This is the Best I Can Come Up With When Left to My Own Devices
The Girl Who Cried Boob

The Internet Really Needs Another Rant About Breastfeeding

(I'm finally working on The Birth Story, Part Two. But first, one last boob-related tantrum.)

(Last. Haaaaaaaaa.)

My mom was a witness to the Great Nursing Downward Spiral last week. She watched Noah go from eating like a champ on a regular basis to being a fussy, distracted eater who would only nurse for a few minutes before pulling away in either red-faced fury or complete boredom.

So we talked about breastfeeding. A lot.

When my oldest brother was born, in the 60s, no one breastfed. It was barbaric. It was Third World. It Was Not Done. Formula was the Modern Civilized Way and produced Super-Brained Babies of the Future.

So when my mom decided to breastfeed, she had zero support or instruction.

Not surprisingly, it didn't work out. My brother didn't latch correctly and lost weight. My mom was shocked by how much it HURT and developed mastitis. Her pediatrician yelled at her for starving her baby and berated her until she gave up and switched to formula.

She didn't even try to breastfeed her next two babies.

By the time I came along, it was 70s, and the tide had turned. La Leche League was around and breastfeeding was finally coming back in vogue. So she nursed me for five months, which is when I woke up one day and absolutely, steadfastly refused anything but a bottle.

Out of the four of us, I was the baby with the chronic ear infections. I had tubes put in my ears when I was five. I had a frillion food and drug allergies. I was always, always sick.

Was there a connection? Feh. Probably not. I was just a kid who got a lot of ear infections. I was never in daycare and never had a drop of formula until I weaned my damnned self. So...that's that, I suppose.

Since I've been writing about my own Boob Tribulations, I've gotten a lot of emails. Some have been full of the worst kind of assvice ("Don't give up! Formula is SO AWFUL! Stop giving him bottles! You're confusing him with pacifiers! Stop drinking milk/wine/juice/caffeine/meat/bread/calories and it will all get better!), some have been encouraging success stories -- and others are personal accounts about Why I Quit Breastfeeding Because Goddamn, Enough Already.

Those stories? Are so sad, because y'all are trying SO HARD. You're fighting through thrush and mastitis and low supply and bleeding nipples and clogged ducts and pumping and weight loss and milk drying up overnight for no apparent reason.

And when you admit that you quit, the guilt and shame and regret are palpable.

It's funny. Most of us have a support network that my mom's generation could only dream about. We have lactation consultants at our pediatrician's office who give us their home phone numbers and books and pumps and special breastmilk storage containers and detailed instructions for pumping and storing milk tacked up on our fridge. We have Boppies and Soothies and prescription nipple creams.

Yet we're still having a motherfucking hard time.

And while there are hundreds of people who will applaud our decision to breastfeed now, we're all terrified to admit that we want to give up. That it's not working for us. That we aren't one of the women for whom the whole process comes easily and naturally and look! We're already so skilled we can do it out in public without any screaming or multiple failed latches or showing our boob off to the entire food court.

I haven't given up. I'm still trying. I'm still in pain and I'm still a fucking wreck because Noah is not nursing like everybody tells me he should nurse. A few minutes here and there and a tendency to pull away violently, which OW OW OW.

(Oh yes, that whole shebang about breastfeeding only hurting if you're doing something wrong? Or if the baby isn't latched on right? Bullshit. SHUT UP, La Leche League.)

I thought it was my diet affecting the flavor of the milk. Until I pumped, put the same milk he'd just rejected in a stupid bottle and watched him happily slurp an entire four ounces down.

I thought it was reflux. I gave him Mylicon drops and burped the kid so many times per feeding he's probably all twitchy from the back-thumping. Still. Five minutes a boob is the most I can get him to commit to.

I thought it was a flow issue. We bought slower-flow nipples for his bottles to make him work harder, which suceeded in making him hate the bottle, but didn't change his nursing patterns at all.

I've let him sleep through feedings to get really good and hungry. I've woken him up and forced him on the boob while still half-asleep. Same result.

He poops, he pees and he sleeps peacefully for hours at a time. He doesn't have colic and he's outgrowing his 0-3 month clothes already. He holds his head up and is extremely alert and good-natured. He smiled at me yesterday.

All signs point to a baby who is doing Just Fine.

His mama, however, cannot take this kind of stress. First it was the low supply. The pumping and the fenugreek and the supplementing with formula.

