Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, you know breastfeeding is the best for babies with healthy moms. It’s pretty much become an assumption now that after you deliver, you breastfeed, with doctors, friends, and perfect strangers saying it more as a statement than a question, “You plan to breastfeed.”
When Jas and I took our prenatal classes when I was pregnant with Buds, breastfeeding was an entire class, while postpartum depression barely made a blip in the conversation (something I still find bizarre given what we know about it). My plan was always to try and see what happens. So, that’s what I did. I tried and tried and tried and tried. I tried until I was bleeding, aching, sore. I tried until he was losing more weight than the recommended 10% and his diapers were dry. I tried despite lack of sleep and food. I tried because the specialists and the nurses and the doctors told me to “just keep trying.”
I tried until Jas came home one night from work (he was back to work within two days of Buds’ birth) and found me distraught at not being able to feed our son. Jas sent me to bed and took over, and ultimately we gave Buds formula. At his doctor’s appointment the next day, my doctor asked how the feeding had been going, and I nervously told her about the formula. My doctor, old school in so many ways, looked me in the eye, held my shoulder and said, “It’s ok to give your son formula when he’s hungry.” I exhaled the breath I was holding, expecting the usual “just keep trying” speech. I did, in fact, keep trying for another couple weeks, using all of the milk-producing hints I found, but to no avail. Ultimately, I stopped and Buds was fed on just formula until he was six months.
Breastfeeding is always an entertaining topic to discuss with moms, because when I would give Buds formula, I would get the nastiest looks out in public, like I must naturally be a horribly lazy, self-centered mother, but ask my breastfeeding friends and they will say they get the same looks if they try to nurse in public. So it’s expected for us moms to breastfeed, but only if other people don’t have to see it. And don’t even get me started on the mom-on-mom hate that happens related to feeding, especially in the online community.
I never felt bad for giving Buds formula, after all, I was feeding a hungry baby, and looking at him now, you would never know he started life so small. When Jas and I took a tour of the NICU our girls will be living in, the pediatrician had talked to us about breastfeeding, and I explained what happened with Buds. His response was to try, and even a couple of drops of colostrum and milk can help a preemie. A nurse then showed us around the unit and explained what it would be like at the beginning.
“Naturally,” she said, “you’ll be pumping your milk right away.” Again, I explained my past attempt at breastfeeding. For easily another ten minutes, she proceeded to tell us how breast milk is the best and only way to feed a baby and especially preemies as they already have so many other needs.
Walking to the elevator, Jas took my hand, and without me saying anything, said, “I don’t want you to stress about the feeding. You’re already so worried about the babies, and we’ll see what happens. But I never want you to feel how you felt before with Buds, that you were a failure, that you couldn’t feed him. We’ll do what we can for our girls, but don’t stress.”
And that is why I love my husband.