Wednesday, May 22, 2013
As my pregnancy progressed, I was always asked the question, “Are you going to breastfeed?” “Of course I’m going to breastfeed my baby,” I would say! After ALL of the education we have received as nurses to encourage our mothers to breastfeed, I knew that the best thing I could do for my son was for him to receive my breast milk. In fact, four days prior to my delivery, I attended a two-hour class, required for all neonatal nurses that emphasized the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, as well as steering mothers away from using formula (in a nice way). I took this knowledge with me knowing that in a few short weeks, I would be in the same position as the Moms we teach.
My son stayed in the room with me my entire stay and I breastfed him every one to three hours around the clock with no supplementation of formula. My son had lost some weight and was a little jaundiced, but all was well. I was discharged home and was to follow up with my son’s Pediatrician two days after discharge. By the day of my son’s first appointment, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, my son was still jaundiced and he had lost almost a pound from his birth weight. Thus began our every other day weight checks at the pediatrician’s office. After the second appointment and no change in his weight, our pediatrician instructed us to begin supplementing with formula. Knowing from experience that my options at this point were supplement or be readmitted to the hospital, we reluctantly began to supplement with formula.
My son and I continued to struggle through breastfeeding. For five weeks, I endured the every two to three hours of breastfeeding, then pumping immediately after in order to supplement him with breast milk and not formula. Unfortunately, my milk supply was not enough to sustain him. Breastfeeding was the one thing that nobody else could do for my baby and I was failing. I kept saying to myself, “Everyone is going to think that I’m not a good mom.” After a month, I realized (with the help of family and wonderful lactation consultant that I work with) that my son and I were both miserable and I had missed the first month of his life because I was so stressed out. I could not get that time back with him. I finally gave myself permission to let go and move on to spending time with the sweet little boy. He transitioned to formula and is now a healthy and well-fed 13 month old!
After coming back to work and having the dreaded, “Are you still breastfeeding?” question asked millions of times, I began to realize that I am not the only one who chose to stop breastfeeding. I began hearing about my coworkers and their struggles. Although I still have guilt for not continuing (yes, even now), I know that it was the best thing for my son and me. I will try again if I have another baby, but I will be more laid back and know that breast is still best, but not at the cost of my baby’s health and my mental health!
Piper Davis, BSN, RNC-NIC, is day shift nursing supervisor in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.