I am currently expecting my second child, and if I can go back to 8 years ago and talk to my 23 year-old self I would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I was devastated that my first child refused to be breastfed, or even get close enough to latch. As a first time mother, I read numerous books on what to expect in the journey of motherhood. Everything about it was new to me, but I was particularly excited about breastfeeding. I went to workshops, saw videos, and questioned every mother I knew to better prepare myself on how to feed my baby the organic way. I wanted to experience the “special feeling” so many mothers talked about. I was looking forward to witnessing my body produce the nourishment that was renown for helping lose the baby weight and building the baby’s immunity. I had everything planned out, I just needed to confirm my baby was on board. Turns out he had different plans.
After birth, he was placed on my chest and we bonded immediately. It was love at first sight and I was elated with emotion. When he was taken away by nurses to be cleaned up, I rehearsed the steps in my head “hold baby, place baby’s head next to breast, lightly hold/ pinch nipple, assist baby’s mouth on nipple.” I impatiently stared at the doorway waiting for my newborn and anticipated the moment to practice what I had been obsessing about. Minutes later he was brought back to me, and I executed the steps to perfection except for the last step (“assist baby’s mouth on nipple”). Each time I got to the final step my son squirmed, cried and refused to latch. I tried a few more times with no success. I cried and he cried as my breasts throbbed and the “magical liquid” went to waste.
After recovering from what felt like my son’s rejection, my maternal instincts kicked in. I wiped my tears and fed my son with my next best alternative- infant formula. For the next few weeks, I continued to try to breastfeed and each time it ended in defeat and frustration. I could no longer put myself and my baby through that turmoil. Before I knew it, I dried up and gracefully put away my breasts as feeding gadgets.
The best way I can define my realization that breastfeeding is not for all mothers is by comparing it to natural (vaginal) birth. Vaginal birth and breastfeeding are the “natural way” of delivering and feeding a baby. Nonetheless, medical and physical difficulties arise and that plan will need to be changed. It can also happen that the baby has different plans for you all together. The baby may overthrow your natural birthing plan by turning and becoming breach at the last-minute. Or like my son, the baby can change its mind about going the natural feeding route.
In conclusion, not being able to breastfeed does not make you less of a mother, the same way that delivering a baby via cesarean section does not make a mother less than another. It all comes down to doing what motherhood is all about: Planning and at times realizing that there will be a change of plans; overcoming, adapting and most importantly always doing what is best for our children, even if that route is not what we originally wanted or what others approve of.
Please feel free to comment and share your views or experiences on breastfeeding below 🙂