Although I’m only 22 weeks pregnant, I’m obsessively thinking about breastfeeding. Recently, there has been a baby formula crisis due to one of the major formula companies closing one of it’s major plants. There were 4 babies that got a bacterial infection and 2 babies died.
Like most crisises, this one disproportionately affects minorities and people in poverty. I did some research in my area and would able to get formula from Costco and Amazon if needed. Nevertheless, this scare makes me less secure in my old faithful backup of formula.
I am one of the fortunate people to have had all my babies latch. However, I soon realized that latching was the start of the battle. For various reasons, I stopped exclusively feeding all of my babies around 6-8 weeks. Some recieved milk up to 6 months later and others more than 12 months. Unlike this pregnancy, I had all of my other 3 children during training or significantly stressful times. I don’t know what the future holds for me and my baby girl, but I’m hoping it’s something better because I’m less confident in relying on formula.
I’m not here to say, “Just breastfeed,” because for some people that isn’t feasible. Nevertheless, I am taking you through some of my barriers to breast feeding. Maybe with this brainstorm we’ll both see ways I or others in similar situations could be less dependent on formula or decide that it’s still best given their circumstances.
One of my largest barriers to breastfeeding was time. Maternity leave is one of my most dreaded times because I am on the verge of madness during most of it. The sleeplessness hits me very hard. It was even more difficult when I breastfed. No matter what opinions are out there, babies sleep longer on formula. The irony was that the breastfeeding didn’t get to me as much as the pumping. At some point I felt like a slave to the pump. If I wanted any independence from the baby, pumping was my ticket. Yet, pumping came at the price of less sleep. This became even more apparent when I went back to work.
Going back to work was a major assault to my milk supply. The stress and time away from either feeding or pumping took major tolls on what I could feed my baby once I got home. Breast feeding is a ,”use it or lose it,” deal. I lost it. In more ways than one. The glorified pumping breaks were few and far between. They were riddled with anxiety that I’d either have to stay later or do shortcuts to get out of work at a reasonable time. I didn’t get time that was dedicated to pump. I had to sacrifice lunch and suffered from Hulk tits until I could finally relieve myself. In theory, I could have asked for more breaks to pumps, but it was both not feasible and added time to my overloaded workday. Currently, like many people nowadays, I am able to work from home. My current job will allow me to take breaks, but it would still be at the cost of added time overall in front of the screen. The other benefit to working from home is that I may be able to nurse my baby in between breaks as opposed to pumping.
I don’t think it would be fair to discuss breastfeeding without addressing the elephant in the room… It hurts! Pink nipples hurt. OUCH. I remember almost crying as I fed my babies from piercing pain. However, I still consider myself lucky. The real MVPs are the women that have mastitis or blocked ducts and still breastfed. Just imagine if your hand had so much fluid that it was hard and painful. Now imagine how intensified that would feel if it were breasts instead of hands. Pain wasn’t a reason I stopped or breastfed less, but it’s nothing to ignore.
I am not getting on my high horse because I’m sober and doing well on my year-long challenge. I’m just stating the fact that any and every alcoholic beverage is a threat to milk supply. It’s also a reason to either waste milk or not feed in general. I used to use those alcohol strips. It would help me salvage at least a bottle or two. After a night out, I’d love the science of experiment of seeing how much alcohol accumulated over the night. Overall, no matter if you’re a social drinker or rare drinker, each drink effects milk production. I know it’s hard to avoid, but it’s better not to be in denial that it makes a difference.
Last but not least, there’s stress. The stress I went through in the postpartum period were sometimes unavoidable. It’s stressful to have a kid. It’s stressful to have a kid when you have 1,2, or 3 home at home. It’s stressful to go back to work. It’s stressful to have more expenses. It’s stressful to have postpartum depression or “baby blues.” It’s stressful to have a baby of top of all the “x,y,z” you were dealing with without the baby. Something I learned was to lean into the things I could control and let go of what I couldn’t. Surprisingly, that was freeing because there was little I had to change after that. The things I could change were my environment, the optional things I felt I had to do, and the optional baggage or people I had weighing me down. Learning to allocate tasks and accepting help were huge skills I’m continually working to master. As for the things I couldn’t control… to God be the glory.
All in all, I hope I will be able to breastfeed exclusively until my baby can drink store bought milk. However, I can’t lie that I’ll feel somewhat guilty that my other children didn’t have that “benefit.” Yet, if it doesn’t work out …que será, será.