I never really had anything against BFing per se, but I always thought it wasn't for me. I didn't even give it a second thought with Jack, he was going to be formula fed and that was it. I didn't think I would have the emotional stability or stamina to go through all the difficulties of establishing a good BFing relationship like I had read about. I saw the struggles my friends and family went through trying to BF their children, and I never thought I could handle it, so I never entertained the thought of trying.
But when you are faced with the thought of possibly losing your house because of inability to pay your mortgage during your maternity leave, you do what you have to.
And deep down, I know there was some little part of me that just wanted to try. Just to see if I could do it. A challenge of sorts.
So I rallied my troops. I borrowed books from BFF T, I had a bunch of long heart to hearts with all my BFFs trying to get over my hang-ups regarding BFing. Mizzle was on board, he told me he would support whatever decision I made and follow my lead. And the ability to get a breast pump for free courtesy of ObamaCare? Well that was pretty awesome too.
I made sure every nurse and LC in the hospital knew that although this was my second child, this was my first time BFing, and I had NO IDEA what I was doing. After Sadie was born, because of the meds I'm on and the fact that the cord was wrapped, she was taken to the level 2 nursery before I really got to hold her. After about 45 minutes, she came back and the nurse said "she's looking for something to suckle!" First of all, I absolutely HATE the word suckle. Gross. Gives me the heebie jeebies. Not exactly the feeling you want when you first start, right? Well she just latched Sadie on and was like see ya later and left. Um, how long do I leave her on? Do I burp her? When do I switch sides? Do I wake her up if she falls asleep?
The LCs in the hospital were pretty helpful, but I never really felt super confident about anything before I left the hospital. Admittedly, its not like I took a BFing class or anything, that was my choice. I don't really dig the group learning thing, never have, never will. When we got home we tried to feed her every 2-3 hours, but sometimes she would sleep for a 6 hour stretch and was literally impossible to wake up. My milk didn't fully come in until day 6, so that was a little on the long side as well. We did supplement with formula from the beginning (thank you samples!) so she was being fed and we didn't have a screaming starving baby which was nice.
But she was a pain in the ass to nurse. She would pop off every minute or so, she was arching her back, she was difficult to burp. And then the projectile vomiting started, which was what brought us to the reflux diagnosis and got us an rx for Zantac. I thought maybe she would do better with bottles, so I began pumping and giving her bottles of breastmilk. I was pumping about 6 times a day, and getting a total of 2 oz at each pump, so I had enough to feed her. But I was paranoid about missing a pump. I knew that she was more efficient than the machine and my supply depended on close contact with her.
When she was around 3 weeks old I went to see an LC recommended by my pediatrician, and also the same LC that BFF T had seen. The LC was amazing. My favorite thing? She said "eating is business, you put that baby to breast and feed her and if she falls asleep or is using you as a pacifier, you unlatch her and put her down. She needs to learn to eat and be done". I liked that she didn't expect me to nurse this child for hours on end. She taught me switch nursing, perfected the hold and her latch and just gave me some general tips. We did a weighted feed, and I found that even though Sadie wasn't nursing for the textbook 15-20 minutes a side, she was getting enough milk. She's just a fast nurser and I have a good supply. Winning!
But the screaming continued. She was a fussy baby. There would be days where she would scream for 3 hours straight, completely inconsolable. It was better when we started Zantac, but she was literally impossible to settle down after nursing. It didn't matter if she was fed with a bottle, or if I nursed her. We tried supplementing with Similac for Supplementation, and also a short trial of soy formula (DISASTER). I had always heard of babies falling asleep while nursing, or the classic "milk drunk" photos that you see all over IG & FB. I have one of those photos. It was the day my milk came in, and it never happened again. She was impossible to settle down after nursing. Mike and I spent hours bouncing on an exercise ball, or putting her swaddled in the swing at top speed. We slept in shifts in the rocking chair in her room, holding her upright. She would be so mad/uncomfortable/distressed when she was crying that she would scratch her face, and no matter how often I clipped her nails, she still scratched herself.
