When my first son was born, I was hell-bent on nursing. D-Mer had other plans.
I had seen several women around me succeed at nursing, and I just knew it would work for me. I had an emergency c section, and from the beginning, things didn’t go as planned. I was numb from the neck down, so my husband and nurse helped me get my first latch in recovery. I was shaking so badly that they struggled for a few minutes, but with the nurse’s help, we were able to get a latch. (Finally!)
By his one-week checkup, my son was already gaining weight. He was also a fussy, gassy, pukey mess. I was an over-producer. So many women kept telling me how lucky I was to be able to have an ample supply. What they didn’t see was my son screaming from gas pains, my bouts with mastitis, and clogged ducts. I pumped before every nursing session just to relieve some pressure, and slowly but surely, my supply leveled off. After a few weeks, however, my son still wasn’t happy. I tried a strict elimination diet free of soy and dairy. Still no success. Finally, we landed on meds for reflux, and my son became a happy go lucky guy. I felt as though I had won the breastfeeding battle and was so proud. With my second, I was not so fortunate.
When number two rolled around, I just knew I would succeed because I had all the tools from my first and a lactation consultant on call. My second came into the world via VBAC and was placed right on my chest. Within the first hour, he had successfully latched. He was like clockwork, nursing every 1-3 hours in the hospital. The doctors and nurses told me I had it down, and I left feeling reassured.
After being home for a few days, however, I knew something wasn’t right.
TMI alert- my nipples were bleeding, badly. My son continued to gain A LOT of weight, however, so everyone told me he was doing fine. Little did they know I was a bloody mess and too embarrassed to tell anyone about it.
Finally, after eight weeks, I broke down to my lactation consultant. She checked my son out, and sure enough, he had a lower and upper lip tie. Ahha! That was it. We went in and got them clipped. Quick and easy, although traumatic for us both. Immediately my son’s latch was better. Everything healed for my son and myself, and yet something wasn’t quite right.
Even though I wasn’t in pain, and he wasn’t at all fussy, I found no joy in nursing. I found dread. Every time my son let out a hungry cry, I winced. I attended a bachelorette party when he was five months and brought along my trusty pump. I hadn’t pumped a ton during the previous few months because my son didn’t take bottles until a bit later, but I knew I couldn’t escape this trip without it. I pumped every 3-4 hours, and with every session, the sense of dread and feelings of despair got worse.
I remember crying to my husband when I got home and throwing my pump across the kitchen because I just hated the feeling of pumping so much. My husband just looked at me and said, “something just isn’t right.” He encouraged me to reach out once again to my lactation consultant. After a long emotional conversation with her, she said it sounded like I had Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, D-Mer for short, which causes a negative physiological response to let down during nursing.
All at once, feelings of relief and guilt flooded me. I felt so relieved because there was a name for what I was feeling. I felt so much guilt because I was a fantastic producer with a hefty baby to show for it.
After a few weeks of trying some tips and tricks to overcome D-Mer, I knew it was time. I was at the end of my rope and needed to call it. I went to the store and picked up a few canisters of formula. That next day, I fed my son his first bottle of formula. A profound sense of relief washed over me. He looked up, smiling, and for the first time in our feeding relationship, I felt at peace.
He was happy, I was happy, and all was right.
This wasn’t at the way I thought my feeing journey with either of my children would go. What works for one woman doesn’t work for another, and the same goes for kids. Each pregnancy, birth, and child is so different. At the end of the day, both of my children are happy and healthy, and so am I. So if you see a mom feeding her baby, by the bottle, by breast, standing on one leg or on her head, simply smile, and let her know she is doing a great job.