When I was pregnant, I made all the plans. As a first-time mom, I wasn’t sure what to expect once I was done expecting. I figured if I read all the books and talked to all the people, I’d be able to assemble the perfect system to take care of my newborn. A perfect plan would clearly make me the perfect mom. The most exciting part of my new plan was the section on breastfeeding.
Little did I know, my son had plans of his own in that department.
I Was Ready to Breastfeed—I Never Expected My Son Not To Be
While I rested my swollen Hobbit-sized feet, I prepared to feed my son through breastfeeding in any way I could. I conducted surveys with mom friends, checked out popular baby websites, and read books. All of my studies consistently led me to one conclusion: my breasts were magical. Breast milk contained antibodies that would help my baby fight off viruses and bacteria and also reduce the risk of disease. Breast feeding would help my uterus contract and release feel-good bonding hormones. Breast milk would help us both and I couldn’t wait to breastfeed my baby.
“All of my studies consistently led me to one conclusion: my breasts were magical.”
Finally, after 26-hours of labor and an emergency C-section (none of which was on my birthing plan, by the way), it was time to breastfeed my son. My sleep-deprived brain conjured up the loveliest of visions for this first milestone. It would be glorious. I would remember these heartfelt scenes when my grown-up kid waved goodbye on his first day of school or as a teenager when he pleaded, “Mom, I’m the only kid with a 7:30 curfew!”
I was so ready to deepen our growing connection, but there was one major problem: my son refused to latch.
At first, I thought the angle must be the problem. The hospital lactation consultant was consulted and I attempted all of the different nursing positions. We checked out the ever-popular cradle hold. When that didn’t work, we moved on to the football hold—not that I’d ever held a football. This one allowed me to cradle his head in my hand so I could guide his latch, but it didn’t score us a touchdown. The lactation consultant saw my heartbreak. Each time my newborn didn’t nurse perfectly she’d say, “Sometimes it just takes time to find your groove.” But the more my son and I tried and failed, the more I felt like a failure.
Finding a New Plan
When my little guy and I went home, we went straight to the pediatrician and another lactation consultant. We looked to see if he was swallowing. We listened to the tiny sounds of him sucking my nipples off. I knew my dry, cracked nipples were going to ignite and burst into flames at any moment—another reason to assume there were issues. The consultant suggested it was a combination of a lazy latch and perhaps my magical boobs being not-so-magical after all. Maybe I wasn’t making enough milk to satisfy him. It was time to supplement with baby formula.
Following orders, I supplemented and continued to try to breastfeed. Every time I scooped out the powder for the formula, chunks of my heart got scooped out with it. My first big parenting plan was a flop and I couldn’t help but feel this meant I was a total flop as a parent. My insecurities as a mother rose, unlike my oxytocin levels. But I stuck with the plan because that what good moms do.
“The consultant suggested it was a combination of a lazy latch and perhaps my magical boobs being not-so-magical after all.”
I was exhausted trying to keep up and eventually, through a scary bout with thrush for both me and my baby, I finally decided on a new plan. I realized that the reason I had derived my original plan was to help me feel confident as a new mom—but the more I pushed my agenda, the more my confidence left me. I was hiding behind pre-made rules that weren’t working. I didn’t think this was what parenting was all about.
It was time to make a different plan that supported my son’s needs.
In motherhood, “going with the flow” can be the plan—or in my case, “going with the milk flow.” It was clear that I needed to work out a Plan B. It was tricky to release my original perfect image, but that vision wouldn’t feed my son.
He loved his bottle, so our new plan involved me using my breast pump to bottle my magical milk and bottle-feeding. And although the new plan wasn’t what I had envisioned, its helped me to realize that the only plan to have as a parent might just be no plan at all. Because motherhood isn’t about being there to create a “perfect” plan, but about being able to recognize when a new plan is the best path—for everyone.
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