When Breast Isn't Best

I'm not a doctor. I'm not a lactation consultant or a doula and I haven't finished reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

I'm just a mom. 

A mom who has struggled twice with breastfeed. 

A mom who has stayed up into the wee hours of the morning searching kellymom and lalecheleague websites for hours. 

A mom trying to figure how I could increase my milk supply to more than two ounces (combined) at a time.

A mom wondering what on earth I was doing wrong.

And like every other, a mom, who wants what is best for her babies.

In this scenario what I've been told is best is the breast. The breast is best. 

After Ethan was born, I took all the supplements, power pumped, drank ALL THE WATER, tried, tried, tried again. Nothing. I cried a lot. The lactation consultant told me that low supply was not common. I cried some more. 

What was I doing wrong? Was my body failing me or was I failing my body? He cluster fed all day and  there was a permanent imprint of my butt in the glider. Every time he started rooting, I started crying. I felt like a sliver of myself. I had given up so much just to nurse.

And finally, I gave in.

We introduced formula and he became happier. He was fed. I could put him down for a minute and breathe. 

Yet, every time I saw a picture of another woman easily nursing her babe, it was like a punch in the gut. She can, why can't I? This was supposed to be natural and easy.  And yet, there was nothing natural or easy about it.

I believed the antidotes and agenda set forth by the nursing community; breast is best, formula is evil, and early cessation often stems from a lack of support or education.

I was neither. I was married, 35 years old, close to my family and had a Master's Degree. I should have been able to breast feed my child. I felt like a failure. The ONE thing I was supposed to be able to do and I couldn't.

It took me a while to get over the mom guilt and the repetitive anxiety that my babe wouldn't be as smart, happy, well adjusted or healthy as other babies.  

So when I got pregnant again I started planning; I took to Pinterest and pinned lactation recipes, power foods to increase supply, lactation smoothie recipes and herb cheat sheets.

I made 20+ freezer meals, lactation bites, had my pump supplies washed and ready, and made a nice tranquil space for feeding and pumping.

And at five days postpartum when I struggled to even pump

colostrum and my heart sank. The same question began to swirl through my head during the wee small hours of the morning; what was I doing wrong?

This time I knew the answer.

Nothing. 

I was eating well, drinking copious amounts of water, sleeping as much as possible, taking ALL the supplements- fenugreek, brewers yeast, moringa powder, extra protein and yet, there we were, opening our "just in case" stash of formula. 

The lactation consultant made it clear that I was indeed dealing with low supply and that indeed, I would have to work for it.  We're talking nursing, formula and pumping. Every. Damn. Session. EVERY THREE HOURS.