I was mentally prepared for the stigma of breastfeeding.
“You don’t do it, you’re a bad mom.”
“Flash some boob in public, you’re a bad mom.”
“You don’t produce enough and have to supplement with formula, you’re a bad mom.”
First, let’s call that stigma what it is—bullshit.
What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the issue I had breastfeeding both my kids. See, I’m what the lactation nurses like to refer to as an “overproducer.” Meaning I could have made my family’s fortune as a wet nurse.
Once I was able to get my son to latch properly (with hours of kindness and patience from aforementioned lactation nurses), he would eat happily for a few minutes then pull away choking—leaving me fumbling and dumbfounded as his surprised little face was sprayed with a waterfall of milk. He got really bad reflux because the flow was so strong down his tiny throat. He started screaming at the boob (as we called it) when it came time to feed. Who can blame him? He was trying to drink from a firehose.
We tried this for about two months. He’d eat. He’d get a milk bath. I’d have to change my clothes and the soaked Boppy cover. But in the end, he just wasn’t getting enough.
So I started pumping and bottle-feeding him for every meal. I would pump 5-8 times a day to keep from getting engorged. We actually had to buy a second freezer to store all the milk in.
I felt like a cow—I even hung a picture of a cow on my unlockable office door, which was really funny to my coworkers, but less so to the intern who walked in on me not knowing what my “clever” sign was about.
I’d wake up in the middle of the night and have to pump and then feed him (or vice versa, depending on how loud the crying was), which meant twice the time awake every night—my husband was fantastic and would often feed him while I pumped so we could all go back to bed faster.
But I resented it. My son was getting all the benefits of breast milk (yay!), but I was missing out on all the bonding of breastfeeding. The closeness. The tiny hand resting on my chest as he closed his eyes in happy satiation. I’d also soak through nursing pads at an unbelievable rate—it got to the point where I had extras in my car, my desk, my purse, my husband’s pockets.
And I felt very alone in this problem—it’d be insensitive to complain to my mommy friends who were struggling to fill a 5oz bottle (something I could do in about 6 minutes), right?
I have since learned in talking to other moms that I wasn’t alone in this and it’s more common than I ever realized.
My point? Talk to other moms. Support each other, even if their problem isn’t exactly what you’re dealing with. Try to have empathy for the unique struggles that we all face as parents. Cause it’s hard enough without having to feel like you’re in it alone.