How feeding my baby taught me to let go of control
Like many women, I intended to breastfeed. I envisioned myself as a confident boundary-pusher, someone who would feed her baby straight from the tap, wherever we happened to be. Boob out at brunch? No problem.
What’s that saying about the best-laid plans? My baby simply declined the breast, like a restaurant patron sending back an overcooked steak. Still in the hospital, I chalked it up to exhaustion from his having been vaginally expelled into a cold, harsh world. Despite the L&D nurses’ repeated attempts, my son could not or would not latch. I hand-expressed drops of egg yolk-colored colostrum into a syringe so we could feed him like an injured bird.
Also, he was small. “Oh, a little peanut baby!” the OB exclaimed as she pulled him from my body. Everyone in the hospital remarked on his size. I didn’t sleep for roughly 72 straight hours after giving birth; a potent cocktail of hormones, adrenaline, and anxiety convinced my brain that my baby, after years of wanting him and months of growing him, was going to waste away in front of my eyes. So we gave him a bottle. And we never looked back.
Over the next eight months or so, I pumped anywhere from 10–12 times a day in order to feed him breast milk. If you’ve never experienced an electric breast pump firsthand, it’s hard to imagine how torturous it is. It is wildly stimulating yet wholly unpleasant, and above all, it is deathly boring. I spent, according to my back-of-the-envelope math, roughly 800 hours of my life extracting milk from myself via machine, all because my baby preferred a synthetic nipple.
But that isn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was how horrible I was to myself. How I berated myself night and day for “failing” at breastfeeding. How I apologized to my son for having let him down. How I cried fat hot tears in the nursery — a special room literally named for the act of feeding one’s baby at the breast — while I fed my son pumped breast milk from a Dr. Brown’s bottle.
After weeks of trying to coax my baby into latching, as a last resort I hired an expensive lactation consultant who observed our bottle feedings and diagnosed my baby as a “lazy eater.”