After going through all the pain and tears of the early weeks of trying to breastfeed, I thought that if I could just get to a point where it doesn't HURT for Maya to latch on, I'd be putting her on the boob all the time. I actually said that to my lactation consultant, who assessed Maya and told me her low palate and lip tie are contributing to a shallow latch, showed me some positioning adjustments, and recommended OTC supplements to help clear out the suspected yeast infection caused by 3 weeks on antibiotics that my midwives all but poo-pooed. The next day, I kid you not, I started nursing Maya more and more, without pain. This past week, we went all 7 days without formula, and with only one or two bottles of expressed milk each day. Success, right?
Yes and no. Apparently, by getting what I wanted, Maya is loving the boob, prefers it over her binky, and wants to get on every hour all day long. (Thankfully, she is sticking to her two longer stretches of sleep at night, which I LOVE.) For three days now, I have gotten very frustrated at not being able to complete anything on my to-do list because Maya doesn't let me put her down. Even her favorite swing that she loves so much is no good in the day time. I can barely fix something for myself to eat, never mind finishing laundry, getting through all the dishes, or anything else. She doesn't even want to be in the Moby carrier for some reason, unless we're dancing, which perhaps is good in that I only have about 10 more pounds to lose to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight, but still, if I'm dancing, I'm not doing chores!
And so I've had to really consider WHY is breastfeeding so important to me? What IS the big deal? Have I totally been brainwashed by the La Leche League subculture that, to be fair, is only trying to return breastfeeding to its rightful place in society? Do I subconsciously feel like less of a woman if I don't breastfeed? Am I worried about being judged?
Perhaps the idea to breastfeed started with the most common reasons to do so:
1. it's free (it hasn't been, it's cost me over $500 in medical
bills (copays for breast surgeon and antibiotics), lactation consultant fees, nipple
cream, nipple shield, nipple shells, supplements for yeast, breast pump,
rental of baby scale and breast pump, and one nursing bra and one
2. it's easy/convenient (it hasn't been, it's been first and foremost
painful, damaged my nipple, then my breast from the abscess, not to
mention the frustration of it all)
3. it's environmentally friendly (this it is, unless you need the help of
pumps and bottles and various other gadgets, like I've perused. Then,
is it really any different than formula feeding?)
4. it helps you bond (it didn't in the beginning, when I would nurse
in tears, dreading the next feeding. I distinctly remember when I broke
down to supplement with formula in a bottle the night after a nipple
piece went missing and mastisis set in, that I said to husband that I don't
want to miss enjoying my daughter because I'm so fixated on trying to breastfeed).
Although I will say that now that the pain is under control, even if my
supply doesn't get taken care of, I do enjoy comfort nursing with
5. immunities/antibodies - this is probably the only one I can't
argue with, but I don't consciously feel it as a big enough motivator to
go through everything I've gone through. Maybe subconsciously it is?
Or is it possible that subconsciously I am wanting to connect to womankind on some primal level, knowing that by breastfeeding, I nurture my child the way women throughout the world and throughout history have done so and continue to do so? Do I see it as some great equalizer that I am wanting to tap into? Maybe.
As it stands, I am considering dumping all preconceived notions of why other women breastfeed, why the "experts" say that I should breastfeed, even why I used to want to breastfeed, and simply look at the future of breastfeeding in my home. Since I already have a breast pump and bottles, it adds no cost for me to continue using them. And since the inability to put my daughter down and get anything done is anything but convenient, I'll take the "hassle" of warming up and cleaning bottles that are so bemoaned in circles where exclusive breastfeeding is highly encouraged. That will be a whole heck of a lot less inconvenient than what I've got going on right now. And without the frustration of trying to live up to some self-imposed ideal, I'll be better equipped to bond with my daughter.
So perhaps my plan going forward will be to pump my breast milk and give Maya bottles, which will ensure she is getting the immunity she needs, but also a decent amount of milk in one sitting, reducing the number of feedings. Nursing can be reserved for nighttime feedings, since after several hours of no feeding or pumping, I generally have enough milk to satisfy Maya for several more hours, during which she sleeps! And let's not forget comfort nursing, which I can offer to her now that pain is not standing in our way.
After all, there has to be a reason, and a good reason at that, to breastfeed one's child. If the cons outweigh the pros, the purpose of breastfeeding has lost its meaning. I didn't have a child to breastfeed. I had a child so that I could parent, and nourishing my daughter is only one of the many ways that I parent her. Put another way, breastfeeding has become an idol of sorts for me, and it stops today.