Every woman who has a child goes on her own journey with breastfeeding. Some decide it’s not for them and know from the start what kind of feeding they’d like to do. Others would like to breastfeed but it’s a struggle and so their idea of how it will be is a stark image of what it actually turns out to be.
Wanting to breastfeed and not being able to is a very devastating thing. I always assumed I would breastfeed when it came time to have my own children but I never pictured the struggles I would have with it. And I would never have guessed how much emotional turmoil I would experience from it.
I partially breastfeed my twins for six months and am happy to have come out the other side, at peace with the journey and happy to have experienced what I did.
But it wasn’t always easy.
In the beginning I had such a hard time physically recovering from the birth of my boys that my milk supply tanked and I missed the “easy” opportunity of matching my supply to their demands. I pumped, met with lactation consultants and took herbs and medications to get my supply to a sustainable level. Once I got to the point where I was only pumping once or twice a day I decided the price of the pump rental wasn’t worth the cost; so I retuned it. Then once my domperidone (medication that, among other things, helps increase lactation) ran out I decided to let my body go it’s natural course. I was in a good place mentally to be happy with what I accomplished and okay with letting go with the process.
What I thought would take weeks ended up being only days of weaning and within a week I was tandem breastfeeding both boys to only breastfeeding one a couple of times a day. Then once a day. Then once every couple days. And then nothing.
The process was over.
My body was finished.
The boys were on to the next thing and didn’t seem to mind.
So why was I still having doubts and regrets about the whole thing?
Society puts so much pressure on women to breastfeed. Like if you don’t even want to then there’s something wrong with you. That you’ll harm your baby or they’ll turn out to be a sociopath.
And then there’s the opposite. If you miss the milk train then there’s nothing you can do but move on. It wasn’t meant to be. Even if you wanted to breastfeed you should just give up and move forward.
When I went in for my postpartum checkups and talked to my ob about my depression and struggles physically she actually advised me to not breastfeed. My awesome obstetrician told me to not breastfeed because it was too much stress on me and that my milk supply wasn’t going to improve.
That was NOT what I wanted to hear.
Just because I was going to start Zoloft didn’t mean I was damaged goods and that I couldn’t breastfeed.
I think hearing that from a doctor was more upsetting than anything else I had gone through with my pregnancy, delivery and postpartum recovery.
She should have told me the truth.
She should have told me that I might need to adjust my expectations of what I thought breastfeeding would be like. That I could give my babies just as much love and the things they needed as any fully breastfeeding mother. That if I thought it was too hard there was no shame in stopping but that if I really wanted to continue there was nothing wrong with partially breastfeeding my boys. That breastfeeding multiples is no different than breastfeeding one baby, it just takes more effort.
That it was possible to thrive and be happy with my new found situation.
That hope was not lost.
I now realize that the breastfeeding debate is always about all or nothing. Do or do not.
Well what if you can’t physically do but you don’t want to do not?
Partially breastfeeding your baby is a GOOD thing, a VALUABLE thing, something WORTH pursuing. If you can’t meet the supply demands then do what you can do and formula feed for the rest.
Cut yourself some slack, relax and enjoy the gifts that God/Mother Nature has given you.
I wish I had known all this six months ago. I wish that I had been able to internalize this when people had told me the same.
The wonderful book I mentioned earlier, The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk
has a chapter in the back that talks about coping with a low milk supply. I wish I had been able to read this information and REALLY internalize it a long time ago. It would have saved me so much guilt and grief.
But I guess that’s part of the process of life and it has helped me now with my transition away from breastfeeding.
In summary from the book: The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk
Guilt vs. Regret
You can be angry about your breastfeeding progress, worried about what is right to do or troubled by where you want to be. Guilt vs. regret is a wonderful thing. Looking back you can regret the outcome or feel badly about it but you should not feel guilty. “Guilt assumes that you deliberately decided to do something knowing what the outcome would be. Regret happens after we learn something that we did not know at the time of the decision.” “You did not know then what you know now or you might have made a different decision. It’s natural and healthy to feel regret because it helps us make better decisions in the future.”
Anger and Resentment
I just want to type out this section word for word, so much of it hit home to me. BUT “Recognize that your feelings are valid. But then work at letting them go and accepting your situation as fully as you can. Recognize and appreciate the positive moments that you would not have had without the difficult ones.”
“…mothering is not about perfection or proving yourself to anyone; it is about creating relationships.”
“Many kinds of milk can nurture the body, but only your love can nurture his soul.”
Feeling Rejected by Baby
In regards to them “preferring” a bottle or formula… “In these moments, it is important to realize that feelings of rejection are an interpretation of your baby’s feeding behavior, not the reality of how your baby feels about you as his mother.”
The chapter continues with other section headers:
Feeling Selfish for Wanting to Breastfeed
Feeling Judgmental of Other Mothers
Feeling Hurt by Insensitive Remarks and Criticism
Realize That You Are a Successful Breastfeeding Mother
“This is not about how much milk you were able to produce or how long you were able to breastfeed. It is about the commitment you made to give your baby the best start in life and the tremendous effort you put into pursuing that goal. Even if breastfeeding didn’t work out quite the way you may have hoped, you undoubtedly shared some special moments that you would not have had otherwise.”
If you’re currently breastfeeding or going through ANY other stage in life where these words would apply to your situation, I recommend picking up this book and flipping to the back. Those words of sage advice were like a soul mate reaching out to me and offering a hug when no words would do. It was tremendously comforting to me and helped me be at ease with my journey. To talk differently about how I experienced breastfeeding. And to look at other mothers and mothers-to-be much differently than I did before.