When I got pregnant with my first child in November of 2001, the only fresh example of parenting I had was my aunt and uncle, who at that point in time had their three children ages 7, 6, and 3.
I, of course, had my own example of parenting from my mother, but I don’t remember any of my “baby” years, nor do I remember my brother‘s. I’d witnessed my aunt and uncle happily brining home all three girls from the hospital and my aunt breastfeeding and pumping with all three. When I began my own journey into parenthood, I immediately decided on breastfeeding. My aunt told me it was best. My uncle, a pediatrician, told me the benefits such as less allergies and higher IQ. Did I want the best for this little person my body was building? Of course I did. Was breastfeeding the right choice for me? Yes, I believe it was.
Fast forward to August 28, 2002. At 3:17PM, I’m formally introduced to my beautiful baby boy, Ethan. Our first nursing session goes beautifully. I love cuddling this soft, warm little person to my chest as he happily nurses. The next day, we are discharged and head home to continue our bonding. In preparation for my breastfeeding journey, I purchased a pump and very few bottles. I didn’t want to hinder myself in the process of establishing a healthy breastfeeding bond with my baby, so I didn’t purchase any formula, and refused the samples they offered us in the hospital. Would it have been easier in my sleep deprived state to grab a pre-made bottle and slap a nipple on it? Sure. But, was it the best? Not in my mind.
Breast was best. It was my mantra. However, over the course of the next week, I would learn that even with that mantra in mind, it didn’t always turn out as you had planned.
You see, my milk, it just never came. The first two days my little man was perfectly happy with Colostrum (pre-milk filled with powerful antibodies that help build baby’s immune system), but after those first two days, he was demanding more food, and my body just wasn’t making it. There was never a let down. I pumped when he wasn’t eating to try and get some kind of stimulation to tell my body that, “Hey, you have a hungry baby. Let’s get this thing going.” It never happened. I’d get an ounce or less. My husband ended up going out on the fourth day to purchase a can of formula. I remember crying and thinking I was a failure. I couldn’t feed my baby. There was something wrong with me. Why wasn’t I making food for him? This was the best. Right? Right. But, just because my body wasn’t cooperating didn’t mean that I didn’t love him any less. Just because I had to give him formula didn’t mean I was a failure. I had tried. He got what he needed from me, and in my mind, that was the most important thing. However, just because my attempt at breastfeeding didn’t work for me the first time, I didn’t give up. I’m happy to report that my next two children were and are breastfed babies. My daughter breastfed until I became pregnant again when she was 8 months old. My son, now 3 months, enjoys regular meals from mommy.
Is breastfeeding for everyone? Well, that’s a personal decision. You need to weigh those pros and cons for yourself, and there are lots of resources out there. Book, La Leche League, websites, local consultants. My personal favorites are www.kellymom.com and www.breastfeeding.com . In my opinion, the pros far out weigh the cons. There are wonderful health benefits in it not only for baby, but for mommy as well. Who doesn’t want a decreased risk for breast cancer? Anyone want to shed those “But I’m pregnant, I can eat all the cheesecake I want!” pounds a little faster? Breastfeeding can give you those things. In my personal opinion, just breastfeeding long enough for baby to get Colostrum is a huge benefit. The antibodies in Colostrum will help your baby fight infection, allergies and in some cases, blindness. It’s a wonderful thing for your baby to have. If you decide not to continue after those first couple of days, than that’s OK.
Are you against breastfeeding altogether? Well, again, that’s a personal decision, and it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Breastfeeding just isn’t for you. There are lots of wonderful resources out there for mother’s who bottle feed, just as there are for mother’s who breastfeed, such as www.bottle-feeding-baby.com. You shouldn’t let anyone chastise you for your decision, or make you feel like less of a mother because of it. Breastfeeding mothers aren’t any better than bottle feeding mothers and vice versa. We’re all just trying to make our way and do the best for our children, and really, isn’t that what it’s all about?