by Gwen Jimmere
They lied to me.
They told me breastfeeding was easy. That it’s “so natural.”
They showed me pictures of happy new mothers nursing their precious, content little babies as if it took zero effort. And they pretended that it should be so simple. That it was a no-brainer. Nothing to it.
I know breast is best. It’s not that I don’t want to breastfeed. The simple fact is that I can’t. Well, not sufficiently. You see, I am one of the anomalies that cannot produce an ample enough amount of breastmilk to even remotely come close to satisfying my son, which ends up irritating him. One hundred percent of the time, this results is a screaming session until I pop a bottle in his mouth, tiredly waving my white flag in defeat.
This really hurts. Not only was I uber-excited about the ultimate bonding experience, but I invested tons of time, lots of money and every ounce of my energy into my Breastfeeding 101 class, a state-of-the-art breast pump complete with all the bells and whistles, and a multitude of pseudo-sexy nursing bras that are now doing nothing more than taking up space in my top dresser drawer.
I had every intention of nursing for the first year. Not to mention that my inner frugalista was relishing the notion of $2000+ worth of savings on baby food for that first year, or that my post-pregnancy body was craving the extra 500 calorie a day burn from feeding him in such a manner.
But alas, it was not meant to be for me. I spent weeks shedding crocodile tears about not being able to nurse my son. Both my husband and my mother attempted to make me feel better, to no avail. I couldn’t understand it. My mother nursed me, and my sister was a breastfeeding rockstar when she first delivered my now-17 year old nephew. This was not a genetic failure. This was a personal failure, which I took very, very personally.
What if my son doesn’t turn out to be one of the smartest kids in his class? Would it be my fault because I can’t produce the nutrients he needs for enhanced brain development? If he turns out to be a not-so-coordinated kid, would I be to blame for that, too, since breastfeeding is supposed to aid in motor skill development?
I read books, called my OB/GYN, called the Le Leche League ladies, and sought advice from my aforementioned breastfeeding guru sister. I started drinking more water, increased my daily vegetable intake, drank “milk producing” tea, popped Fenugreek supplements, all of which are supposed to aid in milk production. Yet, I was still at a loss.
Apparently, a very small percentage of women fall into this category, so it stands to reason that most people just don’t get it. The conversation usually goes like this:
Stranger: Oh my goodness, he is so cute! How old is he?
Me: *beaming with new mommy pride* He is almost 7 weeks.
Stranger: Awwww! They are so precious at that age. I remember when my daughter/son was that young.
Me: *being facetious* Yep, he’s pretty cool. I think I’ll keep him around for a while. *smile*
Stranger: *chuckles* Are you breastfeeding?
Me: I’m bottle feeding.
Stranger: Oh. *concerned look* So you’re pumping and dumping?
Me: No, he takes formula.
Stranger: Oooooh.*uncomfortable look* I’ll tell you, that WIC program is great, you get all the formula you need for a month.
Me: *pissed off* I am not on WIC. I’m unable to produce enough to nurse or pump and dump. Have a good day.
Stranger: Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that…well, most people who formula feed are. But, I do know something you can do to produce more milk. All you have to do is: *insert random home remedy*
I don’t know if that statistic is even close to being accurate, but that’s beyond the point. And as far as these remedies go, I have tried them all and none of them work for me. I know it’s hard for some people to wrap their brains around it, but some of us just don’t make enough. Literally, on a very good day, in one sitting, I can squeeze out half an ounce from both sources. It just is what it is.
There are few things that make a woman feel more motherly than naturally providing her child the nutrition he or she needs during infancy. So, constantly hearing about how I’m must not be doing enough to make it happen is incredibly annoying, considering those who have all the answers have never experienced what I am dealing with here. And to assume that I must be on welfare – because who in her right mind would formula feed unless she was getting it for free – is outright rude and, quite frankly, ignorant.
I just recently got over the fact this is not going to happen for me. Yes, I understand that breastmilk and the production of it is a supply and demand relationship – the more he nurses or I pump, the more my body will make. I have pumped all day and gotten no more than three ounces. I’ve done this for the past six weeks and I’m not producing any more than I was before. After all this time of battling with him in an attempt to force him to latch on, I have decided that my happy and satisfied little baby of a healthy weight/height ratio is far more important to me than whether his food comes from a boob or from a bottle.
So, now I attempt to look at the bright side of not being able to breastfeed, if there is one. That moscato I haven’t had since I found out I was pregnant? Pour a lil in my glass, please. Sushi nights are a nice return to normality – no worrying about too much mercury in the breastmilk. And any caffeine-laden Starbucks runs? Back in full effect.
You have to find the silver lining in these things.
Have any of you experienced the feeling of not being able to give your child something he or she needs? How did that make you feel and what did you do about it?
Gwen Jimmere is an award-winning and nationally syndicated editor who authored the relationship manual for young women, If It Walks Like a Duck”...and Other Truths My Mother Taught Me. She blogs about relationships, dating, marriage and parenting at The Duck Walkand works in social media/digital marketing for a Fortune 10 company.