People always ask, "how is the baby? Is she a good baby?" I wanted so badly to reply "no, she's miserable. She cries all the time and never seems comfortable or content" I knew some of this was the reflux, but I knew there was something else and I had no idea what it was. My diet doesn't include a lot of dairy, I do have about 2 cups of coffee every day, we do eat pasta with red sauce and I'll have salsa occasionally. I knew that if elimination diet was on the horizon, that I would be done.
I had a follow-up with the LC this past Thursday and it was great. She did another weighted feed, Sadie was getting plenty of milk and my supply had increased. We made a plan for how I could build a freezer stash for going back to work. I left feeling confident and like "I got this".
Friday she had a great day. I thought I was finally getting her down to a routine, and figuring out her cues. She was fussy as hell that evening, but that's her usual (yup, we have a little colic going on too). She slept great that night, woke up Saturday morning around 9 and all hell broke loose. I fed her, and then she started screaming. She cried literally until 11:15 when my ILs came to pick up Jack to bring him out for the day. She took a 30-40 minute break so I could take a shower, but then she woke up. And she started screaming again. I tried to feed her, she wouldn't have it.
I brought her in the bathroom with me, turned the fan and shower on and looked at the window. I thought about bashing my head through it. Literally. But I didn't. Instead, I leaned my head against the cold tile wall, clamped my hands over my ears and screamed as loud as I possibly could. I knelt down on the floor with my face against the floor and sobbed for like 10 minutes. I cried so hard that I broke blood vessels under my eyes. She stopped crying for some reason, maybe I scared the crap out of her, I don't know. I knew she was hungry, it had been about 2.5 hours since she actually ate, so I said to myself, fuck it.
I went downstairs, got a sample can of Similac Sensitive (what Jack was on) and mixed up a bottle. She sucked it down and passed out for 3 hours.
That was my end point. I knew there was something about BFing that wasn't working for her, that was making her miserable and uncomfortable. In my scientific mind, I thought if I could eliminate the variable of breastmilk and replace it with the the constant of formula, then at least I could better figure out what was making her so uncomfortable.
We continued the switch for the past 2 days, and she has been so much better. Yes she is still fussy and evenings still suck, but now she falls asleep after eating, burps easier and just seems less uncomfortable. And I'm not sobbing on the bathroom floor or thinking about bashing my head through a window.
I feel ironically free, like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. But at the same time, I feel guilty for not trying. For not doing the elimination diet. When I had thought about BFing while pregnant, I always thought that the reason that I would end up quitting would be because I was in too much pain or I wouldn't have enough supply. I never planned for BFing not working for Sadie, I always thought it would be a problem with me. But it wasn't. I didn't have any pain, I had a great supply.
But now that she is on formula, she is a happier baby. And I need to keep telling myself that is what matters, its not about me wanting to continue nursing that is important, its about what is making Sadie more comfortable. And I wish I didn't have to quit. I like the fact that my body is actually cooperating for once and doing something its supposed to. It's empowering to think that you can nourish your child solely from yourself and nothing else.
So I'm dealing with the guilt of quitting, the guilt of feeling like I'm wussing out on the elimination diet.
Naturally I've spent a lot of time hashing this out and rationalizing it with Mizzle, my mom & sister Kellie, and BFF T. My mom corrected me when I said that I was quitting - she said
"Shan, you aren't quitting, I've never known you to quit anything in your life. It's not quitting - you are just making a different choice"And then of course BFF T, the one who BF'd her child the longest out of all of our friends, the one who made it look so easy, said to me:
"Dude you overcame all those hangups and fears to do this, and you did it! It's pretty f*cking awesome that you tried, you should be proud of yourself!"So I did it. 4 weeks, 6 days of breastfeeding. At least I can say that I tried, and at least I can be confident knowing that the reason I stopped was to benefit my child. And really, that's what being a mother is all about - doing what is best for your child.