A mum before any of my friends, I didn’t even know breastfeeding problems were a thing until right after my delivery, when a nurse ogled my breasts and pronounced them unfit for nursing. I had been a mum for less than 2 hours, and already I was (pardon the pun) sucking at it. We got lactation help in the hospital, and despite my less-than-perfect inverted nipples, and it seemed like my daughter was eating.
But when we got home, it all went to hell. She refused to latch, and cried every time I put her at my breast. I pumped and fed her via a finger feeder so she wouldn’t get used to a bottle. But the feeder tubes -- really hard for one person to operate -- kept breaking, the latch was still not happening, and my husband/feeding assistant was going back to work. I never knew if I should leave my breasts full, or if I would end up needing to pump as she screamed in hunger. I read everything I could, but I just couldn’t get nursing to work. More than $1000 in private lactation assistance help didn’t help either. I dreaded feeding time -- which happened every 2 hours -- so I spent the majority of my day in a dark cloud.
So I gave up. Sort of. I pumped exclusively and bottle-fed until soon after I went to work, announcing in preemptive defensiveness to anyone that would listen that it was breast milk, not formula, in the bottle. Then, sick of lugging the pump everywhere and trying to cram pumping between meetings, I switched to formula.
I had failed at nursing, and so that must mean I was failing at being a mum. I plodded along through the first year but doubted every decision, and began to view even my emergency C-section as a fail.
I took a job at a parenting publication just as social media was exploding, and saw all my private fears confirmed as breastfeeding zealots found a platform to crow that problems like low supply weren’t real, bad latch could be fixed, nursing shouldn’t hurt and formula was poison. What were they hoping to accomplish? Shame is not breastfeeding support. Often, the spewing was offered in the spirit of “education,” but sometimes the facts flew in the face of what I and other people I knew had experienced.