The United States Breastfeeding Committee has named August National Breastfeeding Month, a time to focus on protecting and supporting breastfeeding in the U.S. In observance, HuffPost Parents is launching "The Breastfeeding Chronicles," a series of interviews with mothers whose stories show something as seemingly simple as breastfeeding is, in truth, fraught with hopes, challenges, sadness and joy. To kick things off, Tiana, 32, a Chicago-based work-from-home mom, opens up about the first wrenching weeks she spent trying to nurse her now 9-month-old baby boy, Griffin, and how the duo eventually found their way.
I feel like I had healthy expectations for what breastfeeding would be like. I've belonged to a couple of moms' groups since I was pregnant, and we talked about it. I didn't think it would be easy, but I had no idea how difficult it was going to be.
I wanted a natural birth. If I fell short, fine, but I wanted to try it. About 10 hours in, I reached my limit, so I got an epidural. My contractions slowed down, so they gave me Pitocin, which made them longer and also made my son's heart rate drop. When it happened a second time, my doctors decided they just needed to get him out, so I had a C-section.
Because of how everything else had gone with my birth, I was determined: I was not giving up breastfeeding. I was like: This is the last thing on my wish list of what I wanted for my son early on, and I'm not giving it up.
A Rough Turn
As soon as I was in the recovery room, we did skin-to-skin. It seemed like everything was going great, except I wasn't producing any milk or colostrum. The in-hospital lactation consultant came in and squeezed my breast really hard. She was like, "There's colostrum in there! I know there is!" but Griffin was dropping too much weight, and he was also jaundiced. On day three, the doctor came in and said, "We want you to give him formula." I burst into tears. My husband wasn't there. He had gone home to take care of the dogs, so it was just me and this doctor saying, "Formula," and I lost it. It seemed like I was failing my son at every turn.
One of the nurses hooked me up to a makeshift SNS system -- she taped a feeding tube to my breast, and my husband held up a bottle of pumped milk. [A supplemental nursing system, or SNS, has a container filled with formula or breast milk that is attached to a thin tube. That tube is taped to a woman's breast, so when the baby feeds, he ingests food from the nipple and the system.]
On Our Own
When we got home, I immediately called a lactation consultant I'd heard of at my moms' group, who came the next day and gave me this huge supply list. We sent my husband, Thomas, to get a real SNS system ... fenugreek ... oatmeal.
People always say, "Nap with the baby," but I couldn't. I was prepping this SNS system, taping it down onto myself, feeding him, burping him, then I'd have to hand him off to my husband, clean the SNS system, pump, clean the pump parts -- and by that point, he was going to wake up in half an hour to start all over again. He also wasn't latching purposefully.
The whole situation was beyond stressful. There were several days when I was just crying -- and my son was crying. At the week-and-a-half mark, I said to my husband, "Maybe we just need to give him formula. Maybe I'm trying too hard for this and not for the right reasons. Maybe I'm being stubborn and not making the better choice for our son."
The Turning Point
It took a couple of weeks for him to really, really latch, and that's when I realized we didn't need the SNS any more. It was my choice. One day, he was crying and I gave him a bottle full of breast milk instead of the SNS. He took two sips and then tried to latch again, and I thought, "Let's just see for a couple of days how we do if it's just the two of us."
Now it's easy. He's been breastfeeding exclusively for nine months, and we have our routine down -- we night-nurse and co-sleep. I've got the cues about when he's hungry down, and he knows what's going on. We're really comfortable nursing in public. In the beginning we weren't, not because I was worried about someone seeing my nipples, but because I was worried about people seeing me not knowing what I was doing. I think sometimes women see other women breastfeeding, and they think, "It's easy for everyone but me." But you don't see women out in the first two weeks after their babies are born, struggling when they're still so delicate. You assume that what you see at nine months is what it's always been.
I can totally see how if you don't have as much support as I did -- my husband was phenomenal, I had the moms' groups, friends who breastfed, the lactation consultant -- you'd turn to formula. It's a good choice. It's feeding your baby, and that's the goal.
I want to breastfeed for at least one year. A year is the mark. Beyond that, we'll see how it goes.
The bonding with my son is my favorite part of breastfeeding. It's not like every moment we're nursing is, like, "Aww, what a beautiful moment!" Some days, it's not. Some days, he's nursing and I'm just trying to type an email. But having this relationship that he can't have with anybody else means a lot to me.
This account has been edited and condensed.
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1-7), HuffPost Parents is participating in "I Support You," an initiative to collect photos and messages from mothers to each other that say we might lead different lives but we share wanting the best for our children. Find out more here.