My Breastfeeding Philosophy

Breastfeeding is, for me, a day-by-day decision. I try to keep it as casual as possible, and decide on a daily basis whether or not I’ll be continuing for another day. The whole thing stresses me out, and this is why:

Before I had my first child, I was absolutely determined to breastfeed. I was completely opinionated about it, and convinced that the only way to do it ‘right’ was to breastfeed exclusively, and pump when I returned to work. Then, I actually had the kid, and reality set in. I had a very difficult time breastfeeding Olin. Initially, we discovered that I had very flat nipples, and after trying everything from ice to pre-pumping, I ended up with a nipple shield to nurse with, and shells to wear in my bra the rest of the time.

Then, he started doing this strange mouth malposition thing where he would leave his tongue on the roof of his mouth, and create suction there so that even with a bottle, we had to pry his tongue down with a stiff nipple. That made breastfeeding virtually impossible. For the coup de grace, his heart condition made him so sleepy and weak that it took him an hour to drink an ounce from a bottle, once we did get him to suck correctly. With the combined issues, there was no way breastfeeding was going to be successful. We didn’t know about the heart problems at the time, of course, just that I was a failure at breastfeeding.

I took it very personally, and tried everything that I could think of to make nursing work. I pumped and bottle-fed what I pumped as well, but my production was extremely limited and eventually I gave up. I cried every time I gave him a bottle for months, feeling like an utter failure at being a mother. My mother-in-law, who is a sweet lady and was truly trying to help, only made the experience worse by telling me ‘if you’d just keep trying…

With the second child, I was – understandably, I think – leery of the whole situation. I still very much wanted to breastfeed, but after the first experience, I wasn’t sure that I could. AJ didn’t have all of the problems that Olin did, but I had a sort of PTSD about nursing, and kept flashing back to all the failures that I had with Olin. I gave up after about two weeks with AJ, both because of the stress brought on by my memories, and because Olin was just old enough that I couldn’t handle trying to nurse AJ while Olin got in to stuff. I also pumped and bottle-fed AJ for a brief period, but once again my production was quite low, and he was being supplemented with formula from almost the beginning.

This time around, I decided that I was going to take everything very easy, and just be chill. I developed the philosophy that “as long as you’re feeding your baby, you’re doing it right” and it is a message that I try to pass on to patients in the OB department when I do postpartum teaching, so I thought I would take the advice for myself. I am taking supplements and doing a variety of other things to try to keep my production up enough to sustain exclusive breastfeeding, and so far (two months) it has been pretty successful, but I still sort of wonder when I’ll get to the point that it doesn’t work any longer, for one reason or another.

For now, for today, we’re breastfeeding. Tomorrow? We’ll decide tomorrow.

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