Thursday, November 10, 2011

Breastfeeding Vent

*Addison is recovering very well from her surgery yesterday (the bloody tears have stopped)...thank you for continuing to pray for her!
*Feeling a bit restless today, so I'm afraid this is a bit of a vent...only read if you are feeling sympathetic...and don't mind breastfeeding discussions...

Once upon a time

there was a beautiful young woman who got married to the perfect man. When she became pregnant with their first child, her body gained the perfect amount of weight and remained a stranger to bloating. During delivery, everything happened naturally, quickly and easily for her. She, of course, walked away from the labor room wearing her pre-pregnancy jeans. Her baby immediately latched on to nurse which started an effortless nursing relationship which lasted the perfect amount of time. She did everything right with her perfectly healthy baby and smartness and genius abounded as she taught and nurtured just the right amount -not so much that she smothered, but not so little that she was negligent.

The words "bad mother" could never describe this beautiful young woman whose body never showed a mark of having birthed her baby. The best part of her life? She never ever felt "mommy guilt" because she did EVERYTHING right....never a slip up, never a hormonally charged moment full of regrettable tears.

This woman is fictional. A fairy tale. (did the "once upon a time" not give that away?)

Being a mom is hard work. The lack of sleep- not having time to take care of yourself-a constantly messy house- all of those things don't hold a candle to the guilt that comes with motherhood. No matter what you do, it seems like there is always someone out there telling you that your efforts aren't good enough, or that your take on motherhood is completely wrong and your kids will grow up needing lots of therapy just to cope with the emotional scars you no doubt are inflicting upon them.

It's as if an evil witch put a curse on all pregnancy tests- that as soon as you hold the urine soaked stick and see that positive, from here on out you will feel guilty about EVERYTHING. (that's not as much a fairy tale as the first story)

Why do I bring this unpleasant subject to light? (It is much preferred to just let it simmer under the surface...pretending that it doesn't exist)

I've been feeling a lot of guilt lately, and I spend most of my days reassuring myself that the guilt is ridiculous, I'm doing the best I can- but the guilt has a way of eating through most all assurances.

When Addison was born, I really, really, really wanted to breastfeed her. But she had so many physical problems she couldn't even take a bottle- she was g-tube fed and we worked up to a bottle. So, I pumped for 4-5 months to still give her breastmilk, but then I had to stop because I couldn't keep up with all of her appointments, working and pumping. I was sad, but I had done the best I could.

One of my big desires with Carter was to breastfeed and make up for that lost experience with Addison. When he was born healthy and strong, I knew that this was my chance.

The only problem was, he was SO healthy and strong that he wanted to eat ALL THE TIME (and no, a pacifier would not cut it) The kid is almost 14 pounds at 9 weeks, so yes, he is a BIG eater.

For about a week, he demanded to eat almost constantly (he ate so slowly...but still needed huge quantities) and Addison would be completely on her own, spending too much time in her crib, watching signing time...and wandering the house creating trouble. Finally, I told myself that this wasn't working, so I went back to pumping because it's what I knew.

After a couple of days of measuring out his food (NICU trained...I can't get it out of my mentality of "good mom") and figuring out that he needed 4-6 ounces every three hours (he would drink it much faster with a bottle as well), we were able to get on a schedule and I was able to split my attention between the two again.

Now, I'm pumping almost exclusively (managing to keep up with Carter, no problem...but how long will that last) and.....

IT MAKES ME FEEL GUILTY.

So many women seem to effortlessly breastfeed and make it work, but it wasn't working for us, so I did what I could to keep some sanity.

Whenever someone sees me giving Carter a bottle (of breastmilk-but they don't know that), I get comments like

"Oh breastfeeding my babies was my favorite thing to do"

or

"I just loved the connection that breastfeeding gave me and my baby"

or

"Breastfeeding is so amazing, I'm aiming to keep it up for 3 years"

and my guilt multiplies.

I do want the best for my baby, and I do want to breastfeed. But not having done it successfully for my first baby really put me at a disadvantage and I was on my own from day one with 2, so I never was able to just sit all day with Carter and make it work for us.

Right now the pumping is working great...he gets breastmilk and Addison still gets a mommy too.

But I wonder how long I can keep that up, and I feel like I missed my chance to figure out breastfeeding.

I'm just now starting to overcome the guilt a bit and feel happy that I am able to still supply him with breastmilk even if it's not conventional...and that I remember to feed both children....and that they both are happy babies. Isn't that the ultimate goal? I am doing the best I can.

So why do I still feel guilty? Curse that pregnancy stick witch....and the fictitional woman in the first story that makes me feel inferior..

