Friday, May 7, 2010

Breast Is Best: How hard could it be? Hard!

I thought it would be good to have another perspective on breastfeeding. So I asked Taylor, mom of 2, to share her breastfeeding experience.

I always planned to breastfeed. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me that breastfeeding could be a struggle or that there was a possibility it wouldn’t work out. After all, my mom breastfed all 6 of us until we were old enough say, “Breast milk, please, Mama”.

I was so confident in my inherent ability to breastfeed that when my dear husband suggested we take a breastfeeding class, I laughed at him. Child birth class, yes. Infant CPR, of course. But breastfeeding? People have breastfed since the dawn of time. How hard could it be?

As it turned out, pretty hard. M., although a practically perfect baby in every other way, did not know how to suck. Not only that, but she had zero interest in nursing. The nurses were pretty laid back about it at first. However, when hours went by and she still had no interest in food, they pulled out the pump.

Our hospital was very supportive of nursing, so no one suggested a bottle but they did have me give M. the colostrum through a syringe. The next day, the lactation specialist came to help but she couldn’t get M. to latch on either.

Finally, out of desperation, they gave me a nursing shield (a little silicone nipple that goes over your actual nipple). M. still wasn’t interested and still couldn’t latch. If we dripped some of the colostrum on the nipple shield, she would nibble a little bit but that was it.

Hearing other women's nursing stories is so interesting. I have known women who were in similar situations whose doctor recommended supplementing with formula at this point. But my doctor just sent us home, and told us to keep pumping and trying and that maybe M. would be more interested when my milk came in.

Well, my milk came in in abundance. But M. still wasn’t interested in eating. And (big surprise here) she wasn’t gaining weight. We went back to the hospital and the nurse showed us how to hold this tiny tube hooked to a syringe full of milk next to the nipple shield so that M. was getting milk while she was nibbling. The idea was that the supplemented milk would get her sucking. S. and I got pretty good at this system (although it took both of us to do it) and I was feeling more successful.

Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, we also paid nearly $200.00 out-of-pocket for a fancy lactation specialist to come to our house. She couldn’t get M. to latch on either (which was actually rather validating; it wasn’t just me).

At our next doctor’s appointment, M. was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive (heartbreaking) and still wasn’t gaining enough weight. The doctor told us that we needed to start giving M. a bottle and that we needed to feed her every 2 hours around the clock. I did ask about using a cup or a syringe but both my doctor and lactation consultants felt that M. needed the practice sucking only a bottle could provide.

My life became feeding. It consisted of an endless cycle of attempting to nurse M using the tube and syringe, bottle feeding, soothing, pumping and then waking her up to attempt to nurse again. Somewhere I had read that the first 6 weeks were the most crucial for breastfeeding (who knows if that is even true?), so I was determined to last that long. But, after that, if it wasn’t getting easier, I gave myself permission to give up.

And, amazingly enough, slowly but surely she got the hang of it. By 3 weeks, we didn’t need the tube/syringe system. By 5 ½ weeks, she latched on without a nipple shield and by 8 weeks, we were able to stop supplementing with a bottle.

I was so thrilled. We ended up nursing until she was 18 months (and I was 3 months pregnant) and I loved every minute of it (except when she went through that biting phase). But, here’s the interesting thing. Although I am glad I fought the battle, when I hear of other mothers in similar situations, all I want to do is give them a big hug and tell them that it is okay to give up. That, there are pros and cons to both nursing and formula and that either one is okay.

There are so many other factors to consider besides the litany of “breast is best” research. For example, if I had had any other kids; there is no way I would have had the time to dedicate to feeding. Or, if I had had any postpartum depression. Or, if my milk supply hadn’t been so abundant. Basically, I feel lucky that it worked out for me and have nothing but love and admiration for women in similar situations who weren’t so lucky.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I didn’t plan to breastfeed. I was too aware of the possibility that it might not work out. I hoped to breastfeed.

Thanks for your insight Taylor!! Your dedication is amazing. I probably would've been in tears the whole time. I'm glad it worked out for you.

Other posts in this series:


  1. Thank you for writing this. With my fist baby, I tried and tried to get her to nurse...even had a lactation consultant basically say if I bottle fed I was a "bad mommy". Yeah...looking back, it was because of that lady that I started down the horrible road of "postpartum depression". If only she would've been more empathetic and understanding......
    So I eventually became a pumper. And that is what I've done with all of my kids. And it has been the best thing for me. And I don't feel like a "bad mommy" anymore because I was/am able to give them my milk without feeling horrible that they could never latch on for me. It was a win/win!


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