When I was pregnant, I spent hours reading everything I could about breastfeeding. I spent hundreds of dollars on classes offered by my hospital to learn about the basics of breastfeeding. I had countless conversations with nursing moms, some even let me study and watch them nurse their babies so that I would be prepared as soon as my daughter arrived to provide for her every need. I was convinced that the only way to bond with my daughter was to breastfeed her.
Despite my breast reduction ten years earlier and the risks of not being able to produce milk, I was determined to breastfeed for at least a year. I had a plan for stockpiling while I was home during my maternity leave and had notified my work of my needs for a private place to pump upon my return. I was all set. My husband was on board. Everyone knew and understood my plan.
And then, upon the birth of my daughter, my milk didn’t come in.
My daughter was starving. She lost too much weight in those first days of her life because I wasn’t producing enough to sustain her. We were told that we had to put her on formula, at least as a supplement, before we would be released from the hospital. I was wrecked. My husband was a total zombie. The doctors gave us a feeding plan and instructions to have a weight check the day after we were released to ensure that she was gaining the proper amount. I had to pump and measure what I pumped fifteen minutes before putting her on the breast to nurse. I was literally getting an hour of sleep at a time because I had to nurse for an hour on each breast in order to try to get her to latch and to encourage the milk to come in. During the hour that I would sleep in between those feedings, my husband would supplement with formula so that she would get the nutrition she needed.
I found myself sitting in my OBGYN’s office two weeks after my daughter was born swollen, sore, and infected. The picture I had envisioned of cuddling a soft baby in blankets and using my body to provide for her was long gone; my beautiful baby girl was hungry and had spent the better part of her newborn life telling everyone all about it. I was sure she hated me. I was equally as sure that I needed a good night’s sleep. I felt alone and like a failure and it was in that moment that I sat there, exposed emotionally, mentally, and physically that my doctor gave me some of the best perspective I’ve ever had:
How many more weeks do you have at home with her before returning to work? Do you want to spend those weeks fighting with each other over something so stupid as a bottle? Is that how you want your initial bond to be with your daughter?