After four weeks, I am ready to come clean with my current views on breastfeeding.
Dudes, breastfeeding is really intimidating.
I am really hoping that I don't scare off the moms-to-be reading this, because after all, millions of mothers worldwide breastfeed successfully. But I find it scary as hell.
Take a look at the list of things that can go wrong with breastfeeding:
Bleb (I had one of these last weekend, holy hell did it hurt)
Cracked or Sore or Bleeding Nipples
Slightly intimidating, wouldn't you say? Whereas, the problems with formula feeding are as follows:
*While breastmilk is always there and always the right temperature, the flip side is that Dad or Grandma can give a bottle while I have a damn rest (or get a massage, or whatever), so the convenience issue is kind of a tie.
Now, before you all jump in to tell me the benefits of breastfeeding, don't worry: I know. But ultimately, most of those benefits are for the child. And most of the sacrifices made for those benefits are made by me. And while I'm not completely ready to throw in the towel just yet, I am needing a bit more encouragement, assistance, and motivation than I expected, because I am finding breastfeeding to be a lot more difficult than I thought I would.
Let me count the ways:
Day 1-3: painful bleeding nipples due to bad latch, lack of milk
Day 3-4: milk comes in, I get norovirus
Day 4-6: Gwen gets norovirus, loses interest in nursing, my supply dwindles
Day 7: Gwen losing weight, scheduled feedings imposed
Day 8: Taking herbs to increase milk supply; constant tears (mine) because of feeling inadequate
Day 9: Gwen still losing weight, started domperidone and Supplemental Nursing System (formula)
Day 10: Difficulty latching on left side (unsure when this started, but I remember remarking on it as far back as Day 10)
Day 11-24: Gwen slowly gaining weight
Day 15: Left side increasingly sore
Day 22: Left side intolerably painful; bleb appears; trip to emergency room discussed
Day 24: Bleb resolves with help of warm compresses
Day 28: Gwen pronounced healthy and no longer in need of SNS
Day 29: Gwen 'bites' hard on left side, causing pain lasting 2-3 hours after nursing
Day 30: Left side still too tender to nurse
Looking at this synopsis, it's easy to feel hard done by. While our caregiver looks at Gwen's weight from the outside and declares her healthy, I look at the situation from the inside and feel nearly insane at the thought of doing this for another eleven months. Exactly when is it supposed to get easier? When am I supposed to get this warm rosy glow of love and bonding and mutual appreciation?
I know sleep deprivation is a factor in how I'm feeling right now, as is frustration and lack of quality time with my husband. And I do feel guilty for complaining about it, because I imagine the Great Wide Internet looking at me with raised eyebrows and saying, "Did you really think it was going to be easy?" No, no I didn't. I knew the first three months would suck. But I didn't expect breastfeeding to be as difficult and downright painful as it is, especially a month into it. And when my mom looks at me - my mom, who breastfed both my sister and I in an era when it really was not as supported as it is now - and says, "Well, breastfeeding's not for everybody," I am torn up inside, because part of me wants to be stubborn and determined and do everything to give Gwen the best I can offer, and part of me wants to latch on to this sentiment like a "get off the hook free" card and quit right now.
I think about what life would be like with Gwen on formula - a life where Chris could take the late night feedings (10pm and midnight) and I could take the early ones (3am and 6am) so we could each get a decent rest. A life where Grandma Karen, who has been begging since Day 1 to have some time alone with Gwen, could have just that as I went out for a massage or a manicure or just stayed home and had a bubble bath**. I fantasize about it the way I fantasized about getting an epidural when I was in labour. But like the epidural, I know I can't really do it. Not yet.
I have two things left to do. On Monday, I'm going to call the Health Unit and go to their Breastfeeding Help Centre. I'm going to ask them about a lactation consultant, as well, in case I need more help (or, as seems to often be the case, I need help on the evenings or weekends).
And then, I'm going to resort to my old standby of motivating myself with money. If formula costs $75-$200 a month, my pain and suffering is saving our family that much money. Furthermore, if we found out that breastfeeding was actually impossible and we had to buy formula, we'd find the money somehow. Therefore, I figure I should be entitled to a breastfeeding allowance of at least half the formula cost ($35-$100/month) just for me, for fun frivolous stuff, something to focus on when it feels like an angry rat is chewing on my tender nipples.
**This life would also be possible if I could pump enough milk to get a couple feedings' worth per day. I've tried pumping exactly twice: the first time I got three drops, the second time I got nothing. But I'm going to keep trying.