I know that there are people who get pressured to formula feed, people who get pressured to stop breastfeeding early, people who face discrimination if they dare to feed their baby in public. I know that not everyone is in a breast-feeding friendly area.
I’m just not one of those people. My mother breastfed me so long that I actually remember it. When I was a child, mothers of infants and toddlers would just casually lift up their shirt and bring their child to the breast in the middle of a conversation. No shame, no apology. Everyone around me has breastfed for at least one year. All of my cousins and aunts breastfed. The only time I know of a baby being given formula was the infant my mother fostered for about 6 months when I was 9- and only because it wasn’t her baby. My entire life, breastfeeding was just how babies got fed. No one lectured me (until I got pregnant) about Breast is Best. Because, honestly, it wasn’t- breast wasn’t best, breast was the only option. Formula was a substitute only when the baby couldn’t be with their parents or something horrible happened to the parents.
I talked in my last post about our journey with feeding our baby.
It took 5 months to stop actively trying to get my baby to the breast (or chest, as the case may be). I’m glad to say that we didn’t try too often, it didn’t become a huge sticking point. With all the problems we were having with formula, I desperately wanted to be able to nurse. “You never know how much you’re actually producing, some people can’t pump even if they produce a full supply” I was advised. My partner actually got spurts of milk now and then, although could never successfully pump. A desperate part of me hoped that we could actually produce enough breast milk to take the edge off of formula. I hoped that the comfort of nursing would help to make up for the nightmare that formula was turning my baby’s digestive tract into.
The day my baby turned 5 months, I felt like the window had closed. There was just no way to get the baby to breast any more. We had missed any chance we may have had. We actually figured out the right formula a week or two before then, so we were doing better in that area. But I still couldn’t bring myself to give up. I knew we had to, though. That I had to.
In a last ditch attempt I sought out a lactation consultant. I was still skiddish after our prior experience, and also the cost, but I gave it a shot. I ended up getting directed to one who heard the situation and gave me advice over the phone. Her advice, basically, was to stop trying- not to give up, but to stop pushing so hard.
It’s really easy for us to make a negative association with the breast. When I hold my baby pretty much anywhere else, if baby cries- I change things. The exception is the breast, where a crying baby often prompts us to try even harder to force the matter. “This will give you comfort!” we insist to the poor infant who doesn’t understand, growing frustrated and confused and not liking this situation. Our baby had developed this association. So, her suggestion was to pull back on it and patiently and gently try to get the baby comfortable with being near the breast, letting the baby root and latch on naturally rather than trying to shove something into the poor thing’s mouth.
She also described breastfeeding as a special kind of cuddle. And, that clicked. There was virtually no chance of breastmilk. This wasn’t about the nutritive properties. It was just another way of cuddling while feeding our baby- something we did anyways.
Our baby gets plenty of affection and snuggles and comfort. Why did failing at this one method matter so much that it was worth the frustration and tears trying to make it happen?