Before I had my first kid, I knew I would breastfeed. “Breast is best” was the cry of my mom friends, my OBGYN, and every baby site out there.
I completely agreed.
I knew breastmilk was the absolute best thing I could feed my baby – countless studies have shown that it boosts the baby’s immune system, helps build their brainpower, and even destroys tumors! Why would I even dare to give my child formula? I mean, what were these other moms doing with their lives?* Why couldn’t they sacrifice a little time and effort to do something that was such an obvious choice?*
Ah, how pride cometh before a fall.
A few months into nursing my first baby, I got mastitis. It was awful. Flu-like symptoms mixed with feeling like my breast was going to explode was excruciating. But, I got better and ended up breastfeeding my girl for 13 months! When Baby #2 came along, he proved to be a tad more difficult. I got engorged/clogged ducts and he completely wrecked my nipples. I’d cry every time I nursed him or pumped. And, when I did pump, my milk was pink because my nipples were bleeding so badly. But, I stuck with it, healed up, and breastfed him for 12 1/2 months.
Here we are now at Baby #3. Sweet, adorable, snuggly Baby #3. I had missed breastfeeding so much when he arrived. I couldn’t wait to cradle this child – my last child – and savor the precious moments we’d have. And I did.
For about three months.
That’s when I noticed pain in my nipples. It started out as a slight burning. Kind of like when you rest on your arm for too long and it gets all tingly. Then, it progressed into shooting pains up into my breast.
“Oh, we just need to correct our latch,” I thought. If only that were the case.
A few weeks later the pain got worse. It was more intense and now happened after every feeding and every pumping session. After doing some research and talking to a lactation consultant we figured out it was vasospasm, constriction of the blood vessels in my nipples, causing the pain. I tried some home remedies and it helped. Fast forward to Mother’s Day of this year.
The Hubs brought the baby to me and as I started to feed him I felt a slight twinge of pain. Then, it turned agonizing. I scream-sobbed and unlatched him as fast as I could and saw blood spurting out of my nipple and dripping from my baby’s mouth. What on earth was happening?!
Through much trial and error, we found thrush was to blame. If you’ve never experienced thrush of the nipple I’ll tell you what I told my husband: “It’s like someone giving you a ‘purple nurple’ all day, every day.”
After a round of medication, the pain was still there. So we did another round. I thought I was turning a corner after a pain-free nursing session. Feeling brave, I pumped later in the day. Two minutes in, I screamed out in pain. I looked in my pump and saw blood. Not blood-tainted milk…straight-up blood. Not long after, I got a milk blister the size of a pencil eraser on my nipple. Once that popped, it got infected. Enter Round Three of antibiotics.
I’ve been mulling over the idea of weaning him to formula for weeks now. At first, it was gut-wrenching. After all, I’m producing so much milk! Why would I stop? We just need to power through and do this! If I stopped, I’d be a failure. I wouldn’t reach my goal of nursing my last baby for a year like his siblings. How could I do that to him?
I beat myself for days for even thinking about giving him formula, while also having to give myself pep talks before nursing and even doing “labor breathing” to get through feedings. I have been tense, constantly in pain, and, honestly, feeling resentment that I chose to be a breastfeeding mom. That’s when I came to the realization that my mental health was suffering because I was breastfeeding.
Now the thought of feeding my baby formula actually makes me feel so relieved. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, breastfeeding is awesome if you’re able to do it. But its also perfectly fine to not. And I finally understand that now.
*For those that can’t tell, that’s sarcasm. Hakuna your tatas.