I wanted to, I really did. I planned to- had big plans. I was going to master the football hold, the cross-body hold; I was going to produce lots of milk and fill him full of nutrition and I was going to be so frigging happy about it. As an added bonus, my stomach was going to shrink right down( breastfeeding does that!) BUT, my boobs would remain bigger than ever! Awesome. I was totally going to rock a bikini like I’d never done before, a mere six months after giving birth. What could be better than that?
Needless to say, nothing of that scenario came to pass.
Before I continue though, I want to give a shout out to my pregnancy/ post-pregnancy/ brief breastfeeding stint, boobs. To take a line from Seinfeld, “they were spectacular”. You know what I’m talking about ladies. They were Perfect! They were everything I’d ever dreamed of in a pair of breasts. Big, but more importantly, full and round. They withstood gravity like their lives depended on it. Eighteen year old girls would have killed for these knockers. Ah, to have had great boobs and not breastfed with them, was better than never having great boobs at all.
So, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its position last week that breastfeeding should be the sole source of nourishment for infants at least until the sixth month, but they further strengthened the advisement by adding that breastfeeding “should not be considered as a lifestyle choice but rather as a basic health issue.” Ouch.
That hurts. So did deciding to stop breastfeeding. The guilt and doubt were terrible, perhaps the worst I’ve ever felt. I remember as my milk got closer and closer to dissolving altogether, I agonized over the urge to rip my shirt off and start it all up again. I believed, I still believe, that breastfeeding was the best thing I could do for my son regarding his physical health.
It wasn’t however, the easiest thing I could do for my son. It proved to be very, very hard. I gave up.
Within the hour of his birth I put him to my breast, and hallelujah, he latched right on. And fell fast asleep. For the next two and half days, in order to get him to drink, the nurses and I would have to strip him completely naked and place our cold water hands on his exposed skin to make him too uncomfortable to snooze. Not a great introduction to breastfeeding- and it persisted.
Keeping him awake to eat was a challenge, but one I could overcome. What I couldn’t overcome was the lack of breast milk I was producing. I drank lots of water, I ate plenty- believe me, I ate plenty, but alas, I had very little to give him. His urine was brown, a sign of dehydration, and That, really, really bothered me.
On the afternoon of his second day, while laying next to me in my bed, he vomited up a TON of green stuff. A ton. I panicked and called in the nurse. What followed was several hours of tests and scans to rule out ( thank god) an intestinal blockage. He was fine, but a nurse came to me that evening and told me that they had given him a bottle of contrast dye for one of the scans, which is somewhat radioactive, I guess. She was gentle and sympathetic, she knew that I was very much set on breastfeeding, but the dye really shouldn’t stay in his system, it was important to flush it out, and I wasn’t giving the baby anything to flush with. She suggested I give him a bottle of formula. And I didn’t hesitate- I was feeling so terrible about his dehydration, and now he had radioactive dye sitting in his tiny little belly? No argument here- bring on the formula.
Well, guess what? Your body only makes as much milk as you ask it to. Retreating from breastfeeding, even for that one feeding, slowed me down even further. So now, I needed to start pumping to increase my production. My breasts took to pumping like…..something that doesn’t take to something very well. I couldn’t pump. I mean, I’m talking a droplet or two. It was bad. And I hated it. And I didn’t want anyone, even my husband to see me attached to that whirring, sucking, machine. Everything you read about breastfeeding extolls the naturalness of the process, natural, natural…… hooked up to that horrible contraption was close to the least natural-feeling thing I’d ever done. And it wasn’t working anyway.
My son’s spit-up was dark brown. Why? Oh, well that was my blood. Yeah, my blood. I’ll never forget looking down at him once as he released my nipple, to see his mouth ringed bright red like the littlest vampire in the world. It hurt like all get-out.
All of this would have resolved itself, I do believe that. My milk production would have picked up, the pain would have ended, he would have remained more alert and wakeful during feedings, and maybe pumping would have even gotten easier. I could have muddled through all that, to a place of true, and easy enjoyment, if not for one other little issue….
I was temporarily insane.
Remember that little detail? I was out of mind with anxiety, and melancholy and just plain craziness. An example: I went to spend a couple of days at my sister’s when the baby was just a couple of weeks old. I tried taking a nap while leaving him in my sister and niece’s care, but just laid awake the whole time, listening to him cry and cry, and telling myself, they can handle it, my sister raised two kids, it’s just a crying baby, they won’t freak out, they won’t hurt him….the door to my room opened quietly, my niece was fetching something from my baby bag.
“Why is he crying so much”, I asked her. She stopped and looked at me with that look that says both, what the bleep is she talking about and, it’s so sad to watch my aunt losing her mind.
“What do you mean? He hasn’t cried at all, in fact he hasn’t even been in the house, I took him for a walk when you came in here. We just got back.”
So, there was that.
I needed things to be easier. I needed to control something. And breastfeeding, and all the stress and anxiety it was causing me, was one thing I could control. So I stopped.
It helped, it certainly did, but I’ve regretted it, and mourned what I feel was my inability, at that time, with that baby, to do it. I’m determined to try again with baby #2, if we are graced with him/her, but I’ll cast it aside just as easily if I feel I need to.
Go easy on us AAP- for some of us, it is a lifestyle choice. It just has to be.