You guys – I wrote this last night. Today my baby is 6 months old. And while I am ecstatic about everything he is doing, this milestone also makes me feel a few other things. I debated sharing this, as it is so personal. However, I know – KNOW- so many moms struggle with their journey in regards to feeding their baby. So I am sharing regardless. **Please know that I have zero judgment against any method or reasoning for how you feed your baby. This is just my experience. **
Breastfeeding was important to me from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I knew I wanted to. And I knew it could be tough. But I planned to do what I had to do.
6 months I told my husband. I want to feed him for 6 months. Please don’t let me stop before then, I said.
We took a class about breastfeeding. I read about techniques, positions, supply. I asked everyone I knew about their experiences. I was as ready as I ever could be.
And then he arrived. Early. And fast. And not when we expected. And then we were in the NICU. And none of it was what I “planned”.
The first time I nursed him, I felt such a connection that I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I loved nursing. I loved the time with my sweet baby. And suddenly, my ambitions and goals sky rocketed. I would breast feed him a year. Two years! As long as he would. And as long as I could. Nothing could stop me. And then my baby was given formula, and no one asked me if that was what I wanted. That was what had to happen, I was told. So I worked. I tried to get that tiny baby to latch well. And I pumped. Every 3 hours. On the dot.
My milk came in easily, and abundantly, and I felt so proud. And so relieved. But it didn’t seem to help my sweet little guy. He struggled. So we struggled.
And we struggled more. And he cried. And I cried. And then, some days, he would do so great. And I felt relieved and happy. And I loved nursing. Some days it worked. And some days it didn’t. And I fought to get rid of the formula. And we did. But then the bad days became more than the good days. And then I cried when I had to reinstate the bottle with breast milk. But still, I thought, we can get this. If I keep trying, he can get it.
I tried everything. Four different lactation consultants. Multiple phone calls to other lactation consultants. Frequent calls to the pediatrician. Regular visits to MilkWorks. Weighted feeds. MSPI diagnoses. Nipple shields. No nipple shields. Chiropractor. Physical therapists (yes, this is a thing). Lip and tongue ties. Specialty dentists.
The weeks spread into months and nursing never got easy. I watched moms in public effortlessly bring their babies to their chest and begin nursing, without even looking down. Or using a second hand. Things I was absolutely not accustomed to. I felt envious and kept thinking “our day will come. I have to keep trying.”
And then one day, it was over. I thought it was maybe just a bad day. But it wasn’t. And it wasn’t my decision. And I thought my heart was going to break in half. He couldn’t possibly know what he was doing, right? He can’t just “decide” to be done nursing, right?But he did. Just like he decided he was going to bust out a month early, he also decided when this would end.
And so I was sentenced to the pump. I was bound and determined to at least supply the breast milk for 6 months. But without the connection to my sweet little one, I struggled. I cried. I stressed. I was already sleep deprived and the extra stress and time restraints of it nearly sent me over the edge. I knew so many mothers who had done this and I kept telling myself I could too! If they can do it, so can I!
The pressure became so great that I decided, with my husband, to start bringing some formula back in. I have nothing against formula. I never have. But my own desires got in the way and I cried when he had to have formula again. And then I cried when he hated the formula. Because that meant I needed to try harder to make sure I had enough.I quit. Every single day. In my head. “I’m done.” I said after my last pump session. “I’m done” I said every time I passed out on the couch, woke up….. and realized I still needed to stay up longer to pump.
Somehow, the days and weeks kept passing. I accepted the reality and made a choice. I knew I could get to 6 months, but what killed me is that I still felt like I failed. 6 months ago, while I held my very small little angel, I promised myself that I would do the very best for him. And at the time, to me, that felt like nursing him. Maybe even up until the day he could drink cows milk out of a sippy cup!
But that is not what happened. And now, on the eve of his 6 month birthday, my heart hurts and my mind is racing. I’m excited. Because we’re done. I’m heartbroken, because I “failed.” I’m overjoyed, because all of the hours lost being hooked to a pump can now be replaced spent with my baby. I’m devastated, because I can’t (or won’t) provide breast milk longer. I’m proud, because I did meet my original goal. I’m sad, because I didn’t make it longer.
I know in my mind that I am not a failure. But , my heart is aching. Being a mom truly is a roller coaster of emotions. And I certainly don’t expect that to ever end. But for now, the journey of breastfeeding has been a part of my highest highs and lowest lows. And I want to remember all of those feelings, good and bad, and remind myself that we did it. And though I’ll never look down and see this tiny, sweet face nursing again – I will always remember how beautiful and special it was.