THE BLOG
08/08/2014 02:24 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2014

My First (and Last) 10 Days of Breastfeeding

Alexis Castellano

Avery was born on a cold Monday afternoon in March. When the nurse placed her naked body on my bare chest, skin to skin, we warmed each other. Tears slithered from my eyes without limitation, down my cheeks and onto my baby girl, melting into her peach complexion. I waited so long for this moment. Four miscarriages, two years to the day of my first D&C, and my daughter was here, finally.

In the parenting-prep class my husband and I attended one month before, the nurse asked who planned to breastfeed and I raised my hand confidently. I spent hours in a Manhattan store called The Upper Breast Side, purchased the necessary supplies -- nursing pads, bras, pillows and lotions. I watched my friends nurse their newborns, and I was determined to do the same.

Breastfeeding would come naturally to me, I believed. I sat in the hospital bed, waiting for Avery, excited for this experience. When the nurse wheeled her in, she was clean from her first bath and tightly swaddled. My husband brought her to me, and I spent a painful hour trying to feed her. It wasn't working. "Why don't you try sitting in the chair?" the nurse suggested. I maneuvered to the visitor's chair and tried again, this time on the other breast. Still no luck, and now I had two throbbing nipples.

So, it didn't come naturally, but I wasn't about to give up. I met with a nursing "specialist" who was kind and helpful. Or kind of helpful. She showed me different positions, how to maneuver my nipple for the best possible latch. The modesty that resided in me went out the window and disappeared into the New York City air; I didn't care that this stranger was grabbing my breast and thrusting it into Avery's mouth. I would do anything to make this work.

The following day I left the hospital; I still believed that breastfeeding was my only option. Day after day, I sat in the sage green rocker in Avery's room, trying to feed her. I used to sit alone in that same chair, pregnant, imagining myself bonding with her. Now, as I brought her to my chest, she'd latch and my eyes would bulge with the initial shock of pain. I'd slowly relax and feed her for one hour, switch sides for another hour. Only to do this again two hours later. Where was the magical connection I had longed for? I didn't feel like I was giving life to my daughter; I felt like she was sucking the life out of me.

I was miserable for the first 10 days of my child's life. Breastfeeding was hard, but you were supposed to see it through, you shouldn't give up. It would get easier. It would become natural. On Avery's eleventh morning, she had a meltdown after I nursed her for two straight hours.

I turned to my husband in desperation and said: "Let's try formula."

He looked at me with eyes that said whatever you want, whatever you need.

"But what about nipple confusion?" I asked in a panicky voice. "The lactation lady from the hospital said not to use bottles."

He thought a moment.

"How about a medicine cup?" he said. "The nurse gave me a bunch to take home."

I nodded, and he slowly poured formula into Avery's mouth. My infant was drinking out of a cup.

That day my mother was over our house. She had nursed her two children for six months and fought through breast infections and bleeding nipples. As she watched the scene unfold, she turned to us and shouted: "What is wrong with you two? Give her a fucking bottle!"

I melted. I held onto Avery and cried, nodded, obeyed, pleaded and thanked my mother without saying a word. My husband put the rest of the formula into a bottle and fed Avery while I sat on the couch, savoring the silence, and the freedom.

It only took a week for me to stop feeling like a total failure. I was at the pediatrician. "Are you breastfeeding?" she asked among her routine questions. I looked to the floor. "I did for 10 days. But I stopped."

"Don't feel bad!" she said.

I looked up.

"I didn't breastfeed my children," she continued. "It's not for everyone."

She was a medical professional telling me it was okay not to breastfeed. There was another acceptable option.

"And besides," she said, "if you're stressed about it, you'll make bad milk."

I learned, right then, my first and most important parenting lesson. There is no universal answer. There is more than one way to go. What works for you, might not work for me. From that day on, I'd sit happily in Avery's rocker, feeding her bottles while gazing into her beautiful brown eyes. I cherished these quiet moments that we shared together. That's where the magic was, for me.

This article is part of HuffPost Parents' World Breastfeeding Week series. Read more here.