This entry will cover my thoughts on breast feeding. Put all judgmental nipples away, please!
Just when I thought my days of annoying baby-related abbreviations were done (TTC, EWCM, AF, blah blah blah…) I have been confronted with a new abbreviation in the Mommy world that has been annoying the shit out of me the last couple of weeks. The term is: EBF. Or, “Exclusively Breast Fed”. Said with the subtle undertone of, “I’m better than you because I exclusively breast feed my baby.” Yes, I know that not everyone feels this smug satisfaction when they say that they EBF their babies, but there are quite a few people who do, and unfortunately I had some run ins with them when I was in a very vulnerable place.
To start from the beginning, Shira and I had a very VERY difficult time from the get go with breast feeding. It is my worst memory of being in the hospital. I was in pain, bleeding, swollen, completely sleep deprived, and unable to satiate my daughter or know what was wrong, or why I couldn’t feed her. I would not wish ANYONE to go through that fear of seeing your child shaking with frustration and hunger. I belong to an LA Mommy group on Facebook, and when I posted there when I was in the thick of things for helpful advice on milk supply, and supplementing, all I got were a bunch of psychos telling me that “breast is best” and I just had to “hang in there”. I was also told by one person that because I had to use fertility meds to conceive Shira, my low supply was evolution’s way of indicating that I wouldn’t be able to breast feed because I couldn’t conceive naturally. Sorry. But fuck that. And fuck the term EBF if it’s used to be smug and judgmental of people who would “dare” give their children formula AKA “baby poison”.
There was no lactation consultant on call at the hospital on the weekends, and Shira was born on a Saturday. So aside from 5 or 10 minutes here and there from different nurses who each taught me a completely different way to feed her, I basically was left to my own completely non sensical devices on how to feed her from my boobs all while operating on about 2 hours of sleep in 48 hours. To make matters even more difficult, I have very small, flat nipples, and she wasn’t able to latch properly. No one thought to recommend a nipple shield, and every attempt for her to suck at my breast was met with screams and crying so frustrated that she would be shaking and inconsolable for 5 to 10 minutes after every attempt. She would maybe nurse for 5 minutes before getting completely inconsolable. It got to a point where she would start screaming and crying as soon as I started to position her to feed, based on her memory of the previous feeding traumas. By the end of the day on Sunday, she had lost almost 10% of her body weight, was not calming down, and was seriously dehydrated to a point where her mouth was dry. I broke down sobbing, and got extremely pissed at some of the nursing staff who were each telling me a different way to breast feed. Shira’s head was flopping everywhere, and I didn’t even know how to hold her. Some of the nursing staff took pity on me and milked my breasts for colostrum for 30 minutes and produced maybe a teaspoon full which they finger fed to Shira, but that didn’t help calm her down. I eventually succumbed to (collective judgemental EBF Mom gasp) a one ounce formula feed which instantly quieted my little girl, and helped her sleep. Seeing her go from frantic and beet faced to calm and relaxed when she got food broke my heart. I felt like I had been torturing her for two days.
Look, I know that there are plenty of moms out there who exclusively breast feed, and maybe all breast feeding is met initially with resistance from the baby, but I could not shake the memories of those two or three days when I couldn’t feed my baby. On Monday, the lactation consultant showed up at the hospital, but the damage had already been done. Shira preferred the formula nipple that would satiate her hunger instantly, over my boob that was barely producing a slow drip of colostrum for her. When I got home, I immediately rented a Medela Symphony pump to try and at least make sure I was getting Shira some colostrum even if it was fed to her with a bottle. A lactation consultant came to the house that night and tried to help me, and my doula kindly spent some time with me the following morning showing me how to use a nipple sheild. Although the shield helped, my milk flow was still very very slow, and Shira had a hard time sucking. So I would inevitably have to supplement after every feed or Shira would start wailing again.
I attempted to breast feed her at every feed for a week, but her screams became too much, and she would get worked up at every feeding. I found I was dreading feeding her, and becoming more and more anxious. This is absolutely NOT healthy. I hit a point where I decided that I would rather lovingly and calmly feed Shira a bottle than be stressed out all of the time.
After much Googling, I stumbled across another term on the internet called “EPING” or, “Exclusively Pumping”. Although I’m not quite pumping enough milk yet for Shira to be exclusively bottle fed breast milk, I’m getting close! I pump every 2-3 hours, and get about 2-3ounces a pump which has been enough for about 70% of her feeds.
Here’s what I LOVE about bottle feeding:
- Our feedings are relaxed now!
- I get to look into my baby’s eyes while I feed her, and I don’t cry because my nipples hurt so bad
- Hubs has taken over one to two night shift feedings, and I get 4-6 hours of straight sleep per night!
- Shira is gaining weight and is satiated–a feeling I never got when trying to breast feed her
- I have an easier time tracking how much she’s eating, and it makes me feel more comfortable (yes, I’m a control freak)
The point is…I guess we all try and do our best as moms. I wanted to experience the joys of breast feeding Shira, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I’m actually surprised at how little I mourn the loss…maybe if I’d had a more positive experience from the get go, I would have been more sad to say goodbye to breast feeding. For now, I’m aiming to have a 100% EPING day as soon as my milk supply catches up with Shira’s appetite.