A few weeks ago I committed the cardinal sin of motherhood: I gave unsolicited advice.
I have a friend who is about to have a baby and she was asking my advice on the necessities I left for my daycare provider to care for Miss E, including milk. Selfishly, I saw an opportunity to give my friend advice on breastfeeding.
Feeling guilty, and after removing my foot from my mouth, I apologized to my friend and tried to explain where I was coming from.
You see, whenever I attend a baby shower and am asked to give the mom-to-be advice for her newborn, I want to shout out to her “do not make yourself miserable with breastfeeding!”
Because that is what I wish someone would have told me.
Breastfeeding didn’t work for Miss E and me.
When the subject comes up and I tell other mothers it didn’t work for me, I have an internal struggle in that I know a big part was due to a rough labor and delivery resulting in Miss E unable to be with me for the first 24-hours, therefore making it difficult to get started.
But sometimes I still wonder if I didn’t try hard enough. Should I have worked through the pain and tears more?
Breastfeeding made me nervous from the very beginning. I had the lactation specialists help me while in the hospital, I read the manual they sent home, and Miss E and I went daily to the lactation clinic offered at the hospital. We did great with the help of the lactation specialists; but when we got home, I just couldn’t replicate the proper positioning and it ended in frustration for us both.
I ended up only nursing my baby for three weeks before I decided I just couldn’t do it.
I remember the exact night I gave up. We were up for another painful midnight feeding, I was crying, Miss E was crying, and it was at that moment I decided this just wasn’t working any longer. Neither of us were getting what we needed; therefore causing disappointment and sadness for both of us.
I decided from then on I would exclusively pump milk for my daughter, which I did for four months before it became too difficult after going back to work.
I was never set on breastfeeding; while still pregnant, I decided I would give it a try, but not push it. However, I was not prepared for the enormous guilt that came with not providing (what I thought be) a natural experience to my newborn daughter.
The beauty of nursing, the nutrients, the immunity, the help with coordination, the bonding; all of it is constantly preached to pregnant women from so many different sources.
And not nursing made me incredibly fearful that I was depriving my daughter. Would she not be as healthy? Would she not gain proper eye-hand coordination?
Would we not bond the way we should?
My daughter was supplemented with formula in my milk until she switched to cow’s milk and she has done fabulous. She is a healthy, growing girl with no negative effects of my nursing choice.
And the bond with her is as perfect as a mother-daughter bond should be.
Looking back, I really appreciate the way our situation worked out; while I was up in the middle of the night pumping, my husband got to be a part of the feedings because he gave her a bottle. That only solidified their father-daughter bond.
Maybe my approach to my friend was not the best, but all I wanted her to know was that breastfeeding is emotionally and physically trying. It does not come natural to everyone. It. Is. Hard.
Mothers should not feel like failures if we aren’t able to naturally nurse our children. And we shouldn’t feel like we need to make excuses. Sometimes it just does not work and that is OK.
I ask you to join me in supporting those mama’s who couldn’t breastfeed but wanted to do so with all of their hearts. Reach out to others with support and encouragement. Help them find resources.
Most of all do what is best for your baby and for you. As long as you are a loving, happy mama. That is what your baby will notice.