Hannah’s Breastfeeding Story

A little while ago I put my foot in it over on Facebook. I received a brochure in the mail from a formula company containing a message I disagree with. I shared my disagreement via a status update that I ought not have made. Afterward I received messages from friends, people I like and respect, who felt hurt. Women who had struggled very hard to breastfeed their babies without success. And I felt bad, really bad, because I’ve been there.

When Hannah was born, she was 6 weeks early and I lost a lot of blood. They took her from the delivery room within minutes of her birth at 4pm, and other than a quick visit while I was too weak to sit up, I didn’t see her again until around 9:30 the next morning. By that time she had received a bottle of formula. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference if we’d had a chance to nurse before she was fed using an artificial nipple, but I would have liked the chance.

Regardless of what I could have done differently, or they could have done differently, the result was I had a very small baby who refused to nurse. I started pumping my milk to feed her, but was not able to get enough, so she was topped up with formula as well. She spent 6 days in special care, and not once did she nurse successfully. I received various advice from each of her nurses, some helpful and some not, much of it contradictory. I thought that maybe once she was home and we could just relax and be together things would be easier.

Things did not get better when Hannah came home. In fact, they got worse, because I was still weak from my own ordeal and now I was waking up several times a night. It was an involved regimen – warm the bottle, try to nurse and fail, feed the bottle, pump, clean the pump and make up the next bottle. Add in the sleep deprivation and the feeling that my baby was rejecting me and it was quite the cocktail of misery.

Just over 24 hours after we got home, the midwife came to visit. She found me at the end of my rope. I was sobbing, convinced that I had totally failed. I was ready to give up breastfeeding, because I could not take the rejection and the lack of sleep and the feelings of failure. I was also convinced that I couldn’t make enough milk, since I couldn’t pump enough milk. At that point, the midwife suggested a nipple shield. Jon bought one, and the next morning I tried it out.

Hallelujah! Hannah nursed right away, and nursed well, with the nipple shield. She stopped showing interest in the bottle. She had her last few ounces of formula that day. Her weight gain was monitored closely, and it really took off once she was exclusively breastfeeding. I returned the rented hospital pump within a few days and didn’t look back.

It took us a few months to get off the nipple shield, and a few hours of turmoil. Once Hannah was off the nipple shield I breathed a huge sigh of relief. She was OK, I was OK, she was nursing and we were going to make it.

In the end I nursed Hannah until she was nearly 3. It was the right time for us to wean. I was newly pregnant, she was no longer nursing to sleep, we were both ready. It felt sort of like a completion, moving from one stage of our relationship to the next.

If I hadn’t tried the nipple shield that day, I can pretty much guarantee you that Hannah would not have been breastfed. I’ve since heard stories from my friends who spent much longer than I did struggling, who went much greater distances, and it didn’t work out for them. All that I can say to that is that I am amazed at their effort. I am impressed by their commitment to their children. And I know that any breastmilk they were able to give their babies was beneficial.

Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Much like pregnancy and childbirth are natural, but can go sideways, so can breastfeeding. Having good support and information, such as you can find through La Leche League, is helpful. Another great place to visit online is Kellymom.com – it’s one of the first places I turn for information about breastfeeding and parenting. Very few of us spend any time alone with a newborn until we have our own. Reaching out to other mothers is a great way to get help as you adjust to breastfeeding and all aspects of baby care.

To the people who feel that I judged them, I can only say I’m sorry. Please know that my frustration with a particular brochure is no reflection on how I view mothers who may use formula. I have done so many things I said I’d never do since I became a mom, made so many mistakes, I’m in no position to judge anyone else. Just come to my house at around 5:45 on any given evening and listen to the commotion and you’ll know, I am not always the mother I would like to be.

And I will be much more careful in the future with my Facebook status updates. 😉

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  1. It takes a HUGE person to admit that she hurt someone’s feelings while still standing by her beliefs. Kudos! Parenting is hard and we all have our own beliefs, ways and methods. The hard part, which I feel you’ve mastered, is doing our own thing while NOT offending and judging those who do differently. Only a parent knows what is best for THEIR child and no one else reserves the right to judge or condemn those choices (unless it’s illegal and harmful…yadda, yadda, yadda.) VERY well written post!

