I have officially been through the gauntlet.
Moms know that undeniable pull we feel to do the absolute best for our babies from the moment they arrive. But what happens when you have to choose between what should be best for your baby and what ends up best for your whole family's sense of balance?
I breastfed my toddler, and not without difficulty. We dealt with severe nipple injury from bad latching, poor milk supply, and marathon feeding sessions before finding our rhythm a little over 2 weeks in. Tears of frustration were a daily occurrence in the early days, but we pushed through and I ended up nursing him till he was 9 months old. I loved nursing, loved knowing he was getting the absolute best from me! And I knew that I wanted to breastfeed any siblings that followed.
We were recently blessed with a baby brother for my boy, and I had absolute confidence in my ability to breastfeed this new addition - I had overcome some serious hurdles with my older son, the second time around was bound to be easier!
Yeah, about that...
I left the hospital with my new baby and some really tough latching issues...within a week he had caused more severe nipple injuries than his brother. (Vigilon is my best friend!) Visits to the AMAZING lactation nurse at my hospital were unsuccessful in finding the right "trick" to get him to latch properly - he's incredibly stubborn and just doesn't like his mouth in the right nursing position. As the lactation nurse reminded me, it takes two to tango - and if one person doesn't want to dance, you can't force them. My precious baby, he's no dancer.
So I began the difficult task of pumping and feeding. When you have a baby that insists on eating every 2 hours, that is quite an undertaking. He takes about 20 minutes to eat, and then it takes me about 20 minutes to pump. If he were my only child, that would wear on me - with only an hour or so in between feedings to get ANYTHING done, my sanity was wearing thin.
But he's NOT my only child. He has a 2 1/2 year old sibling who adores his baby brother, but is pretty ticked off at his parents for introducing a new focus of our attention into the house. My adorable, well behaved toddler turned into a holy terror almost overnight. I suppose it's a perfect storm, when you combine a drastic family dynamic change with the onset of the Terrible Twos...add in the breastfeeding issues and I may as well be captain of the Andrea Doria. That precious hour between feeding/pumping was never enough to give time to my displaced toddler, my newborn, my house, my bladder, and my sanity. Big Brother would wait until I was tethered down by the pump or by attempts to re-introduce breastfeeding, and find trouble at a moment when getting up to discipline him would be extremely difficult. I felt like I was losing my balance, and none of us were very happy.
After many tearful phone calls to the lactation nurse and my mother-in-law, I had to come to a hard decision. Giving up breastfeeding made me feel like a failure, though the lactation nurse assured me I had done everything I could possibly do. I wanted to give my newborn the best...but with so many hurdles, he wasn't really getting the best of me, and neither was the rest of my family. I wanted to restore some balance to my house, and in my case, that meant moving away from breastfeeding and giving my baby boy formula. My mother-in-law reminded me of one important fact - these early days pass so quickly, and if moving away from breastfeeding was going to allow me to enjoy my little ones while they were still little, it was OK.
I did a wonderful thing today - my littlest man snuggled me and chowed down his bottle before settling in for a nap, and after 20 minutes of patience (a lifetime to a 2 year old) my big boy got almost an hour of uninterrupted mommy time. I got a much needed boost from time spent with each of my children. And everyone in the house is breathing a little easier.