“I breastfed Aiden Ziggy, my second child. To be precise, 524 days. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I was not too fond of it. That’s it; I said it. Breastfeeding was something I despised. This is our tale…
First, I should mention that I was unable to nurse my first child, Dylan. I desperately wanted to work as a first-time mother. He would not latch after a horrific birth that nearly resulted in a NICU stay for him, blood transfusions for me, and many tears for both of us. I felt like I’d failed miserably. I never established a full supply in the first month, so he was largely nourished by the F word. Yes, I provided him with a formula. Anyone who has attended a breastfeeding support group knows that some people believe that giving your kid the F word is worse than putting them in a forward-facing car seat. Dylan, on the other hand, was largely fed by it. I ended up pumping for a year so he could also have some breastmilk. And let me tell you, pumping was a chore I despised. But I forced myself to do it because I was so ashamed of myself for not being able to breastfeed due to being a shattered mother (as the voice in my head told me I was).
I spent a lot of time worrying about our breastfeeding relationship when I was pregnant with Aiden. Is my new baby going to latch on? What if I wasn’t able to breastfeed again? What if I had to feed someone else using that dreaded F word? What if I couldn’t get him to take a bottle because I couldn’t breastfeed? Each circumstance made me nervous. I’ve battled anxiety for most of my life, for those who don’t know. And, thank god, breastfeeding pushed it to the limit. Breastfeeding is currently fashionable, which doesn’t help matters. Seriously. Some hospitals allow formula use (baby-friendly hospitals). There is a lot of pressure on mothers to nurse their children. And I was completely aware of it.
We had several nursing issues in the hospital when Aiden was born. He couldn’t latch on to my right side since he had a tongue knot. When a nurse came in to take my blood pressure for the third time in twenty minutes, it refused to go down. She inquired why I was so agitated, telling me that I needed to attempt to relax. I informed her that I was desperate for my kid to latch! The lactation consultant and a social worker appear in my room the next thing I know… Listening to me scream while my kid is pressed against my boob and refuses to eat, His breathing problems had surfaced, and no one knew what was wrong with him, so he was returned to the nursery for observation. As I fed him the bottle, I sobbed. The lactation consultant informed me that she didn’t like giving mothers advice but that I didn’t need to breastfeed. I didn’t have to go through all that trouble. She could see how it was affecting me. She’s a blessing. Oh, how I wish I had paid attention. But I was so determined to breastfeed my baby that I continued going. Fortunately(?) he latched after his tongue tie was cut. And with my little nursling, I left the hospital.
Breastfeeding was difficult for the first month. Aiden didn’t seem to be gaining any weight. I booked an appointment with one of the doctors in my pediatrician’s office, who also happens to be an independent board-certified lactation consultant. She recommended I take away his pacifier, not try any bottle till he was at least two months old to avoid nipple confusion and insert my boob in his mouth and feed him whenever he moved his mouth. She suggested that I might be missing his hunger signs. That this could be one of the reasons, he wasn’t gaining weight. Each weight check resulted in tears and anxiety. He finally returned to his birth weight approximately a month after his birth. I assumed that the most difficult aspect of nursing was already behind me. Was I ever incorrect?
I chose to give Aiden a bottle when he was two months old. And he despised it. It was protested. My mother persuaded him to take one once, but that was it. I should have offered it every day and been more consistent. But we were in the middle of figuring out all of his health issues at the time. Going from one doctor to the next. Around the same time, he began to get acid reflux. He was miserable and in excruciating agony. He’d latch, start eating, unlatch, and cry, which would go on all day. I was concerned about dehydration occasionally, and I wasn’t sure he was getting enough milk! I gave it my all! I tried to cut acidic items out of my diet. I even gave up coffee out of desperation… My daily fuel, my life’s love… It was brought to a halt by going cold turkey. I was concerned that anything I was putting into my body was aggravating his reflux because there is a lot of strain on you when you are the single source of what keeps your baby alive.
He was diagnosed with failure to thrive at the age of three months. We returned to the lactation consultant pediatrician. While brainstorming strategies to urge him to eat, she suggested that I pump after each feed and give him the extra produced milk throughout the day. But there I was, with a baby who refused to drink from a bottle (we had tried at least thirteen different bottles). I tried walking around all day with the nipples of each bottle in my bra, hoping they would pick up my aroma. I tried cutting a hole in my shirt and feeding him a bottle through it. Friends attempted. My hubby attempted. But the boy was only interested in my boob). So, what is the doctor’s recommendation? Every 2 hours, feed. Tell that to a sleep-deprived mother whose infant was handed around like a hot potato from specialist to specialist… Keep an eye on what happens. It isn’t really good. But I didn’t have a choice.
As a result, I would nurse my infant every two hours. I hoped his weight would rise. We had to go to the doctor for a weight check every week. I understood the worst-case scenario since I had worked as a nanny with a range of children, some of whom had special needs. Some of the children I looked for before having my own were tube-fed. Was it going to be my baby next? Was he going to grow up the way he was supposed to? What if he didn’t obtain the nutrition he required and had long-term consequences? Every day, I was concerned. I slept for an hour and a half at a time. There were times when I was completely spent. I’m exhausted. But I was concerned that if I allowed myself an extra fifteen minutes of sleep, he wouldn’t get enough food for the day. As a result, I had no choice but to persevere. My thought process slowed down. I had chats that I would later regret. I had forgotten a few things. The days passed in a whirl.
