Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Breastfeeding: A Lesson in Humility

So this blog post has been something I have been avoiding… something I didn’t think I would be able to write, but knew I had to. When I would consider writing it, I would paralyze with fear thinking you all would think I was a fraud or hypocrite.   Then, something interesting happened, I had a phone call with a great friend that quickly put life into prospective.  I realized by not sharing this story I was being selfish, I would have truly been a fraud. So here goes nothing…
Where do I begin…?
I remember when I first found out I was pregnant, ohh the flooding of advice you receive. The great stories and the ugly stories….The solicited and un-solicited comments that you just can’t even imagine people would really say out loud…let alone to a first time mom.  Thankfully I felt pretty grounded and confident in my journey to motherhood and had a great support system that enabled me to let the bad things go and embrace the good.  I was sure of two things 1) I was going to do everything in my power to bring this baby boy into the world healthy and safe 2) I was going to breastfeed as long as I could for sure for the first year, hopefully two years.

By the grace of God I had a fairly easy pregnancy and enjoyed an amazing birth that I did not deserve, it was gift that only He can provide.  I got #1 done. My 8lb baby boy was delivered and laid on my chest immediately, he we was perfect in every way and latched on and began nursing just like nature intended.  IT WAS MAGIC or at least it felt that way.  I was overwhelmed with the fact that he just did it, like the books say he will, but I had been convinced by lots of moms it would be hard; I was convinced we would have to work at it; I was in disbelief that it could be that easy.

For the first 24 hours while we were in the hospital I was obsessed with charting, when he ate, how long he ate, how he was latched on, if he was doing it right…. I begged the nurses to bring in a lactation consultant because – there was no way, me, a first time mom could possibly be doing this right... Now please, please do not take offense to me saying this. I KNOW that breastfeeding can be a challenge, I KNOW this is NOT the case for everyone, that is why I was convinced I was doing it wrong.   The nurse kept telling me I was fine and to look at the wet and soiled diapers that we perfect.  Finally I gave in, reluctantly, and left the hospital without seeing a lactation consultant, but confident that they must be right.

Months passed and my little one was a speed eater, he was on a schedule, and we were doing it!  He would drain a boob like it was his job …. Ok I guess it kind of was his job.  I was able to lend advice to other moms and felt so blessed and lucky that our breastfeeding journey was so natural.  Of course I had moments of “wait…did he get enough?”…”why is his poop neon green?”….”ughhh when do I get my freedom back… ? is he seriously hungry AGAIN!”….it was so wonderful and so demanding all at the same time.  I remember thinking; we got this, 1 year – easy, 2 years, pretty likely.  I had pictured what it would be like to nurse him when I was pregnant with my second.  I pictured what weaning would look like.  I thought of donating my extra milk supply to a milk bank.  

But then… at 6 months many of these thoughts started to disappear. My confidence disappeared as quickly as it had come. I had been back working 3 days a week and pumping every 3 hours while at work.  I was dedicated and determined to supply my little one 100% breast milk until he was fully weaned.  There was NO WAY I was giving him chemical laden poison (aka formula).  Yup that is totally how I felt and it is what kept me motivated to hook up the pump with my chair pressed against the only door that had a lock (but I didn't trust it) in my office.   I hated feeling like a Jersey Dairy cow and hated that I had to tell my male dominated field of co-workers and clients that I needed a “mom break” when we were in meetings or out surveying.  However, I LOVED giving my son the best milk he could have, the perfect start for his life, I was proud to bring in bags of breast milk to day care, and snuffed at the cans of formula that lined the shelves for other kids.  I was not humble…. I needed a lesson in humility and I got it.

From about 6 months on, my son’s demand far surpassed my supply.  My freezer stock was being used to supplement what I was pumping at work. I could not keep up… he wanted more and more… and I was producing less and less.  I tried everything: supplements, more water, waking up at 4 am and pumping while he was still sleeping, increased calorie intake, more breastfeeding, pumping after every nursing, pumping until my nipples were sore….   Thankfully we introduced solids at 6 months (that is for another post), and we limped along until he was about 9 months old.   At 9 months, I did not have 1 drop of pumped milk to send him to day care, I was beside myself. 

