My Long, Overdue Breastfeeding Story

*Image pulled from Pinterest.

I get a lot of questions about my personal breastfeeding experience. I’ve never really blogged about it, but maybe I should.

When I was pregnant with my first, I read a LOT of articles in magazines, online, and through social media of course. I had a firm grasp of what I wanted, and what I didn’t. And formula was one thing I didn’t want. Something just tugged at me to breastfeed. It was so… exciting. So… chic. Lol.

Let me tell you now, that my family (my CLOSE family) is not a big group of “breastfeeders.” In fact, I’m almost positive that my Mom would squirm and cringe every time I talked to her about my thoughts on  nursing. She didn’t nurse me, and honestly, I’m not sure anyone really did in the family except for one “hippie” in-law and some distant family members that we rarely ever saw. So, nobody really knew what to expect, including myself.

Here came the day when Emma (my oldest) was born. I had an awful birthing experience, and I was super groggy when they wheeled me into my family-filled room. I couldn’t tell you if I slept, or if they brought her in right away, but they literally walked in and said “okay, she’s hungry!” Um, what?

I shooed everyone out except the hubs, and I told the nurse that I hadn’t a clue what the heck I was supposed to do. I read that they don’t latch on right away, and you have to coax them to do it. Well, Emma pretty much did it on her own, but it was touch and go with how long she could stay attached. Can I just say that it is so crazy that a baby can just be born, be put to a breast and they’re like “Okay, I know exactly what to do here.” Haha. It just blows my mind.

I’ll never forget the nurse coming in while I was breastfeeding baby Emma and using her pinky to “pop her off” and help me get the right angle to get just the right latch. I wanted to say “Lady, this is not something I’m comfortable with,” but quite frankly, they are all so used to it, and by this time I had laid naked in a room full of almost a dozen people and had more than enough doctors and nurses “down there,” that I guess I didn’t care all that much in the end.

With my first born, the lactation consultant wasn’t really around. I didn’t get any real help, and I didn’t go home with hand-outs or information on who to call if I had a hard time. I was flying solo. I rented a hospital-grade pump while I was still admitted, and we all headed home doe-eyed and terrified.

I was pretty “out there” when nursing at home. Unless my Mom was around, I didn’t cover up, and I rarely wore a bra or real clothing. However, when my Mom was around, I used a cover (just a nursing blanket) and Emma would eat quietly and discreetly. I’m pretty sure my Mom was still uncomfortable with it though because she’d go outside during mealtimes frequently. *My Mom stayed home with me for four of the eight weeks I was off work.

Now, to the details. It hurt. Breastfeeding hurt me SO bad. I have a very high tolerance for pain; this c-section was my 8th surgery and I went years and years with a chronic condition that was painful every single day. I can deal with pain. However, this pain is like no other. The suction would be like pulling a needle out from the center of your breast through your nipple. Once they latch on it’s a very strong suction that would force me to double over in pain. Once she was latched though and feeding normally, it was fine. But the first 20 seconds was like nothing I’ve ever felt or experienced before. I think for me, it was worse than labor.

I tried to Google my issues. I found others out there like me, but they mostly had medical conditions causing it (think mastitis and infections). At my check-up with my OB, she took a look and everything was completely fine. Emma was a very large baby. She had a very healthy appetite. In fact, what I didn’t mention was that in the hospital, I wasn’t making enough to feed her, so we had to supplement with formula. The one thing I DIDN’T want, I had to break down and give to her on day 3 of life because otherwise we would not be allowed to take her home (she was losing too much weight).

Because of the pain (and the usual hormones), I had some serious post-partum depression kicking in. I lied on my questionnaire at the OB office, and so I wasn’t getting any help for it either. I stopped eating. My husband (who was so adoring at the time) would go early in the morning before work to get me yummy things to eat, and by the time he got home from work 10 hours later, it would still be sitting exactly where he left it. In fact, in my daily fog, I don’t think I really drank either. It got to where I wasn’t making nearly enough milk for her. It was probably 80% formula and 20% milk. *I only gained 20 pounds during pregnancy, and at my four week check after, I had lost 40.

I would pump between feedings to try to increase my supply, but I seriously was so foggy in my head that I didn’t realize my lack of food or water was drying me up. I would pump for 40 minutes and not even get 2 ounces (for BOTH breasts combined). Then two hours later Emma would latch on and probably get even less, so I’d turn around and feed her the milk and supplement formula. I had to get up all through the night to pump to try to keep it going. This went on for weeks. It was a vicious cycle.

