My Breastfeeding Story

**Please join us in welcoming Jenn to Mama Might**

In the three months since becoming a mother, the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion about every issue surrounding how to raise my child. They have very strong opinions. Not only do they readily share their opinions, but they make you feel like you are going to ruin your child’s life if you don’t adhere to the same philosophy as they do. This was manifest in my life as a mom when it came to the issue of breastfeeding.

My husband and I have been married for seven years, waiting until a few months ago to have our first child. This means that most of our friends and family members already have children and have “tried and tested” methods for raising them. Leading up to delivery, we attended the prenatal classes together. I read every book and blog I could find on labour, delivery, the first weeks and especially breastfeeding. I was prepped. I was ready. I knew what to do.

Little Man had to be evicted five days after my due date. He was just shy of seven pounds and because of the drugs in my body, he was a very sleepy and reluctant latcher. The nurses and I tried for the first 12 hours to get him to drink, but he kept falling asleep. They checked his blood sugars, but he was fine so we didn’t worry. He had dropped 11 ounces before we left the hospital.

When we got home, I was not prepared for the hormones and exhaustion that took over my life. Besides dealing with the trauma my body had just endured, I was trying to nurse this little infant. Pushing through the pain and cracks, I kept asking everyone, “Is this normal? Should I dread every time he needs to be fed?” But we pressed on.

We started taking him in for his Well-Baby check ups about a week after he was born, going every few days to monitor his progress. By the time he was three weeks old, the nurse was getting concerned that he hadn’t gained enough weight. He wasn’t back to his birth-weight yet. She said they would give us a few more days and he may need to be given formula. I cried on the nurse. I felt so ashamed and disappointed. Mostly in myself. I thought that there was something more I should have done. What was wrong with me as a woman and a mother that my body couldn’t give my baby what he needed? I tried following the advice of the nurse to the letter: drink more, rest with your feet up, wake him every two hours no matter what, and do everything you can to keep him awake while he eats.

I went to meet with the local lactation consultants. They watched me feed my son, gave me a few suggestions about positioning, but told me that we were doing great together. They urged me not to fret and to continue doing what we were doing. They really frowned on “giving up” on breastfeeding by “giving in” to formula. Later that week, we were attending a breastfeeding support group meeting when my phone rang. The pediatrician told our nurse that he would really like us to try formula, at least for a few days, so they could rule out other health related causes. I was devastated by this recommendation.

I felt like there was no way to win. Every path I chose had someone nay-saying, frowning and clucking their tongues about my choice. Oh, and on top of everything else, my husband left to be away for work in the middle of all of this. I talked to him and we decided to listen to the medical professionals and do what we felt was best for our son. Nay-sayers be darned!

So I would breast feed him as usual, then I would offer him formula in a bottle. That first bottle he gulped down almost two ounces. I will admit that I cried, feeling like I must have been starving him if he was that hungry right after drinking from my supply. He started out only taking between a half ounce and two ounces at every feeding. He then started crying after he breastfed, looking for more, until I gave him the bottle. I started to believe that I was insufficient and he would always need more than I could give. BUT at least he was still getting the benefits of breast milk.

After five days, we went back to the nurse and he had gained over a pound! We were all flabbergasted! We continued in this way for another week and he gained another pound! The nurse couldn’t believe it. At that point, he had reached his milestones, so we started giving him the bottles every second feeding or so. He continued to gain, so we eventually stopped giving them to him at all.

I am proud to say that we are back to exclusively breast feeding. He has more than doubled his birth-weight at three months of age (which is the six month growth milestone). He is a happy, healthy, growing boy. He didn’t reject the breast because of the bottles. My milk supply didn’t dry up. He is not scarred for life. It is actually very convenient that he will take the formula now from someone else when I need to be away.

I share this because I know a lot of women go through the same situation. This is especially true of babies with low birth weights or who were born prematurely. The doctor figures my son was getting too tired while breastfeeding and stopped eating before he was full enough. This was enough to satisfy his thirst, but not to gain enough weight.

The moral of the story is: don’t let anyone else shame you into doing something that goes against your instincts. First time mothers often doubt our intuition for our children because we feel that we do not have the expertise that experience gives. However true this may be, please learn from my story that doing what is best for your baby is never wrong. Every mom is different. Every child is different.  What works for one, may not work for another. God designed us to be the mother of that particular child and has equipped us to handle any situation. Even if we doubt ourselves sometimes. As someone pointed out to me, on graduation day, you will not be able to tell which student on that stage was breastfed and which one wasn’t.

