Just COULDN'T breastfeed
I can't describe how it feels to finally come across other women who just COULDN'T breastfeed and to see so many similarities in our stories.
I had always planned to breastfeed my baby and was really excited about what I thought would be a uniquely bonding experience.
During my pregnancy I noticed no real swelling of my breasts but didn't think too much of it. Our son Luka was born in July 2011 naturally, with no interventions. I am Irish living in Brazil where there is a huge rate of planned caesearean births (up tp 90% in some hospitals) but a really strong culture of breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age.
After the birth I produced very little colostrum and Luka wasn't sucking well and the only way I could get anything into him was literally squeezing out the little colostrum I had and putting it on his tongue with my finger. Despite reassurances that babies are born with "a reserve" and that my milk would come in "any day now", on day three my husband had to go and get milk from the nearest milk bank an hours drive away.
Luka survived almost entirely on other women's breastmilk for the first three weeks of his life as when my milk did come in there was really very little of it.
I was getting advice and suppport from doulas, lactation consultants, my obstetrician and four different paediatricians. I tried breast shells and nipple shields. I was on every conceivable type of homeopathic remedy, tea, supplements, milk producing foodstuffs, even using synthetic oxytocin before each feed to try to increase my supply.
Luka's tongue was also positioned far back and seems almost glued to the roof of his mouth so I wasn't getting much stimulation there. So I did breast massage, using a breast pump, even getting my husband to try to nurse on me so I would make more milk.
My breasts were starting to get bruised from the pressure of my thumbs trying to make the milk flow better for Luka.
I used to spend ALL day trying to get milk out of me and into my baby. I literally nearly killed myself trying and had to give up in the end. Even so I ended up with full blown post partum depression which I am still treating.
I felt overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and failure, I felt less of a woman and less of a mother and believed that my body didn't work the way it's supposed to.
It drives me crazy that I have to explain myself EVERY day here to strangers on the street as to why I am not breastfeeding. As I said, the breastfeeding thing is huge here and people (men and women) you don't even know have no qualms about asking intimate questions about your nursing and enjoy telling you that they or their partner had literally floods of milk.
There seems to be little or no awareness out there that sometimes it is just not possible to breastfeed, no matter how much the mother wants to. There IS such a thing as not producing enough milk.
It's still very painful for me that I couldn't breastfeed my baby. I hope someday it wont hurt any more. I am finally getting my confidence back as a woman and mother. I am discovering that there are other ways to be just as close to my baby: talking and singing and holding him close as I bottlefeed him, giving him little massages, carrying him in a sling and letting him hear my heartbeat, sleeping with him by my side and trusting in my instincts and in what feels natural - as opposed to what I "should" or "should not" be doing. Breastfeeding or not we can still be fantastic mothers with wonderful, close, nurturing relationships with our babies.