Melissa Parsons, MD
The Truth about Breastfeeding
Ladies, it's time for some REAL TALK about breastfeeding. It may be natural but it AIN'T EASY. It's time to stop making new mamas guilty when their journey is difficult. It's time to support mamas in their decisions about feeding their babies.
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I do NOT think I can stress this enough. It is HARD.
In the movies, it looks easy, like it comes naturally to everyone. On Pinterest, it seems easy-peasy. In real life… that is baloney.
I am a physician. In medical school, we were taught that breast is BEST. That came with the immediate association that NOT breastfeeding was NOT best and therefore bad, harmful, not a good mom move. We have to STOP this.
FED is BEST.
Yes there are benefits of breastfeeding.
Yes I was stubborn as HELL that I was going to breastfeed despite everything that made it challenging.
But part of the challenge was the mom GUILT.
We have to STOP this.
We have to support moms that FED is best instead of looking down our noses at those that cannot or choose not to breastfeed.
To the mom whose baby won’t latch - FED is best.
To the mom whose doctors won’t let her breastfeed because of medications or medical conditions - FED is best.
To the mom whose baby has milk protein allergy - FED is best.
To the mom whose not making enough milk - FED is best.
To the mom who chooses not to breastfeed for her own reasons - FED IS BEST!
Let's get real... Here’s my story.
I remember being 6 months pregnant, standing in the bottle aisle at Buy Buy Baby and feeling OVERWHELMED. There were SOOO many options and I had to pick the absolute best one so that my baby wouldn’t have nipple confusion, so that he would be able to transition back and forth from the breast to the bottle when I went to work. I honestly have to laugh now looking back at that pregnant version of me who had NO IDEA what she had coming.
My delivery was complicated by preeclampsia and then severe HELLP syndrome, plus postop bleeding requiring transfusion. In the hospital, P struggled to latch well when we were in the hospital together. We worked with nurses and lactation consultants with some improvements, but Then I went to the ICU, and my newborn baby went home. We were separated when he was three days old, for a week. My heart still hurts thinking about it. At home, he was syringe and bottle-fed my breastmilk as well as donor breast milk. I would pump at the hospital, and my father and husband would take turns transporting milk home to my baby. It was AWFUL.
When I finally got home from the hospital, I couldn’t get him to latch AT ALL. I cried (a LOT) and refused to give him a bottle, handing him over to my husband to do it. For the first month, we used nipple shields to get him to latch. We then weaned from nipple shields and continued to have intermittent latch problems. There was pain also - a LOT of pain. Blisters, bleeding, cracks galore. I saw multiple lactation consultants. My husband would have to leave the room, because he couldn’t watch how much pain I was in. Everything you read says breastfeeding should not be painful - guess what - sometimes it IS.
To add to this, my baby was underweight. He was less than 5th percentile on the growth curve. I was told I had to supplement with formula by our pediatrician. I felt like a FAILURE.
Finally by months 2 through 3, we got him to latch intermittently. P’s morning feed and evening feeds were from the breast and the remainder of his feeds were from a bottle. His late night feed from a bottle would include some formula to help him sleep through the night (and gain weight). I could increase the number of feeds at the breast as long as I could tolerate the pain. And for months, that was the BEST we could do and it was GREAT.
My baby was FED.
He was GROWING.
And those were the key points, the ONLY points that matter.
FED IS BEST.
Let me repeat:
FED IS BEST!
Somewhere around three to four months, we hit our groove. Now, at 9 months, I can breastfeed pain-free whenever I want, as much as I want. P transitions seamlessly from breast to bottle and back to breast. We transitioned from bottle back to breast. We did what was supposedly "impossible."
So to my mamas struggling to breastfeed or planning to breastfeed - remember that POBODY’S NERFECT and nothing in life is perfect either. Don’t be fooled into believing that breastfeeding is EASY just because it’s “natural.” Childbirth is natural too and no one says, oh that was pain-free and easy!
If you’re struggling to breastfeed - give yourself GRACE. It is the best advice I’ve received. And I have received it REPEATEDLY, as I struggled to accept what our breastfeeding journey actually is compared to what I expected it to be.
So here I am, feeding my baby from a bottle shaped like a breast (I love my nanobebe bottles…they played a huge role in transitioning this kid from bottle-feeding back to breastfeeding and I CANNOT say enough great stuff about these bottles) and finding gratitude.
I’m thankful I can have morning and evening snuggles on my chest.
I’m thankful my husband can feed him during the day and let me rest or do some work.
I'm thankful P can switch back and forth between bottle and breast.
And I’m most thankful to be recovered and able to take care of my sweet babe.
Show yourself GRACE mamas and find GRATITUDE, even when things don’t look the way you thought.
Remember FED is BEST and breastfeeding is HARD.
Luckily, we can do HARD THINGS!
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