Celebrating the wonderful ups and challenging downs of this journey called motherhood...
When I got pregnant, I was so sure I would breastfeed. I didn't have any doubts about it because I knew that breast milk is best for baby and I want what's best for my baby. I even bought breast pads and breastfeeding bras way ahead in preparation for it. Little did I know that it would turn out to be super challenging and to be honest, a real struggle.
When Henson was born, my midwife immediately helped him latch onto me. He was able to latch pretty good actually and I thought that it was going to be easy from there. Boy, was I wrong. Henson is one determined baby, and very demanding too. He would latch on, but then he would get impatient because the flow was slow (my milk still hadn't come in at that point). He would unlatch and cry and squirm and kick. We tried different holds; cradle hold, cross cradle, side lying position, football hold, we tried them all, yet Henson would not stay latched.
My milk came about 3 days after I gave birth. I just woke up with engorged breasts and they were so painful. We tried latching Henson again, everyone helped me, my midwife, my mother in law and husband, nurses, even a lactation consultant. I didn't even care anymore that my breasts were just hanging out there for everyone to see. I just wanted my baby to latch on, so I can feed him with the best food there is. But he just wasn't patient enough. We even thought he was tongue tied because he would always put his tongue up towards the roof of his mouth and it was so hard to get him to latch properly.
But we didn't stop trying. I stayed in the hospital for about a week, and I can still remember how hard it was. The midwife decided to give Henson some formula because he was starting to get dehydrated. He wasn't drinking my milk. So we mixed some formula with my measly pumped milk and we gave it to him through a feeding tube. I hardly slept, I had to be woken by the nurse every 3 hours to pump, and then we would try latching him on again for a few minutes, and on top of that, my nipples were starting to get so raw and bruised and bloody. I was in so much pain, even painkillers didn't ease the pain I was feeling. My breasts were hard as rock, with clogged ducts and pumping was not helping at all so I had to manually express them. At times when I was alone with Henson, all I could do was hold him and cry through the pain. The physical pain, I could handle. But the emotional pain that I was experiencing, that was way too hard to handle. I even cry sometimes when I think of that moment.
To make the long story short, I ended up breastfeeding (and supplementing with formula) for only 3 weeks. I felt bad, every one was pressuring me to keep going and I wanted to. I felt guilty because I couldn't provide my baby with the one thing he needed most during his first months of life. I felt like a failure. Why was my body failing me? My milk supply was so low. I tried fenugreek and milk thistle and pumped every 3 hours but it didn't really help. I would only get about 1 oz per pumping session. And since Henson wouldn't nurse, my supply just kept dwindling down. Every time I would try to latch Henson onto me, he would wail and cry so much and any person looking on would say that he was struggling as much as we all were. It hurt me to watch him struggle like that. He would go red in the face from crying every time I tried breastfeeding him. I dreaded feeding times with him. I wish he would just latch and suck even though it's like needles poking on my already battered breasts. I would've handled the pain as long as he's getting my milk. But he refused to do it.
I felt bad giving up. Even now, sometimes I would wonder, and I would ask myself questions... did I give up too soon? If I would have persevered, would things have gone differently? If I would have forced Henson to latch on even though he would fight it, would he have learned how to do it eventually? I remember being so jealous of other moms who had overflowing breastmilk and whose babies would just latch on without any problems.
But you know what, I can't keep beating myself up over quitting. When I made the decision to just feed him formula, meal times became enjoyable, daddy could feed him too, and I could visibly see how happy my baby was. He didn't have to struggle anymore. I know he missed out on the cool benefits that breastmilk has to offer, but seeing him happy and content kind of made up for it. And I know I made the right decision for us. When I learned to accept that decision in my heart, the emotional pain slowly melted away along with the physical pain.
I know a lot of people tend to judge other moms feeding their kid formula, and I used to think like that too. Like, why not breastfeed when you know it's best for your baby? But really, if you're one of the blessed ones that didn't have issues with breastfeeding, you're lucky. And by all means, make the most of it. For those who struggled a lot and eventually did it, great job! But for those of us who have exhausted every means possible and had no choice but to make a heartbreaking decision to stop breastfeeding, PLEASE don't judge us. I really had NO IDEA how hard breastfeeding could be and I know there are moms out there who can relate and have experienced something similar. I salute all moms who would do anything for their babies, even go through a lot of pain just to give their babies the best. We should be proud of ourselves and not let guilt consume us. We are not bad mommies just because breastfeeding didn't work for us.
Breastfeeding is definitely best for baby and my experience with Henson will not stop me from trying it again with my next baby. Every baby is different and hopefully everything will work out better the next time around.