The conversation usually begins with this question, “Didn’t you just feed your baby on that side?”
I admit, I am sometimes taken aback by the fact that someone would even notice or care which breast I’m positioning my baby on. However, it is a valid question and at this stage in my life I feel the door is open for some good conversation. You see, nursing has not always been a joy for me and I know many women that struggle with nursing or feel guilty if they don’t or can’t do it.
First things first, in my opinion not all women can breastfeed (and it isn’t their fault!). Yep, you read that correctly. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. But, I vehemently disagree with the argument that EVERY woman can do it. I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I’m not even slightly interested in the medical field. I’m simply a mom of five children. I am a mother that wept and struggled through latch issues, latch refusals, a lactation consultant throwing her hands in the air unable to help, and a mom that exclusively pumped for six months with my first child. Something just wasn’t right. Nothing made me feel like a bigger failure than hearing that any woman can and should breastfeed.
I remember watching one of my closest friends putting her baby to her breast. It was like magic. It was as if baby and mom were perfectly connected. Meanwhile, I sat attached to my pump EVERY 3 hours. I still needed to use formula. I felt like I failed to connect with my baby. I’d cry because the sound of my pump parts clicking together made my milk let down…not the cry of my baby.
As I exclusively pumped, I noticed my left breast was not producing even a quarter of the amount of milk that my right side was producing. It is very common for one breast to be the dominant breast, but my production differences just seemed extreme to me. After 6 months, the pump and I parted ways and I gave up. Six years later we had our second baby. I was terrified to breastfeed/pump again.
My son had a near perfect latch! He nursed on both sides in the hospital and my breasts became equally engorged as my milk came in. YES!!! Well, a few days later he started refusing my left breast. I was very uncomfortable. I decided to drag out the pump for some relief. As I pumped, I noticed that I only had 2 spots where my milk dribbled out of my breast. TMI here, but when I pumped the other side it would spray out of my breast in numerous streams. It would take me 30 minutes to MAYBE get two ounces of milk on my left side. In seven minutes, I could have over five ounces on my right.
Long story short, I decided to try and feed my baby on my right side and pump my left when I had time. Eventually that side completely dried up and I just keep on nursing with the other one. Fast forward to today, I have exclusively breastfeed 4 children on just one breast. At birth I’ve nursed on both but history keeps repeating itself. I no longer have time, or the desire, to torture myself with the pump. My fifth baby is a happy, healthy 17lb four month old. In fact, he won’t even take a bottle! Oh, the irony!
I’ve told this story to the nurses and lactation consultants after my last 3 babies were born. My OB and kids’ pediatrician know how I work…crazy as it seems. My one breast just must be ‘wired’ incorrectly. I share this story because maybe there are mamas out there that have two breasts like my one or have some other situation that truly makes them unable to breastfeed and they don’t even know it. There are mamas out their losing sleep, feeling like failures, questioning why breastfeeding isn’t so magical for them.
Mamas, if breastfeeding has become a nightmare for you please know you are not a failure. It doesn’t mean you love your baby less or are less connected to them. A loved and fed baby is truly what is best. Whether we mamas formula feed, exclusively pump, breastfeed, or a combination of each… let’s support one another.
Maybe my story sounds familiar to you or you can relate with some other physical problem or debilitating struggle with nursing? I’ll keep sharing my story with every friend or stranger that asks, “didn’t you just feed your baby on that side?”.
Why yes, yes I did.