26 comments:

  1. Mommy guilt is the worst! You are so right! You're doing fine, he is getting breastmilk...and don't forget, he doesn't need the oral exercise the same as Addison (had she been able to) did. You aren't hurting him even if its not what you dreamed. Is he strictly drinking out of a bottle or do you still get to nurse him sometimes? Reagan doesn't nurse too much during the day anymore, but I do so enjoy the nightime and early morning nursing cuddles we share.

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  2. There is no escaping mommy guilt. As hard as it is, I think it helps make us strive to be better parents though. (At least that is what I tell myself on the hard days!)

    I was just going to mention that babies get faster and more efficient at nursing as they get older. Those first few weeks are especially hard because you feel constantly attached, but once you both get things figured out, it gets easier.

    I never can get as much with a pump than when the babies nurse. I have twins, and am currently trying to work up a stash for when I return to work on top of nursing them. Wish me luck!

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  3. Deanna,

    That first mom wasn't subjected to the curse. :) Seriously, I've been thinking a lot about the curse "you will have pain in childbearing" and I think that it applies to a LOT more than just labor. :)

    Hang in there! So glad Addison is doing better.

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  4. I have been experiencing some of the same emotions since I just had baby #3 in September. Only for me, I had to switch to formula. Double the guilt! I was only able to breastfeed my first two children until they were 3 months old until I had to quit and switch to formula. This time 'round I was determined to make it work--which made it even harder when I was already fighting to not give the breastfeeding up at 2 weeks old. Even met with lactation people. Combination of poor latch, slow milk flow and low milk supply. Stress! We made the decision to switch to formula (as HARD as it was- many tears, etc.) but my little baby girl is 10X happier now that she has a full tummy which makes mama happy. :) I agree that breastmilk is best, but I also believe that there is an unreasonable amount of pressure put on new moms to breastfeed. Sometimes it is just not physically possible! And, both of my older boys had formula after 3 months and neither one of them suffered from it!

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  5. Don't feel guilty. You have to do what's best you and your family.

    I think you're lucky though. At least Carter will take a bottle. My daughter wouldn't take one. She only wanted the breast. Which left me little opportunity to be away from her more than 2 hours :-(

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  6. Please don't feel guilty. The only thing I could even suggest and trust me this is not from my high horse (AT ALL) is to try nursing him in a stretchy wrap so that you could still move around and be able to use your hands while he's nursing. But we all need to do what works best for us. I nursed for 13 months and I'm glad that I did, but it was MY choice. I know plenty of other FF or Pumping babies that thrive. Do what works best for you and that means literally for your sanity and his health. Good luck!!!!

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  7. Awe, don't feel bad at all! Like Jenni said: I think the "curse" extends beyond labor. I had low milk supply problems and the hospital lactation consultant was no help at all. I had to feed Shepherd every 40 minutes for two solid weeks. All my mothering dreams and ambitions shattered and melted away during those two weeks. I'm expecting again, and I already know that I won't be able to do that with this baby since I will have a 17 month old running around.

    You are doing an amazing job already! I'm going to remember this post so that when I'm discouraged and having to pump or formula feed I will come back and read this post and not feel GUILTY.

    And the end of the story is not told yet. . . you might get to a point where Carter eats much faster and goes back to you. Or he might not. . . but either way . . . he won't care when he's a teenager. :)

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  8. As long as he gets fed, it doesn't matter what form it comes in! His belly is full and that's all he cares about...do not feel guilty! Having nursed an infant who wanted to eat all the time while also trying to care for a toddler is hard, I was so relieved when Sutter was weaned onto the bottle!

    You're doing great and I promise it gets easier!

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  9. I totally understand where you are coming from, Deanna!! I had all these dreams of nursing and truly gave it my best shot. Turns out, I was not a very good cow and Brent was a HORRID nurser. We ended up in the hospital after 5 days home because Brent had lost a pound. The doctors were not terribly supportive of my decision to nurse and put him on formula to supplement. For two months I spent an hour feeding him every other hour in hopes that we would eventually get this nursing thing down. When we got ready to make a move to OH, and he decided to give nursing up completely, I decided it just wasn't worth the stress on top of moving. But I felt terrible about it. But what I learned and I know you are too, is we gave it our best shot and what matters most is that our children are happy and healthy. It's really no one else's business if these two things happen. Keep it up, my friend - you are doing a wonderful job!!!!

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  10. I wish people would keep their mouths shut. No one knows what is going on in another's life. You are doing a great job.

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  11. I totally understand! I wasn't able to breastfeed Lily or Levi because of low milk supply (even though I tried everything to increase it). It's really hard to deal with people's comments sometimes. Just know that you are doing the best for your babies!!!

