I am sharing our story of our breastfeeding experience because I want to help out anyone who stumbles across this by googling "breastfeeding sucks" at 3am (the way I did many, many times that first week). I say "our" because it is not just about me and George - my husband plays a huge role in our experience and ability to continue on, as do our lactation consultants, occupational therapists, my mom for all the help she has provided, and even the nurses back at the hospital in the very beginning. Everyone - and everything - has shaped our experiences.
Breastfeeding is hard. I knew this and I expected it to be hard. But I did not expect it to be THIS hard. And I do not think it is, for most women and their babies. Most women do not have the problems we are experiencing. But most women who choose to breastfeed do run into struggles at one point or another - my goal is not to compare our experiences, but to acknowledge that any struggle is a struggle. This is just ours.
Long story short when it comes to our unique issues (and believe me, this is the short version), George has a weak suck and chomps instead of using his tongue. This decimated my milk supply in the early days so I am playing a perpetual game of catch up. We have been supplementing with a bottle after most feedings since he was one week and five days old. For George, we do oral motor exercises, see an occupational therapist, and weigh him before and after feedings to see what he has been able to transfer. As for me, I take herbs, pump after most feedings, and even taking a prescription medication to try to compensate for George not holding up his end of the bargain in the "breast milk supply and demand" game (the more that's the removed, the more that is made).
So we are doing everything we can. And maybe it is not enough. If it ends up not being enough, I think I can become okay with that. Society, on the other hand, may not approve. The messages I have received since becoming pregnant and having George are loud and clear: Breastfeed your baby! But never in public! And when you pull that bottle out, we will assume it is formula rather than expressed breast milk and we will judge you for not doing the best for your baby! Because formula is poison, despite the many, many, many babies that formula-feed who thrive and grow into healthy children and adults!
My family is still in the trenches. For right now, combo feeding is working for us. I do all of this because I enjoy nursing George, and because George loves loves loves nursing. El Hub gets to look into the baby's eyes and bond while he gives him a bottle. Our baby is gaining weight, peeing, and pooping, and when he's not busy with those things, he is happily cuddling in our arms or playing in his activity mat.
It works for us right now. But my supply might dry up despite my best efforts. Or as George grows, my supply might not grow with him and he will go on nursing strikes, frustrated by how little he is getting for all his hard work. Or his oral motor occupational therapy for his weak suck may stall out. Or El Hub and I may decide this lifestyle is causing more stress than health and joy.
So if we end up being able to exclusively breastfeed, or decide to switch to all formula, or find that the time commitment of combo feeding continues to work for us - rest assured, we will be doing what is best for George and for our family.