We had worked out his dairy intolerance by the time he was four months old. At this point, he had a GI on his medical team. She assumed responsibility for his weight problems. Every week, I had to visit the pediatrician. He should be undressed. Place him on the weighing scales. I’m going to hold my breath. Look at the numbers. We can only hope for an increase. Make a call to his GI. Rep once a week. We then progressed to twice-weekly weight checks. After then, it’s every month. We’ve finally ceased the weight checks now that we’re nineteen months old. It messes with your head when your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, and you’re the one who makes the milk. It exacerbated my anxiety. But here’s the kicker: I couldn’t increase my anxiety medication because I was nursing. Because when you’re nursing, you have to keep a close eye on everything that enters your body. (Note: I’m aware that some anxiety drugs are safe to take while nursing.) However, I was concerned about the uncertainty with them).
Just hang on a bit longer, I was told. Once he started eating solids, I wouldn’t have to feed him so frequently. Wrong. Until he was a year old, his weight gain would halt if I skipped a feed for more than three hours. Back to a tight nursing schedule, we’d have to stick to it.
Evenings were now a complete f’ing catastrophe. Aiden became accustomed to feeding every two hours after a month of doing so. It’s the only way he’d be able to doze off. It appears that this is not uncommon for a breastfed baby. He was also frequently startled by his sleep apnea. And my boob was the only way he knew how to get back to sleep. Why didn’t I do something to end the cycle? In the first year, was there an asleep train’? Because I jumped at any chance to feed the boy more calories. Because I am one of those parents who CAN NOT tolerate it when their child cries. It causes me a great deal of pain. I didn’t know where to begin because I was so exhausted.
I’m embarrassed even to bring it up, but dieting and breastfeeding were part of my difficulty. It’s another mental trip when you want to lose the baby weight you gained while pregnant but needs to keep your calories up to provide for a baby who is slow to gain weight. I’ve had a lot of trouble with eating disorders in the past. As a result, this gave me a lot of anxiety. Quite a bit. I felt suffocated. Amazingly, entrapped. However, I’ll store those thoughts for a later post.
Aiden was unwell a lot last winter due to his medical issues. And the poor kid had eustachian tube problems, which resulted in repeated ear infections. Anyone who has ever had a child with an ear infection knows how unpleasant these can be, particularly at night. And nursing was my son’s only solace through an infection. He’d wake up every 45 minutes or so in discomfort. As a result, we sunk deeper into the all-night nursing cycle. I sunk deeper into a hole from which I had no way of climbing out. I was stuck in a rut.
By the time my husband arrived home from work each day, I was so exhausted, as are most moms, that I took a nap from 4:45 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. to make sure I had enough stamina to get through dinner and night. I’d hurry around like a crazed woman, do the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, shower, and then Aiden would be up again. I was the only one who could get him to sleep again. So, reluctantly, I would collect him and nurture him back to health. Then I’d try to finish a few more tasks, never really having time for myself. He’d come to. I’d get him down again. Continue this loop until I fell asleep… to be awakened all night.
The purpose of this post is to encourage others to support breastfeeding. It has the potential to be a lovely thing. I just wanted to share my thoughts on why nursing isn’t the greatest option. It robbed me of everything I had. It resulted in the death of a large number of my brain cells. Living my life in three-hour intervals during the day and even less at night was extremely stressful. I couldn’t leave the house once the kids were asleep because I had to be available. I could never leave for very long when I had a sitter throughout the day. At times, I felt like I was being held captive. We, too, have recently moved into a new home. Because I didn’t have the uninterrupted time to pack like a regular person, I packed a complete house in the most disorganized manner possible. It’s similar to how I started a medical blog and took TEN MONTHS to complete my second piece! I’ve never had the time to do it because I’ve never had the time to myself. (Note: I’m working on a few other themes that I hope to finish soon!)
Don’t get me wrong; there were some enjoyable moments as well. Being able to soothe my son, knowing that I was providing for him, our relationship, looking down into those lovely little eyes as he breastfed, those sweet tiny fingers feeling my mouth and playing with my face while he ate, so much more. It is not my aim to dismiss all of these occurrences. That is something I want to emphasize.
Do I regret breastfeeding Aiden in the end? No, it was a necessary part of our trip. Perhaps it was the universe’s way of delivering extra antibodies for my baby’s immune-compromised body. It may have made it easier for me to keep a more alert check on his apnea bouts. Or perhaps it had simply taught me about inner power. Everything is conquered by love.
As I emerge from the battleground that has been my life for the past year and a half, I’ve decided to share my tale with others. World Nursing Week was last week, and I saw a lot of blogs and stories on how wonderful breastfeeding is (which it is, to be sure). There was a lot of discussion on why ‘breast is best (wrong! fed is best!!!). What’s more, guess what? It’s quite acceptable to administer formula! Isn’t it amazing that science has progressed so far that we now have another option for feeding our children? Milk is derived from science. I would have been a better mother in the last year and a half if I had fed my children scientific milk.
Would I feel the same way if my baby wasn’t a failure to thrive? Would our path have been as challenging if I hadn’t had a baby with many medical issues? Would it have been so difficult if I hadn’t had a history of anxiety? What are the chances? However, I am aware that our breastfeeding connection’s circumstances took a toll on me. I have a lot of things to return. I’ve been able to function again after weaning him. I’ve gone out with my friends countless times. My hubby and I had gone out on several dates. I’m not constantly jittery. I’m slowly waking up from my zombie-like condition of survival. I re-started reading plays (a favorite pastime). There have been a couple of auditions for me. I’m hoping to resume my circus classes soon. I’m living a life that isn’t dictated by my boobies. What’s more, guess what? I believe it has made me a better mother.”
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