Nobody and nothing can prepare you for those first few nights at home with your new baby. You feel scared, lonely, raw, and overwhelmed — with both love and the massive responsibility of now keeping a child alive. While these have been some of the happiest days of my life, they've also been some of the most heart-wrenching. The reason? Breastfeeding.
While rocking my littlest one in my arms, I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face. She was bobbing on and off my breast with relentless attempts to latch and unlatch — she was frustrated and becoming increasingly irritable with each passing moment. My efforts of alternating her between my right and left side weren't helping. We were zeroing in on midnight — well past her usual bedtime — and this had been the scene for the past two hours.
I could feel myself emotionally unravelling while watching her struggle to satisfy her hunger. My nipples were sore, cracked, and nearing the point of bleeding. We were both exhausted and in desperate need of a reprieve.
I couldn't put her or me through it any longer, so, as a mother, I did what I had to do. I, a dishevelled mess, went downstairs to the kitchen to make her a bottle. Boobs loose. Hair a tangled nest. Face melting from tears and sweat.
Over the previous few days, I could feel my supply dipping. Despite constant feedings, pumping sessions, drinking a tonne of water, rank-tasting teas, and eating copious amounts of "boobie cookies," my body just wasn't responding.
My husband had jokingly remarked that my chest was lacking the voluptuous appearance it usually had. Under normal circumstances, I would have laughed. This time, I disappeared into my bedroom to try and swallow the lump forming in the back of my throat as uncontrollable tears began to surface. I felt like a failure. I was utterly defeated.
Before this explosion of pent-up emotions, I hadn't truly expressed to my husband what I was experiencing. Maybe I didn't want it to be true or maybe I didn't want to hear the automated response from what we learned during our breastfeeding class: "You always have milk; just continue. Your body will produce." No words could have relieved my concern. He wasn't feeling this deep desperation to feed our child or questioning his body and feeling like a failure to provide her with what she needed.
My job is to provide food for my child and yet my body was turning on me and becoming a roadblock. The act of breastfeeding is supposed to be natural, except what was happening felt anything but. "Your body will provide." What if it doesn't? What if it isn't easy? What if you do everything in your power and you still come up short?
As I watched her suck down that first bottle, I felt relieved, but also overcome with sadness. What if this was the beginning to an end to our nursing relationship and established bond? With the tornado of toddler chaos that is her brother's, nursing is our time without distraction. During these moments, it's just us. Nothing more. And I selfishly enjoy being her exclusive form of nourishment. She needs me and I need her. But I feared a bottle would mean giving that up.
I always preach that fed is best. I support any mum's choice to feed her child, whether that be by bottle or breast — and yet I found myself extremely reluctant to offer her a bottle. Anyone who has struggled with supply issues knows how hard and mentally draining it can be.
Since this experience, there have been more bottles than I can count. With that first bottle out of the way, which is always the hardest to overcome, not a second thought has been given when offering her something other than the breast. I've been fortunate to continue nursing and am currently working to build my supply back up. I've even enjoyed watching my husband feed her, which helps to encourage a stronger bond between the two of them.
Currently, a mix of bottles and boob is what's on the menu. Maybe that will change back to exclusively breastfeeding or transition into exclusively bottles; I don't know. What I do know is that as long as she's fed and happy, I'm happy.