What I didn’t know was that, yes, he was eating, but not very efficiently. It took him a very long time to eat, and the effort caused him to basically burn off all the calories he was consuming. And because he wasn’t able to empty my breasts, my already low supply suffered more.
We were unknowingly caught in a vicious cycle, because of my preconceived notion that breastfeeding would be easy. I mean, women have been doing this since…forever…and without all the modern conveniences I had at my fingertips! I needed help but didn’t know where to turn.
I felt like such a failure. I never thought this would be difficult. While pregnant, I had told my husband we needed to buy a deep freezer specifically for all the milk I’d be pumping. I pictured nursing the first year and then giving him frozen milk in a cup for years to come. Expressed milk was expressed love.
I was completely against using formula, as if it was poison or something. (That’s a completely ridiculous notion, but no one could tell me that at the time. That, too, is a whole other story.) I was crunchy in the extreme when it came to my baby. When it came down to formula or starvation, I had no choice. The hospital had sent me home with a sample 4-pack of premixed formula, and cried as I fed him the first one.
I was sure I had failed. I was sure this was the beginning of the end. My vision of expressed love in the form of my milk was slipping through my fingers.
While leafing through my discharge paperwork, I stumbled upon the flyer for a free breastfeeding support group. I went, not knowing what to expect, embarrassed, but knowing I needed something. It was free, so I swallowed my pride and showed up. I met Diba, the lactation consultant who singlehandedly saved my breastfeeding relationship, and also found my beloved mama tribe. I cried, asked a thousand questions, listened to other moms, and realized I wasn’t alone.
This was SO COMMON.
Breastfeeding is HARD.
Realizing this, I felt less alone, and less of a failure as we pushed through those initial challenges together. Diba was a wealth of information, understanding, patient and supportive, and never once judged me for my failing. Because the reality was, I wasn’t failing. I was learning. At the time, I knew nothing except that I wanted to persevere, and I had the time to dedicate to making it work. I took her advice, did the things I was told, and we finally found our groove. My son was still tiny and there wasn’t much room for error, but he was maintaining his percentiles on the growth chart. We were scraping by, but we were making it.
And then it got easier. I felt like I knew what I was doing.
I got this! We’re doing it! Finally, it was smooth sailing.
And then came the plugged ducts. And I learned how to handle them.
And then came a persistent milk bleb, and I learned how to handle that.
And then came a bout of mastitis. I’d really just like to forget that whole experience.
We learned as we went. I was dedicated. I had no other children and wasn’t going back to work, so I had all the time to focus (obsess, really) and make it happen. I let go of my vision of the freezer full of pumped milk, and just took it day by day. Looking back, I can see how I could have made things a lot easier on myself. But that doesn’t matter now, because we made it. I used that one 4-pack of infant formula to bridge the gap while I let go of my preconceived notions, accepted help, and began learning.
We breastfed for over 2 years. It didn’t start out as the beautiful bonding experience I had envisioned, but it definitely got there. Stumbling upon My Pure Delivery‘s breastfeeding support group was the best thing that ever happened for me and this sweet, silly boy. I’ll be grateful to Diba Tillery and MPD for the rest of my life.
If you’re struggling, or if you’re pregnant and want to prepare to hit the ground running with breastfeeding, please reach out. Getting the help you need can be a game changer. I know that I, for one, would not have succeeded without it.