I had a tough go of it the first time around. After being “stuck” in the birth canal for about 4 hours, my daughter finally made it into the world. She failed pretty immediately to latch on. We soon figured out she was tongue-tied but the only local doctor that could help was in another country doing charity work and once he was back he was pretty booked up. I called daily, hoping someone would cancel and we’d be fit in. We went to a “baby chiropractor” for craniosacral therapy. She would latch on immediately after our sessions, but never again until the next one. I remember just breaking down when the therapist hugged me before one session – it was the motherly hug I’d needed, with my own mom so far away in Florida. I’d heard stories about blistered, bloody nipples, but not about a baby’s failure to latch. I tried and tried and tried, for weeks and weeks, shoving my breast into my daughter’s face. Her tiny head was smaller than my huge breast. All the while she screamed and screamed and I cried and cried. I would pump and my husband would do the finger feeding instead of starting her on the bottle so she wouldn’t get nipple confusion with the hope that one day she’d figure it out. He bonded with my baby while I sat strapped to the pump like a farm animal. We were holding out for the tongue tie snip – it was our cure-all. Except it cured nothing.
I tried getting her to latch on for another week after that and then I gave up, finally giving her a bottle at just over a month old. As I continued to exclusively pump, I continued to be plagued with painful clogged ducts. I remember once just punching my breast, trying anything to get the clog out. I had no problems with supply – I was pumping 48-72 ounces per day. Right around this time, we also figured out that she had reflux. It was a tough time. At eight weeks old I gave her the first formula bottle. I went to a mothers’ group the next morning, and left ten minutes into it crying, as they said even one formula bottle messes with a baby’s digestive system. I wish I could go back and stand up for myself and call bullshit. Or at least say “STOP JUDGING!” I never went back. Finally, a friend started dragging me out to stroller fitness classes and when my daughter was three months old I went back to work. Once I was back to work, I felt like I’d rejoined the human race. I was finally away from all those lactation consultants (except mine who rocked!) and other moms who I was sure were judging me for my decisions. While I was racked with guilt in the beginning about stopping pumping and starting formula because it was the right thing for ME, I soon relaxed into our new routine of formula feeding.
Fast forward two years. I became pregnant again and almost immediately began fretting about the possibility of breastfeeding. The problem the first time around had been with my daughter, not me. But what if it DID work? I now felt that formula feeding was easy enough – anyone could do it, it was super easy to do in public, the baby really didn’t seem to care what kind of milk she’d gotten, she’d lived and even (gasp!) flourished with formula instead of breast milk. Breastfeeding was not something I knew anything about! When my second daughter was born, her tongue tie was detected while we were still in the hospital. We pushed and got it taken care of as soon as possible before we left the hospital. We had our early struggles with latching, but overall it was very successful. Once she arrived, I stopped worrying and just kind of went with the flow. And this time around the breastfeeding worked out! It sure made things different in many ways. I was now always the one getting up with her during the night and even now, at 10 months old, I am always the one putting her down for naps and bed. I’m still feeding on demand and for comfort as needed. It seems easier to sooth her than my first child, but she doesn’t have reflux issues. It’s hard to tell how much the breastfeeding plays into my second daughter’s more relaxed temperament, but I am glad I’ve been able to experience what it’s like to breast feed a child. And I am amazed daily that my body produces something that exclusively nourished my child for 5 months until she started on solid food. Our bodies really are amazing.