Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Breast Feeding Failure Series: The Beginning

We discuss this topic a lot via Twitter, e-mails, blog posts, facebook posting, etc.  We all have our reasons, and we all somehow feel the need to explain our position on breast feeding.  How did something so personal become a topic of major judgmental discussion?  Somehow, it has.  Everywhere we go, we get the question: "Are you still breastfeeding?" It unfortunately becomes an uncomfortable conversation full of word vomit.  I've yet to hear a "yes" or "no" to that question that isn't followed by a long explanation.  So I've decided to speak out in a series of a few posts with my experiences and lessons regarding the topic.

My name is Paige, and I'm a total breast feeding failure.  My son is six months old, and we had to switch to formula about two months ago (give or take a few days).  To put it mildly, I was less than thrilled, but I did what I had to do.  I made mistakes, and there were circumstances that were beyond my control that resulted in the switch.

During my pregnancy, I read a little on nursing, mainly about the benefits that Ethan would get if I chose to do so.  I openly admit that I was not determined to make breastfeeding work.  My original take on nursing was that I planned to attempt it, but I felt like it was ok if it didn't work.  I didn't feel passionately about it one way or another, so I went into it with open feelings. 

I have seen situations that after several weeks of attempting, breastfeeding wasn't best for the mother or for the child.  I knew that I wasn't immune to these situations, and I chose not to spend a lot of time worrying about it.  I emphasize that just because I wasn't determined to make it work doesn't mean that I wasn't determined to give it a fair shot.  I set an original goal of 6 weeks.  Don't ask me where I got that number, but I felt that 6 weeks would allow Ethan and I both to figure out if breastfeeding would work for us.

I received numerous comments of disapproval with this particular approach.  Apparently feeling open minded was interpreted as "You don't care enough about your child."  That certainly wasn't the case, and I do not feel obligated to emphasis or discuss my desire to care for my child in the best way possible.  However, I set myself up to a world of unsolicited opinions and comments.  "Don't breastfeed.  You can't take them off and let Jason help you in the middle of the night.  He needs to help you."  "I can't believe that you would be so nonchalant about something as important as breastfeeding."  "Don't even think about breastfeeding, it will ruin your sex life."  That last comment cracked me up because of the level of ignorance, and actually ended up making me want to try nursing more out of spite.  That's another story for another time.

I really do believe that those open feelings were what made our first few weeks of nursing fairly smooth and easy.  I didn't feel pressured to make it work, and I didn't really care what other people thought.  Ethan and I made our first attempt to nurse about 20 minutes after he was born.  He latched immediately, and ate for about 20 minutes before falling asleep.  I was amazed and thrilled at how easy I found it, and was immediately more eager and more determined that this would be our route of feeding for as long as possible.  I really enjoyed nursing immediately, and became excited about it.

The only thing I didn't like at this point was the particular "hold" that my nurses kept insisting I try.  It wasn't comfortable for me, it wasn't natural for me.  I insisted on situating him my way and never looked back.  I do think that teaching holds can be important for beginners, but I truly believe that there is no "wrong" way to hold your infant while nursing as long as the latch is proper. 

Ethan nursed in the hospital every two hours for at least 20 minutes at a time with the exception of a rude visitor or two that would not leave to provide us privacy to get ourselves situated and return to the room because "holding him just couldn't wait any longer."  Those visits were cut short, and we remained on schedule.  Our nursing journey started out so well, and I began to call him the champion eater.  I had no idea that Champion Eater was going to be the understatement of the year.

Upon discharge of the hospital, I had to sit down with a pediatric nurse on caring for Ethan, discussing when to call the hospital, etc.  Ethan needed to nurse, and she told me that she would wait to begin our conversation once he was latched.  He latched immediately, and I began casually chatting with her.  She finally asked me if he had managed to latch, and I was a bit confused.  My baby had been eating for 5 minutes already, I thought she was just being friendly!  She acted very surprised, and even more surprised that I was a first time mother.  I felt a sense of pride that we were getting the hang of nursing so quickly and so easily.  At this point, I didn't understand the big deal.  Why was everyone telling me it was so hard?

It didn't take long for us to find out.


Mama Bub said...

I love people who talk honestly about breast feeding and I hate that everyone feels the need to defend a decision that they've made for their OWN children. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Valerie said...

You are NOT a failure!!! Not at all! Be proud of the time you spent nursing. You did it!
Nursing was hard for me too. It wasn't as natural as I had thought it would be. You didn't fail, not one bit!

Erika and Jason said...

Following up with my Twitter comment:-) I totally get how you feel like a "failure" those are my inside thoughts too...but it's so hard for me to come to terms with the fact that we "failed," I'm trying to re-phrase my negative thoughts, but it's hard. I *may* do a similar post...but I fear the backlash I will get from my SIL. Isn't that horrible? Blah.

Ashley Belle said...

For the record there is absolutely NO SUCH THING AS A FAILURE when it comes to being a mother. Believe it or not, Loving your child with all you have is the only requirement. I too would get soo sick of hearing peoples opinions on how to raise and care for my own children. When did this become some big competition and debate. Us mommys really need to stick together, because regardless of the smiles we put on, it can be EXTREMELY hard, and we truly need to learn how to support each other!

Jax said...

Ohno! Girl, I'm not even a mommy and you are SO NOT a failure! I have been there when my friends have been in the hospital trying to get their babies to latch on and their kiddos just not having it. It seems so traumatic and upsetting! :( And another friend of mine jsut didnt produce enough milk to keep the little guy full. He was crying all the time and the choice was switch to formula or underfeed your kiddo. I applaud you for giving it a go and for knowing when to make the switch. You definitely have the best in mind for little E! Who cares what those judgmental hussies say! I've been around when some of those debates get heated and I just find it crazytown!Moms have to be strong for a variety of reasons, but rebutting people's judgment should not have ot be one of them! Sheesh! You go, girl!

Brittney said...

How have I missed, like, 20 of yours posts?!?! I am so thankful you're doing this series. I was a breastfeeding failure with E, and I *still* feel guilty about it to this day, even though I was doing everything I could to make it work, and our circumstances caused the failure. Can't wait to go forward and read the rest of these posts!