‘Your breast milk is like skim milk.’ I felt alone and lost, like something was wrong with me.’: Mom shares stresses of breastfeeding journey

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“I always wanted to be a career woman. I never ever wanted children. You can ask anyone who knows me…I never did! God had a different plan. Music was my life, and I was going to do all kinds of things. But, I got married to an incredible man, and a couple of years later, it just happened.

I’m no stranger to anxiety and depression so when I did become pregnant by surprise…it was just that…a surprise! At first, I was sad and really shocked. I was 34 years old, and I had just started dance classes again and didn’t want to stop going. I had so many mixed emotions. I remember crying when I found out. My mind was going in a million different directions. Was I happy? I just was not sure.

Pregnant woman holds phone to take picture
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

I had a hard pregnancy. The anxiety was bad. I always was so scared something bad would happen. I couldn’t take my anxiety medication while I was pregnant, so many things were going on in my head! I felt so nauseated all the time. I had weeks of not eating well because the nausea was so bad.

By the 2nd trimester, I was over it. It was a tough pregnancy. My husband worked ALL day in the restaurant business, and I don’t drive (a whole other anxiety story). My parents helped out so so much, but most of the time I was pretty lonely at home by myself. My mental state was not the best. I was worried about how that would affect the baby too. I just remember it being a really tough time.

I didn’t know how I was going to be as a mother. It was not something I ever dreamed about. So many people I know had dreams of what motherhood would be like. I didn’t. But, when I started to see her move and kick was when something clicked for me. It was a beautiful experience feeling her move. So active!

Pregnant woman with belly exposed holds phone
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

I was very nervous about becoming a mother. My biggest fear was her having to deal with anxiety and depression like me. I didn’t want my daughter to experience those hardships, and I was terrified. Terrified of birth too!!! My mom and close family had to really help me through a lot during that time to calm my nerves. I don’t know what I would have done without their support. I know everyone doesn’t have that, so I know how blessed I was!

Pregnant woman sits on floor decorating nursery
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

Labor was one of the hardest things I have ever done! I had back labor which was so, so incredibly painful. I thought at times I was going to pass out from the pain. I was induced at 40 weeks and when that little pill kicked in, it was really, really hard. It took me forever to dilate, and then waiting for the epidural was tough as well. Many parts are a blur.

I’m a person who likes to be in control, so developing a fever in the hospital and having to do a C-section unexpectedly was tough as well. So many emotions and fears. A C-section was not in my plan! They rolled me in with my husband by my side (it was hard to leave my mom who was with me the entire time) to go to surgery. I was so so scared. Then, they gave me the medicine, and all I remember is seeing her and hearing her cry. I was so drugged, but it was so amazing too. She was beautiful. She got to leave with my husband, and I had to wait until the doctors were done with me first.

Newborn baby girl lying with mother in hospital
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

Meeting her for the first time was absolutely magical. This baby was mine! This beautiful little thing! Holding her was surreal. I truly felt breastfeeding was going to just come easy and natural. My family and most everyone told me breastfeeding would be best. I honestly didn’t think too much about it. Just that I would breastfeed. Breastfeeding was best right? You see all kinds of media that states it’s best. It kind of brainwashes you into thinking no other way is good. I didn’t buy any bottles or really read how to use my pump while I was pregnant because I just knew breastfeeding was going to be what I was going to do. How naive. I figured she would latch and that would be it. Very different story!

You see, breastfeeding was not the easy, natural way to go with my little Rebecca. After seeing more than 7 lactation specialists between the hospital and when we got home, my little girl never latched correctly. I felt like a failure. I will never forget…night two in the hospital and my nipples hurt so badly. She was knawing on those things like she was chewing gum!!! So painful. I was crying in agony and shame. I couldn’t even think. I could barely move, having had a C-section that morning! I was exhausted beyond anything I ever thought. But my baby was starving and needed to eat.

Mother lying in hospital bed with newborn baby
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

The nurse did not make me feel good about it either. The way she looked at me is something I will never forget. Like…how could you be tired? Your baby needs to eat. Then the nurse asked me, ‘Would you like for us to take her to the nursery and give her a bottle of formula so you can get some sleep?’ I said yes and thought I would never forgive myself. What about nipple confusion? Will she not want my breast? Will the formula be bad for her at only two days old? I was making myself insane!!

Mother lying in hospital bed with baby in bin
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau
Mother lying in hospital bed with baby
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

When we got home, I kept trying so many times with my baby to see if she would latch, but she just got so upset. She was hungry and tired. We saw one more lactation specialist, and that was the one who ended my trying. She told me my baby would not latch because she was a very anxious baby. She was so rude, so cold, and I left that office with nothing but shame and failure. My mental state was not great after that visit. I just felt alone and lost. Like something was wrong with me. That is not a great combination for a new mother.

Woman holds baby in her arms
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

I just remember this time being very hard. The anxiety and worry was like nothing I ever experienced before. My daughter had to go in for weight checks every few days at the doctor. That was so stressful. We would go and they would tell me she was too small and I wasn’t feeding her enough. My pediatrician pushed formula because she said my breast milk was like ‘skim milk’ and was not sufficient enough for her to thrive on. Do you know how hard it is to hear something like that? ‘I’m not good enough’ was all that was going through my head at this time. A new, tired, recovering mom does not need to hear things like that. I felt empty. But I still wanted to try to give this to my baby. Skim or not!

