I know it has been a LONG time since I have posted and for that, I cannot really apologize. In the time that I have been absent I have purchased and finished my first year of my new business Cranberry Creek Baking Company. I did this while pregnant with my second child. I have since had my baby and have been trying to run both of my businesses AND raise a 2 year old and a newborn…so let’s just say I am tired!
That all being said,today I am going to speak about something that is close to my heart and weighing heavily on my mind; the business of breastfeeding. I do not generally choose to put myself out there on a subject that will leave me open to most certain judgement, but I truly feel that there are so many women out there, many of whom I have heard from personally, that do not feel that they have a voice or that it is even worth mentioning. So I am going to speak about my experience with breastfeeding with my 2 children and what I have learned is most important.
Before I had children, I wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home Mom. I wanted to solely breastfeed, use cloth diapers, use only organic baby products, have the house clean and cook amazingly nutritious and delicious meals every single day. Clearly I was bat-shit-crazy. I believe that most would-be parents truly are in the dark, because we put them there…for their own protection. If every prospective parent was given a detailed depiction of how drastically their lives would change and how hard it makes things on your relationship, from the very first stage of pregnancy, most people would not even think of becoming parents. That would be a mistake, so we simply let them live their daydream.
For my part, I knew motherhood would be time consuming and difficult, but ultimately rewarding. Clearly I had NO idea that these “rewards” would be few and far between at this early stage in parenting and most days I would get no reward AND nothing that I wanted to accomplish done and ultimately I would end up crying over, well any one of a million things. I am sure I will have plenty of time (hahaha I literally laughed out loud while typing that because “free time” is another pre-parent illusion and as I write this I am watching Frozen for the umpteenth time with my daughter and rocking my son back and forth on my legs so that he will stay calm enough for me to write this) to tell you about the trials and tribulations that came along with having my first child and also trying to function with a newborn, a toddler and two businesses, but today I am going to speak to my experience with feeding my children.
When I made my plan to care for my first child, I did not even think about how I would feed her or why; I was going to breastfeed of course. Despite all of the calls for #breastisbest all over the internet and having chosen to have midwives who were definitely in favour, I had always planned to breastfeed and never considered anything to the contrary. Little did I know, that my labour with my daughter would be 30 hours long and that she would be so exhausted when she finally arrived that she was too tired to nurse for more than a few minutes and that her latch would be horrible in each and every position. I had never noticed that I had one nipple that was inverted and would be next to impossible for her to latch onto and would always be horribly painful for me when she tried. I had no idea that my milk supply would still not have come in by day 5 after my daughter was born and I would be forced to make the decision to supplement with formula from the very first week of her life. I did not know that my PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and the tumour on my pituitary gland would cause all sorts of hormonal issues which impede breast milk supplies. Nevertheless, I did all of the things that the internet and my midwives suggested:
- take a combination of herbs that are known to increase milk supply (even though I gag every time I try to swallow a vitamin)
- eat oatmeal and other foods that are commonly ingested to increase supply
- drank milk supply increasing tea (even though I’m a coffee drinker and it tastes horrible)
- drank 1 dark beer per week even though at the time I HATED dark beer
- used expensive cream to soothe my cracked and bleeding nipples and stifle my cries each and every time she fed
- hand express, manual pump AND use a $500 electric breast pump
- take Domperidone religiously, disregarding the horrendous side effects that it can cause and the potential danger I was putting myself in because of it
I did all of that and MUCH more while always being painful and by the time she was 3 months old, I had my first period and she had absolutely NO interest in the boob from that moment on. In some ways I was secretly relieved that I would no longer have to let her feed for 30 minutes and watch her still be starving so I would have to give her a bottle. And yet I felt guilt every day when I gave her each bottle. I continued to pump the measly 1-3 ounces a DAY that I could get out of myself with a pump and put it in her bottle, but that was hours spent trying to get it with tears and doubt and after she was 5 months, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore. That was my first experience with breastfeeding.
When my son was set to come along, I took things one step further and tried to do what I could to plan for his arrival and the potential that we would have trouble again. My pregnancy amnesia had kicked in and I forgot about most of what made my experience with breastfeeding horrible and focused on what I could do ahead of time to make things easier for both of us. I bought the ingredients to make Primal Palate’s amazing Gluten-Free Lactation Cookies (which by the way are delicious and can be eaten by everyone in the family), having to order some from the US from Amazon. I had dark beer on hand in the fridge and it turns out after having to drink it with baby #1, I LOVE many of my local craft beer options. I began to hand-express a little in the shower a couple of weeks before he was born and trying to manipulate that inverted nipple.
Much to my surprise, my son literally came out of the womb and wanted the boob. Yay! From the first day he was born, he was easy to latch and would basically eat for as long as I could keep him awake. Woohoo! And guess what folks, it DIDN’T HURT! I cannot even tell you how different things were from that very first day. That inverted nipple was still a problem, but we tried to work around it as often as we could. I continued to do all of the things I could to keep my milk supply up and it must have been working because he was feeding so much that I could not eat enough to satiate my hunger and I weighed less than before I had BOTH of my children! That was the first month.
