I always wanted to breastfeed. My Mother had breastfed all of us for at least three months so my assumption was that I’d be able to do it as well. Well, I didn't breastfeed my first born, and I wasn't able to breastfeed Adeline, so ha! Another example of me entering a phase of life with an expectation. It's funny how having an expectation has always let me down. I've learned a lot since then. But hey, that's where I was at and here I am reflecting on it and sharing it with all of you.
Charlee was born two days after her due date and they put her on my breast right away. At Mount Sinai West they had a really awesome daily class offered to new moms dedicated only to breastfeeding. I remember having failed a few times already in my recovery room to get Charlee to latch and watching another Mother in the same class with her baby literally on her boob latched perfectly. I remember thinking "What the heck is she doing here?!" I remember even idolizing her pointy nipples! I was JEALOUS, hormonal and already feeling like a failure. Great start to motherhood am I right?
From the beginning, I was dedicated to breast feeding but after FIVE, yes FIVE different lactation consultants, I was diagnosed with flat nipples. Basically, I made plenty of milk but my nipples were lazy making it really hard for my baby to latch. It was decided that if I wanted to train Charlee to eat from my breast that I would have to wear a nipple shield. Well, I don't know who designed these things because they are completely SEE THROUGH making them impossible to find in the middle of the night and difficult to place onto my nipple. They also made for the perfect combination of endless frustration and midnight sob fests! Regardless, I was DETERMINED and I kept trying day after day, night after night. I would place Charlee on my dumb nipple shield and do what I could to get her to latch. Then, defeated, I would hook up my pump and pump out the milk that my baby couldn't get for herself, and feed it to her from a bottle. It was absolutely exhausting and ruining the beginning of Motherhood for me. It created a terrible anxiety within me that made me dread meal time. I also then developed a tremendous pinched nerve in my right shoulder blade from the stress of trying to get Charlee to latch.
Almost worse than the personal stress I was putting on myself, was the pressure I was hearing from everyone around me. The "she'll get there, just keep trying" and the "It takes time, you'll figure it out," from each breastfeeding consultant, a successfully breastfeeding Mom, and even my husband was becoming too much to take. No one offered me an out. I was desperate to figure this out because I knew this wasn't working and was completely unsustainable.
Enter stage left, my Mother. My Mom came up to spend a week with us when Matt went back to work to help me find my solo parenting groove. She arrived from the airport to our apartment and shortly after it was time for Charlee to feed again. She watched me struggle to get Charlee to latch for close to 30 minutes before she said "JESS. What the HECK are you doing to yourself? Just pump your milk and give her the bottle. This clearly isn't working and your baby is hungry and you are miserable. She can have breast milk either way!" It was the first time someone had actually seen ME through all of it. I looked at her and burst into tears. I felt such relief to have been given permission to stop trying. To this day I don't know if she realizes just how much that support helped me in my early days of motherhood. I was so insecure as a new Mom just trying to do what everyone told me was right for my child but felt so unnatural and wrong for me. I wasn't a part of anyone's equation when they provided advice or an opinion and I thank my Mother for being there for me in that way.
My Mom and I spent that week together building out a pumping schedule, buying all the necessary parts for my pump and I began to start to enjoy feeding Charlee. In one week my child stopped crying constantly and I, as Charlee's mother could see straight for the first time. Breastfeeding didn't work for me, or for Charlee and I was on my way to getting confident in saying that out loud.
Fast forward to three years later when my Adeline was born. I knew that I would most likely not be able to breastfeed due to my own anatomy, and then Adeline's birth diagnosis of Down Syndrome coupled with hypotonia seemed to cement that as well. Despite this, I went into my second round of breastfeeding with an open mind and gave it a shot. Shortly after, it was pretty clear that breastfeeding wasn't in the cards for Adeline and I and instead of being upset and disappointed in myself, I made the decision to pump exclusively with zero guilt. I lasted about 6 weeks due to the insanity of two kids and again felt no guilt.
The difference in these two experiences was three years of self reflection, therapy and self worth WORK. Here at Extra Lucky Moms we encourage each other to take a step back and honor what works for you first. I knew that I would be a better Mother to my babies if I stopped holding myself to an unattainable standard of trying to breastfeed. The moment I leaned in to what worked for me and my girls, the easier my life got.
If you are struggling to breastfeed and need to step back, this is your permission to do so. I see you Momma.
This week on the blog we will be exploring all types of breastfeeding journeys and personal stories and I can't wait to read them. Breastfeeding didn't work for me but it does for so many and can be a beautiful experience. We want to make sure everyone feels welcome here at Extra Lucky Moms and are dedicated to sharing each perspective that we can on this topic. Stay tuned for some incredible Mothers sahring their own breastfeeding journey this week!
-Written by Jess Quarello-