I've come to know the sound all too well - the unmistakable suction of the breast pump. In fact, my breast pump and I have spent so much time together there are times I think it's talking to me, and sometimes not saying very nice things! Perhaps some are familiar with that distinctive noise as well if they've been as unlucky as me with what I was told would be natural and wonderful.
After the delivery of my third baby I contemplated on the frustrating and painful experiences I'd had with my previous two children. Feeling determined, I geared up for success as the nurse handed me my beautiful, perfect baby girl. After all, despite the fact that I'd never actually been successful at breastfeeding, I considered myself somewhat of an expert. I'd read more books and pamphlets on how to breastfeed than I'd like to admit. I'd searched Internet sites and blogs for more information and tips. I knew all the positions, and what was most ideal in different situations. I knew how to tell if the latch was correct, and all the warning signs if it was not. Heck, I'd even practiced with my old Cabbage Patch doll. I felt I could even teach the sugarcoated class I attended at the local hospital before my first child was born.
And yet, despite all this, I threw in the towel for the third time after only one week of breastfeeding. I tried to dismiss the guilt and accept that I had failed again.
I suppose I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up too quickly. After the first try at breastfeeding my baby girl, the lactation specialist handed me some cream and Soothies and said, "Good luck with that." No - I thought to myself - this time would be different. And I continued on with the anxiety that comes every three hours when the baby starts looking for food. I thought I was making some progress after a few days, and that though the pain was getting worse, I was tough enough to handle it. Women all around me were doing this - I'm as tough as they are! Third time's the charm, right?
Wrong. After going home, things quickly deteriorated. I had to laugh when I saw the doctor's comments on my baby's discharge papers: "Infant mostly bites." I called the lactation department again in hopes for some secret I hadn't heard before.
"Yeah, those biters," the lactation specialist said, "it's really hard to get them to open big enough for a correct latch." Another nurse had exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! Her jaw is so tight." The writing was on the wall. Yes, my little clamper would join the club with her bottle-loving brothers.
Despite the disappointment, I knew that mentally I couldn't deal with the guilt again, so it was time for an attitude adjustment. I told myself that I am still a good mom, pulled out my supply of bottles, and sat down with my faithful friend: the breast pump, which is - hands down - my husband's least favorite way to be awoken in the middle of the night! He also knows that means he'll be getting up with baby too. Hey - there's one benefit to my failure. I found comfort in remembering that I can easily pack up and go and feed anywhere without scouring out appropriate places or worry about leaving my baby because she won't take a bottle. As with most things, there are pros and cons to both sides, but I've learned not to feel guilty or like I've failed. As long as our children are loved and fed - in whatever form - we've succeeded.
I may never qualify to teach the pre-birth class on the joys of breastfeeding, but looking at the bright side - I have become an expert in one area: the breast pump! Yes, three attempts at breastfeeding did not go as I'd hoped, but I have three beautiful, healthy children, and that's success enough for me.