During month #1, I almost constantly had my boob in that boy’s mouth. He was absolutely insatiable and yet he had lost 10% of his birth weight by his first week of life, but we slowly moved him up the weight gain ladder over the next few weeks until he was mildly round and generally happy and yet he rarely slept for more than 2 hours…but somehow my milk supply still started to deplete after the first month. I honestly could not tell you why. I did EVERYTHING that I could, to the point where I was probably letting my daughter watch far too many movies just so that I could breastfeed around the clock. I literally got nothing done around the house. We were living off of slow cooker meals or casseroles that had to last 4-6 days at a time because I was constantly on that couch to keep that baby fed and happy. The house was a mess and both of my businesses took a backseat to my motherhood needs. I was MISERABLE, but I was breastfeeding.
Jump to month #2 and my milk supply dwindled more and more and I was still strapped to that couch. I had to ask for the Domperidone prescription, even though I had mixed feelings about the very scary side effects that taking such a high dose can have. That certainly brought my supply back up, to the point where I was engorged pretty much constantly and yet my son was still not sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time at a maximum and always seemed to be hungry. I was still miserable, but I was breastfeeding. After 8 weeks of being strapped to my couch, feeling guilty about how much time my daughter was spending in front of the tv and how little we were going outside, I decided to suck up my pride and give my son a bottle of formula before he went to bed. He slept for 4.5 hours and woke up in an absolutely lovely mood. Again, I felt relieved and guilty. After that, I started giving him a bottle before naps and bedtime after breastfeeding and the response was miraculous. He slept for 4-6 hours at night, 2-3 hours at each nap and yet he was happy and busy and not at all lethargic when he woke. I got things done around the house. We had healthy, fresh meals again and although I never had the opportunity to nap while he napped because my daughter’s schedule didn’t jive with his, we had some time together just the two of us while he slept. I still felt guilty for giving him the bottle, but he went seamlessly from boob to bottle so I stuffed down the feeling and continued to do what worked for our family.
Now we are into month #3 and he still both breastfeeds and is bottle-fed, but as time goes on he is getting less and less impressed with the boob and my milk supply is again waining as I have finished off my Domperidone prescription and my doctor would prefer not to give me more because of the potential side effects and I completely understand. I was beginning to feel more and more guilt about each extra ounce of formula he had each day until I read an article recently from a mother who lost her newborn because she was not given the choice and support to bottle-feed.
The article ‘If I Had Given Him Just One Bottle, He Would Still Be Alive‘ is absolutely heartbreaking and had me bawling my eyes out for nearly ten minutes while I held and rocked my little boy. It brings to light the complete lack of positive feedback given to women who choose to feed their children in any other way than breastfeeding. In her story, the hospital she chose would not allow her to have formula without a prescription and she did not have midwives at home to care for her and her child. She was told that her son was “cluster feeding” even when he was on her breast constantly and was never satisfied. The lack of knowledge and support led to her son dying of starvation leading to brain death, which hit very close to home for me because my daughter and I may have been in that situation if I had not had the loving support of my midwives to care for us after we came home from the hospital. My milk simply was not there and that was not my fault.
So here it is: all of that #breastisbest garbage is stopping women from feeling like they have a choice to do what is best for their child and their family. All this fear mongering and guilt-tripping is HURTING your fellow women, not helping them. The reality is, breastfeeding is not for everyone; whether that is because we physically cannot breastfeed or we simply do not enjoy the experience and that is really okay. It takes a village to raise a child and if that village is judgemental and degrading, the child is the one that ultimately suffers and that is really NOT okay.
My experience with breastfeeding has been difficult, painful, costly, riddled with guilt and ultimately unsuccessful from what I had planned to what has transpired. It has not been the beautiful, nourishing, bonding experience that social media and my mommy-world had led me to believe. This is only in part because most mothers have no trouble breastfeeding. It is largely because no matter what the situation when it comes to parenting, we always think our way is the best way and that is simply not true. There are SO many schools of thought on parenting from feeding, to diapering, to discipline and so much more. Every parent that is looking out for the best interests of their child, should not be judged for the choices they make while doing so. The internet has done us a great disservice in this area. Our access to the vast amount of opinion pieces that are portrayed as cold-hard-facts has been a detriment to our parenting community and has oozed into our daily lives as parents; filling us with guilt and false expectations about how to raise our children and why we should do so.
I have thought a great deal about this over the years, especially now that I am going through it all over again. Did my children probably have a chin or two more than they would if I did not supplement with formula? Probably. Is it nicer that they sleep better after they have been given a bottle? Absolutely. Should I be made to feel guilty about that? No. I could give you plenty of excuses about my medical issues that have led me to this road, but I won’t because the truth is that despite those issues, I may still have felt that solely breastfeeding was not what was best for myself or my children. I might have even chosen not to breastfeed at all. As long as I am feeding my child, that is just fine. My children are healthy. My children are happy. There should be no need for any more questions or interjections of anyone else’s parenting positions on the matter to myself or anyone else.
The truth is #fedisbest and always will be.