Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breastfeeding = the hardest thing I've ever {tried} to do.

I don't know if anyone's ever told you this, but breastfeeding is hard. If that sounded sarcastic, it was. Because the minute you say you want to breastfeed, every other mother in the world has something to say about it and of course, they always end with: "... but it's REALLY hard."
They weren't kidding! Sure, I knew it would be tough. I knew it would hurt. I knew that so many other mothers have tried and failed at breastfeeding. But none of that mattered to me, I just assumed I could do it. After all, I was am determined. I figured, as long as I didn't give up, I could do it.
WELL. I'm sure breastfeeding a regular, healthy, full-term newborn is hard enough. But I can't even put into words how hard it is to convince a baby with a sore, swollen belly, a recessed chin, acid reflux, and an almost-permanently arched back to hold still {and stop using his mom's boobs as a personal punching bag} long enough to latch on. Add the fact that he didn't even EAT for the first three weeks of his life, then went straight to the bottle, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The last few days were horrible, to say the least. Yesterday, lactation consultants, occupational therapists, and nurses were all trying to help Elliot latch on. We tried different positions, nipple shields, syringes, soothing, wrangling... the works. He WOULD. NOT. LATCH. I was ready to give up.
Sharon, our lactation consultant, even admitted that some babies just can't do it... and that Elliot could be one of those babies. "Exclusive pumping is still an option," she pointed out. Except for the fact that I'm not even making enough milk right now to feed him. I left the hospital yesterday thinking that my dreams were dashed and I was going to be feeding my son formula. I felt like a failure.
Today, when we got to the NICU, Elliot was starving. You could hear him screaming from down the hall. While his bottle was warming, we gave him a bath, put a fresh diaper and onesie on him, swaddled him up, did a few relaxation exercises with him that I learned yesterday from the occupational therapist, and... he was CALM. So my husband looked at me, with the bottle in his hand, and said, "Do you want to try to breastfeed him?" I looked down at Elliot skeptically and shrugged. Sure, why not. It couldn't hurt, right? I was preparing myself for the kicking, screaming banshee that my son turns into whenever we even ATTEMPT to get him close to the boob.
Magically, after only one or two tries, and the help of a nipple shield, he LATCHED RIGHT ON! He actually nursed happily for twenty-five minutes before falling asleep. You should've seen me- I was beaming ear-to-ear and kept saying to my husband, "Look at him! LOOK! He's sucking! And swallowing! And BREATHING!" I just couldn't believe it.
The feeding went so well, in fact, that we decided to give it at try again at his next feeding. And wouldn't you know it?! He latched right on and nursed until he fell asleep again! Sure, he might have been drooling a lot and I might have had milk soaking my bra and dripping down my belly, and my back might've felt like it was going to snap in half since I couldn't figure out how to recline my chair, but I was the HAPPIEST MAMA IN THE WORLD.
So there you have it. Apparently, I'm not a failure and there IS still hope. Who knows, today could've been a fluke and he could have a horrible day again tomorrow but... today, Elliot proved that he CAN latch on. It's just a matter of whether or not he WANTS to.
Seriously, though, don't let anyone tell you anything different: BREASTFEEDING IS HARD!!

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  1. Aw :( Well, I am glad that it's getting better!! You're a great mom!!

  2. I have been rooting for you SO MUCH and totally admire how dedicated you've been to making sure Elliot get's his mama's milk. So many women would have given up long ago (or not even tried). You are AMAZING for sticking with it and I can't help but think that Elliot was rewarding you and showing his thanks today. I'm so happy for you both.
    I seriously teared up a little reading this.

  3. I'm so happy to hear that he's lataching on! :)
    I know from experience how hard it was with M and he was full term. Just don't give up! It was so hard for me and I was in tears some nights. Here he is almost 2 and still breastfeeding (weaning soon), so just don't give up :)

    I'm just so happy for you!!!

  4. i always assumed that the mothers who said breastfeeding was hard just weren't dedicated enough or just couldn't figure it out. i'll admit that while i was pregnant with my first son i thought i was going to be this breastfeeding professional from the beginning. hah! i learned my lesson soon enough! and even though i had heard it was difficult, no one ever told me how painful it could be! i can remember on numerous times pumping pink milk because my son had rubbed my nipples so raw they bled. not to mention the golf ball sized lump milk that backed up into my armpit. yeah, not so much fun.

    good job for you, mama, for being so dedicated to elliot!

  5. Breastfeeding was definitely an emotional journey for me. That's so great that he finally latched on! I know that was such an amazing feeling. I remember the excitement myself. Just try not to get discouraged if he has bad days with latching. I think that even though it's extremely difficult right now, it will eventually get easier.

  6. This post seriously made me tear up. I am so happy you guys had a successful breastfeeding day!

    Oh and I kind of followed you over here from livejournal, we were friends for a while on there. :)

  7. Amazing, Jess! I'm so happy for you and E!!! Breast feeding was my favorite thing ever. It was my island of sanity in the storm that is new parenthood. Stick with it! Go Elliot, GO!

  8. Just want to say you're not a failure if you can't breast feed and the world will not come to end if it comes to having to feed your baby formula to keep him healthy. In the end, isn't that what is important? I admire you for sticking with your choice, but just trying to say that if something happens and it doesn't work out, you're not a failure or a bad mother for giving your baby the food he needs, even if it comes from a bottle.

  9. You are a super-duper mama, Jess, however you feed your baby! Glad you were able to experience those happy, precious moments today with your son :)

  10. I completely agree. Breastfeeding is hard and doesn't come super naturally like a lot of moms will tell you.

  11. I wish I could give you a big hug! Was hoping that soemthing would happen to pick you up again. You're right, each day is different but hold on to this one when a bad one comes along.

    Oh happy birthday to the husband! A great man indeed!

  12. Breast feeding the first few months is hard. It gets so much better. I'm praying for you and that precious baby. I love your hubby for being so supportive. My hubby was a very important part of my breast feeding success, too. Come on Elliot, keep it up!

  13. I think you are an amazing, strong mama for persevering with breastfeeding. Elliot is a lucky little guy!
    I've had various and different challenges breastfeeding my kids that have left me in tears, ready to pull my hair out, ready to say, that's it, I'm never having kids again ever. But I've been lucky to have support and that my kids have always eventually come around.
    Having said that, you are NOT a failure if you wind up needing to give Elliot only formula. Formula is food! He will grow strong and healthy on it. You have nothing to worry about, and whether you are a success or failure as a mom has nothing to do with how you feed him, only with how you love him. I felt like a failure too when I was having trouble nursing, so I know where you're coming from. But you are a success. A great, wonderful success!

  14. That actually sounds like my first try to breastfeed my son, who is now 2 1/2 months old. You'll have ups and downs with it but in the end if you stick with it you'll both be pros at it in no time. Your little one is so precious.

  15. This post brought tears to my eyes! Yay Elliot, yay mom for not giving up, and yay dad for being so supportive!

  16. Yay!!!!!! Breastfeeding is hard..... But I am so happy that it is starting to get better for you.
    I am always thinking of you and your little man.

  17. Before my son was born, I didn't research but knew that I wanted to breastfeed.
    The first like 3 weeks were SO hard, that I wanted to quit everyday. I heard horror stories before, but until you go through it, your like naww, its natural. But it was hard. lol.
    Now though? It's like second nature, I love breastfeeding! :)
    Good luck. Don't give up, it gets better! :)


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