Like your birth plan, breastfeeding doesn’t always go as planned… and that’s okay! You simply need to do what’s best for you and your baby. Here’s my breastfeeding story, and my journey to finding peace despite the fact that things didn’t go as planned.
Forgiving yourself when breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned
This one really hits home for me. I didn’t breastfeed my first two babies long because I didn’t know enough about it. When I told my pediatrician that my daughter would nurse for 45 minutes at a time, he was worried. When she didn’t immediately gain her birth weight back, he was worried. He made me worry, causing me to doubted myself as a mother and my ability to breastfeed. I only nursed her for a month, but looking back, there was no reason to give up so easily.
My first son was born 14 months after my daughter and again, I was under-educated about breastfeeding. I knew it was best for baby but it wasn’t easy. Why wasn’t it easy? Why did he pull off the breast and scream? Why wasn’t he gaining weight? I must be doing something wrong.
Fast forward five years and my second son was born. This time I was prepared. I had a breastfeeding plan in place. I had researched and talked to other mom friends. I followed breastfeeding accounts on Instagram. I read books and blogs and talked to my doctor about it before delivery – I. was. ready.
And then my son didn’t gain weight like he should. He was constantly nursing. I was in so much pain. I knew something was wrong so I sought the help of two different lactation consultants. Together we found out what the problem was – it was me. I wasn’t able to produce enough milk to keep up with his demand. No matter how much I pumped or he nursed, there was never going to be enough.
I can not even describe the feeling I felt when I walked into Walgreens to buy a can of formula when we was a month old. I was devastated. I was broken… I couldn’t feed my child. I was a ball of emotions as I stood in front of the formula. I stood there for a good 10 minutes, reading labels and swaying back and forth. I didn’t WANT to do this, but my baby NEEDED it. With tears in my eyes I grabbed a can and dashed to checkout.
Making his first bottle was slightly surreal. I knew so much more from when my daughter was born! Why was I here? I kept telling myself that this wasn’t the end. I was still going to breastfeed as often as possible to give my little guy the best.
What really helped me forgive myself was the look in my sons eyes when he nursed. Even after a few days of bottle and breastfeeding, he still very much wanted his mama milkies. He would just stare at me and touch my face and I found a tranquility in our time together.
We have been nursing (and supplementing) for nine months now. We have found a balance between bottles and breastfeeding. I have found peace in our decision. I didn’t want to give up and I made sure to arm myself with as much breastfeeding knowledge as possible.
My takeaways from having to forgive myself (three times) after my breastfeeding plan didn’t work out:
- Focus on what’s best for baby. If your breastfeeding plan doesn’t work out, make sure you only think about what is best for baby. It’s easy to have a “whoa is me” attitude about not being able to fully breastfeed, but that doesn’t help anyone. Focus on a healthy baby with a full belly.
- Some is better then none. With my first two, once I started formula I gave up nursing. I thought that it had to be one or the other. NOT TRUE. Any breast milk that your baby is able to get is beneficial to them.
- Surround yourself with support. Make sure you have supportive family or friends during your breastfeeding journey. They should be able to provide insight and positivity when it is needed the most.
- Have a backup plan. If breastfeeding exclusively doesn’t work out, try pumping as Plan B. If that doesn’t work, think about donor milk. Maybe you can do a bottle with half formula and half breast milk. Whatever it is, make sure you have a backup plan in case things don’t go the way you expect.
Though your birth plan or breastfeeding plan may not have gone accordingly, remember, there is nothing to forgive because you did nothing wrong. Have a backup plan and know that nothing ever goes one hundred percent. Do what is best for baby and you can never be wrong.
In case you missed it, check out part one of the “What If Things Don’t Go as Planned” blog series, featuring birth plans.