Breastfeed or Bust: are you even a mom if you don't exclusively give the boob?
Throughout my pregnancy, there was one sentiment that I was told over and over again.
GIVE. YOUR. BABY. BREASTMILK.
While I understood the health benefits and the bonding aspect of breastfeeding your baby, I was bothered by the fact that it, arguably, put a tremendous amount of pressure on me.
What if my milk never comes in? What if I am physically unable to breastfeed? Will my baby still bond with me?
I had purchased a breast pump a few months prior to delivering my son, with the intention of exclusively breastfeeding and pumping in the interim. The hospital had advised that breastfeeding should be done exclusively for the first two weeks of the baby’s life, once breastfeeding has been successfully established. Okay, cool.
Once I gave birth to Cooper, I started to exclusively breastfeed. The first night was tolerable, but when he began to cluster feed, the pain started to become unbearable. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to pain. To put it into perspective, they administered Pitocin to induce my labor at 7:30 A.M. and I was requesting an epidural by about 8:45 A.M. I just can’t do pain.
My nipples were so unbelievably sore and were bleeding. I was trying to get Cooper to feed for ten minutes on each breast, but I could barely even get five minutes. During the hospital stay, at about three o’clock in the morning, I started to feed Cooper. After crying literal tears of pain, I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband called the friendly nurse’s assistant into our room, who tried her best to help, but called in a nursery Nurse to assist.
The nursery nurse came in, saw the tears visibly streaming down my face, asked how long he had latched on. I told her maybe around eight minutes. What she said next, was absolutely appalling and the last thing she should be saying to a woman that had given birth not even 24 hours earlier.
“Well, that won’t work.”
I was stunned. Of course it won’t work, lady! My baby isn’t getting enough food, which is stressing me out. Therefore, my baby is stressed out. The whole situation just wasn’t working. I “felt” pressured into exclusively breastfeeding.
I use the word “felt,” but in reality, I was pressured into breastfeeding. I made it very clear, multiple times, that I had showed up to the hospital with my breast pump and wanted to be shown how to use it (clueless first-time mom here, hello??). Everyone just kept putting me off and told me that they would show me how to use it on the day that I was to leave the hospital. Cool, so you’re only going to show me how to use it for a short period of time, as you’re shoving me out the door? I truly felt that was the case, because I was being guilt-tripped into feeding directly from the breast. It seemed, in a sense, almost unfathomable to them, that I would want to feed my child in any other way. Since I felt so guilty, I put the pump idea aside—continuing to feed directly from my sore, bloody nipples. A little blood never hurt anyone, right?
After I left the hospital, I continued trying to breastfeed directly, until one night, I realized that the stress just wasn’t good for anyone involved. That was when I made the decision to move to exclusively pumping. Cooper would still be receiving breastmilk, but I would be able to measure exactly how much he was getting. Plus, he took to the bottle’s nipple extremely quickly and it really alleviated the stressful environment.
The decision to make the switch to pumping wasn’t a difficult one, but with the amount of times I had heard how beneficial it is to feed directly from the breast, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that my decision wasn't the right one. It took me some time to accept the fact that it didn’t make me any less of a wonderful mother, just because I was providing breastmilk from a bottle. I still feel like I bond with Cooper, and know that the decision I made, was not only for me, but for the baby, as well.
Did you ever feel pressured into breastfeeding? If you made the decision to pump or formula-feed, did it make you feel like you weren’t succeeding as a mother? If you made the decision to not breastfeed directly from the breast, did you feel judged by others? I know that they say that you should do whatever works for you, as a mother, but while I made the decision for me and my baby, it was particularly annoying to feel judged by other people. Has anyone else felt this way or am I flying solo?