Totum Stories: To breastfeed or not, that is the question

 

By Rachel Zaslansky

Los Angeles, CA

Mother of 2, Connector, Champion of Women, Girl Boss

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I always thought I was going to be that mom whose baby latched perfectly from day one. Before my first baby was born, I took all the classes, read all the books, got all the Baby Center email updates and was as prepared as possible to be the best breastfeeding mommy out there. Up until this point, whatever I wanted in my life, I would get -- with the right mix of preparation, confidence and drive. Well as the saying goes, man plans and god laughs. 

The day my little Griffin was born, I immediately put him on my breast just like I was taught. I adjusted him over and over but nothing was happening.  Suddenly I felt a flood of feelings I was not expecting to feel on the day I met my baby: rejection; failure; and stress to name a few.  What was I doing wrong? Since I had a c-section, I was in the hospital for 4 days, and most of the time I was sitting there stressed about why my baby wasn't eating. "What’s wrong with me," I would think. The nurses and lactation specialist came in one by one -- all with a different method or opinion on the matter. We realized my baby wasn’t interested because he wasn’t getting any milk (or very little). How could this be? I am a size DDD and always assumed those suckers were literally made to be sucked!?!

Finally, a nurse came in and told me we had to give him a bottle as a supplement. In all the books I had read that was a big NO NO! As a first time mom it was hard to navigate this unknown territory, while on pain medication, overwhelmed by my changing hormones and with everyone giving me a different opinion on the matter. I agreed to start supplementing with a bottle because god forbid I starve my perfect newborn baby. Next the breast pump got wheeled into my room, and before I knew it, I was hooked up to the machine while my baby was peacefully eating a bottle next to me. 

After leaving the hospital (with the breast pump and cases of Enfamil) I felt confused and defeated. Over the next 3 weeks I tried and tried to produce milk. I drank the teas and listened to my baby nurses’ advice.  I even called a lactation specialist, but nothing was making a difference. I would try to nurse for about 30 minutes on each side and also was pumping every few hours. It got to the point where I was so overwhelmed, stressed and emotional I couldn’t see straight. I wasn’t enjoying anything about it. The thought of having to “try to feed” would make me feel blue and it was starting to take away from that bonding time with my baby. 

With frozen cabbage stuffed in my bra one night, I decided this was it, I’m officially done.

My mother in law who didn’t breast feed kept telling me to stop, but I am not a quitter.  The thought of stopping stressed me out even more. How could I give up on this? Isn’t this what women are meant to do? After a few more days of feeling like a total failure and crying that I was going to let down my husband, all of my friends, anyone who passed me on the street, my newborn and mostly myself, I made the decision to stop. With frozen cabbage stuffed in my bra one night, I decided this was it, I’m officially done.

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The next morning, despite the swollen achy boobs, I have never felt better. I was like a new person. I was lighter. I think I had already mourned the idea of not breast feeding for those few weeks when it wasn’t working that once I actually stopped, it was a whole new world. I was happy. I felt more connected to my baby. I realized the expectation that everyone around me would judge me or care or be disappointed was gone. Nobody even thought twice about it. It was no longer the main topic in my head. Once that pressure was off of me, I immediately felt back to my old self. Not one person gave me a dirty look, my husband started feeding the baby and letting me sleep, and all of a sudden I knew in my heart it was the right decision for ME.  It was my first lesson in “happy mommy equals happy baby.”  Nothing rang more true to me in that moment.

When it came time for my second baby, I knew right away that this is not something that works for me and I am OK with that.  I know my body, I know myself and I am confident enough this time around to say “No, I will not be breastfeeding, it doesn’t work for me and I am OK with that -- and so is my baby”.  My second baby is now 9 months old, and her belly is filled with Enfamil.  She is perfect just the way she is, and so am I.   

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