Before you read this and immediately conclude that I am hating on breastfeeding, please understand that everyone’s journey is different. I’m not using my platform to spread negativity about breastfeeding. I’m merely pointing out that there is a dark side to many things in life, breastfeeding included. However, in order to make your breastfeeding operation easier for you and your children, you might want to have a look at a list of foods to eat when breastfeeding, as this could potentially make breastfeeding easier for you and your family.
When my husband and I first attended Breastfeeding 101 at my delivering hospital before Rosalyn’s birth, we were shown a selection of material depicting breastfeeding as this wonderfully, natural, bonding experience. I became more and more convinced that breastfeeding was the way I was going to nurture my children. And then it happened….. my daughter was born and I became a breastfeeding mother. I was one of the lucky ones too. My daughter latched on that first time and it was like magic. It didn’t hurt. She was a natural. I didn’t have to readjust her latch, and she never had to be supplemented with formula. I didn’t struggle with nipple confusion, mastitis, plugged ducts or milk supply. She suckled at my breasts so wonderfully and perfect. And in those moments I was filled with so many emotions. Weeks and months passed and we shared many magical moments together. Mom and baby cuddled and snuggled both day and night. We had such a special bond together. But when I had my son, breastfeeding became very complicated…. and that’s what I’m talking about today.
Today, I’d like to talk about the dark side of breastfeeding.
Before my daughter was born, I drank the breastfeeding kool aid. I dove right into the breastfeeding culture. I ordered two breastfeeding books from Amazon, joined two online support groups and attended a breastfeeding preparation course at my delivering hospital. I did everything I could to arm myself with all the necessary information to ensure I was ready to take on such an enormous and important task.
For all the obvious reasons: it’s healthy, it’s rewarding, it’s natural, it’s a bonding experience, etc…. I was determined to succeed at nursing both my children.. And I did. I still am. With my daughter, I breastfed until right before she was 9 months old. My son just turned one last month and he is still exclusively breastfeed. He is so exclusive with the breast, that he never even took a bottle – which is what presents my topic today.
Breastfeeding, as magical, natural and nutritionally perfect as it is for our babies, is not always a fairy tale experience.
I’m not trying to devalue breastfeeding or the mothers who do it, I’m simply stating that it’s a whole lot of work. Why else would they suggest a support group?
It’s a full time commitment and sometimes it’s a burden that only mama can carry.
And don’t even get me started on the poor mamas who have chosen the path of exclusively pumping. There’s a special place in heaven for mamas that endure that machine multiple times a day.
Breastfeeding is not for all women. It just can’t be. And it’s not because they’re not “mom enough” to breastfeed, or because they’re “lacking” a certain quality that breastfeeding moms possess. Every situation is different, and every baby is different. In fact, if you’ve found this post and you’re experiencing guilt about not being able to breastfeed, or because you weaned too early (whatever that means to you)…. DON’T! Your desire and ability to breastfeed do not define your role as a mother. You’re not a failure because you didn’t breastfeed.
I was blessed to have the ideal breastfeeding situation. I was a stay at home mom. Both my babies latched without extreme difficulties and I had a fantastic support group lending me plenty of knowledge and support. Breastfeeding was pretty close to perfect, or so I thought.
What happens when breastfeeding becomes harmful?
What happens when a child is born with food sensitivities and the mother’s milk becomes the problem instead of the solution?
What happens when breastfeeding becomes a wall that separates the parental responsibilities from the spouses or care takers?
What happens when the baby refuses to take a bottle and the mother cannot leave her baby without worrying about how he’s going to receive his nutrients?
What happens when you want to wean your child, but he refuses?
If you’ve been following my blog throughout the past few months, you may have already heard about how difficult my breastfeeding journey has transpired with my son. His experience is the polar opposite from my daughter’s experience. The only significant characteristics that her breastfeeding relationship mirrored to my son’s is the fact that neither one became sick the whole time they were breastfeeding.
Everything has been very different aside from that.
Going back to when my daughter was an infant, and while I was still a working mother, I remember sharing more of the feeding responsibilities with my husband. Of course, I would be the one to wake up in the middle of the night to tend to her cries, but if I had a work engagement or a race, I could always rely on my husband or mother to take care of her in my absence. Because she easily took a bottle, it was never a debate on whether or not someone else could step up to watch her when I wanted to get out of the house for a few hours.
With my son, things haven’t been so easy.
Two years ago, I left the workplace and became a stay-at-home-mother. And just to clarify, I love being a SAHM. I love being with my children. I love being there for their every laugh, whine, cry and smile. But because I am a SAHM and the primary caretaker for our children, a huge dependency has developed.
My husband was traveling nearly every week for work. Most weeks he would be gone 3-4 days. And during those days, I would be the sole caretaker for our children. We didn’t hire a babysitter on the weekends and we didn’t leave the kids with my parents or in-laws. Ever. And since I never pumped during the week when my hubby was away, I never had any expressed milk to offer him when my husband was available. Even when my husband wasn’t traveling, t continued to be the only one who would fed my son. It was a vicious cycle that just kept spinning around.
