Before you read, I want to make something clear. I do not discourage any new mother from breastfeeding. If you are able, have the energy to do it, and excel at it, I applaud you. This post is simply about the decision I made for myself and my mental well being. I’m not the first mom to make this choice, and I won’t be the last. You do you, friends. Okay, here we go.
It is night two at the hospital and nearly four in the morning. I am attached again to the breast pump. I can see this playing out in my deliriously tired mind, focusing on how latching isn’t working and pumping isn’t producing more than a drop or two. Knowing my milk has not come in quite yet, I tell myself to keep trying. But I can’t help but flashback to three years ago, having a sense of déjà vu. Three years ago, when I had my son, I tried and tried for weeks to breastfeed. I kept up with the schedule, pumping every two hours, even if a visitor was knocking on our door. But with all that effort, I was lucky to get even an ounce of breastmilk per pumping session. We had a private consultation with a lactation consultant, and after a very difficult time trying to get my son to latch and it not working, again and again, we all decided as a group that breastfeeding just wasn’t in the cards. I was devastated, and I blamed myself. I kept calling myself a failure. But, our son thrived on full-time formula feeding, so I finally let the negative thoughts go. That is why, three years later at 4 a.m. in the hospital with our second child, a daughter, I looked my husband in his tired eyes and told him I wanted to quit breastfeeding. He didn’t hesitate, agreeing it was for the best and we started chatting about what formula we should use.
When I was preparing for baby number two, I thought maybe, just maybe, I would rock this breastfeeding thing a second time around. As we all know, every pregnancy, every delivery, and every baby is different. I wanted to try again. I did research and brought my pump out from storage. But, we knew going into it that “trying to breastfeed” would be a term we would use loosely. During my last attempt, I lost my spark because all I wanted was to successfully breastfeed. I had tunnel vision for it, and when it didn’t work out, my feeling as a failure contributed to the postpartum anxiety I was already experiencing. This time, I refused to let the negative thoughts take over.
Immediately after delivery, we got to say a quick hello to our daughter before she was taken away to the NICU. It ended up being a short stay in the NICU, thank God (we know how lucky we are, believe me!). But when she was taken away, my focus shifted immediately. I was willing to meet with a lactation consultant and give it a try but did not put any pressure on myself. So when I decided that I was already done trying, I hung up the pumping equipment, put away the nipple shields, dusted my hands off, and moved on. To let go of those thoughts before they could multiply and take over was a huge relief.
I could sit here and write down all of my excuses why I gave up breastfeeding so quickly, but honestly, I shouldn’t have to. I wouldn’t expect a friend to explain or defend her decision. If she wants to be done, it’s her choice. This time, I treated myself like I would treat a friend.