This is a post I never thought I’d write. I was sure I’d nurse Rooney until she was a year old and that I’d love it. But then again, not much about my transition into motherhood has gone as I expected.
Successful breastfeeding has almost everything to do with the latch.
But Rooney was born tongue-tied and she could not even stick out her tongue past her gum line.
Our first nursing session took place an hour and a half after her birth. (Looking back, I wish we would have done it sooner.) I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, but I had seen my sister do it for months with her twins and for more than a year with Mylie. I think it’s such a beautiful, amazing thing, and I really enjoyed it in those first days.
But on Rooney’s third day, just hours before we were discharged from the hospital, the nurses informed us that she had lost 9 percent of her birth weight. And they were worried.
They instilled a fear in us.
We immediately started supplementing. It was really hard for me to see her drink that first bottle of formula, especially because I was sitting right next to her hooked up to a pump. But she was eating. And she did so great with the bottle.
So we began a cycle of nursing, bottle feeding and pumping.
It’s a crazy cycle, if I do say so myself.
Supplementing really complicates breastfeeding because you either have to pump afterward to tell your body that your baby needs more milk, or be OK with the fact that you will have to supplement forever until you decide to wean.
I was determined to work extremely hard in these early days so that someday my milk would be enough for her.
But she did so well with the bottle, which made our breastfeeding sessions much tougher on me to train her to nurse and open her mouth wide. The bottle was easier and she definitely preferred it.
On Rooney’s sixth day, we chose to get her tongue clipped. The ENT doctor said her frenulum was the tightest one he’s seen in a year (she gets it from her father), so we felt great about our decision.
I thought we’d see immediate improvement. But, Rooney learned to suck many months ago in the womb with her short tongue, and it was clear that it would take a while for her to get used to it.
But, again, I was determined.
We tried using a nipple shield, I read this book, took fenugreek, and for two weeks we went to 1-on-1 lactation consults and a breastfeeding support group where you can weigh your child before and after eating to see exactly how many ounces they got.
In those two weeks, there was no progress with how much she was getting from me. She would take about one ounce from each breast (which could take an hour total), but the lactation consultant wanted her to get three ounces to regain her birth weight.
Most of the tears I cried in those first three weeks were tied to breastfeeding. I never wanted her to wake up and be hungry because there was so much pressure for it to work. Maybe the pressure was only from myself, but I sort of felt like everyone expected me to do it.
When it went well, it was amazing. When it didn’t, I was so bummed.
We made it three weeks on the crazy cycle. It came to the point when I was going to be home by myself during the week and I just knew I could not keep up with nursing, supplementing and pumping.
I woke up one morning, exhausted and sad, and was desperately looking for permission to quit. Mostly from Eric, but also from close family and friends who had been successful at nursing. I felt like I would let them down if I quit. But every one I talked to admitted that quitting seemed to be the right decision for us (if only for my mental health).
I know there are so many benefits of breastfeeding. And financially it doesn’t get much better than free. I wanted it to work so badly. But even with all our efforts, it wasn’t.
Eric will tell you (and my mom, because she witnessed it, too) that after we made the decision to quit, I was immediately a different person. I was relieved of so much stress and worry and anxiety. Not to mention that I instantly gained eight hours of my day back.
I continued to pump eight times a day, though. I felt proud of the milk I made for her and loved seeing her get it — even if it was in a bottle.
But it does not feel natural to hold your
crying screaming baby while hooked up to a pump while your husband makes another bottle because the milk you pumped last time wasn’t enough.
Well, …I made it five days of pumping and then that, too, got really old. Each feeding was still requiring two steps (pumping and bottle feeding), and being home alone with her meant I had to do both steps myself.
Once again I found myself looking for permission to quit.
It was even harder to make the decision to stop pumping than it was to stop nursing. It felt a lot more permanent.
It was enough to bring me to tears. And then Eric reminded me that this was just the first of many challenges God would give us as parents. And that it was OK to quit.
So, we quit.
And I gained another two hours of my day back.
I’m not sure I’ve ever quit anything before in my life, but it ended up being the right choice for us. And I have peace with the decision because I feel like we gave it a great shot.
And I honestly feel like a better mom after stopping. The antibodies she got from me in the first month were great. I know the benefits of breastfeeding continue for months and months, but I couldn’t think about anything but quitting every time I had to put Roo down so I could pump. Her sleeping in my arms was one of my favorite things in those early days, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it because all I could think about was how I should be pumping. I was so darn worried and tired and stressed.
It was a very tough decision, and, honestly, was kind of painful to stop.
But I am much happier now that I’m done.
And I actually don’t miss it like I thought I would. It has been so freeing. It sounds selfish but I’m so glad I don’t have to wear nursing tops or worry about nursing her while we’re out. The fact that I can now smile at her as she wakes up instead of feeling sad and anxious assures me that we did the right thing for our family.
Feeding her is still the most intimate thing we do with her. It’s just with a bottle instead of a boob.