  2. Anyone who knows you understands you wouldn’t make comments to be judgemental or malicious.

    I’m personally indifferent on the issue as to whether or not a mother chooses to breastfeed or use formula; what works for one might not work for another.

    But, I’m fully supportive of someone who speaks their mind and isn’t so crippled by the fear of offending someone that they remain silent. If I was offended by something you said, it’s my problem; not yours.

  3. I can see why some people could have been offended by your post on Facebook but everyone should also try to remember we have this thing called free speech and humans form things called opinions.

    Bravo for your blog post and apologizing to anyone who might have been offended. Hopefully some of those people will read your post and understand why you feel so strongly about breastfeeding.

    I’m sure I’ve offended quite a few people with my comments in the past and I know I’m not a poster-Mom!! 5:45 nothing, come to my house ANYTIME and you’ll encounter chaos!

  4. I remember your struggle with Hannah and I admire your determination to see it through. I have no idea what your FB status is…but now I want to go and check it out. I still long for a baby who my brests would be able to feed. But Hyposlasi ment that I only produced a small amount of milk, certainly not enough to sustain a baby. But, I did my best to make sure they both got me first and then the bottle. But, you are right. You feel like a failure and you feel judged by women out there who make it look all so easy.

    I never found a great support in my local Le Leche League group, but I have found their website and recommended books to be very useful and encouraging.

    I am glad you speak your mind, and you are very knowledgeable person when it comes to this topic. But, moms can be easily offended and breastfeeding seems to be a hot button topic.

  5. Great post. Breastfeeding is one of those hot button topics. Change your facebook status to something about circumcision. Either point of view, doesn’t matter. It’ll rile some people up too 😉

  6. This is a wonderful, wonderful post and I hope that Moms out there struggling to breast feed have a chance to read it. On behalf of all the little newborns out there: thanks!!

    I had a bit of a trial learning the art of breastfeeding too, but luckily for my kids, I’m just plain stubborn. (Maybe the moms who aren’t and gave up sooner are the ones who argue with their kids less 😉 Pros and cons, right? lol

  7. Adventures In Babywearing says:

    I think we all can relate in some way- it is great for you to be so honest and open!


  8. I had a tough deliver with my first and wasn’t able to nurse him for the first week due to medications I had to take. Fortunately, he was a greedy baby and was happy to eat whatever was presented – bottle or breast, and the transition to nursing went well. Without the encouragement of nurses, moms group and my husband, I would have never succeeded though. Just like you said – many of us have zero experience with a newborn until we hold our own, and it’s a lot to absorb.

  9. Breastfeeding is HARD. I wish that the hospitals were more sensitive to how difficult it can be. I think they want o support it, but they don’t notice when a woman is having a hard time. THank heaven that midwife intervened!

  10. Samantha says:

    Hi there,
    I just found this blog and don’t know anything about what you wrote on FB, but I can tell you that I had troubles breastfeeding my daughter, too. I, too, got a nipple shield and things were a bit better. But I had to pump, too, for those first 6 weeks, oh Lord, was that frustrating. Wake up at all hours, give bottle, wait till she fell asleep, pump more for next feeding. Argh! It was terrible and I, too, felt like a failure because I couldn’t get her to drink my milk.

    At six weeks, though, it still wasn’t that great, until a La Leche League member volunteered her time and helped me with my positioning … once we got that down, my daughter was nursing like a champ, and she still is at 17 months! Thank God for that nipple shield and La Leche League. My daughter is down to just 2 breastfeedings a day now (plus foods) … one in morning and one at night, before bed. Not sure when I’ll wean her off them, but we both enjoy them both.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that I’ve been there, done that, especially with the pumping.

    Glad everything worked out for you, and good luck with everything else.


  11. When I read these breadfeeding stories, I actually feel quite humbled by the often Herculean efforts woman have made to breastfeed in the face of the easily accessible option of formula feeding. Because we adopted, I have only formula fed, but I support all efforts to help women breastfeed and one way is to share stories about how hard it can be so women aren’t fooled into thinking it might be easy.

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