It's about breastfeeding... or not.
For starters, it's relevant for you to read THIS blog post, written a few weeks before Coraline's birth, talking about my anxiety regarding breastfeeding. It talks all about my breastfeeding experience (or lack of) with my first daughter (4 years ago). And also this post gives a mini-update two weeks after Coraline was born. I'll just quote my own post here: "As it turns out, all my anxiety and fears about breastfeeding came true. Coraline WAS whisked away to NICU, she WAS bottlefed by the nurses and I wasn't even given the chance to TRY to breastfeed her until she was 3 or 4 days old. I started pumping the very first night, and it took 2 days for my colostrum to come in, and not until day 4 did my milk come in. They told me in NICU that anything I could give her was good, so I pumped every 3 hours and brought my few milliliters of milk downstairs and fed it to her, before she was given formula. They needed/wanted her to drink 35ml per feeding, and I was only pumping about 4ml in the first few days, and about 10-15ml in the next few days. On Day 4 or 5, I tried to breastfeed (behind a curtain, in a room with a dozen people), and it was a miserable failure. My breasts are just not designed for feeding - I have flat nipples (which I didn't know was even a "thing" until Lilian was born) - if you're not familiar, you can read about that here: http://jezebel.com/5885739/what-type-of-nipple-are-you and somewhat massive breasts (D/DD). So there isn't a nice "small" nipple part to go in a baby's mouth, instead I just have to grab a pinchful of aereola/nip and stuff it in the baby's mouth... to which Coraline reacted with confusion. She just kinda looked at me like "what are you doing and what is this?" She is also just too small and was too weak to really suck with a mouthful of giant boob. Maybe if we had started off that way, she would have been used to it, but after days of a standard flow bottle with a narrow nipple, it just seemed ridiculous to both of us. So, I guess I am stuck pumping again like I did for Lily. I really don't want to, but I also can't justify stopping just because I "don't like it", when I KNOW that my milk is best for her. She's 2 weeks old, and I'm able to pump 25-75ml at a time now (depending on how frequently I pump). BUT, just like 4 years ago, only one breast makes milk. My right breast pumps about 24-73ml at a time, and my left pumps about 1-3ml at a time. I've read and been told that everyone's are uneven, but this is more than uneven... my left doesn't make more than a few drops, while the right can fill a bottle. Because of this, I can only really pump HALF a supply for her, same as I did for Lily. So she is still getting formula about 40-50% of the time. If my left matched my right, I'd be able to give her only breastmilk... but it's just impossible. (My left is also a full cup size smaller, always has been, so I guess there is some physiological problem going on - a lack of milk ducts or something?) So between the flat nipples and the half-supply, I just think my body isn't meant to breastfeed. That doesn't stop me from trying once a day (usually at night in a desperate moment where she's hungry and i'm too tired to pump), but I get that same confused look from her every time, and she doesn't even suck. Maybe when she is a little bigger/stronger? (Lily started BF from when she was 1.5-3.5 months old.) Or maybe never. The difference between this time and last time though, is ... although I'm totally disappointed that it didn't work out, and I'll never know if it was even possible, had we gotten a good start from Day 1... I'm not really all that sad about it. It's pretty much exactly what I expected and it's exactly the same as what happened with Lily. I'm pretty good at using the pump (after 8 straight months in 2008-2009) and she's getting ALL the breastmilk I can possibly make, so I guess it's as good as we're giong to get. Getting upset, feeling cheated, and crying about it all the time, still didn't make it POSSIBLE with Lily, so I'm just not going to bother getting emotional this time. I know I'm doing the best I can with what I have to work with, and that's all I can do."
