The Breastfeeding Battle: My Struggle to Make It Work
New mom Jessica recently shared her struggles in adapting to mommyhood. Here she shares her experiences with breastfeeding and her valiant effort to make it work. We hope that by sharing her breastfeeding experience, other moms who may be struggling with breastfeeding will know they’re not alone. While it sucks that not every mom’s breastfeeding experience is a breeze, even those of us who consider it to be easy may have battled breastfeeding challenges. (And if you haven’t, sprinkle some of that dust our way!) Like we always say, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.
The cover of a recent issue of Time magazine showing a mother nursing her pre-school age son sparked a lot of discussion about breastfeeding and parenting choices. And when it comes to breastfeeding, most of what you hear and read will tell you that you don’t have much of a choice: If you can do it, you should. Everyone knows the benefits of breastfeeding, real or exaggerated, including higher IQ, reduced allergies, fewer sick days, baby’s higher level of trust that his mother will meet his needs, etc. Those are the “good” of breastfeeding. But I’m here to talk about the bad and the ugly.
I am a first time mom struggling through nursing my nearly 3-month old son. Yes, struggling. And I want to talk about how much of a struggle it can be because I don’t feel like anyone talks about it. And I know I can’t be the only one experiencing the bad and the ugly.
First of all, I want to say that I was truly looking forward to breastfeeding my baby. The hospital where I delivered encourages early parental bonding. I expected to have a gooey baby plopped on my chest right after delivery and to be nursing a few minutes later. I knew that this was a totally natural process and that the baby would instinctively know how to latch and suck. I imagined, after we left the hospital, my husband would get up in the middle of the night to bring the baby to me where I would happily cuddle my baby while nursing in a half-asleep state. I had even read that after the first couple weeks of sore nipples, nursing could feel really good—like sex good. I also knew about all the great benefits my baby would get from nursing, and how much cheaper it would be than buying formula. All around, breastfeeding seemed like a win-win-win situation. I couldn’t wait.
Unfortunately, my actual experience has been nothing like that. My son was delivered by emergency C-section about a month premature and spent his first two weeks of life in the NICU. I wasn’t able to hold him until he was three days old, and I didn’t get to try to nurse him until day 5. By day 8, he was healthy and off the oxygen and the jaundice-reducing blue light. Now the only goal was to get him to eat well enough to gain weight. We did not get to take him home until he was 15 days old, so you can see how that went.
I spent 10 days going to the hospital for a 10- to 12-hour shift where I would try to nurse him three or four times, usually with lactation consultants hovering around to help position us and offer tips. He didn’t latch well, and he didn’t stay latched, and much of the time he didn’t even stay awake. Feedings became a three-person job at times (well, four if you count the baby). I would provide the food source, the lactation consultant would observe and correct, and my husband or a nurse would try to tickle the little guy’s feet or move his arm around to keep him awake. It was such a chore and incredibly stressful. And of course, he was still getting half of his feedings through a tube in his nose, which meant I had to pump several times a day to provide breast milk for those feedings, and to supplement when he didn’t eat well during our nursing attempts. As ready as I was to get out of the NICU and take our baby home, I was terrified at the prospect of trying to feed him all alone at home.