With me being available to him all day, every day, without more than an hour or two absence, he has become extremely dependent on me. He only wants me. In fact, if I am in the room, visible to him, he must be right next to me or latched on to me (literally).
Most mothers don’t care too much about the neediness of an infant. I don’t mind in small dosages. And I love having his attention and affection, but part of me wants to run away and leave my son with his father for the weekend so that he can get used to relying on someone else for a change. But since mama’s got the milk, that’s never been an option. And I’m partly to blame. Essentially, the responsibility has fallen on my shoulders and I let myself down.
It was months after Harrison’s birth before we even attempted to give him a bottle. Since I was always home TO care for him, I did what any breastfeeding mother would do. I popped him on the boob and fed him how God intended us to do it. What was the point in pumping and feeding him from the bottle? I had plenty of milk engorging my breasts throughout most of those first months anyways. I might as well tap the kegs and make myself more comfortable since baby needs to eat, right?
Well, this is where the darkness starts to creep in.
Yes, it was easier then to latch baby and have him do as nature would have us, but down the road when I actually wanted to get away from the kiddos and have a little peace in quiet to myself, Harrison refused a bottle. He never accepted ANY of the dozens of bottles we offered him. And since he never took one, I was riddled with guilt over the possibility he would not eat whenever I was gone. So those outings became quick trips to the market, or I would feel guilted into taking him with me to unburden my husband. Which led to many unenjoyable exchanges between husband and I and a year of minimum interactions without my baby.
I kept telling myself:
This is only a season.
Children grow up so fast.
I will have my freedom and my social life back one day, but I’ll never have my babies this small again.
But even through the positive reinforcements, I kept wondering how much longer I could succumb to this parental slavery, so to speak.
And now, here we are.
Harrison is thirteen months old and finally drinking breast milk from a cup. But, alas, we now have a whole new set of problems.
Harrison has failed to gain any weight since he was six months old.
When we first introduced solid foods at 6 months, he didn’t show much interest in eating. He would take a bite or two or three or four (on a very good day) and then turn his mouth. We tried purees and solid food. We tried bland food and food with seasoning. We tried spoon feeding and we tried baby led weaning. Nothing was appealing to him. So we waited longer, thinking that he just wasn’t ready yet.
Fast forward six months down the road, and he’s finally eating some solids. Of course, we have since learned about his sensitivities, so we have eliminated those foods, but he is still not gaining weight.
Currently, Harrison is seeing a gastroenterologist, allergist, nutritionist and dermatologist. Each of these doctors are doing everything in their power.
We’ve had three different rounds of blood work to determine the cause of his distress and each round uncovered more and more sensitivities.
His food allergies include:
Peanuts and other tree nuts
**** Red indicates highest level of sensitivity.
Want to imagine what it’s like in this level of a stressful situation? Just think about your own diet and how you would adjust to eliminate this many items. And then remember I have a cute little shih-tzu that I now know my son is allergic to.
It’s overwhelming and extremely challenging.
You can imagine how I feel. I’m at my wits end. And mind you, I’m still breastfeeding him since he won’t drink goats milk or formula. So what does that mean for me? It means I must eliminate all of his trigger foods from my own diet, which equates to a diet of potatoes, veggies, fruit and chicken or beef. Don’t even think about eating processed or packaged foods with this list of food sensitivities. And eating out is about as frustrating as ever these days.
It’s a load of stress and, quite honestly, I’m not so sure that I’m cut out for this. I’ve wrestled with this process so much. I just don’t know where to go from here.
So you may be wondering what all this allergy stuff has to do with breastfeeding.
I can’t help thinking that if my son wasn’t breastfeeding, and was previously drinking formula from a bottle, that we might have known about his issues sooner rather than later. Even more so, we could have been offering him hypoallergenic formula in place of any sensitive formulas.
Currently, we are removing all of his trigger foods from both our diets. We have also been offering him goats milk, even though he doesn’t like it, as well as giving him MCT oil (Medium-Chain Triglycerides) three times a day.
We are at a point where we just have to wait and see. There aren’t any other options for us at this point.
I don’t know for sure if breastfeeding has lead to his distress or if it’s a reason why he’s been able to stay out of the hospital amidst all his unfortunate food sensitivities. I keep believing that God will provide the necessary answers and that He will give us strength to overcome the frustration and hardships.
There are moments when I wish we were done breastfeeding altogether. Its been such a complicated journey, but one that has brought so much joy and closeness, even through the darkness. It’s hard to think that it could possibly be the reasons behind all his problems, especially when it’s been the only nutrients that he’s accepted during all of this. So for now, we continue our journey. And I’ll continue pushing on and cherishing each nursing session because one day, very soon, it will be the end of our breastfeeding relationship and I will never have it again.