Jenn and her little man :)

Jenn and her little man 🙂

Jenn married her high school sweetheart seven years ago. She and Scott just had their first child in March. They live on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, where Jenn is an elementary school teacher.


If She Only Knew…

Tonight while browsing through some different blogs, I came across a post, written almost exactly three years ago, which had a profound impact on me as I began to read through it.

It was written by a young mom of “two under two” and was called “Breast vs. Bottle”.

Okay…wait, wait, wait.   Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh brother, here we go again with the whole “Booby Wars” debacle!”, let me tell you why this particular post got to me.

The first thing that struck me about this post was that the young woman writing it was obviously over-stressed, sleep-deprived, scared, and sad.  (I dare you to show me a young mother out there who can’t relate to that!)  Like all of us, she was struggling.  Like most robust, healthy, four month old males, her baby was hungry a lot of the time. The gist of the post was that she desperately wanted to exclusively nurse her son, after having “failed” to do so with her firstborn, but was having supply problems.    She nursed, he cried for hours.  She felt like a failure.  She supplemented, he slept like a log.  She felt like a failure.  She obsessively kept track of how many ounces of formula he required, and she despaired as that number grew higher and higher.

As I read, I could feel my eyes well up with tears of sympathy and sorrow until they eventually spilled over and rolled down my cheeks.  “If you only knew!”,  I whispered.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to talk to her, and tell her what a great job she was doing.  I wanted to help her understand that no mother, anywhere, was more perfect for her son than she was.  That she was a gift from God to that boy and that having a body which for unknown, and uncontrollable reasons, was not producing enough breast milk to satisfy a ravenous four month old, did not turn that truth into a lie.  I wanted to tell her to spend her time rocking, snuggling, giggling, singing, smiling, SLEEPING, and enjoying.  For I have learned that crying only blurs our sight, blinding us to the joy that is always there if only we would have eyes clear enough to see it.

I wanted to tell her that in exactly three years her sweet baby boy will the picture of perfect health.

I wanted to tell her that he will be one of the smartest children his age that she has ever met.

I wanted to tell her that when he smiles, which will be all the time, that people will be struck by the pure joy in his eyes.

That strangers will stop her in the supermarket to tell her how beautiful he is.

That he will do a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation.

That he will love peanut butter sandwiches and cucumber slices for breakfast.

That he will struggle to hold heavy doors open for ladies, just like his daddy taught him.

That he will cover his ears and run away whenever she starts to sing.

That he will tell her approximately 250 times a day that he loves her “to the moon and back!”

And above all I wanted to tell her that when she tucks him into bed every night and asks him what he would like to say to Jesus, that he will sweetly and innocently thank God for his “precious Mommy.”

And that three years from now, she won’t be wasting time counting ounces because she will be far too busy counting blessings.

It All Began on Facebook

I had posted an article about breastfeeding in public. And you know how heated those discussions can get. I figured there’d be some debate in the comments, but what I didn’t expect from that post was the birth of a new blog. Here, for your reading pleasure, is (most of) the conversation that birthed this place:

  • Lindsey: Wow, the ignorance! I actually do wear a cover, I guess I’m too self-conscious. I wish I had the “f u” mentality to just whip it out in public, but alas. Maybe that’s why my kids never made it past 8 months with nursing? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
  • Katie: I’ve almost always used a nursing cover in public and still will depending on where we are. Church…yes. Library or coffee shop…usually not.  It doesn’t phase me nearly as much as it did with [my first] mostly because I know what i’m doing now and I don’t feel awkward.
  • Jaclyn (me!): Sorry, Lindsey, I was just making fun of THAT cover. That thing is hideous. I always used a nursing cover, too. It’s partly self-consciousness (because I’m NOT that efficient at getting the nipple in a crying baby’s mouth in under 2 seconds) but partly because I know we live in a fallen world, and I know what the sight of a bare breast does to some (many) men. I choose not to be a part of that. BUT I totally support women who want to feed their baby the way they choose to.
  • Michelle: I’m not a fan of covers. But that’s my choice… I’m not afraid of confrontation I always remember that Jesus was breastfed and it was normal.

    I don’t look down on woman who use them though because they are STILL NURSING! I applaud any way you can do it! Some women have been abused or shamed about their bodies and that woman may be working through tremendous issues and just being able to nurse at all is a huge milestone. 

