We have all heard the slogan “breast is best” but it is not always the easiest. As mothers, we all know that breastfeeding is most natural, and, in theory should be the simplest, most efficient way to feed our babies. However, this is not always the case for every mother and baby pair. As a mom of two boys, Chase who is almost five, and Samuel who was born 5 months ago, I have had both a wonderful experience and a tremendously challenging one nursing my children.
My older son nursed beautifully from the outset. After a scheduled induction and a fairly easy labor I started to breastfeed him within the hour. He latched perfectly right away and there was never any breastfeeding trouble. I was able to feed him this way for his first year of his life and I loved knowing that I was providing him with the most natural source of nutrition that I could and I also loved the bond that we shared while I was nursing.
Fast forward four and a half years and, after years of trying to get pregnant again and multiple losses, I was blessed to have a second son, Samuel. I didn’t even think about whether I would breast feed him I just assumed that I would have the same, easy experience I had the first time around. Well, there was no such luck!
From almost the very beginning we have been plagued by one breastfeeding problem after the next. Just as one issue resolves, another more troublesome one takes its place.
We’ve had to contend with a short frenulum, (also known as a tongue-tie) which we corrected, several rounds of treatment for thrush, and most recently, sudden onset of low milk supply caused by thyroid problems. I have sought the help of a lactation consultant and a medical doctor specializing in breastfeeding medicine, not to mention my good friends and family members who have breastfed their children and, of course, all-knowing Dr. Google!
Currently, I’m working with my endocrinologist to get the thyroid function under control, taking several herbs and a prescription medication obtained outside of the US to increase my milk supply but until the supply increases adequately, we are supplementing with formula. I’m hoping that this plan of action is the one that works for me and that in few weeks I will be on track to exclusively breastfeed Samuel. If it doesn’t work out as I hope I will have to come to terms with the very upsetting reality that breastfeeding this time around is going to be a very different experience. I must decide if I’m going to breastfeed him with supplementation or just wean him to formula.
Over the past several months I have been feeling tremendous guilt surrounding breastfeeding. I want it to work so desperately and am blaming myself for the failure. I know that is not rational, and that I have tried (and am still trying) everything to make it work. I know that if I have to bottle feed Samuel he will be the same happy, smiley, content baby that he is right now. I know that babies thrive on love and laughter; giggles and grins, affection and attention; and that no matter where his food comes from, bottle or breast, he will have those things from me.
I know all of this but just cannot internalize those facts into a good feeling. After all, this is how mothers have fed their children for millennia so why can’t I get it right?
A good friend reminded me that in the days before infant formula lactating women would help each other nurse their children because not all women make enough milk naturally. If you were having trouble, another woman would take over for you to ensure your baby had what he or she needed. I am thankful that I have the option to supplement with formula and the luxury to try to breastfeed him as well. Time will tell whether I will be successful in returning to exclusively breast feeding or whether I will continue to supplement or turn to all formula for him. Whatever the outcome, I know he will be fine . . .and so will I.
Did you breast feed your children? Did you face any challenges? Did you supplement with formula?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Alison Charleston, an attorney gone stay-at-home mom in New York City.
Photo credit to Orin Zebest who holds a Creative Commons attribution license.