Crushed, confused, mad, sad, frustrated, hurt, lonely… how could this be happening to me?  And there inly the problem… I thought this was about ME…. I attached all this emotion to something I obviously did not have control over. Something that was starting to hurt my son.  I felt I had this image to uphold.  Here I was the one that always preached about breastfeeding, natural parenting, REAL food, not eating/drinking processed crap.  Now I was going to have to give my kid, the one thing I NEVER wanted to give him and admit to people that I did it.  I cried and sobbed into my ever supportive husbands arms, as much as he did not understand, he tried, he tried to understand what it was like for a mom to feel inadequate to provide their son the nutrition he needs.   He tried to tell me it was ok and that so many moms give their children formula that they are just fine.  I would argue with him that “I am not other moms and those kids are not fine!”…. ohhh how low of a point that was.   It is so hard for me to tell you this story, to admit that this strong, tenacious, educated, natural farm girl, mama is soo very weak.  Thank you for giving me grace, thank you for understanding that even when someone seems to have it all together… they too carry a cross… we all carry our own cross…
So at 9 months… my son had his first bottle of formula and he loved it, he sucked it down as if it were the greatest thing he ever tasted and wanted more.  My poor baby had been hungry and my pride got in the way of what was best for him.
Moving forward I still pumped, I still pushed myself to produce as much milk as possible, but he needed at least 1, sometimes 2 bottles a day of formula.  I researched and researched the best brand and settle on this one (http://amzn.to/1fsAcGT).  Looking back,  I probably should have made my own, but I will wait for another post to dive into that. For a store bought formula, I am happy with my choice.   I was in such denial of the situation I would try to hide giving my son formula (yep… hello crazy!)…
A couple more months passed and I notice my supply was continuing to reduce, my son started to refuse to nurse and would even avoid laying down on my lap in anticipation that I was going to have him nurse.  It was heartbreaking!!   It was so far from natural I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.   I would get well meant advice to just keep trying (which I did), take a day and just nurse as much as possible (tried…), but nothing was working.  He was weaning himself before my eyes and he was only 11 months old.   He was done nursing and there was nothing I could do to make him continue.
As I write this post, it has been 3 days since he truly nursed, I have gotten him to suckle a little in the early morning while we snuggle in bed together, but once he realizes what he is doing… he quickly sits up and plays with my face laughing and chit chatting. He is done… and I am not.
This was not how it was supposed to end, this was not my plan…but I have no choice, you can’t force a baby to latch on, when they decide it is over, you are at their mercy.   Ohh how humbled I have been.
My mom has said since my son was just days old “this boy is either hot or cold, on or off, he knows what he wants”.  Boy did she call it.  Once he decided he was done, he was done… he does not miss it, he does not put his hand down my shirt, he does not ask for it… it as if he never was that perfect breastfeeding baby I used to describe.   He is now even started to give up on formula and just eat solids, it all happens too fast!
So what is the moral of this story, why did I feel I had to write it? I am here to say, I was the biggest advocate of breastfeeding and did all I could to nurse my son until he was at least a year, but I couldn’t…. I have come to grips that I didn’t fail… I didn’t give up… sometimes babies just make up their mind and there is nothing we can do.  If I had to do it all over again I would, no regrets, it has all be a humbling, eye opening, sympathy creating experience.  If this had not happened to me I don’t know if I would be as good of a mother, friend, blogger, wife…   as hard as this was for me emotionally… I am better for it.

I might be judged by others…. But I vow to never judge myself for making a good, informed, decision for me and my family! 


  1. Both my sons weaned themselves at 10 months. My 2 girls came later and nursed until 17 and 16 months (until I was the one that was done!). They all come with their own needs and personalities. And if there is anything I've learned from them as a parent, it's humility! I'm learning to focus less on controlling the details, and more on the big picture- the actual, simple, personal needs (theirs and mine). You are an amazing mama!

    1. Thank you for sharing and thank you for the advice. I am learning this is more common than I ever realized. For us mama's out there that want to "extend" nurse, no one tells you your kid might have other plans!

  2. I feel for you, friend. I am glad that you had all those mothers telling you how difficult breastfeeding would be, I did not. I often make it a point to tell first-time moms just how hard it is because I went in blind. I too was determined to breastfeed for as long as possible but the difficult time for my has been with all three children the beginning and new challenges with each individual. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. Great post mama. Proud of you for sharing. xo

  4. I feel for you, friend. I am glad that you had all those mothers telling you how difficult breastfeeding would be, I did not. I often make it a point to tell first-time moms just how hard it is because I went in blind. I too was determined to breastfeed for as long as possible but the difficult time for my has been with all three children the beginning and new challenges with each individual. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story! I think we have all had our own parenting moments that we had pictured going differently. These babies are a good reminder that we can't control everything. Be proud of the good Mama that you are! Xoxo

  6. How we put so much pressure on ourselves as mothers. There are so many opinions and people telling you what to do it is hard. Both of my children where completely different when it came to nursing. My first child, a daughter, was in the NICU for 9 days and after that experience she would only take a bottle. For three months, I would pump and then bottle feed her, all while trying to get her to nurse. Finally she figured it out and she nursed until she weaned herself at 18 months. My second child, my son, was a nursing natural. To be honest his 2nd birthday is next month and he is still nursing. I am feeling a whole set of other emotions in still nursing him. I see look on some friends faces when I go to nurse him. I know they are thinking, "Isn't he to old for that?" My husband, of all people, is even pressuring me to stop and says that he is getting too old. I guess there is really no right answer and each child/mother is different when it comes to nursing. But oh how the world makes us feel.
    Thanks for writing this Lisa!

  7. I have been meaning to comment on this post, and finally have a chance! Awesome post! At one of the sessions of our birthing/breastfeeding class before I had Alex, the instructor had said something that I will always remember. She said, "There isn't one right way to raise a child." Of course, at that time it didn't mean much to me. I thought, whatever, my way is right. :) I am going to ONLY breastfeed, and I will CERTAINLY have a NATURAL birth! :) Fortunately, I was able to have a natural birth, no meds, and thought everything was downhill from there. But, I was humbled, as you know the feeling! I just wasn't producing enough milk right off the bat, and my little girl was hungry and not gaining weight. So, after doing whatever I could to try to produce more milk for her, I finally had to supplement...with formula and a bottle. It broke my heart! I cried! And, I truly feel that NO ONE understands the disappointment and inferiority at that moment than another mama who has had the same thing happen. And while our situations may have been slightly different, as all mothers' stories will be, the feelings are the same. You feel like you have failed. But, that can not be further from the truth! YOU are providing for your little one however you have to to make sure that he thrives. No one blames you, he doesn't blame you, and you certainly shouldn't blame yourself! It took me a little time to come to those terms, but once I did, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I was humbled, and better for you. :) You are better for it too! :) You are an awesome, amazing, strong, courageous woman...and even more, you are a MAMA! :) Love you, Lisa! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Beautiful story. my breastfeeding journey is almost identical to yours. Thank you for writing this


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