I wanted to give my daughter the best start in life and provide her with nature’s perfect food! I also wanted to experience what I imagined to be quite a powerful relationship between mother and child. And, truthfully, I was kind of lazy and cheap and couldn’t fathom making a bottle in the middle of the night or buying formula regularly!!
Unfortunately, my first few weeks and months of breastfeeding were very tiring, frustrating and emotionally draining. My daughter was tongue tied and consequently, despite a good latch, she wasn’t able to transfer milk efficiently. In her first week of life, she lost weight, which to a new mom in the throes of learning to breastfeed is the worst news. I thought: “What do you mean she’s losing weight?!! I’m feeding her around the clock?!!” I felt like a failure. I also felt like a failure when my midwives recommended supplementing her with formula via a tube attached at my breast. I felt like they were suggesting I feed her poison. But faced with the alternative option of my daughter continuing to lose weight, I agreed to nurse her with a tube attached to my breast so she could also receive formula at the same time as my breast milk. After tube feeding lessons, at my midwives office, I was sent home with a package of tubes and assorted other tube feeding equipment as well as an appointment at the Newman clinic booked for 2 days later. At this appointment, Brooklyn’s tongue tie was clipped and this was supposed to improve her ability to latch and transfer milk. The plan was that over time she would get more and more milk from, thereby increased my milk production and eventually I would not need to supplement via a tube. Sadly, this isn’t the way things worked out. Brooklyn’s tongue was so severe that it had to be clipped 3 times over the course of 3 weeks, and even after this, she was still slightly tongue tied. Her intake of supplement had not decreased and my milk supply had not increased. At this point, I was pumping multiple times a day, taking herbal supplements as well as a high dose of domperidone to try to increase my milk supply. We also took Brooklyn for several sessions of Cranial Sacral therapy to try and loosen her jaw to help her transfer milk better. Nothing helped.
It was becoming clear that I wasn’t ever going to be able to exclusively breastfed my daughter. This thought would bring tears to my eyes and flush my cheeks red with shame. I wanted so badly to one of those moms I would see at mom’s group, easily nursing their baby. Instead I was grappling with a tube taped to my breast every feeding, tears streaming down my face. After 8 weeks of tube feeding hell, I reached my breaking point. I had to face facts. I wasn’t going to be able to exclusively breastfeed. I was either going to make peace with the fact I was going to tube feed for as long as I nursed Brooklyn (my original plan had been to nurse her to when she was at least one, if not longer) or to move on, and offer a bottle. I finally gave up on tube feeding and began offering Brooklyn a bottle after each nursing session. I moved on to combo feeding….each feeding, she’d nurse on both sides, getting whatever she could and then I would offer her a bottle of formula.
I learned with the help of my midwife, my doula and the lactation consultants at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic in Toronto. I also learned by doing….practice makes perfect! As time went on, I also learned from watching other mums I met at mum’s groups. All was very supportive and helpful during my challenging times. The only thing that could have been better was the ‘bedside manner’ at the Newman Clinic. I felt pretty horrible about myself and my mothering after my first visit. My daughter was one week old, so I was in the throes of postpartum with my first child and she was losing weight due to a tongue tie, and they made me feel pretty bad about how I had been feeding her up until point.
So my early days and months of breastfeeding weren’t pretty. They were an emotional rollercoaster of guilt, sadness and envy. But, I do know that I can honestly say I did everything in my power to *try* and give my daughter the best start in life. I tried my absolutely best and that’s all that matters. She got some breastmilk, and some is better than nothing! I hope and pray that the breastfeeding gods smile on me when child number two comes along! I dream of having oversupply issues!
It was hard to breastfeed in public at first. Feeding with a tube is somewhat cumbersome and makes it hard to feed when you aren’t at home. Therefore it was hard to leave home. However, once I switched to combo feeding (nursing followed by a bottle) I was sometimes embarassed to feed in public. I felt so much shame pulling out a bottle in front of other moms who were all nursing.
Most of the negativity I experienced was self imposed. I felt so much guilt and shame when I couldn’t exclusively breastfed.
My husband, family and friends were just so thrilled to see my daughter growing and thriving that they couldn’t really understand my guilt and shame. I had weaned Brooklyn by the time I went back to work.
Brooklyn never picked up on the milk sign when she was nursing…she signs for milk now, but she means real milk. She does occasionally bury her face in my breast as if she is going to nurse, which I find really cute.
I had thought I would probably experience some trouble at the beginning….sore, cracked nipples, leaking etc. But nothing like the troubles I had. I didn’t think I would struggle so much. I didn’t expect to not have enough milk. I didn’t think I would feel such a sense of failure when giving my daughter formula. I didn’t even know what tube feeding was!
If I were to do things differently, I would have my midwive check for a tongue tie as soon as Brooklyn was born, so her tie could have been clipped right in the hospital. I would also change my attitude and put less pressure/guilt on myself for not being able to exclusively breastfed. I would also nurse even more on demand in the early days than I did. I often wonder if my milk supply didn’t go up because I didn’t feed her enough in the early days.
Seek out all the support you can when you first start nursing. But if after all that support, you still can’t nurse exclusively or at all, be gentle on yourself. You are trying your best and that’s all your children ask for.