Then it was the thrush. (And OH MY GOD, the THRUSH. THAT RASH. THAT HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE RASH THAT NO ONE UNDERSTOOD WAS NOT A NORMAL DIAPER RASH AND COULD NOT BE SOLVED BY CHANGING DIAPER BRANDS OR ANY OVER-THE-COUNTER BUTT PASTE KNOWN TO MAN.)

(What finally worked? The prescription stuff from the doctor, corn starch and a buttload of patience.)

(Buttload. HA!)

So. We continue to limp along. We see the lactation folks on Thursday for the moment of truth: is Noah losing weight again? Is he miraculously getting enough in these super-short feeds? Should we withhold the bottle or not? Continue pumping to keep up the supply or accept that maybe we'll all be happier if we just switch to formula?

I don't know the answers yet. So really, this rant is probably premature, as I have No Fucking Point Whatsoever.

I am still committed to breastfeeding.

I am also committed to not driving myself crazy. To not letting my baby go hungry to force him to nurse. To not beating myself up over this or to view it as a "failure" if I decide to quit.

I'm committed to Noah, no matter what.

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I'm reluctantly keeping comments open on this entry, since I think some readers need a place to vent and share their own frustrations, victories, defeats and experiences. But please -- no judging, no assvice. Any comment that is even remotely assvicey or judgey (whether of me or any of my commenters) will be deleted. If a commenter specifically asks for advice, feel free to offer some. If you have a story to tell, please, tell us. But as of right now, nobody has asked for your opinion, so I respectfully ask that you stick a sock in it.

Comments

Nikki

No assvice here, just a sympathetic ear. When I began BFing my newborn, I had the Queen Hag of LC's that believed infant oragami was the only way to get my daughter to latch on. She put us in a million different positions that would have made a yoga master say "Damn, don't that hurt?" I was very lucky to have met a wonderful old nurse that taught me to do what my instincts tell me and follow the baby's lead. Even when she ate 3-5 times per hour during growth spurts (One occasion lead to Linda Blair style projectile vomiting simply because my little one had eaten WAAAAYYYY more than her little tummy could handle.) and when she ate twice a day but kept growing faster than the growth chart said she should be growing, I let her tell me what she needed. We survived nursing for a year until she decided that my nippies made good chew toys and switched to baby food.
It's not a matter of what someone says or what the books say is best- it is what works for you and Noah. Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing your ordeal with us!

Sara

Amy- you are doing great. You have a very level head on your shoulders and are taking each day and going with it. That's the best attitude you can have. WAY TO GO!!!!

blazngfyre

New to your blog, but what I have read so far, I LOVE!

Congrats on such a GORGEOUS boy!
I myself had #2 in April. He's 10 years younger than #1 and was a "surprise", but I just love him to pieces!

As with my first boy, I had a SHIT-TON of (un)welcome assvice, it REALLY grates on my damn nerves!
If Noah is happy, and thriving, then just continue doing what you're doing. As you said, you're committed to HIM.
I applaud you! You ROCK! :)

blazngfyre

New to your blog, but what I have read so far, I LOVE!

Congrats on such a GORGEOUS boy!
I myself had #2 in April. He's 10 years younger than #1 and was a "surprise", but I just love him to pieces!

As with my first boy, I had a SHIT-TON of (un)welcome assvice, it REALLY grates on my damn nerves!
If Noah is happy, and thriving, then just continue doing what you're doing. As you said, you're committed to HIM.
I applaud you! You ROCK! :)

jasmine

...if the whole boys don't breastfeed as well as girls thing is true....

they must realize around age 12 that breasts are incredibly amazing and they blew their one chance. they spend the rest of their lives trying their damnedest to get into boob proximity again.

Starbuck

Amy, I hope this isn't considered advice, but I had a friend in pretty much the same situation as you. Her daughter (now 8) refused anything but a bottle so she chose to pump for about 10 months, freezing all excess and was able to give breastmilk for about the 1st year of her daughter's life. (I am not telling you to pump and freeze for a year -- I hated pumping and only did it if I felt an explosion coming on!) But what my friend was told by her pediatrician was that this is quite possibly an Emma (or Noah) thing. Maybe it won't work out for you and maybe it will. But if you have another baby, consider trying again if you are up to it. My friend had 2 more children and they both nursed without any problems.

ali

add me to the list of people who are not afraid to admit they want to give up.

i HATE breastfeeding. i've had three babies now and i've had 3 breast infections and 3 bouts of thrush. i've had cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, i've spent hundreds of dollars on miracle cures...both prescription and non.

i love the idea of the bottle...it means i can have the freedom to leave isabella at home when i want to go somewehre....or need to go somewhere. i don't have to wake her up to nurse her quickly so i can go somewhere.

i am SOOOO ready to give up.