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  12. first of all, the people that make those comments may be breastfeeding, but there's something else they're doing that they're unsure of, and boasting about BF is the only thing they've got...tell them to fuck off, seriously...
    second of all...the fact that you're pumping all freaking day to give Carter breastmilk is amazing...it's twice the work...if BF didn't work for me it'd be formula all the way...
    you're doing a great job...unless you're a crackhead or beating your kids, you're okay..

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  13. I could have written this blog... I swear. I am going through something so similar, and like you the guilt has been hard. I struggling so hard to bfeed my first, a preemie, he bfeed partially for about 7 months, but I sucked at pumping so he had lots of formula.

    Enter Lily... I knew that there would like not be the bfeeding relationship I wanted... And it wasn't. She only gained 2 oz in 2 weeks, so we had to breastfeed, offer a bottle, and pump every 2-3 hours! It got to be more than I could handle, so now almost all her feeds are bottles and I pump only 3 times a day, getting enough milk for about 3 of her 7 bottles, the rest is formula. I feel less guilty than I did with my son, but it is still so hard. I had to do what was right for her and the rest of my family.

    It doesn't make us any less women or mothers! I finally decoded that life was about so much more, and while I haven't moved on 100 percent... Im getting ther daily.

    Huge hugs! You are an awesome mom!

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  14. I understand the breastfeeding vent totally. With my first, I got such horrible infections when she was 4 months old, I exclusively pumped until she was 9 months (then I quit). With #2, I was ecstatic -- breastfeeding was going perfectly! Until she got numerous ear infections, one right after the other, and she weaned herself at 8/9 months because she couldn't stand to nurse while resting on her ear. Now with #3, I've just switched to pumping exclusively again, because my baby got teeth at 4 months, and wouldn't stop biting me. Grrrrr..... But we are still good mamas. Hope it helps to know other mom's have difficulty breastfeeding, too!

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  15. Bummer...Gail already said what I planned on saying. Why must we moms kick each other why we're down?

    I have 7 children. My advice to newer moms is always to try for a few weeks and then move on. There's enough to worry about than adding breastfeeding into the mix. The fact that you can still give Carter Mommy's milk, though from a bottle, is a huge PLUS!! I had to give my first son (10 lbs @ birth) cereal & formula by 1 month and he was strictly on formula by month 4. With each of my children, it got a bit better, but I also learned that their entire future didn't depend on whether or not they were breastfed. Did you ever see that on a job application. "Were you breastfed or bottle fed?"

    Keep your eyes on what God wants from you as a mom and you're doing great!

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  16. When our children are grown and look back on the childhood that we gave them they won't remember if we did or didn't nurse them. They won't care if we used cloth or disposable diapers. It won't really matter to them if we never let the laundry pile up. They will remember our sweet spirits. They will remember how we made them feel special. Having two little ones so close together is tough, every day can be survival mode when they are so young. Just do what you can and know it's your best and that's all you can do and your baby won't hold it against you.

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  17. First of all, I think you're amazing.

    When I breastfed Millie (the first 6 months), I didn't like it. I wanted to for health and cost reasons, but I didn't get that magical, rainbows and butterflies thing that so many breastfeeding mothers talk about. I felt guilty because I didn't like it. Even after Millie got her first tooth at 4 months and chomped away, I kept going because I would be wrong otherwise. Finally, at 6 months, I decided that she'd had the benefit of breastmilk for the most crucial part of her life, and it was silly for me to hate something that was supposed to bond us.

    That's a really long comment, but I just wanted to say- don't feel guilty! I applaud you for what you've done, and the thing is, some people will preach the bottle, and some people will be horrified if you don't breastfeed them both until they're 20. :)

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  18. I hear ya. And I have to agree with the mom who wowed that you are pumping all day to give Carter breastmilk. Nursing is DEFINITELY much easier, and even then I was very happy when mine hit 6 months and I could cut down on nursing (I didn't cut down earlier, because, um, I knew I would feel guilty). Grin. If I had had to pump we would have stopped with the breastmilk at a few weeks. What a pain! Hats off to you for sticking it out this long. I, for one, NEVER enjoyed nursing. It hurt, a lot (yes, Jenni, you got it!), and was often awkward (in public), and complicated (when they were hungry just as we needed to hop into the car, etc. So although I have nothing against moms who are able to nurse a year or longer, I totally don't see knocking yourself out to do it. Deanna, if it's too hard to keep up this pumping, SWITCH to formula! Carter won't know the difference, and will still be super healthy, and will still bond with you, and will still love you. Mercy. I figure, if this is part of the curse, and a lot of the men get to work in air conditioning, then I'm sure gonna take advantage of not having to hurt so much in childbearing! (That last part was sort of a joke. Sort of.)

