Thursday, August 3, 2017

When Breast Isn't Best

I originally shared this post in the fall of 2015. It's World Breastfeeding Week, so I thought I'd re-share my experience. I hope it might help some other new moms who are struggling.


I read an article recently on Scary Mommy that really resonated with me. It was titled "Increasing Evidence Proves Breast Isn't Always Best." Pretty bold title, huh? I was definitely intrigued.

The gist of the article is this: from the onset of pregnancy, women are inundated with information on why they should choose to breastfeed. The facts are laid out in front of us...breastfed babies are healthier and smarter; they have fewer ear infections; they have fewer cavities; they're less likely to have learning disabilities...and the list goes on. And on. And basically if you can't breastfeed or choose not to, you have been led to believe that you just haven't done well enough. You're not woman enough. You're not mother enough. And I'm here to tell you that there's nothing further from the truth. I had to learn it the hard way.

As soon as I announced I was pregnant, I was flooded with advice...some of it I sought out; most of it was unsolicited. People love giving you advice on breastfeeding. I felt like everyone around me assumed I'd breastfeed. People never ask you what you're going to do. They forget you have a choice. They forget it's none of their business.

I'll be honest, breastfeeding was never something that I was drawn to like many of my friends have been. I figured I would try it, as I honestly felt like there was no other option. No one talked to me about bottle feeding; everyone talked to me about breastfeeding. No one told me to text or call or e-mail in the middle of the night with bottle feeding questions; I had many invitations to seek advice on breastfeeding...whenever, wherever, no questions asked.

We never imagined or planned that Lily would be delivered via C-section. But she was, and I was truly just happy to have my baby in my arms. The immediate skin-to-skin contact didn't happen as I thought it would, and I was in a lot of pain from surgery. Plus, the anesthesia made me sick, and no amount of medicine seemed to quell my nausea. I kind of felt like I was doomed from the start, but I know there are other women who have much more difficult experiences post-delivery.

The entire time I was in the hospital (3 days), I breastfed. I'll be honest, it never felt natural to me, and I was never comfortable. But I kept on keeping on. Like I said, I felt like there really was no other way. Or at least I felt like I would let everyone (mainly myself) down if I waved my white flag.

I remember having my postpartum nurse in the room with me, trying to help me with a feeding. I was looking for support, and an "out," I suppose when I said, "I may have to switch to bottle feeding." I was hoping she'd encourage me to do what felt right to me, but instead she said, "Oh you wouldn't want to do that, would you?" Ouch. Or in other words, "You wouldn't want to be that kind of mother, would you?"

Once we got home, I felt even more lost. If it didn't feel right to me in the hospital, within those safe walls, and with all the support and resources from staff, what did I really think would happen once we were home? I recently wrote about my struggle with anxiety and depression (you can read that here), and postpartum these struggles were only magnified. I felt paralyzed with all the changes (what new parent doesn't?), and the reality of being the sole provider (at least at first) of this tiny person's nourishment was overwhelming...and those feelings left me crippled, and I wasn't able to cope. Like I stated earlier, I know being a new parent is overwhelming to everyone. I know I wasn't alone in that feeling. But when you can't really function or enjoy this new creation and this most special time with him or her, that's just not the way it's supposed to be.

We were home two days when my Dad told me exactly what I needed to hear. I was talking on the phone to him and had a breakdown. Hello postpartum hormones! I told him I was having such a hard time feeding Lily. I didn't like it; I never felt like she was getting enough to eat; I couldn't figure out how to hold her and still be comfortable; I felt like I was only good for one thing and that was feeding my child; I felt like I didn't exist anymore. That was when my Dad, my dear Dad, said some of the kindest words I've ever heard. He said, "Lindsey, give that baby a bottle and call it a day." Truth. Sometimes you just need your Dad to talk some sense into you. So that's what I (along with the support from Rob) ultimately chose to do. And I felt like I could finally breathe again.

After a few days at home, getting used to the routine of a new baby and bottle feeding, it was time to return to the hospital for our sweet Lily to have a check-up. I passed one of my postpartum nurses in the hall, and she asked how breastfeeding was going. She didn't ask how Lily was doing or how I was doing. I made a joke that I wasn't cut out for breastfeeding (trying to lighten the awkwardness of it all), and she said, "Well at least she got the colostrum." Or, "At least you were good for something."

Guys, this is my experience with breastfeeding and mine only. Some of my very best friends and closest family members have breastfed and have loved almost every second of it. I think that is truly wonderful. I am in no way knocking breastfeeding, and I think if you want to breastfeed your child in public until he or she is 4-years-old, then you go girl. You do you. I'm also not saying that there aren't benefits to breastfeeding. Of course there are. But at the end of the day you have to weigh those pros and cons. At the end of the day you have to take care of yourself too.

I remember my OB-GYN telling me throughout my pregnancy, "Healthy moms make healthy babies." I, of course, agree with that, and I think we need to follow that advice after birth too, especially in those first few weeks that can be so tough. Healthy moms raise healthy babies. Our individual health is so important, as we are typically the primary ones taking care of these precious new lives. And if we're not OK, then they won't be OK. And that's the bottom line.

I think it'd be so wonderful if we could all support one another, no matter our choices. After all, I think most of us are doing the very best we can do, each given day. And this thing called motherhood is hard. We need to be on the same team, cheering each other along from the sidelines, waving our foam fingers and painting our faces in support of one other. No matter our choices, I think we're all pretty darn amazing.


So, tell me about your feeding experiences as a new mom. Can you relate to my story? What are ways you think we can encourage one another in this motherhood journey? Thanks for reading, friends.