Now that Olivia is 6 months old, I’ve been reflecting on her short life so far. All the milestones that she’s reached, all the challenging times that we’ve faced together, and all the ways that she’s grown. One thing that I’ve reflected on quite a bit is our breast-feeding journey.
It stared off just okay. She started searching (rooting) for my breast pretty quickly after she was born and after some quick instruction from the nurses and lactation consultants, she was able to latch pretty well. During our stay in the hospital, my favourite nurse and lactation consultant suggested that I should use a nipple shield as my nipples were pretty flat (stop reading now if you don’t want to read the word “nipple” again).
We left the hospital with a baby girl who was feeding well with the use of the nipple shield. She was latching and eating like a champ, and gaining weight like nobody’s business. She was THRIVING.
She was thriving and I was struggling.
Olivia was categorized quite early on as a “lazy eater”. She was latching well enough (to the nipple shield) and getting all the milky goodness, but she was MESSY. After feeding her I would end up with milk all over myself and my clothes. It was so messy that I would put a towel between her and my body in order to soak up all the milk that was spilling from her mouth.
I hated it.
I hated the fact that it was so difficult to feed her when we were out of the house, as my shirt would end up soaked in breast milk (which quickly soured). I hated the fact that I hated breast feeding (shouldn’t this be the most natural thing?). I hated the fact that I was failing at something that I wanted to succeed at so badly.
When Olivia was around 5 weeks old, we introduced a bottled of expressed breast milk. She had zero trouble taking the bottle and, I have to admit, I loved it. I loved having a break from having my clothes and skin soaked with breast milk. I loved being able to leave her alone with Trevor or my mom while I took some time for myself. I loved knowing that she was still getting my milk. It opened up a whole new world for me.
Sometime between the time of Olivia’s first bottle and her 2-month birthday, I stopped breast feeding.
It was an extremely hard decision to make, but it needed to be made. It had gotten to the point that each time Olivia latched on to my breast I would start sobbing. Not because it was painful, and not because she was having difficulty latching, but because I was mentally done with the whole thing.
I’m having trouble finding the words to explain how I was feeling in those moments, and I know that you probably won’t fully understand how I was feeling. Please know that I didn’t just give up; that I tried my hardest to make it work (through block feeding, trying to wean Olivia off the nipple shield, etc.). It got so bad in those final days that I feel like it was teetering on the brink of full-blown postpartum depression. I vividly remember laying in bed with Trevor, while Olivia was asleep in her room beside us and I was crying. I was struggling with what to do. I knew that I needed to stop breast feeding, but I didn’t want to. It got the point where Trevor made the decision for us. He told me I needed to stop; with no more discussion or room for debate.
It was the best thing that he could have done for me. He made the decision that needed to be made, when I didn’t have the strength to make it.
From that day forward, things got so much better for me. I was still feeding Olivia breast milk exclusively, but I was no longer struggling. Sure, pumping it A LOT of work, but it was easy for me as it just felt right. It felt so right that when I had to take antibiotics for a week (to help me get through a bad case of bronchitis), I fed Olivia formula and still pumped three times a day WITH A SINGLE, MANUAL PUMP and poured EVERY. SINGLE. DROP. of milk down the kitchen sink in order to keep my milk supply. This is when I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that exclusively pumping was the right decision for me.
I’m still amazed that I was able to do this, but it honestly wasn’t that hard; it became my new normal.
Once we celebrated Olivia’s 6-month birthday, I dropped my mid-day pump and starting giving her 1-2 bottles of formula a day. It’s the next step in our journey, and I’m totally comfortable with it.
In reflecting on our breast feeding journey, I’m filled with happiness. Yes, it was challenging and difficult at times, but we got through it. The thing I learned was that there are so many options out there, and there WILL be an option that works for you and your baby. Yes, “breast is best”, but I firmly believe that it was better for Olivia to drink from a bottle than it was to have a me suffer from postpartum depression. Feeding her a bottle doesn’t mean that we’re not close; that we don’t have a great mother/baby bond. In the end, I did what was right for our family, and I’m no less of a mother because my baby doesn’t drink from my breast.