Breastfeeding Isn’t Always What You Read

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Breastfeeding is natural and easy.

That is basically the angle of everything I read over the course of my pregnancy. I was so excited about this being the baby I would suck it up and follow through. With Johnny, I was just too young, a teen. I wasn’t ready. I immediately went to formula after my midwife walked in and without warning pulled down my shirt and put Johnny to my breast. I was so uncomfortable in the situation that I immediately asked for formula. With Gavin, I was now 25 and ready. He took to it easily like a champ and gained weight nicely. He was such a good nurser right from the start. So good that I felt like it was never-ending. I felt trapped by it and after about 3 weeks I gave up and switched to formula.

So with this past pregnancy, I read all the breastfeeding articles and blog posts that I could find on breastfeeding. I made sure that by the time he was born I had everything I needed to make it happen. I was so sure that I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s. I was ready and informed and excited about making the bond and doing everything perfectly.

Then Sawyer was born.

Things weren’t as easy as I remembered them being. It wasn’t as simple as I had read. What was going on? He was hungry and I was ready but we weren’t connecting. He wasn’t catching on and I wasn’t sure on how to make it happen either. We stumbled and struggled and reached wits end. I was frustrated to the point of crying. I’m only 9 days in and I can tell you I’ve sat there bawling my eyes out while Sawyer just cried in hunger many times. I was so lost. How were we struggling so badly, I mean really how hard can it be? Right?

Breastfeeding is hard and isn't always what you read

Wrong.

What I didn’t read about was the hair pulling issues that are more common than you’d realize until you call out for help. Moms struggle to breastfeed regularly. For some reason, no one talks about it.

The first week was hard. Real Hard. There were multiple times over the course of the past 9 days that I wanted to cave in and either ask the nurse at the hospital or grab the free sample of formula I have tucked in my pantry. Sawyer was having issues latching and I was having difficulties in positioning. I made the choice to meet with a lactation consultant 3x and it was really helpful. They, of course, made it look so easy. They would sit there and help with the whole process. I won’t lie it was uncomfortable for me as I’m so not one to expose myself but I was determined and needed the help. They offered up great advice and were really helpful- but of course once they left it all fell apart again.

Breastfeeding Isn't Always Easy. One Mom's Journey. @Jennifer MomSpotted.com #baby #breastfeeding

They told me to stay away from the pump but on top of all the breastfeeding struggles we were having I was also getting pressured from the Dr. that he needed to start gaining weight back. He was losing on average 4 ounces per day. I didn’t know what to do. I even had family asking how much weight was I going to let him lose until I switched over to formula. It just made me cry harder. By day 4 I as a wreck. I was engorged and in pain, stressed, and tired. I pulled out the pump. Washed all the pieces. And pumped.

Nothing happened. After 20 minutes of pumping I had nothing. How was this possible. Sawyer was refusing to nurse my right side and the pain was unreal. I was also concerned with it thinking it could stop producing. I began to cry again. I felt so defeated. I put Sawyer in his bassinet and then took a hot shower. After I was calm and more relaxed I tried pumping again and produced 5 ounces!

Since then I have been pumping about 2x a day and it helps to track what Sawyer is taking in. He was losing so much weight that this lets me tell the Dr.’s somewhat of what he was getting. After several days of the continued downward spiral, we finally had a 2 ounce gain! I was thrilled. I’ve been continuing to pump and nurse and things are getting easier. He’s still not a champ nurser but I feel more confident in what he’s getting. I feel better about what I’m doing.

I will never knock on mom on her choice of formula or breast as I have done both myself. Breastfeeding was something that I wanted to succeed at. I know I still have some struggles ahead of me but things are getting easier and that’s the part I need to focus on. I just want other moms to know that not everyone gives birth and automatically has this amazing bond with their baby. Sometimes it takes work. The key is to ask for help. To let others know you’re struggling. Lean on other moms, chances are some of them have struggled too. I leaned on many of you on Facebook and in a forum I belong to and knowing that other moms were able to offer their advice really helped me and gave me the push I needed.

Don’t get discouraged. If you want to successfully breastfeed, you CAN make it happen. Just relax, breath, and take one day, one feeding at a time.

About Jennifer

Jennifer, the mom behind the Mom Spotted blog, is located in Western Massachusetts. She has three boys, Johnny (15), Gavin (9), & Sawyer (3). She is married to her high school sweetheart. On Mom Spotted you'll find a fun selection of recipes, family fun, product reviews, and more! You can also find her on twitter @MomSpotted and Facebook.



