As an expecting mom, you consume so much information, especially if you’re a first-time mom. You really want to know everything. Want to read and prepare as much as possible. The truth is, no matter how much information you consume, you’re really not ready until the day comes. Especially when it comes to breastfeeding. You think: the baby is just gonna latch, it’s gonna be great and easy. The truth?
It takes practice.
The first few days of my breastfeeding experience wasn't too bad, I did endure "nipple trauma." Otherwise, she was latching, we were on a good little schedule, she seemed to do okay. I was a bit worried because it took her almost 24 hours to poop, but she did, and we left the hospital. It really began.
Come night 3, she was screaming crying. I would try to breastfeed, but she wouldn’t stop crying, I changed her diaper, I was going down the list. Nothing was helping. I really had no idea what was going on with her. Luckily, she fell asleep. I went to the doctor the next day because it seemed like I was possibly clogged and that's why my daughter was fussy. Well, the doctor said: You’re not producing enough milk, and that’s really the problem.
I immediately cried. Felt like a failure. I felt inadequate. I felt like my body failed me. I really didn’t know how to take it. I was triggered. Triggered back to the abuse of my childhood.
When I got back to the house, I started the regiment: latch, pump, feed. I began to feel like I was losing bonding time with my daughter because everyone could now feed her and I had to pump. I never took into consideration how stress might affect my breastmilk. I never even realized my comfort level at my ex's house was playing a role. (At the time, I was staying at his house, because I thought it would be easier for everyone. If you want more on the back story, click here.)
When he was home, I would feel ashamed and inadequate, and I would go to the other room to pump. I felt that way because he had pushed breastfeeding so bad. Even to the point where he thought it was necessary to tell me: if you can’t breastfeed, then my best friend’s wife can breastfeed our daughter.
There was a lot of pressure, stress, discomfort shame plus all the thoughts of the sexual abuse caused all that damage. I couldn’t do what nature intended me to do. I was only good enough as an object. An object for sex. I carried this for months. Sometimes, when I’m in court with my ex, and he says things like: well, she doesn’t breastfeed, she can’t breastfeed, that’s why we’re here. I can do what she can. It stings, but I don’t react to it, the way I did. I don’t feel like a failure or guilty. I know, it’s not connected to my abuse. I believe, If I were home and more comfortable, I would have produced more. It also runs in my family. My grandmother actually told me about it a few months before I went into labor. But when you’re postpartum and learning to adjust to new life and having guilt and shame run through you, it’s hard not to hold onto it.
Learning to adjust to bottle-feed when you wanted to breastfeed is possible. If you’ve suffered the same fate, with fears of what everyone might think or say, or you don’t know what to do with the disappointment and failure, I want you to know you’re not alone. Many women go through this. And it’s okay.
I want to share with you 5 steps to help you through this, so you don't have to learn the hard way as I did.
You’re not a failure. Formula is amazing. If you want everything to be all natural, there are organic options. You can still provide for your child in all ways. You can still bond and connect. As hard as it is to hear: Your child’s health and needs are being met. When you’re ready [to hear] … it really does help you as a mother. Other people can feed the baby, giving you an opportunity to sleep more or get more done. It's truly a blessing when you're ready to see it that way. Not being ready to hear that, is okay. We all take different time to process. Allow yourself that grace.
Bond and feed with your baby as much as possible. You’re the mother of your child, you’re allowed to create boundaries for you and your child. You can let people know you want to feed your child. You want those moments. I didn't think I could do that, but when I spoke up, I felt better. You can feed and bond with your baby even though you’re bottle-feeding. Hold your baby close and look her in the eyes and smile at her, tell her how much you love her. (Speaking to her while feeding is one of the most important things you can do to bond with your baby.) Remember it's okay not to let anyone feed her until you're ready. Take your time. Being sensitive with yourself is okay.
Allow yourself to feel all the emotions and feelings that come along with not being able to breastfeed. I get it. There's already so much going on you don't want to cry over one more damn thing, but it's okay to give yourself a break, cry, get angry to feel altogether. You may not want to seem weak to your partner, family or child but expressing and allowing these emotions to come through makes you strong. It's also teaching your child, already, how to process strong feelings. It's okay to allow ALL those emotions to come through.
Talk about it. Talk about how it's making you feel with your loved ones, partner and or support people. Other women might have ideas on how you can move past certain feelings- expressing the feelings of failure, inadequacy, etc. are so important in general, but it is essential postpartum. Talk about it. It will make you feel better. Even if you tell people, you feel jealous because other people can now bond with your baby. It's okay. All your feelings are okay. Talking about it does help.
Accept and surrender to it. Acceptance is key here. If you’re resistant to it, you’ll stay in your feelings. This is really one of those things you can’t necessarily control. That’s okay. You can repeat to yourself: I accept and surrender to it. You’ll feel a whole lot better. If you stay in resistance, you’ll keep those feelings trapped and as much as I hate saying it: what you resist, persist. It’s real. (If you want more on accepting your emotions, click here.)
For the expecting moms or current moms, if you suffered from childhood sexual abuse and you’re dealing with the inability to breastfeed, the most important thing you can do is ask yourself: am I feeling triggered because of my past? If you are, and you have techniques to help, follow those. If you don’t, get help. This will improve your state of being and create an even stronger bond between you and your child. Being aware of your triggers will help you let go of the failure and the inadequacy faster than anything else. Please be conscious triggers from this type of abuse during postpartum is real. If those triggers aren’t dealt with, it can potentially lead to worse problems. (Expecting moms of sexual abuse, you can read this blog: When Survivors Give Birth. Or for more blogs on recovery, click here.)
Bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, we’re all moms, wanting what’s best for our children. No matter what, we’ll make mistakes, cry, laugh, play and watch our children grow up. Bottle-feeding your child doesn’t mean you failed or you’re inadequate. It means you found and have an alternative to keep your child healthy. Remember, if anyone says anything or judges or wants an explanation, that’s their problem, their judgment of themselves, not you. Things aren't perfect, any mom knows that after delivery and home life. Anyone who judges isn't perfect either. That's why they're judging. ALL moms should be proud of themselves. Pregnancy isn't easy, delivery isn't easy, motherhood isn't easy. So be proud of yourself that you’re capable of taking care of your child.
Have a story? Can relate? Have a question? Leave a comment below. Let’s connect.
Recommendations to help during motherhood:
Blogs: Single and Pregnant Blog Series, Single Mom Blog Series, Recovery Blog Series, Single and Pregnant: Recovery- When Survivors Give Birth, 3 Step Guide: How I was Able to Accept My Emotions, Why Being Pregnant Has Turned My World Upside Down,