The labor and delivery of my first born, Gabriella, went better than I could have expected. Everything went smoothly and there were no complications. Afterwards though, the struggle came when I tried breastfeeding her. She had a lot of trouble latching on. The nurses were very patient and dedicated to helping me feed my newborn baby to ensure she received that “liquid gold” also known as colostrum.
I didn’t realize how important it was that newborn babies receive the colostrum during that first week. But it’s filled with infection-fighting white blood cells and disease-fighting antibodies, not to mention it helps with the development of her stomach and intestines and helps her immune system mature. I wanted to give my daughter everything she needed to be strong and healthy, but was struggling to breastfeed her on my own, without the nurses assistance.
Before we left the hospital, the doctor informed us that Gabbie had jaundice. He stressed to us how important it was to make sure Gabbie was getting fed if we wanted to continue breastfeeding, so he had me meet with a lactation specialist for further assistance.
What I had always imagined would come organically as a new mother, had become an extremely stressful job that I had to work at tirelessly. I was so confused and hurt during this experience. Why was she having so much trouble latching on? What was I doing wrong? What could I do better?
I was doing everything I was instructed to do and it still wasn’t enough. I’m her mother. I grew her inside me for 41 1/2 weeks and prayed each and every day that she would be a healthy baby. But here we were, with our two-day-old daughter with jaundice and I can’t give her enough food to make her better.
I failed my daughter.
We were told that if we couldn’t get her to eat enough for the jaundice to go away by the end of the week, then she would need to be admitted so they could get her healthy. That was not going to be an option, so we decided to switch to bottle feeding with formula.
She took to the bottle immediately and I was surprised at how big of an eater she was! She would down these little bottles in no time at all and be ready for more. It felt so good to hold my baby girl in my arms and feed her to her satisfaction knowing I was finally contributing to making her healthy.
When Gabbie was about a week old, we took her back to the hospital and were told the jaundice was gone! She was healthy! I was so thankful to hear that and really excited to be able to go back to breastfeeding, now that she was healthy, I didn’t feel as much pressure. But yet again, things didn’t go as I had planned.
Gabbie was so used to her bottles by that time, it was even more difficult to try to get her to latch on. My daughter would cry in my arms, hungry, wanting milk, and I still couldn’t supply her with what she needed.
I failed again…
And I gave up. I couldn’t get her to latch on and I didn’t have live-in nurses to assist me each time my daughter was hungry and wanted to eat. It had become such an emotional and stressful act, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. So I went back to bottle feeding.
For the longest time, whenever I would see a mother breastfeeding, or if the topic was brought up, I would break down in tears. As a woman, and as a mother, my body was specifically designed and created to be able to supply my child with this source of food, nutrition and comfort, and I had failed to provide those things for my daughter. It hurt me in so many ways. Even now, 11-years later, I sometimes wonder if I would have just tried harder, would I have been successful eventually? But I’ve also realized that’s a dangerous mind game to play.
As mothers, we’re already so overwhelmed with the thoughts of the mistakes we’ve made with our children on a daily basis. There is always something we could have or should have done differently right? On top of that, we end up comparing ourselves to these “perfect” Pinterest moms who seem to always have it together and do everything perfectly for their children, spouses, homes and even themselves! But that is just not reality. I know that I do the best that I can, learning from my mistakes, apologizing when I mess up and trying to do better going forward. And even though I fail, and continue to fail, I know I’m a good mom.
My reality: my daughter has never gone hungry. And she’s never held a grudge over the fact that I didn’t breastfeed her. Sometimes I don’t even feel like cooking dinner and we have a cereal night. No mom guilt here!
So I’ve just entered my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child. Knowing each child and experience is different, I fully intend on breastfeeding my son when he’s born. I’m going to approach it this time with the idea that it could be a lot of work again, but I’m hopeful that I will be successful. And if I’m not, I will not let it define me as a failure. I will know that I tried, and either way he will get fed and be healthy. I will love him unconditionally, just as I do his big sister, and I will forever be dedicated to providing them with the absolute best that I can. That’s my promise.
Do you have a breastfeeding story you’d like to share? A struggle, a tip or even a funny memory? I’d love to hear it! Comment below!