It was hard to even type the title of this post. E isn’t even six months old and our breastfeeding days are numbered and going quickly.
Nursing E has been a struggle from the start. For the first two months of her life, she had a tongue tie no one would officially diagnose. The nurses and lactation consultants we saw all said the same thing: “Oh, it’s just a short frenulum, and there’s nothing you can do short of taking her to physical therapy.” Say what now? Finally we saw an ear, nose, and throat specialist who said it was absolutely tongue tie, and after a 45-second procedure, E nursed like a champ.
For one month. Then I went back to work and she started day care.
Working moms hear horror stories about breast refusal after their babies start day care, because they become accustomed to the fast flow of the bottle and they get impatient waiting for letdown while nursing. When I first returned to work, I did notice that E was a little more impatient at the boob, but it was nothing worth writing home about. She would fuss for a second or two and then carry on until her milk started flowing. We managed like this for two months. It was going okay. She probably preferred the bottle, but she still liked mom’s boobs and we were making it work.
Then late last month, I got mastitis. It’s the first time I’ve had it and it was AW-FUL. Not only was it miserable and painful for me, but it absolutely killed my milk supply. For the full week I was being treated for it, the amount of milk I produced was cut at least in half, if not more. Not only that, but to clear the clogged duct, I was supposed to nurse E on the affected side as much as possible. For a girl who already didn’t like working for her milk, this pissed my baby girl off so, so badly. I mean, the boob was so clogged only an ounce would come out at a time. She would suck and struggle and scream, and I would try to feed her off the other side, but the other side has never produced a whole lot of milk because she never latched on quite right in those first few months. Between her sudden breast refusal and my lack of milk production, E has been primarily bottle-fed for the past two weeks.
Now the breast refusal is a full-blown scream-fest every time I try to nurse her. I’ve read about women who try to reverse breast refusal, but it isn’t working for us. It involves a lot of patience, persistence, and refusal to give bottles–which we can’t do, because E gets four bottles a day at day care and there’s no way around that. As far as patience goes, I don’t have it in me to watch my baby scream because she’s hungry and can’t get her milk flowing. E has had to fight with so many things, breastfeeding included, in her five little months so far; to add on forcing her to eat in a way she doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t seem fair to me. I can’t do it to her. If it makes her a happier, more content baby to just have a bottle, then that’s what we’re going to do.
Last night as she screamed at my breast before bed, and I admitted to myself that breastfeeding isn’t working for us anymore, I started to cry. But I quickly snapped out of it. At first it felt like a little slice of our bond was being broken, but that’s bullshit. Breastfeeding is only one way for me to bond with my baby. I bond with her in so many other ways that are SO much more important, that this is nothing. We would have stopped nursing one day anyhow; it’s just a little earlier than we’d planned. I am still pumping and giving her as much of my milk as I can. So in the meantime, I will focus on what’s really important: having a happy, healthy baby with a full tummy.