When I became pregnant with Charlotte, I immediately made plans to breastfeed – at least for the first year. My mom, my Meme, and some women at work all talked about how they thoroughly loved their experience breastfeeding. They each said how the bonding breastfeeding brought was unlike any other. While I wasn’t counting down the days to breastfeeding, I looked forward to bonding with my baby. I was excited to be the person my baby completely depended on. And I was super excited about all the money I would save by not having to buy formula.
When Charlotte arrived, I went ahead with the plan to breastfeed. The first time I tried to breastfeed her ended in Charlotte not being interested – she would latch and then immediately come off to look around the room. When she finally did feed, she latched perfectly but it caused immense pain for me. This was normal, as I was told, so I didn’t think too much of it.
After a few feedings, I was still experiencing a lot of pain each time. Charlotte wouldn’t even try to latch onto my left breast, even when offered first. The lactation consultant was concerned that my nipples may be too flat for Charlotte. She had me pump in the hospital as a way to “bring out my nipples”, thinking that may be preventing Charlotte latching onto the left breast. The first time I pumped, I brought in triple the amount the lactating consultant was expecting. Charlotte latched perfectly onto both sides. I was so proud and assumed that this meant our breastfeeding journey was going to go smoothly after all!
Early into the morning of day two of my hospital visit (Charlotte’s first full day of life), I was trying to nurse her. And again, she wouldn’t touch the left side. This led to me getting a massive clogged duct – a recurring event in my breastfeeding journey. The nurse kept suggesting to pump it out but that just made it worse. My breast ended up getting swollen, red, and super, SUPER, hot to the touch. It hurt so much to even touch it! The pain made it so hard to breastfeed Charlotte even on the right side due to having to hold her up against me. Already, I was starting to see breastfeeding more as a nuisance than a good experience. I spent every breastfeeding moment praying for relief – praying that things get better.
By the end of the day, the pain was so bad that I spent the entire day in tears. My nurses asked me to stay an extra night just to monitor the pain and swelling, as well as Charlotte’s latch. I was so heartbroken to have to stay an extra night due to something that, to my understanding, should be natural. I just KEPT praying for the pain to go away.
Around dinner time, Charlotte latched onto the left breast and DRAINED it. I actually cried from happiness and from relief. I remember turning to Tim and telling him to do a happy dance in my place. He didn’t, but he was still super happy for me! Again, I really hoped this was a sign that the rest of the journey would go smoothly.
Only a week into breastfeeding – I was ready to quit. Determination and stubbornness told me to stick it through, but I was hating every moment. Each time I tried to feed Charlotte, I was in massive pain. I would actually sing some song out loud, usually with tears in my eyes, as a way to distract myself from how badly it hurt. For the next month, I went around seeing different lactation consultants to see if there was an issue with Charlotte’s latch. Every single one of them declared her latch to be perfect. I even had her checked for tongue-tied multiple times and she tested fine there too. My only option, as the nurses said, was to push through the pain or quit.
I felt so hopeless. I couldn’t help but feel like a massive failure. Here I was, trying to do what I heard was a women’s natural instinct, and being unable to. More than anything, I wanted to enjoy breastfeeding. I wanted to provide this “liquid gold” to my daughter and give her the best start in life. At the least, I wanted to make it to my goal of breastfeeding for a year. But the pain wasn’t easing up.
Not too long into our breastfeeding journey, I became quite scared to leave the house. I didn’t want to deal with the possibility of having to feed Charlotte in public. Running into negative people didn’t scare me – but I was scared of having to deal with the pain in public. I didn’t even want to go to my family’s Easter dinner due to the fear. All date nights stopped, our walks around the block stopped – I just wouldn’t leave the house. I was so scared of the next feeding time.
The Pain Wasn’t Stopping
She was becoming quite the hungry monster too, wanting to be fed every thirty minutes to an hour. Doing anything for myself or around the house was an impossible task. There would be days where Charlotte would wake up, feed, fall asleep while latched, wake up again and immediately start feeding. This would just repeat all day. When I tried to unlatch her while she was asleep, she would scream and begin feeding again. I couldn’t take her off my breast. My nipples often went numb by the end of the day.
