The long-awaited day arrived after five years of infertility: My twins were born. I always thought I’d breastfeed, but that plan changed when they were born 10 weeks early.
I had a couple of friends advise me not to start at all because of how hard it would be to run back and forth between home and hospital. They did it with their twins, and they regretted it and stopped after a few short weeks. I had a cesarean as well, and recovery would be tougher with the added stress of trying to breastfeed premature twins. I weighed all the options and decided against it. I was OK with my decision, and my family thankfully supported my choice all the way.
Later, when one of my twins died at 8 weeks old, I actually felt relief at not having breastfed. I believe the loss would have been a little harder had I needed to give up that intimate moment, not to mention the deeper attachment I might have had.
Four years later, my little princess was born, and this time, I wanted to try breastfeeding. It wasn’t until a few hours after birth that I had the opportunity. She sucked, but newbie as I was, I had no idea if she actually ate. I stayed in the hospital for four days, and I thought it went well. She sucked, fell asleep, and sucked again several hours later; I hoped something went in.
After four days, I went to the mother/baby convalescent home (a Jewish place for mothers to recover after birth, to be pampered, and to be looked after) for three days, and that’s where the trouble began.
My daughter was a bit jaundiced, and that made her sleepy, so once I started to breastfeed, she promptly fell asleep. The nurses there advised me to take off her pajamas so that she would wake up. Even that didn’t work, so they introduced me to the dreaded pump.
To me, this is a symbol of modern-day torture. I don’t know about you, but the first time I pumped, it was almost more painful than giving birth. Scratch that. It was more painful considering I had an epidural and didn’t feel a thing. I got a measly amount out of it. For the next two days, they recommended I pump and breastfeed, changing every four hours. It was a vicious cycle of the princess sleeping and my milk just not coming in since she was not sucking, and sucking is what produces milk.
You get the picture.
By day 3, she was the baby screeching non-stop in the nursery until she finally got fed a full bottle of formula, and that’s when she stopped being starved by breastfeeding.
I still tried not to give up at the urging of the pro-breastfeeders. The home was staffed with nurses and trained La Leche League counselors. They told me to keep trying. But the next day, I tried to latch her on, and there she was, blissfully sleeping again. Silly girl. I tried to wake her to no avail. I was thinking of the dreaded pump, and I started to cry.
I looked down at her angelic face and wanted to scream. My hands tightened around her little body. I got up and had a terrible urge to throw my princess on the floor. I felt so overwhelmed, like such a failure, that I was almost ready to hurt my darling daughter. Thankfully, my husband entered just then. I handed her over to him until I calmed down.
That’s when I knew it was time to give up the dream of breastfeeding. If it got to the point that I wanted to hurt my child, it wasn’t right for us. I tried my best, but my child’s well-being and mine came first.
And you know what?
My son, the surviving twin, was formula fed and is very healthy. He is never sick.
I believe mothers should do what’s best for them. Try to breastfeed if you want, stop if it doesn’t work, or even decide not to start at all. In my case, my daughter starved, I was totally overwhelmed, and it was best for everyone that I started her on formula.
I think it’s the dreaded pump that will make me start with bottles from the beginning if I’m ever lucky enough to have a third child.
And you know what? I am 100 percent OK with that.
This post originally appeared on Sammiches and Psych Meds.