I started bleeding really bad from my nipples. I would notice the blood getting on Emma’s lips. Sometimes pieces of my nipple would fall off while showering and I’d worry about Emma swallowing it. I would freak out and just supplement formula until I thought it had healed a bit. Those are just some of the things that happened in the last couple days.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore. At just 7 weeks, I stopped nursing. I fell into a slump. I was upset that I couldn’t provide for my child. By day two of no breastfeeding though, the fog was already lifting. I was starting to see clearly again and my depression was fading. I was still upset, but now more so that I didn’t have a better game plan; that I didn’t see this type of curveball being thrown at me and maybe a little that I didn’t have the support that I needed.

Looking back with a clear head though, I did have a support group. I could have gone to my Mommy Blogger friends (who I became very close with, in the last few months of pregnancy) who were having great successes with nursing. Out of my fog, I saw that they were baking lactation cookies, calling into the hospitals to talk to consultants, and so much more. I was so blind to all of it. One of my closest Mommy friends was even making so much milk, that she later donated a lot to women who needed it. Why didn’t I reach out to them?

I also feel like I should have told my OB, who I love, about the depression I was battling. Although, at the time, I don’t think I knew it was depression; I think I thought it was just hormones messing with my feelings and emotions. I always pictured postpartum depression as not wanting your baby or to be a mother all of a sudden, but I think there are many different forms of it.

Anyway, Emma is just great and as smart as can be… and she was formula fed. She does have asthma, and she gets a lot of colds, but is that because of my lack of nursing? I’ll never know. But, it is what it is and I did what I could. I love her unconditionally, and that’s all that matters, right?

Now, I’m not done yet. I did have a second baby just 8 months ago. With Alice, I knew what I’d be facing, and I had a whole new game plan. And you know what? It didn’t work. It was just as painful and foggy with her. I stopped nursing her at just 5 weeks. And again, on day two of no breastfeeding, the fog lifted. I was a happier Momma and I could think clearly. I just don’t think it was meant to be. I even started pumping in the hospital and by the third day my milk was in. But, when I got home and had to fend for myself (and force myself to eat) it all went downhill and I stopped producing.

I guess breastfeeding isn’t for me. I’m not sure what I would do if I had a third child. I’d like to say that I would try again, even if it was just for a few weeks to give her all the good stuff that comes out at first, but I can’t guarantee that I would. It messes with my head. Literally. I’d almost rather feed them formula and be clear-headed to remember everything. It was all so foggy in the beginning with both girls, that I can’t remember all that much of my maternity leave. Isn’t that sad? Precious little babies, and all I have are pictures and a handful of memories.

I get a lot of questions like, “Could it have been the pain killers that were causing your fogginess?” My answer is NO. With my first, I actually stopped taking pain killers in the hospital. The c-section went well, and with my high tolerance for pain, I didn’t feel the need to take them. I even got up and walked the very next day and left the hospital a day early too. It was depression. If it wasn’t for my Mom staying with me, I would have done nothing but feed Emma and sleep. I am so grateful for her. She’s the best mother (I only hope I can come close to being that great of a Mom one day).

Some people ask me if there was anything I would have done differently that may have changed the outcome. Well, there might be. With both pregnancies, while I was in the later months, I would wear a strapless bra and a sports bra over it. I felt more comfortable, while my breasts were getting larger, to have the extra support. But, if you’ve read up on your breastfeeding rules, you’ve likely noticed that you’re not supposed to wear tight clothing around your breasts. It can hinder or stop your milk supply. Maybe this applies before baby too. Maybe if I didn’t hold them in so tightly, they would have started “filling up” earlier. I don’t know.

I do have a friend that I think battled a similar situation as me. She mentioned to me that it made her “crazy.” I’m not sure what she meant by it, but maybe the fogginess is more common that we/I know. She recently had another child and did not nurse them at all. When I saw her, she seemed perfectly normal – still had a glow actually.

So, there you have it. My breastfeeding experiences. If you’re lucky enough to be able to do it and be successful, that’s awesome! If it doesn’t go as planned, well, there are far worse things than formula. Right?

Do you have any questions for me? Or maybe you have some suggestions for my readers? Don’t be shy! 

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