Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Story {In Honor Of World Breastfeeding Week}

It's been a little less than two years and I still have twinges of guilt that flood me. You see, my breastfeeding experience wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I felt defeated at the end -like I had failed at the most important thing...feeding my new daughter.  How can something so natural be so hard? There are so many stories out there from other moms, but maybe my story will help someone else out there know that they don't have to be alone when struggling with breastfeeding. 

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When Everdeen was born she was immediately taken away to be suctioned. They had found meconium and thought it might be in her lungs. When they finally placed her little body on mine I felt such a sense of relief...but I had hoped that I would have been the first one to hold her. 
My doula stayed with me and helped Everdeen latch on right away. But the moment she started nursing I felt an excruciating pain. I knew breastfeeding might be uncomfortable, but this pain was too much to bear. I remember the nurses kept asking me what my pain level was while breastfeeding. I'm not one to usually complain to strangers, but I remember saying it was beyond a 10. My doula worked with me the entire time I was in the hospital trying to problem solve. Everdeen's latch was good...although there was thought that maybe the suctioning had caused her some trauma and had her wanting to clamp down when nursing. I worked with the hospital's lactation specialist and by the end of our time together she had diagnosed me with Raynaud's Phenomenon She prescribed me a medication called Nifidipine, usually used to treat high blood pressure. I was feeling overwhelmed as a new mother and on top of everything else breastfeeding was becoming more difficult than I had ever thought it would be. However, I left the hospital feeling hopeful that I could overcome the pain and have a successful breastfeeding experience with Everdeen.
A few days into our new adventure and I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of everything.  My doula came over several times to make sure Everdeen's latch was successful and to make sure things were going smoothly.  She suggested I use a heating pad before I nursed to help open the blood vessels, which would ease the pain. I had begun taking my new medication and thought I was seeing improvements. But a few days later I experienced sever dizziness that left me crawling on my hands and knees praying I wouldn't pass out with my newborn baby in my arms. I stopped taking the medication right away and told myself I would just bear through the pain...I mean maybe it would get better with time? 

It didn't. I remember my mom and older sister would stop by after work and check in on me those first few weeks. Everdeen would be crying and ready to eat, but I was beginning to resent feeding her. I cried almost every time she latched on. It was like forcing myself to keep touching the hot burner on the stove every two hours. I just couldn't do it anymore. My older sister, who was still nursing my 8 month old nephew, took Everdeen and fed her for me. She didn't feel any pain from her latch so I knew it really must be me. They gently suggested I try to feed Everdeen some formula...just to give myself a rest...I burst into tears (for the 40 millionth time). I didn't want to have to supplement. I wanted my baby to have my milk. My doula suggested that maybe I consider solely pumping and bottle feeding my breast milk. I liked that idea.

The next day I went out and bought myself a pump. I learned how to power pump to get my milk supply up and began pumping every two hours. Strangely enough, pumping didn't hurt nearly as bad as nursing. But it was time consuming and exhausting. I felt guilty leaving Everdeen in the baby swing while I sat at the kitchen table listening to the droning sound of the pump...a sound that had become all too familiar very quickly. The worst was when I pumped after Everdeen's 1am feeding. I could barely keep my eyes open, but knew if I skipped the session my milk supply would begin to decrease. 
A few weeks later I did notice that my milk supply was decreasing and the power pumping I did didn't seem to be working anymore. My start back to work was looming in the very near future and I feared that I wouldn't be able to keep up my supply once I started back. I began to start supplementing Everdeen's bottles with formula when I went back to work in the fall. I tried to pump at school, but it was just too difficult.  It only took a few weeks before I was barely able produce milk anymore. 

The decision to stop pumping and to move to just formula was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make. I think from an outsiders perspective it seemed like the obvious choice...but my mommy guilt was crushing and I felt like I had given up. Everdeen had gotten my milk for three months, which is wonderful! But I couldn't see that. I remember feeling mad and jealous at those around me who seemed to have no problems nursing. I felt hurt by anything I read that suggested formula fed babies were inferior to breastfed babies. But secretly deep down I also felt a sense of relief. I didn't have to spend hours pumping now and I could truly enjoy feeding my sweet girl for the first time. There were no more tears, just songs sung while I rocked my little one while she ate. Martin was really able to start bonding with Everdeen while feeding her too, which wasn't something he hadn't been able to do before.
When I look back at my story it's just that...mine. No one else's will be quite the same, but maybe my words can give a little reassurance to someone experiencing something similar. Whether you breastfeed, pump, or formula feed, one thing is still the same.  We are all mothers and we can only do the best we can do at that time. And most importantly, we have to accept that each of our stories will be different, not better or worse.


  1. Hugs mama. I just have to tell you that you are not alone in this. I struggled with Harper and I am now with Finley. We can't all breastfeed. But you tried and tried hard. Every bit of milk she got from you was wonderful and you know what? Formula was a lifesaver for us too. I couldn't agree more. We do what is best for our child and what is best for US because we matter too. I wish we could have coffee and talk about it but just know that I get it. I understand your decision and how amazing did our little girls turn out?

    There should be more posts like this in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I so admire your honesty. Pumping is no joke. And neither is havig to make the switch-to-formula decision. I can relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing <3

  3. What a sweet moving story. You are an incredible mother. I'm only sorry you had to endure so much physical pain and emotional trauma through this process. I totally agree with the above...there should be more stories like this shared in honor of national breastfeeding week. Celebrate the moms who actually walked the toughest road when it comes to feeding their new babies! Much love and admiration to you!

  4. I loved reading your story here - what a hard situation for you! I can totally relate to feeling the guilt with supplementing, because I have felt the same way about giving my kids formula (especially Clyde - we have been supplementing way earlier with him because my supply just won't keep up). Sometimes I also wonder why it has to be such a big deal though. Yeah, breastmilk is best and all that, but honestly I've never looked at a toddler and wondered how long their mother nursed them. I wouldn't be able to distinguish the breastfed-for-a-year babies if I tried! I love that you shared this, and that you were able to recognize that you could enjoy her better when you weren't so stressed out about nursing.