The Difficulties of Breastfeeding, a Special Needs Perspective

In honor of breastfeeding support week, I would like to share this with all of you. I wrote it a good while ago and decided to shelf it indefinitely. I think I’ve come to a place where I’m finally comfortable sharing. Enjoy!

Let me start by saying, a lot of people in the previous two generations do not understand breastfeeding. They bought in to the sales pitch that formula is better for your child. They believe bottles are better than the breast. The first time your child seems to struggle (even if only a little) being breastfed, the overwhelming response is that shoving a bottle of formula in their mouth will make everything better.

In order to balance this out, others have gone to the extreme to claim breastfeeding is best in all cases. There is never a situation where formula needs to be given, and if you give your child formula you’re denying them the chance to bond with you fully. The truth is in between, as is usually the case. There are situations where children need to be fed formulas. I didn’t know this when we started on our journey with our son, but there are formulas designed to help children with medical needs such as difficulty digesting and unknown allergies.

In the time I breastfed my son, I was amazed at how unsupportive people were about it. Cover or not, some people would not sit in the same room with me breastfeeding my son.  I felt like I was doing something filthy or wrong. I was frequently ushered off behind a closed door when I needed to feed my son away from home. It was very lonely. He was a slow feeder then and never seemed to get completely full. On bad days I would spend 75% of my time visiting locked away, having to choose between eating and drinking or letting my son nurse as long as he wanted.

I did not continue to breastfeed. Not because I didn’t want to, but because the only way my son would gain weight is if he was on the breast every two hours. His doctor insisted this wasn’t sustainable and pushed us into bottle feeding him every 3-4 hours for a week. If I’m being honest with myself, it probably wasn’t. I was willing to do it anyway. We initially thought he was a slow bottle feeder because he just wasn’t hungry enough to eat away from the breast. This wasn’t true. He couldn’t bottle feed effectively without chin and cheek support, which we didn’t know to provide. He gained no weight the week we transitioned. Switching to the bottle, filled with breastmilk, was the last thing we tried before we ended up taking him into the hospital.

I fully support anyone who wishes to breastfeed, and as more women do I pray that it gains acceptance. It doesn’t work out for everyone, but some people stop just because of the way they’re treated when they feed their child. You don’t need to stop. It’s their problem, not yours. You are not doing something filthy or gross. You do not need to hide the fact that you’re feeding your baby. If you need to switch to formula, or that’s just what works best for you and your family, I fully support that too! Please, whichever you choose, treat others that choose differently with respect. There aren’t many kinder things you can do for someone than to make them feel comfortable with their choice, even if you don’t agree.

4 responses

  1. Tova had tongue tie; she wasn’t gaining enough weight at first, and the doctor suggested supplementing. When we refused, she gave us the “option” of feeding every two hours, day and night, to see if she would gain weight. In those days (and sometimes still), it took her an hour to nurse. We were nursing an hour on, an hour off (when the doctor saw she was gaining weight, she let us do every three, then four, hours at night, but still every 2 during the day), until she was two and a half months old, and finally got the tongue clipped. After that it started getting better, but slowly.
    It. Was. Awful.
    But hey, we made it sans formula!
    I read your story and think, “Thank G-d that wasn’t us, I was so so scared, please please no more scares, just healthy kids.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved breastfeeding and wished I could have done it longer with my girls, but ran out of milk at 9 and 6 months. I feel a bit jealous when I see people out feeding and wish it could be me!

    Read most of your blog posts this morning, love your writing xx

    Liked by 1 person

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