Breastfeeding expectations vs. reality: a gMum guest post
Happy National Breastfeeding Week! Our very own Community Manager and gMum, Emily, shares her struggles and victories with breastfeeding her two sons.
First time moms…we think we have it all figured out, right? As soon as that pregnancy test says ‘positive’ (or maybe even before), we scour Pinterest for nursery themes, baby food recipes, and natural laboring tips. We’re convinced everything will work out the way we planned. Because why wouldn’t it?
I knew long before having my first child, Milo, that I wanted to breastfeed. But it never occurred to me that the choice might not be mine to make. Minutes after Milo was born, our midwife told us that he was severely tongue-tied: a condition in which a short, tight band of tissue tethers the tongue to the floor of the mouth. It can affect how a child eats, speaks, and typically interferes with breastfeeding. We quickly made an appointment with a surgeon and sent our brand new baby off to have a frenectomy (the removal of the tissues that were holding his tongue and lip so tight). We were assured that once everything healed, he would be nursing like a champ.
Meanwhile, I had a lactation consultant coming every week and was pumping around the clock, with not much to show for it. The more I stressed over it, the worse it got. Milo never developed the ability to latch, and after three months, my supply fully disappeared. We went straight to formula full time. As if being a new mom isn’t hard enough, the guilt was getting to me. I was unable to do the one thing I thought my body was made to do—feed my baby. I felt judged very time I mixed up a bottle of formula in public. I just wanted to scream, “It’s not my fault!”.
Fast-forward two years, and I was pregnant again. We knew that the tongue-tie was genetic, so most likely this baby would be born with the same condition. I decided I wasn’t going to let the stress of breastfeeding affect my well-being or my relationship with my baby this time. Come what may, I cast aside expectations and gave birth with an open heart.
After Max was born, we quickly discovered he had the same condition as his brother. We had his tongue-tie corrected, and we were again assured that nursing would soon be a breeze. But this time, I just went with the flow. When it was apparent that breastfeeding just wasn’t in our cards, we gave it a rest. The lack of pressure made a huge difference in my milk production. I was exclusively pumping and actually had an oversupply! Did I want to breastfeed? Of course. But more importantly, I wanted to provide my baby with breastmilk. Here I am, seven months into exclusively pumping, and we’re still going strong.
Emily and Max are experts at exclusively pumping.
Ultimately, we are all just trying to do what is best for our children. And yet, our own expectations can get in the way of feeling good about our reality. Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves. Let’s accept that some things are just out of our control. Let’s come together and turn our expectations into celebrations of motherhood.
For National Breastfeeding Week this year, we are supporting “our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.” We believe this includes all breastfeeding journeys and all mothers. Are you looking for a breastfeeding support group? There are many groups on Facebook, including ones specifically for tongue-tie and exclusively pumping. Be sure to join us on Facebook too, where we support you in making the best decisions for you and your baby.