So then I started pumping. Exclusively. Every 2 to 3 hours. I was feeding Rebecca with a bottle of my expressed milk every two hours, then pumping afterwards to make more milk. I was not sleeping at all. I had to make milk!! It was a never-ending cycle…feed, pump, change diapers, comfort her, try to get her to sleep, while trying to get some sleep myself. I wasn’t eating correctly or sleeping the way I needed. But I had to make her food! That’s all I cared about!!

Pumping mother gives thumps up
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

My milk supply came in, but not like some of those women you see online who make 100 ounces a day. At most, I was making 20 to 24 ounces. Most days, I could keep up and be ahead while storing milk as well. I was able to have quite a good amount in the freezer because I was always staying ahead as much as I could. Pumping so much just for the purpose of storing. But again, I wasn’t sleeping well or eating well. To give you some idea of what my mental state was like, I was truly making myself neurotic. There was even a night where I read on Google that breast milk can go bad. In a panic, I went and smelled them all and convinced myself they were bad. In tears and sobbing hysterics, my husband caught me throwing the milk down the sink. Thank God he stopped me! But, that is how tired and out of my mind I was because I was not taking care of myself properly.

Woman pumping breastmilk
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

By the time she was 3 months old, my supply wasn’t enough. I just wasn’t making enough, and she needed to eat more. The pediatrician constantly told me my baby was underweight and wasn’t gaining the weight she needed to, so I had to bite the bullet and start feeding her formula. I still pumped every three hours so I could feed her half breast milk and half formula. It was so hard to feed her formula. It took quite a few tries to find the right one. Every time she would get sick from a particular brand or type, the guilt would consume me. Was I doing the right thing?? Guilt is one strong feeling and emotion. It consumes you until you obsess over it. There are so many thoughts as a new mom, and you never know if you are doing the right thing. We just kept trying because I knew I couldn’t make enough milk. That was simply the reality. When I finally found the right one, she started to chunk up, and I saw a truly happy baby. She was satisfied, full, content.

Mother with baby girl lying on her chest
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

Meanwhile, I was still pumping so she could have my breast milk. It was important to me. I told myself when I started this that I would do it for at least six months. I wanted to do it for a year, but at least six months for sure!!

The pressure I put on myself those six months to give her breast milk was so tough. I did want to keep giving her my milk, but after six months of not sleeping for more than 4 hours straight (even though she sleeps 10 hours through the night) was really starting to affect my body. I didn’t have a life. I was not taking care of myself and it was in my best interest to stop. I did the best I could. The very best!! I wanted the best for my baby girl!! But, I was done beating myself up for something I shouldn’t.

Mother feeding baby girl from bottle
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

There is nothing wrong with formula!! It’s the media, hospitals, and other judgy moms who have put this pressure on me as well as myself. ‘Breast is best‘ is all I heard so I sacrificed my freedom, time, energy, sleep, and breasts to do this for my daughter. But the time came to stop. For my sanity. For my health. My daughter needs a healthy, rested mom more than a few ounces of breast milk in each bottle. That was more important! It took me a long time to realize that.

To my breasts…thank you. I never gave you enough credit. For the gift you gave me and my daughter. I was so upset with you when this started. So so angry! She couldn’t latch because of you!!! It’s your fault!!! What was wrong with my breasts???!! Nothing. Nothing was wrong. You gave me the opportunity to feed my daughter the way God saw fit. Even though it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. You taught me strength, perseverance, and dedication. I’m so sorry I didn’t treat you well or appreciate you the way I should have from the beginning. I love you! For giving my daughter food and the chance for me to bond with her through my milk and from my body. What a gift!! Feeding her milk that came from me was a beautiful, priceless experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Baby girl wearing yellow shirt and pink cap
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

Rebecca is now a beautiful, smart, happy, perfect 3-year-old. Just because I didn’t breastfeed the way I wanted, doesn’t change the fact that this little girl is perfect just as she is. Mothers…don’t allow something like breastfeeding to ruin those precious moments with your new baby. Breast is not best…FED is best. Nourishing your baby and loving them fully. Being there for them no matter what. Keeping them safe, healthy, and happy is what matters! Trust your gut and know that loving your baby is what truly matters!”

Mother holds baby girl in her arms
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau
Little girl makes silly face in carseat
Courtesy of Rebekah Rougeau

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rebekah Rougeau. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories like this:

‘I noticed a decrease in my milk supply. ‘WTF is wrong with me?!!!’ The guilt was beginning to suffocate me.’: Breastfeeding mom urges ‘fed is best’ after switching to formula

‘Why aren’t you breastfeeding?’ My voice clipped from the wind punched out of my gut.’: Mom urges ‘you don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you feed your baby’

‘I knew I was going to give breastfeeding a go. I had a plan. If only it was that easy!’: Mom shares breastfeeding journey

‘My baby was STARVING. I felt like a failure.’: Mom shares breastfeeding struggles, urges ‘fed is best’

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