We all know the saying, ‘It’s no use in crying over spilled milk.’
But what about UNSPILLED milk?
Postpartum this time around has been significantly better than with my first baby. I think it’s because I knew what to expect and was better prepared to handle the sleepless nights and lack of ‘me time’. After all, my first child is only 11 months old so it’s not like I’m out of practice.
I hadn’t had any emotional moments or near break downs…until this day. One night/morning around 3am, my baby refused to latch onto my breast to feed. She had done this one time before, but I gently spoke to her and coached/convinced her to latch because I was NOT going to give her a bottle.
I will supplement with formula or breast milk in a bottle if she’s just too frantic to latch, but I didn’t want to make it a habit as this was the first time I was experiencing, what I thought, was a successful breastfeeding journey. The fact that she was rejecting the breast when we were doing so well before really upset me. I let some tears fall and surrendered to formula. Little did I know, I would be shedding way more tears just a couple hours later…
I don’t know why I became so dedicated to the idea of breastfeeding this time around. With my first baby, I had the idea in my head, but the decision to formula feed came quickly and with no grief. She had significant trouble latching, I was tired, overwhelmed and just wanted to her to be fed.
I think this pregnancy in many ways was like a do-over in my mind. I wasn’t going to get the chance to deliver vaginally, but this time around I felt like I was given a second chance to do some other things I didn’t do or didn’t get the chance to do with my first baby. Breastfeeding was one of them. But at what cost?
I woke up around 8am and within minutes I was in tears. A lot of them. My left breast felt like it was about to break off. I was experiencing sharp pain in my breast that radiated down my left arm and kept me from lifting it. I was supporting the weight of my breast with both hands. After taking a scorching hot shower (the hot temp helps milk flow), and crying through text messages and phone calls to friends and lactation consultants, the consensus was that mastitis was starting to set in.
Mastitis is basically when the milk ducts in the breast get clogged causing an infection. I was advised by a lactation consultant at the hospital where I delivered to pump, rest, and take ibuprofen for the inflammation. Thankfully, I was scheduled to see my OBGYN that day for a C section follow up. I mentioned the pain at the appointment and was prescribed antibiotics for the next 10 days. I also saw the lactation consultant after that appt and was provided with an electric breast pump until mine was delivered along with the recommendation to pump every 2.5hrs.
Though we caught it early, my symptoms were still progressing. By the time I got home I was experiencing dizziness, headache, chills and some nausea. I took my meds, pumped and rested. It would take a week before I would wake up for the first time pain free.
So how did I get mastitis?
My milk ducts were clogged because when I would nurse my baby she wouldn’t eat enough to clear out the breast. She would only eat for about 10 minutes before passing out. Like, completely slumping over. I wouldn’t pump after her feedings because I didn’t know to do this.
So yes, that is what caused the mastitis but really I got it because I succumbed to society’s pressure for me to breast feed by any means necessary, with no education or coaching and even to the point of getting sick. The only advice I’d ever really been given was not to give up and that it would be hard and painful. The other advice I was given was like a ‘one size fits all’ model. Every woman’s body is different and every baby is different.
Breastfeeding does not mark elite motherhood. If you’ve been able to breastfeed (like, you were one of those moms who just popped their kid on like a magnet) it’s because you didn’t have barriers like a baby with a tongue or lip tie (or you were fortunate enough to find a solution), or you simply just had support. Let’s face it: there are some factors that just make breast feeding easier for some than for others.
Just because you have a baby, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to breastfeed.
Just because you have breast doesn’t mean you’ll be able to breastfeed.
Just because you produce milk doesn’t mean you’ll be able to breastfeed.
Even if all the stars align for a perfect breastfeeding journey, if you don’t want to breastfeed THEN DONT. As a Social Worker who works in child welfare, I am telling you that your baby will be fine even if they are formula fed. You are not a bad parent. And if the struggles that come with breastfeeding are enough to jeopardize your mental health, then for your sake and for the sake of your family do not feel bad for choosing formula. The choice to feed your baby is never a bad thing.