My Own Unforeseen Struggles with Breastfeeding

By meredith, January 28, 2014 9:53 am

Thus far, my most difficult challenges of parenting have been those that I had never imagined, never knew existed. Nobody really talked about them, so I had never heard of these issues before. Take, for example, breastfeeding: I wondered if I’d be able to breastfeed.

I’d tell people that I planned to breastfeed, ‘if I was able.’ I don’t know that I knew exactly what this meant, but I think mainly I assumed that if the baby could latch, and I could keep up my supply, I would be able to breastfeed my baby. Mostly, I had heard others reference breastfeeding ‘if they were able to’, but I never really heard exactly what those potential challenges could be.

I then heard six months thrown around as a mark to accomplish. I made it there, so I decided to try and breastfeed for a year. Fast forward eleven months: I’m still breastfeeding. And as far as I know, supply hasn’t been an issue, nor has my baby’s interest in or ability to latch and feed away. In fact, at my two week check up, the midwife referred to him lovingly as ‘Mr. Boob Man.’ Yes, yes indeed, he is…

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Which leads me to my own struggles with breastfeeding. There are many of you who will read this and think that I should just count my blessings that I ‘can’ breastfeed and go with it and be grateful for it. As with all issues of motherhood, this may draw up some debate. That’s fine. I will still speak from experience.

Whether it’s from cultural pressures or society or my own desire, I made a commitment to breastfeed my baby at least for the first six months. My baby didn’t accept a bottle until he was 5.5 months old (except from me, which defeats the purpose.) Therefore I honestly couldn’t really leave him for more than an hour or two for the first five and a half months of his life. That was stressful and challenging, anxiety provoking and at times downright impossible for me.

I started to receive pressure from various loved ones to pump every day – from which I would get 2 ounces maximum, which is barely a snack for my little one. A machine just doesn’t cut it – I need my baby to drink the milk himself. Besides, it’s hard to be present and care for a little one and take care of myself while also staying at home. (At the beginning, I was feeding the little man every hour or two, then every couple of hours, for months…Sometimes it felt like all I did. All day.)

Which leads me to my present situation – I left my job so I could continue to breastfeed my baby. Granted, my ortanization wasn’t the best fit in terms of culture, and I’d already essentially learned what I was going to learn from this organization, so if I didn’t necessarily want to progress through the ranks there, there wasn’t much reason to stay….

Except that it’s really hard to find a job and take care of a baby. Organizations don’t want to know that you’re a mother. One organization actually said to me ‘So, this is the first time you’re going to be away from him for an extended period of time?’ Um, yes, but can you leave that up to me to take care of? Not sure my future organization needs to worry about how I care for my family. Hmmm.

And I get those questions: ‘Why were you only there for x amount of time?’; ‘Why did you leave that organization?’; ‘What have you been DOING for the past 11 months?’ So you see it’s not easy, and yet I wouldn’t change the choices I have made. I only wish that I could’ve taken more time off from my job, or maybe that I’d already been well settled into a career and a company that I loved before having children so I’d want to go back. Or maybe I was that I was making enough money to make it worthwhile to go back to work, leave my baby at 3 months (I had to negotiate for 12 weeks, and it was completely UNPAID  anyways, which is a whole different conversation, albeit connected to this one.), and put him on formula, which wouldn’t have mattered, since he wouldn’t drink from a bottle. A friend of mine found a nanny who would dropper feed her daughter so that she could go back to work. I wasn’t able to find such a person.

It feels good to get this off my chest (no pun intended)– breastfeeding and motherhood are challenging in ways I never imagined….

2 Responses to “My Own Unforeseen Struggles with Breastfeeding”

  1. Becky says:

    Each mother struggles differently. That’s the one comfort I’ve found in this new adventure of motherhood. I am working fulltime and have also set a goal to continue “breast feeding” to at least 6 months. Additionally, I have struggled with milk production since day one. As I sit here typing, breast pump humming, multi-tasking work and this, I have to give thanks that my baby took a bottle without an issue. BUT, I also have jealousy toward those who have the ability to EBF, like you. I think that every family and baby is different. Every mom has their own battle. And finding your course for this journey is a personal experience. I have guilt that I work so much more than I see my little girl, Mer. Would it not be wonderful to work for or start an organization that supports motherhood?

  2. meredith says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, Becky. Yes, we all have our own struggles, and I appreciate people like you that are a part of my community because we can open up and be honest with one another and support one another.

    I’m currently applying for jobs and realize what a gift it’s been to be with my little man and how hard it will be to go back – I think I will constantly be shifting priorities and rebalancing my life on a regular basis.

    It WOULD be wonderful to start an organization – I think about that often – or even doing at home counseling for other Moms would be great too….at least getting ‘back on track’ and scheduling in some activities, goals, and things for Mom again.

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