Danielle Shares Her Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Journey. Read Part 1 here.
Danielle is wearing Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra in Roseclay
Despite the tumultuous time conceiving, our pregnancy was relatively smooth. Once I pushed through my anxieties experienced in the first trimester and felt those first flutters, I was in love. I would never forget the journey I had been on, but all the pain and struggles became worth it for this little life growing within me. After an exhausting week-long induction process, 12 plus hours of labor, and 4 hours of pushing, I was told I eventually required an assisted delivery using forceps. Within two contractions, I finally met our rainbow baby. Hearing her cry for the first time was the most beautiful sound ever. Working within the child development field, I have often supported families as they have transitioned into parenthood, linking them with community resources or professionals as they navigated through all aspects of parenting, including coping through postpartum care and nursing/lactation support. Over the years, I have heard many stories of women explaining their grief and struggles with nursing. I've also witnessed the shift between a 'breast is best' approach, and a 'fed is best' approach; however, it wasn't until I struggled with breastfeeding that I understood the profound pressure placed on women to breastfeed. Due to my severe hemorrhage, my ability to breastfeed was impacted, so I hand expressed what I could and supplemented with donor milk for the first two days post-delivery. During my hospital stay, every nurse I encountered observed me breastfeeding. They coached me through achieving a good latch and introduced different positions for breastfeeding. I knew they were only doing their job and trying to help. Most of those nurses I encountered who gave me the impression that supporting a 'fed is best' approach were mothers. They shared their own experiences and challenges with breastfeeding and encouraged me to do what was best for my child and myself, which I appreciated.
Eight times a day, I would be hand expressing and pumping to try to get my supply up, but when I would feel I would progress, my daughter would want more milk, and I could not keep up. I was averaging on giving her 30% breast milk and 70% formula, and it felt impossible to achieve the amount of milk needed to support her appetite. After every meeting with my public health nurses, they would ask about my mental health. It was always a very tough question because I was putting so much energy into getting my supply up, which was depleting every other bit of energy I had to care for myself or enjoy motherhood. At one point, I had finally reached my breaking point. My breasts had bruises from hand expressing and nipples scabbed from nursing. I had spent 30 mins hand expressing and producing 40ml of breast milk and knocked the bottle over in a split second, spilling all of my supply over my coffee table and carpet. I burst into tears, adding a new meaning to "crying over spilt milk." At that moment, I knew in my heart what I needed most was to step back from nursing. Outside of feeling pure rage from spilling the milk, I felt immense guilt for not being able to provide for my daughter in that way. In many ways, it resurfaced those feelings of inadequacy I felt during my fertility treatment. The next day I mustered up the courage to let go of trying to control the uncontrollable. I gave my daughter formula for the whole day and didn't pump, hand express, or nurse; for once, I felt relief. Not only was I able to focus my attention and energy solely on my daughter, but I was also able to rest and sleep, and in the first few weeks, that rest meant everything! I noticed an immediate improvement in my mental health. It became clear to me I had made the best decision for us all.
I think breastfeeding is beautiful, and when I was nursing, it was an incredible bonding experience for my daughter and me. However, it's not for everyone, and that is okay. For those who need to hear it, you're not a bad mother for not being able to increase your supply or for choosing formula feeding over breastfeeding your child. Being a mother is hard and showing yourself some grace and compassion is important. You are your child and your own best advocate, and you have to pay close attention to what your intuition tells you and make the best decision for your family's well-being. Being able to breastfeed is not the determining factor for being a great mother. You've done incredible things and will continue to do incredible things for your child.