This is hard for me to write. I'm usually the 'I don't care what other people think' type of person, but I feel like I've let myself down too this time. Which makes this particular situation even worse, because it's not just about me.
I have five kids. With each one, my goal was to breastfeed for at least a year. I love everything about the concept of breastfeeding. The bonding, the not having to get up in the middle of the night to make bottles, the benefits for mom and baby, donating milk to others, toddler nursing ... all of it. I can easily tell other nursing moms what to do to help with their breastfeeding issues. But for some reason, when it comes to me nursing, it's a different story.
For various reasons, my breastfeeding goal of at least one year didn't get met with my first four kids. So when I had Lily, knowing that she was going to be my last, the pressure was on. I was really excited because everything started off great. She was a great eater and didn't have any issues latching on, and I didn't have any supply issues. It felt like this time, the goal would be easy to meet and I was happy about it.
Fast forward to a little over a month ago. She was almost 4 months old. It started with not wanting to nurse on the left side, and progressed to not wanting to nurse at all. When I finally got her latched on, if I so much as took a deep breath, it was over. If someone came in the room and started talking, it was over. Everything I read said it was a phase and might last a week or so. But it was so frustrating, knowing that she was screaming all the time because she was hungry, but not being able to get her to eat. I toughed it out for about a couple of weeks, but by that time, I was at my wits' end. I dreaded her waking up and the fight starting all over again. I wasn't enjoying taking care of her, she wasn't happy when she was awake, and the frustration was starting to take its toll. I dreaded being around my daughter.
More from The Stir: 12 Most Common Breastfeeding Hurdles & How to Overcome Them
I had a sample can of formula in the cabinet, and Arick suggested we give her a bottle. I was hesitant, but I was just so frustrated, so I did it. She drank it like she'd been starving for days. When she was done drinking it, she was happy. She was smiling and cooing. I was smiling back at her. I WAS SMILING BACK AT HER. That hadn't happened in weeks.
Happy LilyI started reanalyzing things. I didn't want to quit breastfeeding, but I realized that by both of us being so frustrated, I was robbing us both of a great bonding experience. I decided right then and there that I had a new goal: To do what made us both happy. I realized that she didn't care if I breastfed for a year, but she certainly did care about feeling hungry all the time and feeling like she wasn't being taken care of. I realized that I didn't even know why I set that goal of a year to begin with. And I realized that the stupid goal just made me more frustrated when nursing problems started coming up.
More from The Stir: Breastfeeding a Toddler -- That's So Not My Plan
So I suppose my message to those that read this is to not have expectations about breastfeeding. Don't expect that you'll be able to nurse for a certain amount of time. Don't expect that your baby will just latch on and suckle happily ever after. Don't expect everything to work out just right. And don't feel like you are letting anyone down if you decide to quit nursing. The best you can do is try, and don't beat yourself up if it just doesn't work for you and your baby. And to those that can hack it, kudos to you. It's hard work, and you should be commended for it.
Check out these cute pics of breastfeeding moms who can hack it.
Did you have a hard time breastfeeding?
Images via Arya Claire Viol; Heather Reese