Breastfeeding: Why I Decided to Quit At Two Months

"Breast is best until it's not... Then you do what you can to survive." - Maria Foy 

Breastfeeding. It's a sensitive topic for most women, and now I know why: because it's hard. (And by no means am I offering breastfeeding advice. I am just sharing my experience/what I've learned.) 

You would think that all you would have to do is un-clasp your bra, put your nipple in your baby's mouth, let your baby suck, and milk would come pouring out. Then, after about 10 to 45 minutes (depending on baby), your baby is full, satisfied, and falls asleep. You do this repeatedly... say every 1 to 3 hours. 

If you can, try one breast for at least 10-15 minutes, then switch to the other for another 10-15+ minutes. If your baby has only fed on one breast, make sure to pump the other (nowadays, there are things called "milk catchers" that could be worn while feeding). Or, for the next feeding, offer the other side. If you feel like your baby hasn't emptied your breasts, pump after feeding, or do it anyway just to make sure that there isn't any milk leftover (so your body can produce more). 

I don't know about you, but to explain all of this is already overwhelming. Maybe to some moms, this sounds easy (or am I making it sound complicated?), but to others like myself, feel like this is impossible. It may not work out this way for many reasons, i.e. latching problems, tongue tie, flat/inverted nipples, cracked/sore nipples, mastitis, overproducing or low milk supply, forceful let-downs. 

Here's why it didn't work out for me: 

1. Benjamin has nipple confusion. 
2. He would refuse the breast and become overly fussy. 
3. He would prefer one breast over the other. 
4. He would breastfeed for maybe 5-10 minutes, fall asleep, cry, and refuse to be put back on the breast. 5. He would breastfeed on both breasts, fall asleep, cry, and refuse to be put back on the breast. 
6. He would only want to comfort nurse. 
7. After breastfeeding, he cries for a bottle. 
8. He automatically takes to a bottle. 
9. He prefers bottle over breast. 
10. His nipple confusion frustrates both he and I. 

Benjamin's nipple confusion most likely started from the beginning of his life. Yes, we practiced breastfeeding right after birth and throughout the 24 hour hospital stay. On the very same night he was born, he had "low blood sugar," which raised some concerns. Even with breastfeeding (my milk hadn't come in yet), we were giving him formula. And, to be honest, I feel as though I was fooled into giving him formula - through a bottle - because I didn't think to ask if his low blood sugar was a serious problem, or to instead use a syringe to avoid nipple confusion. 

(If you're interested, there's more about this on my social medias.) 

To sum this up, Benjamin was formula/bottle feeding before adjusting to breastfeeding and everything went down hill from there. It so happened that while I was waiting for my milk to come in (at day 3 of postpartum), Benjamin was formula feeding and had quickly adjusted to the bottle. It became challenging to get him back to the breast, and so, all I could do was pump as a much as I could. 

Unfortunately, pumping wasn't enough. For awhile, I matched his 2 oz feeding, but couldn't keep up with his demand. They say to pump every 2-3 hours (to mimic feedings), but I didn't always get 2 oz. It seemed like for every 3-4 bottles of formula, I could produce one 2 oz of breast milk. There were some days that I could get 3 oz, but it wasn't for more than a few occasions. 

I also never had enough to store away, I had to give Benjamin the pumped milk, which he seemed to drink like it was nothing and never made him full. I found myself having to mix my milk with formula or give him formula after a bottle of breast milk. 

So, I tried "boosting" my supply by doing several things: 

1. Supplementing with Mother's Milk. I also had traditional herbs sent from my grandma and drank it religiously, but never saw an increase in milk. 
2. Drinking more water. Yet, I could drink two of my 32 oz water bottle before and WHILE pumping and it would do absolutely nothing! The only fluid that came out like crazy was pee! 
3. I ate the cookies, but felt like it was more about flavor and less about increasing breast milk. 
4. I ate oatmeal every morning and had it as a snack later in the day or night. 
5. I massaged/leaned over/tried to distract myself while pumping. 
6. I power pumped for a week straight. 
7. I tried not to stress about it/think positive/look at my baby's photos. 
8. I tried Body Armor drinks. 
9. I ate more soup/green veggies, which did somewhat helped. 
10. Use heat or pump after a shower. 
11. Listen to other people's advice/encouragement. 

Really, none of these things helped! The one thing I knew would was breastfeeding and that was something I couldn't do for more than a couple or few times a day. It was hard getting my baby to stay latched or desire breastfeeding. And the less I breastfed, the less my supply became, even with pumping. 

I feel at a complete loss. 

And yes, I do cry about this. 

It's really freaking hard. 

And yes, I feel like a complete failure at something that I should be able to do. I feel like I let the whole world down. 

During pregnancy, my goal had been to breastfeed exclusively. I had always wanted to breastfeed since we were pregnant with Elijah (but he died and I STILL produced milk anyway). And yet, I was convinced to supplement with formula by both a nurse, "because he had low blood sugar" and my mom "because you won't have milk yet." 

As a first time mom, it's so hard to do anything without people telling you left and right on what to do. If I had the chance to go back in time, I wish that I had stuck by my plans and introduced bottle feeding much later, or after building my supply. I strongly believe that if I had just kept at breastfeeding since the beginning, I wouldn't be here today... pumping once a day late at night, getting only an ounce or less, no longer breastfeeding, and slowly drying up my milk. 

I look at Benjamin and I don't know what it is about him, but I always smile and hear, "Mama, don't quit." And then, I cry because as much as I want to keep going, I just can't continue pumping away, seeing my hard work result to little to nothing. 

Today, my mom asked me if I was still producing milk. I felt so ashamed of myself, I couldn't look her in the eye (she was an over supplier who also supplemented with formula). In a low voice, I said something like, "No. He doesn't like to breastfeed." Hearing myself say those words hurt so much. 

Being a mom, you want to give your child the best, and for many, breast milk is held in the highest regard. My breasts happened to become droopy with little to nothing. Perhaps the best for my child is trying the best I could and doing whatever it takes to continue surviving. And if it means I have to formula feed, then that's what I have to do, even with the tears.


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