Starbuck

Also, I failed to mention that I started reading your website immediately following the birth of Noah. I read snarkywood and linked over from there. Anyway, I have been reading your archives and have made it into May 2004 (I think) You are so funny and I really enjoy your posts. I especially enjoyed "The many love of Amalah". I have one question -- was LBCA Lower Bucks? Just asking b/c I went to a Christian school in Collingswood, NJ and we played Lower Bucks in sports (in the 80's). (My school left me with a negative image of Christian schools, too. Made some good friends, but hated the environment.)

ali

add me to the list of people who are not afraid to admit they want to give up.

i HATE breastfeeding. i've had three babies now and i've had 3 breast infections and 3 bouts of thrush. i've had cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, i've spent hundreds of dollars on miracle cures...both prescription and non.

i love the idea of the bottle...it means i can have the freedom to leave isabella at home when i want to go somewehre....or need to go somewhere. i don't have to wake her up to nurse her quickly so i can go somewhere.

i am SOOOO ready to give up.


Carol

I wish I had breastfed - I let everyone in my life talk me out of it...BOTH TIMES. Dammit.

Anyway, I really just wanted to say that I am so surprised that you haven't eaten that little one yet. God, he's adorable!

tulip

Honey bun, do what feels right to you. That's the only advice I EVER give anyone. Unless of course what feels right it to go on a bender and toss Noah out the window. Then we have medications for that! ;)

Seriously as someone who has been there you do what you can, the best you can, everyday and that's all anyone can ask of you.

Hugs and you'll get through it! I have faith in your love for Noah.

Christina

wow 200+ comments. I stopped reading at about 10, so forgive me.
I failed at nursing 101 with my eldest at 4 weeks. I beat myself up horribly with guilt and all that, then finally gave in to the horrors of formula. She is now 19 months old, has only had 2 colds ever, and is as happy as a clam.
I've just failed nursing 102 with #2. This time I lated 4 months, 2 weeks and 3 days. Let me tell you, I hated all 4 months, 2 weeks and 3 days of nursing this baby. I don't know why I held on for so long, seeing how my older girl is perfect despite having the horror of formula.
But, mother's guilt is a strong thing, that and all the asshats at La Leche (bite me) telling me I might as well feed my kid poison if I was giving up the boob. Sheesh.
Go with your gut, a mother's instinct is never wrong.

Christina

oh and I forgot (how could I though)...He's GORGEOUS! He looks so much like you.

Ashlie

Pretty, pretty baby. Smart, smart mama.

Betsy

Amy, you and Noah are doing just splendidly! I had two babies, and nursed them both off and on, until it got too uncomfortable, or they seemed to prefer the bottle, or I had to go back to work, or it got to be too much trouble, or I discovered that one of them was only willing to sleep for long periods when I started giving her "soupy" formula+baby cereal in a bottle in which I had slightly cross-cut the rubber nipple so she could scarf it down more easily....bottom line is I couldn't tell you now which one got what treatment, but they were both healthy and are now 37 and 42, and trust me neither one knows the difference.
On the subject of ass-vice, I should also mention that I gave birth in the era of British Authority Sir Grantley Dick-Reed, who instructed us that childbirth was a Natural Process, and that there was No Pain involved; and what we were experiencing was, in fact, properly termed Discomfort. I'm pretty sure Sir Dick-Reed was not speaking from personal experience.
Fuck'em all, Amy. You're doing SO much more than fine! Just keep it up, and snuggle that little dumpling at every opportunity. Babies know when they're loved, whether the snuggling goes on with a bottle or a boob. You're supplying warmth and love and tenderness and nourishment: what's not to like in that package???

Amy

You are a great mom and you are doing a great job. People make WAAAAYYY too big of a deal out of breastfeeding. You have to examine the motivations of anyone who would make you feel bad about not breastfeeding. Women are hypercompetitive and childrearing is one of those arenas where women have been allowed to be hypercompetitive for centuries. Anyone who would guilt you about breastfeeding is doing it because of their own issues - assuaging their feelings of inadequacy, offsetting their own guilt about some of their own parenting choices, trying to tear you down to solve their own insecurity problems, etc. It's their problem, not yours. You know what's best for you and your son, period. Good luck.

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