Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Breastfeeding Journey

How many times have you as a new or soon-to-be momma heard the tag line "breast is best"? I bet you have been hearing it a lot. I know I did throughout my entire pregnancy and honestly  have to say I am so happy and excited that our society is in fact moving towards a more open-mind about breastfeeding. Problem is this, we are talking about breastfeeding but never about the potential difficulties that could come with this statement of "breast is best".

Throughout my entire pregnancy, I prepared myself for the worst case scenario. I mean from researching, to bombarding my midwives with tons of questions, to putting together a birth plan and even mentally/emotionally preparing myself for potentially having to have a different plan around having a homebirth because anything could happen. The one thing I did not prepare for was breastfeeding. For me, it was to be a natural thing, organic even that I didn't think I ever had to worry about, think about or even discuss because well hey...baby is born, baby is hungry, baby latches, BOOM, done! Unfortunately, this isn't the case and breastfeeding is not as organic as it is easily assumed to be.

My experience with breastfeeding was interesting to say the least. I truly and whole heartedly believe in breastfeeding and actually worked up to gaining the confidence to feed whenever and wherever if it meant that my daughter was getting what she needed. I also absolutely love how society is bringing back the beauty and art of breastfeeding and starting to normalize it instead of putting mothers down for wanting to do this in public spaces - that topic however is an entirely other topic! From the day my daughter was born, I did what I could to get her latched instantly. It was in fact a successful latch the night of her arrival and I was relieved of this. Another thing no one ever told me was how painful it could be to breastfeed - especially the initial steps in preparing your body for this as it's never had to do it before. I also must tell you that the pain I endured from latching was horrendous. It felt like tiny paper cuts on my nipples as my daughter was latching. Yes, if you've gotten this far you're probably thinking...umm Melissa, the latch wasn't right. I know this now but of course in the moment I did not know why breastfeeding hurt so bad and nevertheless I was determined and did not give up.

Moving a bit forward, my daughter was also super determined and she got my milk in after three days of being with us! As time went on and our little peanut was starting to demand a little more to eat, things started to get ugly. I was stressed out that my milk supply wasn't increasing, I was losing sleep over it and I felt like I was failing as a mother. My little became very fussy, she wasn't sleeping, and it was so hard to bond with her. I took her to see a chiropractor to see if it would help with her latching, I made changes to my diet to help increase supply, you name it, I did it. It wasn't until week five/six that my midwife noticed that my daughter was slightly tongue-tied which could've been the cause to why my milk supply wasn't coming in because she wasn't able to work the milk out properly. At this point I was still motivated to fix the "problem". We went to see lactation consultants and they firstly confirmed that she was in fact tongue-tied and in addition also had a high palette which could also impact her ability tp latch appropriately and feed effectively to bring in my milk supply. I left this appointment feeling relieved that finally we had answers, but really all we had what some information to help support, not a definitive answer.

Consultation after consultation, I tried absolutely everything that they suggested to me. Don't get me wrong my appointments with the lactation consultants were amazing, I learned so much and I appreciate all of the support I was getting. Only problem is, every time I left and tried the new things and saw no result, it almost put a damper on me and made me feel more and more like a failure because now I was wondering what I was doing wrong and confirming that I was in fact the problem in all of this. It put me in a really bad place, crying all the time, crying when my babe would get frustrated that she couldn't get the milk out or that there wasn't anymore.

As I sat thinking about the number of weeks leading up to today as I sit here writing this post, I can say things that I do know for sure...

1. Part of the problem could've been that we didn't  know she was tongue-tied and that she had a high palette and by the time we did might've been too late

2. High stress and anxiety led to  my milk supply never increasing

3. The more I tried pumping and locking myself up at home the more depressed I became and feared I would fall into postpartum depression and the idea of this caused anxiety which also may have impacted my milk supply.

4. Simple...my breasts just do not create and could not hold a lot of milk.

There isn't one straight answer unfortunately because milk supply could be connected to a number of things and often times it is hard to pinpoint the exact issue.

Fast forward to the first time I ever handed Emilia a bottle, it absolutely broke my heart. I felt defeated and as though I failed. I didn't know how to handle this change and all I could feel was as though I was losing an important aspect of motherhood. I cried for several days and tried to breastfeed once a day to just get that bonding time with her. This did not help me, it actually made things worse and every time I thought about possibly completely letting go of breastfeeding, I cried for what felt like forever.

The reality is this, I know and knew at the time that although breastfeeding does create a bond, it is certainly NOT the only way a mother could bond with her child. But in the emotional moment of putting that bottle nipple to her mouth, it surely felt as though that bond had been broken and forever gone and nothing else in the world would provide the same sense connection. Here is the truth, I had to see things and experience things on my own and at my own time in order to fully let go of this feeling that I was failing my daughter. The truth in all of this is that I wasn't failing her or myself, I was merely transitioning from one way of doing things to another. This transition is what I had to accept. It was difficult because I hadn't mentally prepared myself yet for this transition, it wasn't even something I had thought of before. This acceptance phase was probably the most difficult but like anything else in life, I did get through it and I was able to accept it and move forward.

I believe the most difficult aspect of why transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding was in fact so hard for me, was because I had felt I was not given a fair chance to breastfeed. From day one having so many issues, I just felt I was never given a chance to have a positive experience with breastfeeding and all of a sudden it was being taken away. I also know a big reason why I had a hard time with this was because throughout my pregnancy, I prepared for worst case scenario with absolutely everything EXCEPT for breastfeeding. I assumed it to be organic and would naturally happen therefore I didn't feel I HAD to think about it or have a plan b ready to go. I think if I had better prepared myself or knew a bit more about the fact that breastfeeding isn't as easy or organic as people think that it would have been an easier, less stressful journey for me.

At the end of the day, my daughter's health and being fed is the most important, and I had to learn the hard way that breastfed is not best but rather that fed is best. I have come to terms with having to formula feed - I had to quit breastfeeding altogether at about 3 months because it was making my daughter throw up a lot, my milk did not sit well with her - and now that I have accepted these changes and necessities, I am feeling a lot better and understand the circumstances of what has led me here.

All in all, it was a journey that was definitely difficult, but also necessary for me as a parent. Being Type A, I often feel everything is in my control and I think this was a sign to guide and support me in maybe trying to back off on that mentality a little bit and understand that there are somethings I just cannot control and have to accept.