In honor of National Breastfeeding Week, I thought it would be fun to share my personal experience with nursing. Though it has been 17-months since I stopped breastfeeding Olive, the memories of those sweet, quiet moments are fresh on my mind. I know that nursing is not the best option for every mother or every baby, but it did work for us...not instantly, but eventually.
People often refer to breastfeeding as one of the "most natural parts of motherhood". That may be the case for some women, but my chapped nipples and I found it to be about as natural as the ingredients in diet sodas. In the beginning, Olive rarely latched properly, and when she did, she almost instantly fell asleep. She was such a slow eater that by the time she finished, it was almost time to start again. (Who knew it was 3 hours from the time you started??)
I was so exhausted and frustrated that I wanted to quit. The lactation consultant recommended I try pumping as it can be faster than a newborn and can also help build supply. The idea was that Brett could give her the bottle while I rested. The lack of milk I was able to produce via pump was so defeating. To this day, I think Brett could have almost produced as much. Olive was spitting up half of what she ate, aka liquid gold, and I was in tears most of the time. When she hadn't pooped in 24-hours, we knew she wasn't getting the nutrients she needed.
With our tiny newborn, a worried new daddy, and a stressed to the max mama - we went back to the hospital to meet with our lactation consultant. She said the words I had been dreading to hear, "I think you need to supplement with formula".
Tears began to roll down my tired face. I felt like such a failure. I wanted only the best for this little ball of perfection, but I couldn't seem to give her what she really needed. Brett, a very hands on daddy, was tired too - and he wanted me to stop beating myself up. He kept quoting, "I've got nipples, Greg. Can you milk me?", a line from Meet the Parents just to make me laugh. It worked 50% of the time.
We took our little nugget home following a pit-stop to Walgreens to buy formula. I didn't want to go in. I some how felt it was the final sign of defeat, so I made Brett do it.
Here is the funny part of the story. As soon as I cracked open the formula and gave Olive the bottle, I felt relieved. And then, I felt soaking wet. Somehow giving myself permission to supplement with formula relaxed me and my milk actually let down. I soaked through my nursing pads, previously only used for show. With breast milk freely flowing from me, I put down the bottle and put Olive to the boob. She latched. She ate (from both sides). She fell asleep with a full belly. I laughed. I cried. I showered. It was a miracle!
From that moment on, Olive and I clicked. I suppose sometimes the best thing you can do is cut yourself some slack. There are a million different ways to be a good mother. So long as you are providing nourishment for your child, it doesn't really matter if it's from a boob or a bottle. Do the best you can and love, love, love with all you have.
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