The fact that she never seemed satisfied with her meals made me fear she wasn’t getting enough. I was pumping regularly as well (always after her feedings) and was consistently filling bottles. My freezer was stocked, so I figured I must be making enough for her. When I checked with my doctor, she said Charlotte was right on track. We did a measured feeding and the results were good there too. But I couldn’t stop being worried she wasn’t getting enough.
I Became a Shell of Myself
The anxiety just started to eat me alive. I was having three to five panic attacks a day just from worrying if she’s ok, if I am doing something wrong, if my milk is wrong, if the pain will ever stop, if I was going to make it to a year, if those around me would be upset if I didn’t, if I was eating bad foods for milk-production, etc. I was questioning every decision I made and became so miserable. Tim has even quoted this time of my life as, “the worst he has ever seen [me]”. I couldn’t laugh anymore, I couldn’t have fun – I was just so anxious all the time.*
By the time Charlotte was two months, my heart would drop when she cried. Not because I was sad for her, but because I knew she was hungry and that I would have to go through the pain of breastfeeding her for who knows how long crying who knows how many tears. It made me not enjoy holding my own baby which caused even more panic attacks. When Charlotte wasn’t wanting to nurse, I tried to do all the things I couldn’t do while she was nursing – such as showering, cleaning the house, and folding laundry. I rarely felt like I could just relax and love on my baby.
This, of course, made me feel like even more of a failure as a Mom.
The stress of nursing had taken all the joy out of being a new parent for me.
By three months, I decided to introduce the occasional bottle. We decided to rent a hospital-grade pump to lower pump times. The one I was using was a very slow, single pump. I hoped by introducing a bottle and spending less time pumping, that I would feel a little more human and less like a cow. I also hoped it would help me enjoy nursing even just a little bit.
However, the pain still was just as present as ever. Charlotte would still try to nurse for hours on end. I was still scared of leaving the house. My panic attacks were getting worse. Overall, I became so unhappy. Here I was partaking in what is often referred to as the best and most beautiful bonding experience a mom and baby can go through, and I wasn’t enjoying a single second of it. Besides the pain and the panic attacks, I didn’t even enjoy holding my own baby just out of fear she may want to feed.
I was told that breastfeeding would make me bond with my baby, but I felt so distant from her.
By four months, I just felt like an alien in my own body. My self-confidence had reached an all-time low. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore because I was just so unhappy. Due to Tim’s extensive work schedule, often working twelve hour days, I barely ever got time to just relax. If Charlotte wasn’t nursing, I was either trying to rock her to sleep or care for my own basic needs (eating, shower, etc).
By five months, I questioned if I could go on. Nothing was getting better. Charlotte hated her bottles. I hated breastfeeding. My mental health was rapidly deteriorating. I experienced pain and heartbreak and fear more than I experienced anything else. And I felt so isolated.
I couldn’t handle it anymore.
I had to accept the fact that it was time to re-adjust my goal of one year. No matter how badly I wanted to make it, I had to accept that breastfeeding wasn’t for me. So I decided to go for one more month. If I could make it to six months of breastfeeding, I’ll be happy.I was told that breastfeeding would make me bond with my baby, but I felt so distant. Click To Tweet
The Positive Ending
Within only a few days after that six-month mark came, my whole world did a 180 switch. We had changed to formula, while using up the rest of my pumped milk, and I felt a massive weight lift off my shoulders. My panic attacks lessened to just one or two a day, and further decreasing to one a week by the seven-month mark*. I slowly became happier, less stressed, and begun to LOVE my time with my baby. No longer fearing the next feeding was a massive relief! Having my boobs get back to their normal size was the cherry on top – I finally felt comfortable in my body again.
Quitting breastfeeding was freeing for me. The fact that I can enjoy my time with my little one tells me that I made the right decision.
I understand that all these reasons can be deemed as “dumb” when you’re not wearing my shoes, but I did what was right for my family. At the end of the day, I am an immensely better mom with formula feeding.
I still wish I could have been that Mom that loves breastfeeding. The one that it comes so easy too, or even the one that fought really hard to get into the groove of things. I wish I could have provided that “liquid gold” to my daughter. But I am not a failure for quitting. Whether I had quit at my six-months or even two days, I am not a failure. And neither are you, if you needed to. Fed is all that matters.
*I am aware of and have received treatment for my anxiety. If you experience similar symptoms mentioned in this post, please seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider.
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