Comments

  1. Good for you sticking with it! It’s even harder when you don’t have support.

  2. Lisa says:

    I wrote this on your FB wall too, but you have to do what is right for you. My kids were so badly jaundiced that they would have ended up in the hospital if I didn’t pump. I’ve been where you are at, so if you ever need to talk or even cry, let me know!

  3. Being calm and relaxed definitely helps when pumping! Producing 5 ounces in a pumping session is amazing, actually. I pumped for several months for my first two once I was back at work, and I was lucky if I got 5 ounces (and they were older babies who were definitely drinking more than 5 ounces per feeding). Good for you for sticking with it. Even for those to whom breastfeeding comes easily, it’s still hard. You still have to feed the baby every 2 hours and if you want to share feeding duties, you have to pump, so you’re never really “off”. It’s hard – I’m always proud to hear when mommas are able to stick with it.

  4. I am very thankful that breastfeeding came naturally with my first 2 and I am really hoping it’s the same with this baby come July!

  5. Kaye says:

    Good for you to finding something that worked for you and for your baby. It’s not easy and it is terribly emotional – especially when it is “supposed” to be easy! And good for you for writing this post as well. Very few talk about how hard it CAN be, as you mentioned, and I hope this posts helps others who have/are struggling.

  6. Rachel says:

    Hugs. Breastfeeding is definitely not easy… I struggled with my first son and then at six months decided I was done. He never moved beyond an every 1.5 hour schedule, even at night.I was losing my mind from a lack of sleep. For us, switching to formula after 6 months made for a happier mama and baby, AND I ended up being a better mother for my daughter too. Me without sleep? Not pretty.

    With my second son, we made it to five months. I was exclusively breast feeding and determined to make it to one year this time. But around the fifth month, I knew something was off. Like my older son, he was nursing nonstop but he looked so little and was crabby all the time.

    I took him to my Pedi and it turns out he had lost weight, dropping form the 55th percentile to the 16th in less than a month. Sure, he was nursing all the time but my supply was crap. I tried everything to get it up, but we ended up being full time formula by six months. I gave PCOS and my milk supply is just one of those things affected by it.

    I am a huge fan of breastfeeding but I cringe when I see people beat up on moms over formula or when they push breastfeeding as “easy.”. As you showed in your post, it ISN’T easy for everyone. It is isn’t natural for everyone. The militant lactivists need to understand that and SUPPORT moms rather than ridiculing and belittling them for having to use another means of NOURISHING their child.

  7. Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy says:

    Breastfeeding is such an individual experience. It truly is different for everyone and I cringe when people or articles start off with “Here’s what you need to do…” My son nursed easily but I couldn’t pump AT ALL. I bought two different pumps (one was a top of the line expensive one that I was told would solve all my problems). The fact was, it just didn’t work for me.

    IMHO, the best thing moms can do for their baby is to eliminate as much stress as possible and take care of themselves. If that means pumping or formula or WHATEVER, don’t beat yourself up!

  8. Mariah says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This post is wonderful. I also struggled with breastfeeding and I wish someone had just told me that it was okay. We ended up going to formula around 5 months because pumping wasn’t covering even 10% of my son’s needs. Looking back, I can see how many emotions were poured out because of the breastfeeding struggle. I wish someone had just say, it’s okay if it doesn’t come naturally!

  9. Lyn says:

    I totally agree with you that online you always see “totally natural and easy” posts about breastfeeding and that is just not always the case. This topic has actually been on my mind the last couple days and this post prompted me to write one about my nursing journey with my two littles. It is actually going to post tomorrow about 930. Otherwise I would link to it.
    I did link to your post in my post, I hope you do not mind. 🙂
    I hope your journey gets better. With my second little one, it seemed to take about 2 weeks or a little more to really get the hang of it (for both mommy and baby).

