Feeding your child should be the simplest thing a mother can do, but breastfeeding, specifically, was the hardest part of early motherhood for me. Labor was a cakewalk compared to the feeding challenges that lied ahead when Elle was born. As I write this blog post, I'm feeling contractions on and off and waiting for baby number two to arrive. You would think I would be nervous about the labor that lies ahead, but sleep deprivation and labor are things I know I can get through. Being able to breastfeed, as I learned, isn't something that I am promised no matter how hard you work for it.
You see, breastfeeding was actually the thing that I looked most forward to and I'm still looking forward to with this little guy. It's such an incredible bonding experience. But knowing how hard I tried and how bad I wanted it with Elle, doesn't bring me much comfort the second time around because I now know breastfeeding is a dance between you and your baby.
With Elle, I saw three lactation consultants in the hospital, three visited my home, I tried fenugreek and Domperidone, I pumped after every feeding, I laid in bed skin to skin for days, and in the end I still had to supplement with formula. I just wasn't producing enough. Unfortunately, for Elle she was allergic to dairy, soy and even had a hard time digesting corn products. We even tried goats milk and flaxseed when she was older. I not only couldn't make enough breastmilk, but I couldn't even offer her formula because she was so sensitive to it. I was brought to tears with the reality that I couldn't feed my precious child. I felt SO helpless, scared and like such a failure.
Then a miracle happened...No, I didn't start producing more milk, BUT a community of moms I knew in my church began donating their breastmilk to Elle. I know this idea might be a controversial, but it was my only hope in the early weeks when her digestive system was still maturing, and her pediatrician was well aware of what was going on. I breastfed and pumped what I could, and then supplemented with donated breastmilk from trusted women. It was really my village of moms that helped feed Elle, and because of this I was able to give her breastmilk until she was six months old. It was a miracle! By that time we were able to switch to a very hypoallergenic, corn-based formula that she could process because frankly the moms that were helping us couldn't keep up the pace of feeding two babies for a year. It was super expensive, but we made it work.
This challenge of feeding taught me so much. One mistake I do plan on correcting the second time around is starting to pump right when my milk comes in. I cannot trust my baby's latch will be a good one no matter how many LC's I see. Right when your milk comes in is such a crucial time in establishing your supply because it's based on demand. So, this time around I plan on pumping after each feeding to ensure I'm emptying all of the breastmilk out of my breasts, so that my body can learn how much to make. I'd rather end up over producing then under producing given that this little guy could very well have the same sensitivities to dairy, soy and corn.
I'm sharing this story to encourage any other moms that have experienced this feeling of "feeding failure" to remind them that motherhood is not about being able to do everything perfectly and right, but simply to love your children fiercely. If that's feeding formula, great! If that's breast feeding, great! If that's driving around the city picking up donated breastmilk, great! You are an amazing mother because you love and care for your children not because you can breastfeed and not because you have the most perfect nursery. I also share this to remind moms not to judge one another, but instead support each other. I don't know where I would have been without those amazing moms that donated their liquid gold to my child.
If you want to read more honest stories about feeding, check out these other amazing, creative moms below. You can also read our stories about sleep challenges by clicking here.
Photos by Mike Olbinski