My plan was always to breastfeed. Five months pregnant with my first child, and with my belly looking more like a beer belly than a baby bump, my husband and I were slowly walking down the aisles of our local Babies ‘R Us. We painstakingly perused every single item in each section.
The excitement that we were getting closer and closer to meeting our baby girl kept increasing with each “beep” from the handheld scanner. When we got to the formula aisle, I quickly glanced away and kept walking while my husband asked me if we should scan some—just in case. Annoyed, and slightly offended, I hastily replied, “No. I’m going to breastfeed. Remember?” And that was that. I never even considered that I might one day need it.
Unlike me, who is infamous for being late, my daughter decided to make her arrival into this world 3 weeks early. I remember hearing her little newborn cry, and wanting nothing more than for that large sheet that was separating me from her to fall down. When the nurses finally handed her to me, what felt like an eternity later, my heart felt like it was going to burst with the love that I felt for this tiny little being. When one of the nurses asked if I was planning on breastfeeding, I immediately said, “Yes! Of course” and thus our breastfeeding journey began.
Our first week of nursing was difficult. I struggled with getting her to properly latch, and the pain kept getting more and more unbearable. I was more exhausted than I had ever been in my life, and I felt like the few minutes a day that I wasn’t breastfeeding were rare and fleeting. For something that was supposed to be so natural, I couldn’t believe I was struggling so much. Everyone kept telling me that it was normal though, and that it would get better, so I simply gritted my teeth and kept going. I held onto the hope that once my milk came in and my supply regulated it would get easier.
At my daughter’s one-week appointment, my new-parent anxiety increased even more when the pediatrician told us that he was concerned that she had lost so much weight. Seeing the look on my face, he assured us by letting us know that it was normal, but that just as a precaution he wanted us to come back and do weekly weigh-ins until she was back to her birth weight.
At home, breastfeeding was just getting harder and harder. I cried through our hour-long nursing sessions because it felt like my breasts were being torn apart, and looked forward to the short breaks I would get in between to tend to my bleeding nipples, while silently freaking out that chunks of skin were starting to come off. My daughter would cry and cry and even though my milk had come in, it seemed like she was always hungry. Our weekly weigh-ins continued and the self-doubt and worry kept seeping in. When my daughter was four weeks old, and she had still not gone back up to her birth weight, our pediatrician suggested we try supplementing with formula.
I had never felt more worn and defeated. When we got home, I nursed my daughter almost an hour, trying to make sure she got every last drop from each side. Finally, we took out a bottle of formula. A single serve bottle from a sample pack we had received in the mail. I had humored my husband the day they came in by not throwing them away… “Just in case we need it someday”. I gingerly took the bottle from my husband and upon the bottle touching my daughter’s lips, she opened her eyes wide and started chugging it down. Content, she let out a big burp, and nestled in my arms, she fell asleep. I was so relieved that she finally seemed satisfied after a feeding, but I also felt ashamed. Had I been starving my poor baby this whole time?
Read Part Two of this mama’s feeding journey here!