    But Jaclyn I think if I saw a woman wearing that I would have to take her to get something else just because that would embarrass me! Totally ugly and NOT discreet.
  • Alison: Man, that cover is ugly! And kinda ridiculous.  I use a cover most of the time… Just because it’s my preference. But I’m so proud every time I see a mama nursing her baby… With or without a cover.
  • Monique: I used a cover sometimes, because I don’t think my baby’s mealtime was a prime opportunity for political action. I think if I’d had an easier time of it, I would have been a lot more comfortable feeding in public in general. There needs to be a conversation about mothers who are trying their hardest to breastfeed, but still need some help. Colin was always more comfortable uncovered, but that invites more than just prying disapproving eyes. There is a subset of pro-breastfeeding (women AND men) who like to think they have the answer to your particular problem. I shouldn’t be made to feel inept because I’m using a nipple shield, or topping him up with formula after a feed. Moms, let us be as gentle with ourselves as we aim to be with each other!
  • Jaclyn: *Standing ovation for Moe.* Honestly, the energy we waste on judgment and assumptions is ridiculous. Heck, even if a woman just plain CHOOSES to formula-feed, how is that ANYONE else’s business! It’s not the choice *I* made, it’s not the choice I hope my daughters (or my son’s wife) will make, but if a baby is being well cared-for, I’m keeping my choice to myself!
    Frig. I just read half-way through the FIRST comment and had to close the tab. Good freaking grief!!
  • Monique: I am fiercely militant about supporting new moms in whatever decisions they make. Having been there, I firmly believe that no one knows what your baby needs better than you, but I also remember vividly the fog of doubt that I lived in every day. I wish 2013 Moe could go back in time and lay hands on 2009 Moe and tell her to just take a nap and eat some cookies. (My letdown was always at its best after a carb binge). I would also tell her that jeggings are absolutely a valid choice for “going out,” I would introduce her to Nellie’s Laundry Soda, and I would tell her what a wonderful, sweet, caring and funny little boy [my son] will grow up to be.
  • Jaclyn: Oh, the things I wish I could tell 2008 Jaclyn! Sheesh. I would have been a LOT better off if I knew then what I know now!
    You know what I’m realizing? I’m not really that different than those trolls commenting on that blog. We both have very strong opinions. The only difference, really, is that I’m aware that *I* am the only person who thinks my opinions are more valid than everyone else’s! I have a lot (and I mean a LOT) of strong opinions that I keep to myself, because not only are they unpopular opinions to hold, but because I realize that nobody gives a crap what I think, nor should they. The end.
  • Monique: “I believe” that the widespread use of “I” statements would solve a lot of the world’s problems.  PS. I give a crap what you think. That’s why I ask you sometimes.
  • Amanda: Breastfeeding, as with most other parenting issues, is such a deeply personal thing for each mother. Why are we not more gracious with one another? I can’t tell you enough what it would have meant to me as a new mommy struggling to do the “right” thing for someone to have said, “Whatever you’re doing, if it is coming from love and concern for your baby’s health and well-being, is the right thing to do. I trust you. You can trust yourself.” I feel like so many months that should have been spent giggling and gloating over my babies were stolen from me by my own insecurity and also by well-meaning people who unintentionally convinced me that the lie of “you can’t trust your instincts as a mother because “they” are wiser, better educated, more experienced, etc. than you are” was the truth. Looking back now as a mother of three, I was actually doing a damn good job with my first two babies, but at the time I felt like a failure. New mothers (yes, ALL new mothers), desperately need people to tell them that they are doing a good job and to remind them that they were hand-picked by God for that baby. Period. Our words have such power. Speak life, not death. Courage, not fear. Truth, not doubt. Show me kids raised by mothers who believe that God brought them and their children together for a purpose much larger than breast vs. bottle, cloth vs. disposable, work vs. staying at home, etc. and I think we would see a generation of children and parents walking confidently in their gifts and bringing love and empathy back to the table.
  • Monique: Do you think that will fit on a t-shirt, Amanda?
  • Amanda: lol….maybe a maternity shirt??
  • Alison: Do you blog, Amanda? I would read your every post. Preach!
  • Jaclyn: (Do you know what we should TOTALLY do? Start a communal mama blog! A handful of regular contributors and guest posts as they come in. A way to share thoughts, insights – even opinions!)
  • Amanda: SO GOOD!
  • Monique: My heart just skipped a beat.

And that was it. United over common ground, even through different experiences of the same situation: feeding our babies.

As women and mothers we have different perspectives, philosophies, opinions, and ideas. They have been formed by our upbringing, our experiences, and our personalities. We have a lot in common, and we’ve done a lot of things differently, and that is fantastic. We are all in this motherhood business together, and doing our best to be competition-free and brimming with love and support for our fellow mama warriors.