Coraline is now 10 weeks old (or two months and 11 days, however you want to calculate it) and we're in the same spot. As I had feared, everything went wrong that possibly could (unlike THIS blogger, who had a disastrous first experience but a GOOD latch the second time around). And I'm still pumping. Many times a day. And I'm still suffering with massive breast pain (some explanation on my health problems here). This week, I'm dealing with what we suspect is thrush AND mastitis at the same time - which sucks because the medication for mastitis (antibiotics) causes/worsens thrush, so I'm also taking a week-long course of anti-thrush medication (the one that starts with a D.) I've also been taking d0mperid0ne, a medication with the side effect of increasing prolactin (and therefore, milk!) with little to no results. I'm pumping 10-11 ounces of breastmilk a day. If i pump 3x a day or 8x a day, I still get 10-11 ounces. It takes 20-40 minutes to empty my right breast (my left really never makes more than a few drops, which is most of the cause of my under supply) and even if i pump for an HOUR each time, still don't make more than 10-11 ounces. And for those of you who don't know, babies eat 18-24 ounces a day typically. So I'm making only 40-60% of my baby's needs. And it hurts. Like I said, though, I'm not nearly as emotional this time... because I expected it. I predicted it.
Today I was pointed in the direction of THIS blog post about another "failure to breastfeed" and thought the whole time "yes, yes! That's me!" My breasts never grew/changed in any way while pregnant or while nursing, either pregnancy. And one is a full cup size smaller and a different shape - the one that doesn't make milk - so clearly, something is missing. And when I googled IGT, I found this article on KellyMom, which is the be-all-end-all website for many lactivists it seems. And again, I just nodded and said "yep, that sounds like me." And when you add that to FLAT nipples, which babies do NOT like to latch on to, it's a recipe for disaster.
So that's where I am. My babies don't LIKE my breasts. And one doesn't even make milk. And the one that does, doesn't make enough to satisfy a baby. And so I pump and pump, and give her what I can. And the rest of the time she gets formula. And this time around, I'm OK with that. With my first daughter, looking back, I really didn't and couldn't enjoy her first six months because of the guilt and disappointment I felt. Before i really decided to give up breastfeeding the first time, my wife said something to me along the lines of "who are you fighting to breastfeed for, you or her?" And the answer in my heart... was me. I wanted to do it, I wanted to be one of those Mother Earth mamas with a baby at my breast. And the truth was, my baby didn't agree. She wanted food, and she wanted it NOW. She was a slow grower, but a fast eater. And I truly believe that FIGHTING with her over breastfeeding wasn't the right thing to do (in our situation.) I was lucky enough to be able to give her SOME milk (half on average) for eight months. And so this time around, doing the same (giving her my 10 precious ounces a day and the rest formula when she's still hungry) is literally the best I can do, and so I feel no guilt.
On Envy: I truly envy the moms who can exclusively breastfeed their children. Yes, it stings to hear/read about it. Four years ago, with my first daughter, I couldn't even bear to think about it. This time around, it's a much healthier jealousy, I can admit to it without crying, but it is what it is. But the hurt is still there.
But I also envy the FFBC moms - formula feeders by choice. To be able to feed your children formula without guilt or self-loathing is a big thing too. Formula feeding is a lot easier and a lot less time consuming (run the water, scoop, shake, DONE! as opposed to 30-40 minutes of pumping, plus the washing of pump parts... just to make 1-3 ounces of milk), and I envy those who can choose to do that and be happy with their decisions.
But I'm stuck in middle ground - where I can't breastfeed, but I also can make SOME milk, so I can't just decide "formula feeding is good enough" and go with that. I do feel compelled to give my babies as much as I can. And I find myself envying BOTH camps, the BFers AND the FFers. I'm a pro-breastfeeding non-breastfeeding mom.
