Natural? Yes. Difficult? Yes.
Now I took the class, I read the books, I know the benefits of breastfeeding and it still hasn’t been a walk in the park like everyone said it would be. Breastfeeding for me has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. We’ve battled thrush; we’ve suffered through a low supply and sore nipples; and we soldier on. But one of the more intolerable things that I’ve dealt with has been the guilt. Lactation consultants looking down their nose to tell me that it’s supply and demand and I simply am doing a crappy job at nursing. Well, my children have demanded and my body just can’t keep up! I’ve choked down bitter lactation teas. I’ve taken herbal supplements. I’ve consumed enough water to float the Titanic. I just can’t give my boys all that they need. This coupled with the pressure to over-perform, well frankly, it’s just too much to cope with. (As a side note, no pressure came from my husband. He has been nothing but supportive and encouraging with whatever I felt was right – breastfeeding or formula feeding. If you’re husband is not supportive of your choices, 1) I’m sorry and 2) if he’s hell bent on the baby(s) being breastfed then he should grow breasts and start lactating.)
It was a blessing when I went to my OB, a mother of 3, and she said, “Breastfeeding is hard! I think it was harder than being pregnant.” I felt relieved to finally hear someone say what I had been feeling all along: This is hard. And I’m not alone in thinking that this is hard. (FYI – you aren’t alone either if you’ve had difficulty.)
I again found support in a book I recently purchased, “Ready or Not…Here We Come!” by Elizabeth Lyons, a mom of four. She recounts her own struggles with breastfeeding and her decision to formula feed her twin boys after 4 weeks of age. She tells the story of how a woman approached her and condescendingly informed her that it was “possible to breastfeed two”. And it is in fact possible – for some people. Much like me, Lyons does not have the response she wants to give ready, but instead walks away from the situation. However, my response to this will now and forever be “And how old are your twins?” (Thank you Elizabeth Lyons for that appropriate and snappy comeback!) Frankly, people that give this unsolicited “advice” should be made to wear a sign that says “I’m a know-it-all.” This way I can avoid them easily.
But you don’t have to have twins to have difficulty. Some women just can’t make it work. Some babies don’t take to it. And some lactation consultants are so hard on these new mom’s that it makes them resent the process. Whatever your situation, you have to trust what is right for you and what is right for your baby. You know your body and you know how to take care of your child or children. And everyone else can keep their opinions because you already have one of your own.
For those that are interested in the products I’ve used to increase milk supply, I’ve listed the products below and where I’ve found them.
1) Traditional Medicinals: Organic Mother’s Milk Tea (promotes healthy lactation)
Found at: Kroger, in the organic food section
2) Spring Valley: Fenugreek Capsules 610mg
Found at: Wal-Mart, in the vitamins and supplements section
As a post script to my original draft of this post, I have stopped pumping and nursing all together. The stress of everything was too much to deal with and my anxiety over the issue had to stop. Life has been better for everyone since I have stopped. Both boys have had at least some breast milk until they are 4 mths old. I am at peace with the benefits they have received and don’t regret my decision to try to breastfeed or my decision to quit. Remember moms – you know what’s best for you and your babies. Trust your instincts and be kind to yourself.