When a woman loses a baby, there is understandably a time of grief that can last weeks, months or even years. However, there is a less talked about type of sadness or grief that a woman might experience - when breastfeeding doesn't go as planned. Although most women are able to breastfeed, there are a few women who cannot seem to bring in a full milk supply, have strong reactions during a nursing session such as in Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or who have to take medications or undergo chemotherapy when they had planned to be breastfeeding. As with all those who have lost children, my heart also goes out to you who are unable to breastfeed exclusively or at all.
Just the other day after hearing that a woman I know will probably not be able to breastfeed exclusively, I felt a wave of empathy for her and became teary eyed. Although I am sure she is thrilled to have a beautiful baby, I would imagine that she feels sad, wonders why she cannot seem to produce more milk for her nursling, and is mourning the loss of a dream. Breastfeeding my own children has been such a major part of my life for so many years now. It so special, and I want all women to have the experience of holding their little baby's hand while nursing or seeing the joy in a toddler's face when they catch a glimpse of their "nursies."
If you are unable to nurse exclusively, remember that every drop of breast milk you give to your sweet baby is liquid gold and will benefit him! Your baby is blessed to have you as his mother - that is something I find myself saying to nursing moms that I help and it is so true! Hold your baby in your arms while you feed him. Savor the times during the day when you do nurse him. Formula is like medicine; there are even some lactation consultants that suggest it be kept with the medicines on the maternity ward. Just like sometimes you need an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, formula is for those times when extra nursing sessions, pumping, possibly consuming herbal supplements and foods like oatmeal, and breast compressions do not increase your supply at all or enough. What a blessing it is to live at a time when we have access to this type of "medicine" so your baby can thrive. Remember that even if you are only able to provide just a small percentage of your baby's milk needs through breastfeeding, you are still a breastfeeding mom and you are doing a great job!
To those who desire to breastfeed but are unable to or for those for whom breastfeeding is contraindicated...this is another situation where "medicine" is in order, just more of it. Just like a type 1 diabetic who can no longer produce any insulin on her own needs to take regular shots or use an insulin pump, your baby requires the live saving medicine called formula. Be gentle with yourself! Hold your baby in a nursing position while feeding him. Be sensitive to his needs and snuggle him often. You are doing your best and God knows what is your heart - wanting the best for your child!