Why “Breast Is Best” Makes Me Cry

breastfeeding challenges
Photo Credits: Karen Caroll

Why “Breast Is Best” Makes Me Cry – breastfeeding challenges

My news-feed lights up with articles about a new tax break for breastfeeding moms. I scroll through some of them with interest, and then scan casually through the comments that follow. Then I read a comment that punches me in the gut. It throws out a statistic: 99.9% of women are able to successfully breastfeed and those who cannot simply do not try hard enough. It takes my breath away and brings me right back to that lonely dark place where I was 27 months ago when I gave birth to my second child, my “Momma’s Boy.” (**Editor’s note – this statistic seems unrealistically high, and we at Lose the Cape are not endorsing this statistic. We know that many, many mothers struggle with providing enough milk. However, perception is reality, and the danger of social media is that anyone can throw out any statistic, and it can impact anyone who sees it. The point is, this writer saw that stat and it really upset her.)

Though I went through a series of trials and errors with my first, my second, “Bubba,” was going to nurse. We would bond in the most fundamental of ways for many magnificent months, heck, years. That is the way it was meant to be between a He stayed in my room and I nursed. At first, he latched. But as time passed, his diapers were not wet often enough. He was always hungry and losing weight. We needed to supplement.

Lactation consultants said I was not producing enough milk. I rented a hospital grade pump, and nursed and then pumped every two hours, around the clock. I produced 1/8oz. of milk each time. Not enough to feed my 9-pound baby. I didn’t care. I was going to produce more. Bubba would breastfeed. Dozens of times a day, I called the hospital Warm Line, taking pages of notes and following every suggestion. My supply remained low. I consulted Le Leche League. I visited a lactation consultant. Lactation websites. Lactation cookies.

[bctt tweet=”I was in tears sharing my story of failure w/ pediatrician. #breastfeeding #challenges”]

At one appointment, I was almost in tears sharing my story of failure with the pediatrician. I looked at her searchingly and asked, “Does this happen to a lot of women?” She looked at me perplexed and stated crisply, “No. None.”

What was wrong with me that I could not provide adequate nourishment for my sweet little chub-a-lub? What kind of woman was I? My anxiety was higher that it had ever been. I cried all the time. I was sent to a lactation specialist through the hospital. Deb was slim and lined and kind and warm. She felt my anxiety The goal was to determine exactly how much breast milk Bubba was receiving from me. She weighed him upon our arrival. She then counseled me through a feeding, critiquing his and my technique and complimenting both. We were doing everything right! After the feeding, she weighed him again. No gain. Whatever he was getting from me was infinitesimal. Now he was crying from hunger. And I was feeding him formula.

Deb put me on a plan. Continue to pump every two hours. More fenugreek, supplements, teas, cookies, a prescription only attainable in Canada, and a Supplemental Nursing System. $50 on Amazon.

[bctt tweet=”Despite my initial enthusiasm, all resulted in Epic #failure. #breastfeeding”]

Despite my initial enthusiasm, all resulted in Epic Failure. Every time we tried, there was a flood of tears from both of us. This went on for five long months. Though the Canadian medication did increase my milk supply slightly, Bubba was eating more and more and I was still only filling a bottle a day. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I still cried constantly. I couldn’t stop, though I knew it was over, probably forever. My anxiety was so high I was sent to be evaluated at an in-house postpartum depression facility at the hospital. (They didn’t admit me, but probably would have if I visited two weeks prior.) I had more of a relationship with the pump than with either of my children.

Deb called frequently, always full of empathy and understanding. The last time she called she said, “When you first came to me, you told me that you wanted to try everything to breastfeed your baby. Well, you’ve tried it all. I have been doing this for thirty years and I have never had a patient who has tried as hard as you without giving up. And I am so sorry that this has not worked out. You are a wonderful mother to have worked this hard for your child. And I have no doubt that he will continue to grow and thrive even without breast milk.”

When Bubba was 5 months, I quit the meds, the fenugreek, the tea, the pump, the hours upon hours spent researching. Now, even two years later, it still smarts when I read comments about how breast is best and you are a lazy, ignorant mother if you chose to bottle feed your baby. That 99.9 percent of women are able to breastfeed. Those that don’t didn’t try hard enough.

So maybe that’s me. That .1% who tried so hard that my entire family suffered for it, me the most. But, I don’t believe it. As I continue to scroll, I often run into comments from other women who apologetically offer that they tried, really they did! It was just not happening. They failed. They are so sorry. Breast is best, we know. But it didn’t happen.

If breastfeeding was easy for you, you rock. Congrats. If it was hard, and then got easier, good for you. But please, understand that all is not so simple. If you see someone bottle feeding her child formula, don’t snarl and assume mom is lazy or ignorant. Everyone has her own story and chances are, you don’t know it. So, like Deb, the understanding lactation consultant, have some compassion.

I’m okay now. My boy is healthy. And smart. And life is so much easier. My son does not have a doubt in his heart that I love him with all I have to give. And that I will do whatever it takes to give him the best of myself in any way I can.

Daughter, sister, wife, teacher and closet writer, Karen Calabro-Carroll has never cherished any role as much as she does motherhood. She strives each day to find humor and balance as she savors every loud, messy, wild moment with her two dynamically different boys. You can follow her at Rookie Mama where she blogs about Sensory Processing Disorder, parenting and the zany antics that make up her daily life with two young kids.