You are a Failure if you don’t Breastfeed your baby: Just don’t do it in public.

(I will be returning to the other topics soon…I have had a lot of questions about spending analysis and starting a budget, I just have some more Mom things to get out before I forget them) 

this video went viral over the summer and understandably so. It is so well said!

            The first week of being a mom was really difficult for me. The lies of parenthood continue to invade all my expectations.  Jacob is an awesome kid. He does just what babies should do. He eats and sleeps and well…okay. He wasn’t pooping. I guess that’s where the stress started.

We brought him home from the hospital on Monday and the nurse came over and checked him over on Tuesday. He was doing really well then, had been going to the bathroom, an overall champion kid. Passed every test with flying colours, super healthy.

Something changed between Monday and Thursday though. He stopped going to the bathroom. A couple of wet diapers no soiled ones. He was sleeping non-stop. I had to wake him every 3 hours to feed and it was beyond pulling teeth. It would literally take me an hour just to wake him. I tried everything. Cold wet clothes on the forehead, tickling his feet, taking his clothes off, changing his diaper, sitting him up, loud noises etc. He might startle (he has as seriously good moro reflex) but would fall right back asleep. Then it would take me an hour to feed. When he ate he never really “went at it” he would have a good latch, take a few sucks and then pull off. One of these times he pulled back with my nipple still clamped in his mouth, this managed to popped my nipple open leading to blood all over his face and my breast. Seeing my blood on his face and in his mouth broke my heart. This is seriously disgusting. It hurt so bad physically and emotionally. I was failing. I cried for a really long time. Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world right? Why was this so difficult?

I didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night. The soft spot on Jacobs head sunk down and something just didn’t feel right. I cried because I didn’t know what was wrong. I decided that Thursday morning we should bring him over to the clinic to get their advice. We woke up and went. I can’t even describe how worried I was. After some heavy Google searching I was pretty convinced he was just dehydrated but immediately my thoughts went to the worst case scenario. I have heard so many stories of babies in the NICU all hooked up to tubes and stuff while the parents sit by helplessly. Please God, let it not be anything that serious.

When we got in we spoke to a nurse who said that the things we were describing were very characteristic of jaundice and that although the lights in the building were bad she felt that Jacob was looking a little yellow and wanted to do a second test for Jaundice. Because this involved pricking his foot to get a small blood sample, she suggested I feed him while she did it. I was still quite emotional and mentioned I didn’t know how well that would work as I fed him right before we came and he was being rather finicky with the boob. She suggested some formula to keep him calm instead and we said sure.

She brought in a sample of formula and Jacob downed the whole thing without even thinking twice. I started crying even harder seeing how hungry he clearly was and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t give him that satisfaction. The nurse, seeing how much he ate, said her guess was my milk just needed a little help coming in. She suggested that I feed him, then top him off with formula and then pump to try and get things going and ensure that he had a full belly and she lent us a pump.

Every time we gave him formula I felt like a failure. I just kept thinking about all the stats. Breastfed babies have better immune systems, higher IQs, lower risk of diabetes, breast milk is easier to digest, leads to less crying/colic, higher cognitive growth, higher protection against SIDS…the list goes on and on. I sat here thinking that we brought this baby into the world with the best of intentions. We wanted him and were so prepared for him and we wanted nothing but the best for him. And here, only days old, I was failing to do that.  My heart was breaking. Husband witnessed me cry several times a day for days. I liked that formula meant husband could be involved in feeding but I felt in my heart that formula just wasn’t good enough for Jacob.

This process was so frustrating. Feeding was taking forever. Husband and I began to discuss potential other options. We agreed that if the problem didn’t resolve itself soon, Jacob would probably start refusing to take the breast due to nipple confusion (let’s face it bottles are just easier!). The solution that we came up with was to take it a day at a time and if he stopped taking the breast all together I would continue pumping and we could try mixed feeding. Give him bottles every time he was hungry but we would give him breast milk in a bottle as often as was feasible for me to be pumping and subsidize that with formula.

It wasn’t the ideal solution but I felt ok with it. Friday night however, my milk finally came in. I felt like I had two bowling balls on my chest, my breasts become so engorged, hard and heavy. Saturday night, Jacob finally had a good feeding. He sat for about 40 minutes chugging away at the boob and managed to feed on both sides.  I started to relax, maybe there was hope after all.

Saturday night, I also had the privilege to talk with a couple of new moms. Ones baby was 8 months old, the other almost 3 months. They explained to me that they also had problems with breastfeeding in the beginning. One ended up going to formula, the other through techniques similar to what we did was able to breastfeed. It was through this conversation I realized that this thought that had been keeping me awake at night was false. I am not a failure because I had to introduce formula.  I had to say that to myself several times a day after that and continue to affirm that I am not a failure.  Many babies are brought up with formula and do just fine. In fact I found some stats on formula and they thoroughly surprised me. I’ll link the article here (ironically it was published the day after Jacob was born). 2700 women were surveyed regarding their feeding and the researchers found that,

By the third day after delivering, over half of these women were worried about their babies’ ability to latch on, while 44% were concerned about breast-feeding pain, and 40% about their capacity to produce enough milk to nourish their infants”.

So my fears were completely normal. In Canada in 2009, Statistics Canada found that 87.5% of women at least attempted breastfeeding. Those who didn’t attempt it cited reasons such as medical, breastfeeding is unappealing or disgusting, or that bottle-feeding was simply easier. The World Health Organization suggests exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months and continuing to breast feed for a year (I believe…no citation, can’t remember where I read that).

Here’s where the stats get interesting. Of all mothers in Canada, less than 50% are still breastfeeding at six months (47.16% to be exact). Clearly, formula is not killing our children. It is not poison. And we need to just get over ourselves. Yes the research has shown that breast is best. But Formula is not the devil.

The thought of breastfeeding in public is terrifying. Not to mention after nine months of sobriety, being able to have a couple beers or glasses of wine without  having to do the math is desirable “well if I fed him at 6 he will probably feed again around 9 so if I have a beer at 6:30 then….” This last week (Jacob is now 12 days old) I took him to arguably the worlds largest mall and was able to breastfeed successfully twice just out in the open. I did throw a blanket over us but I did not hide in the bathroom or the back corner somewhere. I did have people walking by, a few people probably even saw a quick glance of breast as I tried to adjust him and get him latched properly. It was terrifying. I felt so vulnerable and I felt myself getting worked up, what if someone says something, or gives me a dirty look. Do I really want to get into it? Breast is best. I understand that some people just do not have the confidence or desire to take these steps and to whip their breasts out in public. I understand that while breast milk is more “convenient” in that it is always the right temperature, great nutrition, no need to worry about sterilizing bottles etc. Breastfeeding anywhere but home is anything but convenient and when your child decides to cluster feed and you can do nothing but sit there and let him feed for hours on end is also anything but convenient.

Motherhood is hard. It’s not the late nights, it’s not the crying (although Jacob is a serious angel baby who hardly ever cries and never for long). It’s not even the fact that he has managed to pee on me several times or the amount of laundry he goes through. Its these stupid myths. These stupid lies. Why can’t people speak honestly? I feel like now that I have joined the “mom club” other people are willing to open up to me about the struggles that they faced as new parents. I have even had a couple of moms say they wish they had the courage to blog as I do, to say the things that I have been saying. Because this isn’t easy and I am not some weird exception. My struggles are so common. There is comfort in that. But I am very lucky to have a strong support network of women who don’t mind if I ask personal questions. Some women just don’t have that.

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