We’ve all seen the photographs; mother and child locked in tender embrace, one nurturing the other from her own body. There’s nothing more magical or more natural. During my pregnancy, I would often gaze upon such scenes in happy anticipation. One day it would be my turn to have this moment with my own little one.
I figured it would be simple enough, because all the prenatal information I had digested seemed to reinforce this sentiment. Skin-to-skin, cradle (or football, cross cradle, side-lying) latch, and commence adorable, sigh-worthy bonding experience.
Therefore, when the moment finally arrived, I held my lovely daughter in my arms, cued the sentimental theme music, and then… all hell broke loose; she wanted nothing to do with it!
The struggle continued, so I sought professional help. One lactation specialist told me that somewhere deep down I really didn’t want to breastfeed or it would have worked by now. In response I morphed into a maleficent dragon and incinerated her. Not really, though my wounded heart wished irrationally that I could have. To be fair, it was her first week on the job, and she was feeling frustrated, as was I.
Here are a few things I learned from my odyssey:
- I’d Confused the Highlight Reel with Reality: After talking to lactation specialists and several other moms, I learned that breastfeeding issues are quite common in the beginning. It became clear that behind many (not every) of those adorable photos, are tries and failures, tears, chapped nipples and a list of other distressing experiences.
- Sometimes it’s Okay to Have a Plan B: In my mind, breastfeeding exclusively was the only worthy feeding option. To do any different would be “less-than”. Following this deluded belief, I had no backup plan. It wasn’t till one desperate night, with a wailing baby and a supportive husband nearing his wit’s end, that I was forced to make a mad dash for a breast pump and some formula. The time had come to let go and seek other options.
- Success Can Look Different: My plan to breastfeed exclusively didn’t come to pass. Instead I pumped and supplemented with formula. Still, my daughter is healthy, a great eater, active, and growing like a brilliant little weed. It’s not how I planned, but all things considered, I’d still call the outcome a win.
- You Can Try Again: Just because things turned out the way they did with one baby, doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll always be. Should I someday be blessed with another little one, I’ll be more prepared and I will most certainly try exclusive breastfeeding again.