in the NICU for a few days and was given formula), and I was only able to pump milk for him for about 3 weeks. But he is happy and healthy now and that is all that matters!

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  4. Christina DiPersiaAugust 1, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I really appreciate you posting this! Breastfeeding is a journey and everyone's path is most definitely unique to themselves. In the end, we just have to remember that our pain is honestly a sign of how much we love our children and just want to do everything that's best for them. I am sorry you had to go through that heartache but know that you did everything you could for your babies and they are thriving and great now because of it :)

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  5. I feel very blessed to have been able to breastfeed all 3 of my children with very little difficulty. I hadn't really understood what a gift that was until a few months ago when both my sister and sister-in-law had babies and both of them have struggled with breastfeeding. They have both put a lot of time and effort into breastfeeding, issues with supply, latch, pain, tongue tie, ect. Gratefully they both have been able to sort it out and while supplementing a couple of feeds they are still both able to nurse their babies. I feel so happy that my babies are fat and happy 100% breastfed babies because I know it doesn't come easy to every mom.

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  6. We've had a lot of struggles over the years, but for me it was worth it. I love the satisfaction of feeding a baby "on my own" and also saving all that money!

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  7. Yes, it can definitely be difficult! I had a really hard time getting started breastfeeding my first. He was sleepy all the time at first, so I couldn't get him to latch. My midwife thought I should give him a bottle, so we did both formula and I pumped for a few weeks, then I got a nipple shield, and nursed him with that, and then moved him to just the breast. After that, he nursed till he was 21 months. I had a wonderful friend, who came over, and tried her best to help me get him to latch, he was just so sleepy! I have since read that sometimes babies are just full when they come out, and are sometimes just not hungry till the next day. I wish I had known that! It was such a difficult time emotionally though! I definitely have more sympathy for moms with breastfeeding issues after that experience. With my second baby who was also born at home, she nursed right away, so I was SO happy, I didn't have to got through it all again!

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  8. Your story about your first birth makes me so mad on your behalf! Health care professionals, and most certainly nurses in a maternity ward (!) should know better! I can't believe how they set you up for failure. You did your best, and your babies are blessed to have a mommy who did everything she could.
    I've never had any issues nursing my two girls, but I've heard enough stories to know it's not uncommon. I think a large part of it is how it's not part of "typical" motherhood anymore. Girls used to learn about breastfeeding from their moms, aunts, older sisters, friends, etc. when they nursed their babies. We've lost that knowledge base over the last two generations of formula feeding. Nowadays, so many women have never even seen a baby breastfeed until they have one of their own. Thank you for sharing your story and helping add back to that pool of shared knowledge.
    I linked up today's WBW post. Come visit if you get a chance!

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  9. Thank you for sharing this. My baby is due October 8th and I am 100 percent wanting to breastfeed. I'm lucky because my mom and sister-in-law breastfed and there is a lactation consultant at my pediatrician, so I am going to use all my resources as much as I can. I can't believe how jerky your first hospital was. :( Luckily the hospital I'm going to give birth in is like your second hospital; the baby can stay in the room. I'm nervous because so many of my friends have not stuck with it, but hopefully it will work out!

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  10. Thanks so much for this. I'm reading this as I pump for my little guy. I've been exclusively pumping since he was 2 weeks old. I fed from the breast until then, but his latch caused me to cry out in pain every time he latched, and I was starting to get angry every time he got hungry. I realized that wasn't good for our relationship so I stop trying and started pumping. I am lucky to have a super supportive husband when it comes to pumping. At first I was pumping 7-8 times a day and he was amazing with helping me out. Thankfully I'm down to 4 times a day now and still providing my almost 7 mo with breastmilk. I hope to be able to pump enough for him to have until he is just past a year, but we will see. Thanks again for your story. It helps knowing I wasn't the only one with problems.

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  11. I think it is so important to share our breastfeeding stories of struggle and successes so that others will realize it happens and it is okay! It doesn't mean having to give up and throw the towel in. Thank-you for sharing!

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  12. I wish I had more..not really sure. I tried to breast feed my youngest, I did for about 2 weeks but it was INSANELY painful (and I have a high pain tolerance) I have a lactation consultant, and everything. But I'm a single mom (not an excuse, I know) And my baby never slept, up every half hour. eventually i stopped eating, and milk stopped coming. He's now almost 13 months..still is up at least 4 times a night O_O blah. Wish i was strong enough to keep breast feeding though

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  13. It does indeed take a village. I am so happy to see more and more support for breastfeeding :)

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  14. Thanks for sharing your story. I went through so much for months trying to nurse my son, but despite what the lactation consultant called "heroic efforts" I still wasn't able to produce much milk. After the birth of my second baby I was diagnosed with IGT. If I have a third baby I'll still give nursing my all, but I finally realize there is far more to being a mom than how you feed the baby.

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  15. Support is so much more important than we realize - only comes into focus when it's not there! My husband has been great, too, but I could have killed him the couple of times he mentioned formula because I know he knew better than to suggest it!

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  16. Thank you for sharing. As a mom who struggled with breastfeeding, I know how important it is to have support. I wish I would have had the support back then. It may or may not have changed the outcome of my breastfeeding experience with my first son.

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  17. I chose not to breastfeed but it was a decision I didn't take lightly. I suffer from anxiety and depression and I knew I would be very anxious when it came to breastfeeding and I wouldn't be able to take the medication that helps me day to day. I do however support and encourage all of my breastfeeding friends. It is such a wonderful gift and I do have guilt over not breastfeeding but I know I made the best decision for me and my son even though it was a tough one.

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Breastfeeding has been difficult for me with both of my children, too. I totally identify with laying on the ground crying. It's so hard being a mama sometimes.

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