Just a heads up, this is my really personal breastfeeding story, and one that's hard for me to tell people. I usually end up in tears and feeling super guilty whenever I talk about it. If you have anything positive or encouraging to add, then feel free to comment. If you have anything to add that is going to contribute to my tears and guilt, then feel free to go fly a kite. Thanks.
Also, this isn't meant to scare first time moms or gross out anyone, it's just my experience, and I feel like it's important to share with other moms/soon to be moms. I don't want anyone else to feel the pain or guilt that I felt, and my hope is that others will realize that it's totally okay to make whatever decision is right for you and your family, regardless of what everyone tells you is "best for baby".
Before I got pregnant with Jackson, I really thought I wouldn't breastfeed. Not even try it. I was formula fed and have always been very healthy. I didn't see anything wrong with formula feeding, and thought it would be a more convenient, albeit expensive, way to go. I'm an extremely private person when it comes to my boobs. The thought of a baby sucking on them completely and utterly creeped me out. The thought of attaching a machine to them and sucking milk out was unfathomable. It made me uncomfortable to be around women breastfeeding their babies. I saw many women who were completely tied to their babies 24/7 because of breastfeeding. They could never ever leave their kids for more than 2-4 hours, because they had to go nurse. I didn't want to be like that. I wanted freedom to have Eric feed the baby. Freedom to not be the only one to wake up in the middle of the night to feed. Freedom to leave the baby with a sitter from time to time. Sure, breast milk is free, and washing bottles is a pain in the ass, but I still felt that it was a better choice for our family.
Then I got pregnant. At first I stuck to my formula feeding guns, but the closer I got to having him, the more research I did, I thought I'd at least give it a try. He was born and I tried it. He latched on great and everything was going swimmingly. For about 5 seconds. Then the pain kicked in. It hurt. Like, really really bad. Like, I would have rather given birth again in that moment than to have him continue to nurse. We had several different lactation consultants come in to our hospital room. They all said he was latching on fine. I continued to nurse, because everyone I talked to told me it was normal and the pain would pass after a few days. I also knew that it what was the absolute healthiest option for him, and my guilt immediately kicked in. "It's what nature intended" I'd hear. "Your body was made to do this"
By the time I took him home from the hospital, my boobs were bleeding. Literally. My milk hadn't even come in yet and I was bleeding. I continued to nurse because everyone told me it would get better, and I continued to feel guilty, and question why my body wasn't made to do this. Did nature have it out for me? Then my milk came in. Now, I not only had to deal with bleeding nipples but also engorgement, which can be rather painful too. So nursing for me meant sitting down with my new little bundle of joy, anxious to my core about what I knew was coming and bracing myself. He would latch on like a champ every time and I would proceed to swear and cry the entire time. Every time he nursed, it would break open the scab from last time and I'd start bleeding again. But I continued to nurse because everyone told me it would get better. And guilt. This went on for about 3 more days until I just couldn't take it anymore. I called both a lactation consultant and my doctor and they both told me to do the same thing. Pump. Pump until I stop bleeding, then try latching him on again.
So I started pumping. I'd sit down with my double pump, unable to hold my sweet baby boy the whole time, and ever so gradually turn the pump on. Each and every time it would break open the scab and I'd start to bleed again. I'd pump for up to 45 minutes and would be lucky to get 2 ounces. That went on for six weeks. Six whole weeks of pumping for 45 minutes (not holding Jackson), bottle feeding Jackson the pumped milk, plus supplementing with formula, for about a half hour, cleaning up all of the pumping gear and bottles for about 20 minutes, then starting the process all over again. I knew after about a week of strictly pumping that Jackson would probably never latch on again. But I continued to pump. And I continued to bleed. And swear. And cry. And feel guilty. And question why my body, the one that was made to do this, was failing me and my baby. All of this, on top of the hormonal roller coaster that I was going through postpartum and the umpteen stitches still in my lady business from a way-too-fast delivery. It wasn't until Jackson's six week appointment that our family doctor told me it was time to stop. Enough was enough. I should not be bleeding after exclusively pumping for that long, and it was no longer what was best for me or the baby. I was relieved that someone else, a trusted medical someone else, gave me permission to stop, but I still felt a certain amount of guilt that I wasn't doing what was "best for baby". I knew deep down that I was doing what was best for MY baby though. Sometimes it was hard to see my friends be so successful with breastfeeding. Especially when they would talk about how it was hard for them at first too. Like I didn't try hard enough or stick with it long enough.
I eventually got to the point where I was comfortable with my efforts, and I knew I had done everything I could. I saw that my mostly-formula-fed-baby was thriving just as well as exclusively-breastfed-babies. He was not sick, or dumb, or anything that hard core breast milk advocates lead you to believe.
I had my mind made up before I even got pregnant again that I wouldn't put myself through the pain, separation, guilt and anxiety that I went through the first time. I would formula feed from the beginning and be okay with that. And here I am, pregnant again, hormonal again, second guessing that decision. "Every baby is different" I keep hearing. True. But I'm not different. My boobs aren't different. I don't think I can go through what I went through last time, with the addition of a toddler in my life, no less. I'm afraid that if I go the "give it my best shot and if it doesn't work, I'll formula feed" method, I'll end up right back where I did last time. Which was not a pretty place. But what if it could work out this time and I don't even try?
Here's where I stand on the subject today: I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't need anyone to talk me into or out of it. There is absolutely nothing anyone could say to me that I haven't thought about and done research on already. It's a decision that only I can make, and I probably won't make it until the moment of truth.