breastfeeding, my story: part 3

part one   part two

This part of my story was the hardest to write because I still have a lot of anger and frustration over some of the “helpful” advice I was given, but I really wanted to share those emotions even though they are still raw.  So maybe some well-meaning (or not) individuals might think a bit more before offering advice to a mom struggling with breastfeeding.  

Around 6 weeks I stopped going to the breastfeeding support group.  The weighed feedings were depressing and stressed me out.  The LCs leading the group offered me no advice that I hadn’t already read on Kelly Mom or in one of my online communities.  One mom in the weekly group was regularly pissing me off and making it a very hostile environment for several of us (many of us attending had premature babies with latch/supply issues).  She openly criticized those of us in the group that were supplementing with formula.  I wanted to reach across the table and bonk her over the head with my brest friend pillow.  The weeks she wasn’t there were decent and I had some great conversations with the other moms struggling with breastfeeding, but soon it was clear I dreaded the group and wasn’t getting anything from it but more frustration.

I was slowly reaching the acceptance stage by this point and was just breastfeeding Gretchen on demand and following up every feeding with a bottle.  She was gaining weight thanks to the formula and I was grateful.  I found a local moms group that was accepting of everyone;  those breastfeeding and those formula feeding, and started going every Friday.  It was so good to get out of the house and connect with other moms.

Around 12 weeks Gretchen started refusing the breast.  She was hitting a growth spurt and going on nursing strikes for 12-24 hours.  She was screaming at my breasts again, something she hadn’t done since the early days before my milk was in.  I knew it was time to wean and over the course of a few days we did.  Sudafed dried me up and just like that we were exclusively formula feeding.

I was so happy I had been able to breastfeed for 3 months when at one point I didn’t think I’d get past the first week, but I also wished our breastfeeding relationship hadn’t ended so soon.  I was disappointed that I didn’t have the “easy” and “natural” breastfeeding experience that so many books and friends had touted nursing could be.  I was frustrated that my body and my baby weren’t able to make that happen.

I knew going into it that breastfeeding could be difficult, but I was expecting difficulties such as  cluster feeding, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, and oversupply/engorgement (lol, as if).  I really had no idea how exhausting it could be and I certainly had no idea what kind of emotional toll it would take.

During those first three months of Gretchen’s life I got some really great advice and encouragement from friends and family.  I also got some horrible advice, was judged by other moms, and felt so much guilt and disappointment over how things were playing out.  I soaked in encouraging words like “every drop of breast milk you give her is a gift” and “it gets easier” (and it did get easier after about 6 weeks just like everyone said.  “Don’t quit on a bad day” was probably the best advice I received.

some of the hurtful advice I was given when people learned I was struggling with my supply (assvice really):

  • I needed to spend more time with my baby (24/7 wasn’t enough??)
  • I needed to just stop formula feeding altogether and trust my body to produce milk (so starve my child in the meantime??)
  • I needed to pray harder for God to increase my supply (what the…I still have no words, this is SO insulting and I heard it from multiple people.)

I didn’t respond to those comments.  I honestly could not think of a response that wasn’t “go !#@$ yourself” in many cases, so saying nothing was the better road.    I did de-friend a few individuals on Facebook during that time, they weren’t true friends anyway.  99% of people were supportive and encouraging and gave great advice, but there were a select few whose comments still bother me.  I never expected people to be so critical.

I remember the first time I went to Costco to stock up on formula with my stack of formula checks (many of which were given to me by amazing, non-judgmental friends that were fortunately able to EBF).  Gretchen was sleeping in her car seat in the cart and I had about 6 canisters of Similac stacked up in what little cart space was left.  My shoulders got stiff and I was giving the side eye to people around me as I hurried to the checkout.

You see, I remembered the story a friend had told me about being approached by a total stranger at the store when she was buying formula.  In front of her two small children, the middle-aged woman said something to the effect of “you know, breastfeeding really is best!” and then marched off.  I had all kinds of great little quips in my head, prepared for anyone to criticize how I feed my child.  Fortunately it didn’t come to that, but I still prepare things to say every time I buy formula, just in case!

Gretchen at 6 months.  Growing, thriving, and hitting all of her milestones like a champ.  Bottle fed and happy.  

I have one more post in the works about my breastfeeding experience, a review of Suzanne Barston’s book “Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t.”  Her book and her blog helped me process my experience, expanded my understanding of the issues surrounding infant feeding in our society, and made me more compassionate towards myself and other moms.  I want to re-read it before blogging about it though, it’s worth a second read for sure!

Thanks again for reading my story and my ramblings.  I hope sharing my story was helpful to another mom struggling as I did.

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3 thoughts on “breastfeeding, my story: part 3

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Julia. I was greatly looking forward to reading all the parts as I too have struggled with breastfeeding. Interesting enough, I was diagnosed with PCOS as well. My lactation consultant said there is an odd link to that but they aren’t sure why. I hate all the mom-guilt that comes with kids, especially when people don’t know the story and still feel like they should speak into the situation. I heard several similar comments as well and always just left and cried. Thanks for being so honest.

  2. This was awesome, I love it. Not for your experiences which were obviously emotionally and physically-exhausting, but that you’re sharing them and more or less telling other parents “IT’S OKAY TO BE HAPPY.” And that looks different for different people. As someone who has spent the past five years formula-feeding (other people’s) babies, it’s given me plenty of time to mull over my own choices one day if I ever birth a human being, and what my responses are in the meantime when I get snide remarks from strangers when I whip out in a bottle in public, or to friends who are struggling with breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

  3. So I seriously laughed at the “assvice”. I am going to have to start using that word.
    You are both amazing parents and she is an amazing girl. You handled this with such grace amidst ridiculous idiots, even though it was hard beyond what I can imagine. Also, I feel sad for people who said “you needed to pray harder…” Seems to be a very poor understanding of God. Thanks for sharing your story!

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