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  19. First of all, mommy guilt = totally natural. We all want to be that perfect mom you described at the beginning, but the truth is, she doesn't exist. Never did. Donovan is tongue-tied and so the first month and a half, I had to use a nipple shield every time I nursed him. Those are not pleasant. And yes, after that time, he nursed great. But before his first birthday, I was so excited to stop nursing. I couldn't wait. Then we went through the hard time of weaning. BF isn't easy for everyone. But...CONGRATS to you for pumping so much to provide your baby with that healthy breast milk. Some moms don't even consider b-milk and go straight to formula. I hated pumping, so my hat is off to you for doing it as much as you are to give your baby what he needs. I've said it once and I'll say it again--you're a great mom!

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  20. I have Crohn's disease, and am taking a medication that will make it impossible for me to breastfeed. My husband and I are talking about having a baby very soon, and one of my breastfeeding friends told me it was so "devastating" that I can't breastfeed. After the shock wore off, I realized that famine, poverty, sickness and evil is devastating, not being unable to breastfeed. You have 2 gorgeous, healthy children. You are doing what is right for you and most importantly, for both of them. Never let someone else make you feel guilty. You are an amazing mother.

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  21. Hey You dont know me but I have been reading your blog because I was expecting my second child the same time you had Carter... I had a boy and then a girl and they are not quite 13 months apart... on the breastfeeding thing... dont you find that it takes double the time to pump and them feed him as well? Why dont you just figure out how much you pump for an amount of time and that is probably on average the amount he gets in that time of feeding and then just always time how long he nurses and then you know on average how much he has eaten and then just dont feed him every time he asks for it? Anyway just an idea because I hate pumping! and My baby like to nurse quite a bit too! Anyway though whatever works for you I just thought of that idea because I feel for you with the two kids!!! :) Happy Feeding!

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  22. As an almost-RN, I'm supposed to say that breast is best, no formula, no pumping, etc.
    BUT I say do what's best for mom and baby.
    We tried and tried to get my baby to latch and it just never worked. We started supplementing at the hospital and I rented an industrial-strength (or so it felt) pump to take home.
    My husband went back to Texas after 1 week (deployment).
    I pumped for 2 months. Being the only one there with my son. He would eat, then fall asleep. I'd be up another hour pumping and fall asleep just in time to awaken to the hungry cry.
    I would have loved to either breastfeed period or at least pump longer. The schedule just didn't work for me. I was E X H A U S T E D

    I used up what I was able to freeze and then went to formula exclusively by 3 months. It worked best for us.

    Do what works best for YOU and Carter. Don't feel the need to explain yourself.

    PS-Love your blog. Addison is super adorable (I love the picture with her mouth wide open on your header!) Carter is a real cutie too!

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  23. I do this, maybe you're doing the same. I compare my weaknesses against other's strengths and totally over look my strengths. I think the fact that you're pumping and providing your boy breast milk and giving both kids attention should be Celebrated Joyfully! What a huge accomplishment! I can't produce enough milk for our second so I supplement with formula. I felt guilty buying that first can of formula, not so much now. I was giving her literally everything I had. Supplementing has been so good for both of us that I let the guilt go.

    There is no one way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to be a good mother.

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  24. I sure wish there was a "like" button below reader comments! I laughed and nodded agreement as I read all the encouraging notes to you, Deanna! I agree with them: Mommy guilt is normal! As a mom who had 4 kids 6 years old and under (I know. Nuts.), I had to learn survival skills for my own mental & emotional health. You ARE doing the best you can. The bases that aren't covered in the "ideal" way (whose ideal, anyway?), you cover creatively in another way, the best you can. Self-talk works! "I totally rock these kids!"... "yep, it's ok that I'm not able to magically do everything perfectly." If I had any advice to give it would be to whip the Mommy guilt into its proper place. After all, kids continue to grow and mature and will face ever new and challenging issues... kicking the guilt habit to the curb now will save it hounding you into their adulthoods! And Deanna? You totally DO rock those kids!

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  25. Mommy guilt stinks and I'm already really stressed about this. I pumped for Claire for a year, and still feel bad that I didn't work harder at nursing her. I really want to nurse the new baby, but am afraid I'll fall back to pumping as it's what I know. And I know the time commitment for that will be hard.

    Ugh! There is no easy answer but you are doing a great job!!

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  26. YES!!! Ohmygosh, yes. Guilt feelings galore here!!!

    Here is the deal: whether you breast or (formula/goat milk/other) feed your precious babies, they are going to be FINE, nay- WONDERFUL- because you love and care for them, not because of what is in their bottle.

    I hate all the pressure that people add to a sensitive situation. It makes things harder and is really unloving.

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