A First-Time Mom's Struggle With Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding
At the time of writing this, my newborn daughter is only 5 weeks old, but let me tell you, it feels like she's been around for years, and I can barely remember life without her. I continue to find new levels of love and would not trade her for anything in the world! That being said, these have been the most challenging five weeks of my life.
While it's pretty obvious that parenting is a rough gig, there's just so much that no one could have ever prepared me for. There are things that other moms either don't experience or just don't talk about. I'm not just talking about the late nights and the ear-splitting cries (like my daughter did when she met people for the first time). This article discusses two of my biggest struggles: having postpartum depression and breastfeeding.
My Struggle With Postpartum Depression and Bonding With My Daughter
I feel like there are so many false images of what will happen when your baby arrives. For instance, you believe you are supposed to have this instant connection with your child. Well, let me tell you, that's not always the case. Maybe for some people, but I can honestly say that wasn't the case for me. Isn't that why it's called bonding? It took some time (at least the first week) to create a bond with my daughter to then feel like I could connect with her. And I believe that it's the same for her. I didn't expect her to instantly trust me or even truly know who I was right away. I almost feel like I had to convince myself of the connection. Plus, having a child is a major life-change; continuously staring at my daughter's face and saying, "I love you" over and over really helped me mentally to make the connection that I now have a child. And kisses! Lots of kisses all over those squishy cheeks! But no mom would want to admit they felt this way at the risk of feeling—or people thinking—that they are a bad mom.
I really hate this word: depression (postpartum depression to be exact). I hate it so much that I don't even want to admit that I was struggling with it. I cried a lot—every day (several times a day) for the first two and a half weeks after we came home from the hospital. Actually, thinking about it now, I remember even crying one night in the hospital while trying to breastfeed my baby. Breastfeeding in itself can be a difficult thing, especially if you're like me and don't really have the nipples that are required for the task. I started feeling less-than because I had to use one of those shields. No wonder why I wasn't bonding with my child right away—there was this stupid piece of silicone coming between us.
What It's Like to Have Trouble Breastfeeding
The stress of breastfeeding really was my enemy. Because of that stress, I wasn't able to be at 100% mentally and emotionally—heck, even physically. My mental state was interfering with the bond I was so desperately trying to make with my baby girl. Needless to say, breastfeeding took its toll on me, starting on day one. I felt so violated by all the nurses squeezing my nipples and breasts and just watching my bare flesh enter my baby's mouth for two days. I felt used and judged. I was so scarred from it that after coming home from the hospital I was terrified to go out in public for fear that I would have to breastfeed and people would be watching. To combat this, I bought a breast pump so I could have pre-pumped bottles ready for when we are out in public. I felt like this was going to be so wonderful, and it was amazing to feel brave enough to go on my first outing since giving birth almost twice weeks prior.
The challenges continued though as I found it difficult to figure out coordinating pumping and breastfeeding. My body didn't seem to be able to produce enough milk to do both, so I made the decision to strictly pump and feed with a bottle. I figured it would be easy because I would just pump before every feeding. So there I was, pumping every two hours and feeding my little one in between. My mind literally revolved around her food. One hour I'm pumping, the next I'm feeding her. The next hour I'm pumping, and there I go again feeding her. There was no time to even feel like I could have a moment to think about myself. I wasn't eating or sleeping; I was lucky if I could manage to get a sip of water. My husband would have loved to help me in every way possible, but he wasn't able to go on paternity leave. He did all that he could to help me while he was home evenings and weekends, but there was a constant cycle of worries in my mind. That is what he couldn't help me with. How could I go on like this? I couldn't. We started to supplement with formula for night feedings, giving me a little break and giving my husband more opportunities to bond with his daughter.
Why I Decided to Convert Entirely to Formula
If my plan was to feed only breastmilk, it seemed pretty obvious that adding formula was not a good idea. Adding formula to my girl's diet meant that I was now pumping less. I remember being in complete shock when one day I was only able to get a total of two ounces out—when it had just previously been a whopping ten ounces. Not only that, but it seemed as if one of my breasts was completely dried up! That was enough. Why was I putting myself through such anguish? It was time to end my misery and convert entirely to formula.
This was the best decision I could have made. Almost right away, that fog that was constantly looming over my mind started to clear up. I finally felt like I could give my little girl all that she needed. There was joy again! I seemed to be able to do normal daily chores that I didn't feel I could do before. I felt like my husband had his wife again. Not only could I care for my child better, but I could care for my husband and myself again. Thank God!
If there was to be a "call to arms" message, it would be this: do what is best for you, your child, and your family. There are so many disputes about breastfeeding versus formula. No doubt that breast is best. But there shouldn't be any of the shame or guilt associated with formula feeding that I often see. Not to mention that the formulas that are made these days are getting better and better. Things have been really great these last couple of weeks, and I have such an incredible connection with my daughter now. I finally feel as if I can enjoy the wonderful gift of motherhood!
Do/did you breastfeed or bottle feed?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Krysten Ziramba