On Lactivists: Being truly enthusiastic about something you believe in is great. (Except for when it's something shitty, like inequality.) I'm pretty enthusiastic about my vegetarianism, though I try super hard not to be preachy or judgmental about it. I'm also pretty enthusiastic about my choice to cloth diaper my baby (which I recognize is a result of being unable to BF, it's one choice that I get to make that i CAN do, and I can do it well, and I can stick with it, and my body can't fail me.) So I totally understand the Lactivist. You love your baby, and you love feeding your baby, and you love that your amazing body can feed your baby, and you love watching your baby grow from fuel YOU provide - and it's so amazing, you want to tell everyone about it and you want everyone to have the same experience. I totally get it. What I don't get... or like... is the judgment and assumptions that come with it sometimes. (Only sometimes, I have known some very sympathetic lactivists). I hate that it is assumed that if you don't succeed at breast feeding your baby, you have't "tried hard enough." Or the assumption of "everyone can do it." Even the assumption that it IS a choice. I'm not choosing to feed my baby formula because I want to, I'm choosing formula over starvation. I've tried it all: pumping a hundred times a day, forcing my babies to BF even when it doesn't work, herbs and teas, hot compresses, hand compressions, prescription medications I bought online from other countries, and even the dreaded oatmeal. I've done it all, I've tried, I've suffered, I've cried. And nothing works. And I wish at some point in my struggles (at least the first time around) somebody would have said to me "Maybe you can't." And maybe that is OK. Because every person I spoke to during that time told me "try this" or "try that" and the supposed-to-be-encouraging "you can do it." People are so excited for others to have the beautiful experience that they had and we all know "breast is best", so it seems like the obvious thing to encourage. But it really would have helped with my depression and guilt if at some point, some one else acknowledged that it wasn't working, wasn't possible and just told me "hey, it's OK. Maybe you can't." I hope someone else reads this one day, in a situation similar to me, and feels like someone before you has been there, and came out the other side, and it will be OK.
But ... maybe YOU can't. And it will be OK.
In Public: Please don't judge the mothers you see bottle feeding. Maybe they are super lazy and don't care what is best for their babies. But maybe not. Maybe they tried really hard and for some physical reason they can't breastfeed. Maybe their family needs their income and their job doesn't allow for pumping (I know by law, employers must allow it, but maybe for comfort reasons or timing or whatever it just isn't possible). Maybe their baby is allergic to something in their milk and needs hypoallergenic formula. Maybe they just WANT to formula feed for personal reasons of their own that you may never understand. There are a thousand different maybes - so unless you know the situation, don't judge. And whether you do or don't know the situation, don't say anything. Unless the mom herself opens up the conversation, no one needs to be reminded "breast is best" no matter how it's phrased. I've never had anyone comment to me in public about bottle feeding, but it happens. (Though I've had strangers comment about whether or not my baby was old enough to be out in public, whether she should be wearing a hat or not, if she should be out in this weather, etc.) It may be well-intentioned, but I can guarantee it won't be well received and it will most likely come across as hurtful or judgmental. Unless you see someone not feeding their baby at all, ever... you should probably keep your opinions to yourself.
But to paraphrase myself from four years ago "when I found myself measuring my self worth in millimeters of milk" I should have known there was a problem. I felt so much pressure to "do what is best for my baby" that I really stopped worrying about what was best for me.
So I just want to find all the moms that ARE trying and are struggling, and give them hugs, and tell them "maybe you can't." I know everyone else is telling them "you can do this" or maybe even "you should do this" (which is an entirely different post in itself), but I know in my experience, I CAN'T DO IT. And maybe you can't either.
Maybe You Can't
And... it gets better. By the time my first daughter was a toddler and drinking juice and water, and eating food, I had a million other decisions to make. And this one seemed less important. And now that she is 4 and 1/2, and thriving, and smart and funny and beautiful, how I fed her in her early days seems EVEN less important. And remembering this makes it a lot easier to deal with my failure-to-breastfeed the second time around. At one time it seemed like my whole world, and today it seems pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of life. So, please trust me, it'll get easier, and better. These feelings won't last forever. This is only one in a long line of different paths you'll have to walk down with your kids. So, please be kind to yourself. (And if you're a breastfeeder or pro-breastfeeding, please be kind to use that can't, or don't.)
I'm not trying to have sour grapes OR make my lemons sweet, I'm just trying to deal with what life has dealt me.
Have you been there?
Please leave your comments and/or hugs - let me know what you think.
(Please try to leave comments here, not on Facebook even if you've come across this on FB, so all the readers can see and respond.)
And what's a blog post without an adorable photo? :
|Coraline, 2/17/13, Two Months Old|