4 August 2013

Humbled: A Breastfeeding Story

I often say that becoming a mother has humbled me. And it's true, because how haughty can you be with your breasts hanging out for hours on end, your clothes smelling like spit up and your stomach never truly ever feeling the same again. But one of the most humbling things for me has been Breastfeeding.
Being a Doula ((derived from the Greek word 'doulos' meaning 'servant', doula being 'woman's servant')) I had some pretty clear ideas as to how I wanted my whole birth experience to go. Oh sure I had my 'ideal' plan, my back up plan, and oh heaven forbid my c-section plan, just like I tell my clients. But Breastfeeding? I didn't have a plan for that, it's just something that you do, it just happens. Oh sure I had seen a client or two struggle, I knew it wasn't easy and it hurt like hell the dickens. But most of what I had heard was that it was such a wonderful and beautiful bonding experience, and under no circumstance did I ever imagine to fall into the dreaded 'breast feeding delayed' category, no sir, my baby was to be promptly placed on my chest, cord still intact thank you very much and perhaps I would even let the baby find the breast on her own, like I had seen on these very moving 'breast crawl' videos put out by UNICEF and the WHO. Yep, that's how it would happen.
But reality hits hard my friends, and while I will save all of the details of my sweet Hazel's birth for her birth story ((which has been sitting in drafts for several months)), Breastfeeding was, indeed, delayed. I can't say for sure for how long, as it felt like an eternity to me. But due to Hazel having bi-lateral phenumothorax ((essentially her lungs were unable to inflate)) she lacked the ability to suck very well making things a challenge from the get go. We resorted to 'finger feeding' with a feeding tube attached to our finger which she would suck, I cried bitter tears when I had to supplement her with formula due to concern over her bowel moments.
Our problems didn't stop there. When we arrived home I had to use a nipple shield for the first 4 months of Hazel's life because she wasn't strong enough to effectively draw out my nipple. I found out that indeed, it does hurt like hell the dickens. And it takes A LOT of time ((I watched all 3 seasons of Downton Abby in Hazels first 4 weeks of life... Yeah))
And friends, I hated it, I just plain did not like it. It brings me a bit of shame to admit this to you. I was supposed to love and cherish this beautiful bonding experience right?! Instead i found myself wanting to quit many times. On one especially difficult night I "gave in" and went to buy formula. I cried in the aisle and cried the whole way home, because of the shame.
Why? Why is there this shame? Why must we interfere and dictate how a women feeds her child. Before having Hazel I worked in a crisis pregnancy centre. I used to say "I can't believe these girls aren't Breastfeeding their babies, I mean come on, it's FREE!" Little did I know... I'm humbled, motherhood has humbled me again and again.
I'm thankful that I was able, and still continue to Breastfeed Hazel. And I'm happy to say that now I know why people say its a beautiful bonding experience. I feel this way now. But no longer and never again will I judge a mother with bottle in tow.
I had planned to write this Breastfeeding post in honour of Breastfeeding week, but today I saw another post by Rachel Kincaid of Kincaid Parade she wrote about the I Support You movement. And she interviewed her friend, Jessie from Some Stuff about Suff, about her Breastfeeding story, you can read it here. One particular quote that really resonated with me was this
"I have a very difficult time with the "politics" and "agenda" of natural birth and natural child-rearing methods and the idea that breastfeeding your baby is the only way. Sure, breast is best. I agree. But what about the moms like me who had to mix in formula just to keep our babies alive? I don't want to be made to feel guilty, and I don't want anyone else to feel guilty for the choices they make in how they feed their infant. If what you're "fighting for" isolates moms, makes them feel guilt or shame, or puts unnecessary pressure or negativity on them, then it's not worth it to me. Being a mother is already tough enough, why add extra stress to your life when no matter how hard you've tried your baby just won't latch? It's okay. You're not a bad mother. Life goes on. I have no issues with breastfeeding in public or actually breastfeeding at all. Most of my friends are all breastfeeding moms. I guess my beef is just when it hurts somebody, even if it's indirectly. Cause I've been that somebody. You just never know how many women like me see the posts on facebook you've posted over the years, ranting about breastfeeding or natural methods. I am broken; my heart is broken and may always be broken when it comes to these losses in my life. Please be sensitive to the small percentage of moms like me who couldn't have natural births with healthy babies that latched on and bonded immediately. "
I truly couldn't have said it better.

There you have it. My Breastfeeding story. I hope that you have enjoyed this ((long)) post, and I would love for you to share your experiences with me.

Did you choose to breastfeed? Have you experienced the stigma that surrounds formula feeding? Whatever your story is...

I support you

Linking up


  1. New follower from the blog hop! It does suck when reality hits. Especially when your totally for something & see no other ways around it. Breastfeeding is the natural thing to do, that is why we have them I am sure. & when something interfers with that or prevents it all together, it is heartbreaking. My daughter was having a little trouble after she was born with the latching and feeding. They even gave her formula in the hospital and told me after! :( For the first few months I was told to give her formula too. Which I did not, since she was growing just fine!! Now 9 months later I have to head back to work part time, but can not seem to pump hardly anything for while I am away. Sucks, so now my mini drinks formula & breast milk. She is still a growing healthy baby. Crap happens & we do what we have to do! :)

  2. Beautiful! I just found you through Lena @Root and Blossom. I too, have had a ton of breastfeeding struggles with my son and am so proud of myself for persevering. So, I don't know you...but I'm proud of you for being honest and sharing. This is real life! Breastfeeding can be super hard! I just wrote a post about milk sharing if you want to check it out. I am also doing the link-up! :) http://www.handandtheheart.com/2013/07/milk-sharing-101.html

  3. This is great Hannah! I do breast feed and side from a couple days of blisters on my nipples because I didn't know I needed to get Gabriel to latch deeper, it's been great! I'm not sure I would have had the determination to breastfed if it wasn't so easy for us to figure out. I'd like to say I would but since I haven't been in that position I can't. I try hard to not be 'holier than thou' when it comes to my choice to breast feed because I understand that some woman just CAN'T or just choose not too which is perfectly fine. I have experience judgement for breastfeeding but that's when I have BFed in public (completely covered). And now that Gabriel is almost one I am starting to get the, "sooo when do you think you're going to be done nursing?" That's getting real old real fast.

  4. My story is very similar to yours. We struggled mightily those first few days, had to spend an extra night in hospital because my daughter was losing too much weight, and ended up going home with bottles of formula. Once we got home, it was awful - long, difficult nursing sessions with a crying, hungry, frustrated baby, pumping every 3 hours to get my supply up, going back and forth from breast to bottle, and the PAIN! Like you, I did not enjoy my early breastfeeding experience one bit and was disappointed, but at the same time, all that mattered to me was that my daughter got fed, however that needed to happen. I am fortunate enough to live in a city with a fabulous breastfeeding clinic that I was able to get into quickly and got help, and after using a shield for several weeks we were able to get back to exclusive breastfeeding. I am thankful that my story ends this way but I'm also thankful for my struggle and what it taught me - never again will I judge another mother for formula feeding or making whatever parenting decisions she is making because she is doing what she knows is best for her and her baby.
    Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your story.


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