  10. I am so glad that you were able to figure something out! 🙂

  11. Emilie says:

    I’m very proud of you for sticking with it even through all the struggles and am happy to see a different point of view of breastfeeding. While I haven’t had the same problems as you, I do understand the extra responsibility it puts on the mom and how it can be hard to be the only one to nourish your baby. Breastfeeding has so many wonderful rewards but I would never call it easy. All I can say is that it does get easier -at least it always did for me. {HUGS}

  12. amy v says:

    congrats on sticking w/ it! i had my 1st baby at age 20 and was in no way ready- i stuck with it a coupe weeks, now 10 yrs later i was much more prepared and i totally identify w/ you!!! i hope you read this and know you are not alone. it took us at tleast 8 WEEKS to even get the hang of things. he’s now 14 months and we r going strong! not as often but we are ‘pros’. 😉 believe me, it was no easy task. i pumped til at a about 3 mo old when he refused a bottle- w/ my breastmilk even! joining a LLL group really helped- have you done that? they are so supportive. best of luck.

    annae07 at aol dot com

  13. Heather Robinson says:

    I’m so glad it’s going better for you!! Remember, whatever you feel is right for you and little Sawyer, is right. You’re a great mom regardless of how you feed him, it’s the love that matters. I’m so happy you’re seeing progress though, that’s great!

  14. Mandi says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so happy Sawyer is gaining weight. We struggled so much too. Baby C was losing weight and it was so scary. Turned out I had retained placenta and an e.coli infection and Baby C had Meningitis. It was awful. But we pulled through. And I know this sounds silly, but I thank God for formula, because she literally wouldn’t have survived without it.

  15. Jenny Lloyd says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I think a lot of women struggle with breastfeeding but they are afraid to admit it because then they feel like they failed as a mom. I know I struggled with each of my boys for different reasons and I felt guilty when I had to give them a bottle. Now I know I did what was best for them.

  16. GiadasMama says:

    i think it’s wonderful that you are still sticking to it and didnt give up. You are doing a great job! <3

  17. Liz says:

    I’m so glad things are going better for you! I know it’s frustrating and it’s SO hard to remain calm. Best wishes for continued success!

  18. So good that you’re sticking to it! 🙂 I’ll keep sending positive thoughts for it to get even easier soon (and it will!)

  19. Good for you for hanging in there! I’m glad it is getting better. I lucked out and had an easy time but then had the worst time getting my daughter to take a bottle when I went back to work after 12 weeks. Once my husband drove her out to my work so I could nurse her. Poor thing finally liked the Playtex brand.

  20. Amanda says:

    I love, love, love reading articles like this. I wrote one myself once, and plan on rewriting a similar one on my new blog. Strictly breastfeeding was not for me. I exclusively pumped breast milk and bottle fed it to my son for a year. It was my choice and I loved it and felt confident with it. I might even go straight to that with the next child.

  21. I tried to breastfeed my firstborn. He became jaundiced. Because of our skin disorder, I couldn’t let them use bili lights on him, it would have killed him. They threatened a total blood transfusion if his numbers got any worse. I had to start supplementing by day 5. Then we went home from the hospital. The doctor told me to try pumping. I nursed, I cried. I pumped, I cried. By day 14 I was literally getting less than 2 ounces A DAY with pumping every two hours and nursing every two hours, alternating so there was something latched on every hour. At his two week appointment, the doctor begged me to switch to formula because my son was not only not gaining, he was losing still. Because of my disorder, my mammary glands are deformed and I just couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain my son, and the doctor suspected that what I was producing wasn’t like typical breast milk anyway because of the appearance of it. On day 15, I switched exclusively to formula and felt like a failure. Other moms looked at me and gave me THAT look. Many glibly said, “Breast is best.” After hearing it for the umpteenth time, I finally snapped back at one and said, “Yes, breast is best when your breasts can actually produce.” I can’t stand it when women put other women down for formula feeding. Most had no idea what I had been through, nor did they care to find out because they were too busy looking down their pious noses at me to take a moment to care. Thanks for writing an honest post and getting it out there. Breastfeeding isn’t easy, and for some, it isn’t even possible.

  22. GABBY D says:

    This is defnitely refreshing to read as I suffered from a lot of breast feeding issues when my son was first born. 5 months later, I am successfully relactating. 🙂

  23. VERY INTERESTING—-HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY.

  24. Rebecca Parsons says:

    Great read. It is a tough road for some people. I Did well with my first two but the last can you say nightmare.

  25. jennie sanderson @jenpsht says:

    Breastfeeding is hard! It takes a lot to stick with it, in my point of view it was totally worth it, but it took at least 4 months to be totally comfortable.

  26. Tammy Jackson says:

    Great article! It is definitely difficult for so many. It is made to look so easy and carefree and natural. It was nothing like what I expected! I wish someone would have prepared for me what I was in for, but I knew no one who had breastfed their own babies. I figured it out as I went and I am glad I stuck with it! It definitely made the bond with me and my children stronger! 🙂

  27. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    I have heard from others that they have a hard time. You are a champ to stick with it. God Bless. Thank you so much for sharing

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