So I quit breastfeeding.
Yep. I did.
And it sucked.
It sucked so bad, it’s taken me this long to write about it.
When Arlo was born, he was ravenously hungry, and surprisingly, my milk came in much faster than it did with Lark. I assume it’s because my body sort of knew what to do. It could have also been that Lark had JUST weaned about 10 months earlier. At any rate, I was hopeful and excited that we’d be nursing like pros in no time!
I had a much better experience with this c-section than I did with Lark’s. In that they allowed him to try and nurse immediately while I was getting stitched up. He was rooting like crazy and I couldn’t believe it! Once transferred to recovery, I continued trying to nurse, but he was having trouble both getting latched and staying latched. When I breastfed Lark, I had to use a nipple shield, which I hated because it was mainly inconvenient. Constantly washing it, fiddling with it to get it right, and forget about nursing easily in public! But I informed the nurses of this and they mentioned that might be something I would need with Arlo as well, but they were hesitant to do it right away in an effort to teach Arlo to nurse without it. But we had issues the entire time we were in the hospital. So I started pumping and he received colostrum through a syringe, until I gave in and took the nipple shield and TADA! He could latch! But it was so painful.
Turns out, Arlo was tongue-tied. It was minor, compared to some cases, but the nursing was painful. Like INTENSE pain. A pain I have never felt before. My entire breast would throb and just ache for hours. His latch was so awful that I would literally tense up and wince in pain every time he fed, which was a lot. It literally felt like someone was squeezing my breast with a vice grip, and I’m so not exaggerating. It was never that painful with Lark. For a few days, I thought maybe I had mastitis, but I had no fevers or other symptoms, so I figured it was his latch.
Arlo also screamed. A lot and after every feeding. I’m not talking fussing, I’m talking turn-purple-lose-his-breath kind of screaming. And he was feeding constantly and had to be burped constantly, at regular intervals in between feeds. Something just didn’t feel right. I was stressed and worried and he seemed to be in pain. He was screaming so much and so often that I would break down in tears. At one point I said to my mother-in-law, who had stopped by one evening, that I just didn’t know how to parent this child. And that hurt so much to say, but it was true. He was a mess and I was at a loss.
I took him to the ENT at 3 weeks old to have his tongue-tie addressed. They clipped it right there in the office, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. They had me nurse right away, and I did notice a difference, but the pain was never completely gone. I think he had just learned bad latching habits at that point.
We continued to power through for a few days, but the screaming wore on, and I was worn out. He would writhe in pain, had awful gas and had what I had determined was reflux. He had to be upright to remain calm, he’d spit up, but it would never really come up, and he’d have episodes of this vomiting where it would get into his sinuses and he’d struggle to breathe and panic and it would scare the sh*t out of me. Again, I just knew something wasn’t right. And I wanted to quit. Every day, every time I nursed, but I still loved nursing and nourishing my child, so I kept at it.
And then it happened.
He started to get scaly bumps all over his face and neck. They were red and angry and multiplying by the day…and I knew… He had food sensitivities/allergies like Lark and my heart sunk. I really hoped he’d bypass this, as it’s stressful and sad to watch Lark suffer from food. But my gut had been telling me, and his skin confirmed it. I took him to the pediatrician around 5 weeks and they tried to write the skin off as baby acne. Agreed he likely had reflux and/or some sort of food sensitivity, so I cut dairy out of my diet for about a week to see if there were any immediate changes. And not surprisingly, his skin started getting better almost immediately, confirming to me that it was, indeed, eczema. And I even tried a 24-hour trial on a hypo-allergenic formula to see if it made any difference. In a short 24 hours, we didn’t see huge improvement and it was extremely emotional for me to not nurse my screaming baby, because his screaming didn’t stop. We went back a week later and the doctor agreed that it was eczema peppering his skin with bumps and suggested I cut dairy, egg, soy, nuts and red meat from my diet.
This is where I got depressed. I felt like a failure. Once again, I passed my allergy genes onto my baby and he was having issues because of it. And then the guilt set in, because I knew I had to quit and I didn’t quit with Lark. I felt like I was giving up on Arlo. With Lark, I was able to nurse for 14 months with diet modification and supplementation with a homemade, rice milk-based formula, and it worked. But with Arlo, we couldn’t be sure exactly what food was bothering him, so I would have to cut everything. And to be honest, I just didn’t have the energy. I had a newborn and a toddler and I wanted them to be happy, healthy and have a mama that wasn’t stressed and losing her mind.
So I quit breastfeeding.
Yep. I did.
And it sucked.
Why? Because I longed to nurse my child. Because it hurt so bad physically, but even that wasn’t as bad as the emotional pain I had. Especially during night feedings with a bottle, when I could feel my engorged breasts aching for my baby. I sat in the dark for many nights with tears streaming down my face. Maybe it sounds dramatic, but we’ve been through so much with Lark and I was sad that Arlo was facing the same fate, all while worrying that not nursing him was somehow affecting our bond. I also had to pump, to keep from being in unbearable pain. Reducing the length of sessions, then reducing the sessions, until I no longer had to pump. Every time I dumped a bottle, and every time I noticed my breasts producing less, I got sad.
But with every day Arlo was on hypo-allergenic formula, he was getting better. Less gas, less burping, less panic-inducing vomit sessions. And he was smiling, looking into my eyes and really just being present and in the moment. And so was I. I was less stressed and happier.
To this day, he’s like a different baby. Rarely fussy and constantly smiling. I had been worried that we’d be kicked out of daycare because he screamed all day. Last week, the daycare lady told me Arlo is one of the easiest babies they’d ever had. Which felt good, because I was sure he’s be fussy and colicky and downright angry.
But he wasn’t. And he’s not. And he’s bealthy. And he’s happy. And I survived.
Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, all that matters is a healthy baby and a sane mama. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s ‘right’ or what’s ‘best,’ but this was a huge lesson to me, confirming to myself that only you can decide what’s best for your child and to trust your gut. I have a happier baby because of it.
So Arlo is now 17 weeks and remains on Similac Alimentum, which is ridiculously expensive and not covered by insurance. Highly frustrating as he can’t eat anything else. His future with food allergies and asthma are also uncertain at this time, but with Lark’s history, at least we’re prepared. We’ve also used Dr. Brown’s bottles since we started this process, and they’ve been awesome.
But I loved him too much to continue.