Dina Leygerman
I Blamed Myself For Not Being Able To Breastfeed

by Dina Leygerman

Moms tend to blame themselves for everything. I think once the baby passes through the birth canal, women are automatically given an extra guilt gene. This guilt gene affects even the most level-headed women, too, and my guilt gene is undeniably strong. Since I blame myself for pretty much everything that happens to and with my children, it was no surprise when I blamed myself for not being able to breastfeed my firstborn. I must admit, I naively believed breastfeeding wouldn't be a big deal. In fact, I thought breastfeeding my baby was going to be a given. I mean, obviously I'm going to breastfeed, so it'll be a breeze, right?

I truly believed the only reason women didn't breastfeed their babies was because they chose not to, or had some sort of a medical reason for why they couldn't. I had absolutely no idea that sometimes breastfeeding just doesn't work out. I had no idea that breastfeeding could be difficult. I had no idea that, for so many women, wanting to breastfeed doesn't automatically mean you can breastfeed. It's less a choice, and more a matter of chance.

When I had my daughter in 2009, I didn't have any close friends who were moms. I was the first one, for a long time, out of all of my friends to have a kid. I did not belong to any support groups. There was not a plethora of online articles about the heartaches of childbirth, or the intricacies of postpartum life, or the difficulties of breastfeeding. I had a few parenting books that were hardly helpful, my mother and her earned knowledge, and my common sense. That used to be enough. The world believed that was enough.

But that wasn't enough. If I had the same amount of information back then that is now available to all new moms, I could have potentially not suffered as much as I did. If I had just known I wasn't the only one struggling to breastfeed maybe I would have been less hard on myself. Maybe I would have been less critical and more supportive of my own choices. Maybe I wouldn't think I was the worst mom who had ever walked this earth.

Because I Thought I Gave Up Too Quickly

We came home from the hospital and I still had no milk. My child was hysterical, she couldn't properly latch, and when she attempted to latch I thought I was going to die from the pain. I honestly thought I wasn't meant to breastfeed and that my nipples were just way too sensitive for breastfeeding. I figured I couldn't do it and I gave up.

Later, I realized that breastfeeding often takes patience and practice, and I blamed myself for not sticking with it long enough to get past the growing pains.

Because I Shouldn't Have Trusted The Nurse Who Told Me I Had To Use The Nipple Shield

When the lactation nurse came, she looked at me once and immediately decided my nipples were flat and I needed a nipple shield. I rue the day I listened to that nurse, because to this day I believe that nipple shield was the demise of my breastfeeding. The nipple shield became a crutch instead of assistance. My daughter's mouth was too small to properly latch on to the nipple shield, so she was hysterical each time she tried. When she was somewhat successful, the nipple shield would fill with blood and I could not stand the sight of any of it. It was horrible.

Not to mention, I'd have to wet it before each feed, wash it after each feed, it was so much trouble and it wasn't even helpful.

Because I Should've Found A Way To Pay For A Lactation Consultant

After we came home I called around to speak with numerous lactation consultants. A few gave some advice over the phone, but said I'd have to come to them and pay a fee if I wanted any additional information. I no longer remember what the fee was, but I remember not being able to afford it. I later blamed myself for not finding a way to pay for professional help, because I believe it could have saved breastfeeding for me.

Because Maybe My Baby Wouldn't Have Had Jaundice Or Colic Or Acid Reflux

My newborn had everything. She started out with jaundice, then she grew right into colic, and then she topped it all off with acid reflux. I couldn't help but think that if I had only breastfed, both my baby and I would not have suffered as much as we did. It didn't help that my son, who I did breastfeed, did not have colic or acid reflux. (He did have jaundice though.)

Because I Should've Taken The Breastfeeding Class

I was the only second-time parent in the breastfeeding class offered by my hospital to expecting moms. When I was pregnant with my first, I thought it was silly to take a breastfeeding class because, well, breastfeeding is totally natural, right? I mean, women have been nursing their children since the beginning of time. Why the hell would I need to spend the money for a class that will teach me how to shove my boob into a newborn's mouth. "It's OK," I thought, "I got this."

Well, I didn't "get it" at all. So, the second time around I was the model student in that class.

Because I Should've Found More Support

While I couldn't afford lactation consultants, I should have found other resources. The second time around I found a few extremely supportive and helpful Facebook groups for breastfeeding moms. I honestly don't know if they even existed back in 2009, but I never even tried. I was extremely overwhelmed with a newborn and honestly just felt defeated and exhausted.

Because There Was Obviously Something Wrong With Me

I blamed myself because I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought, since breastfeeding didn't just happen, I was broken. Why could all of these people I knew effortlessly plop their babies on their breasts without wincing in agony, and I couldn't? Why was it "natural" for them but not for me? Why not me?

Because I Should've Prepared More

I thought I thoroughly prepared for the baby's arrival. I researched all of the baby gear, from the softest bib to the safest carseat. I found the best breast pump, the organic soaps, and the greatest stroller. And yet, I did virtually no preparation for breastfeeding. None. I figured one cannot prepare for such a natural thing because this thing just works. I was so, so wrong. I blamed myself for my ignorance for a long time.

Because I Wasn't Able To "Properly" Bond With My Baby

"Breastfeeding is the most beautiful, most natural way to bond with your baby," people would say and I'd want to cry. I know, I wasn't "properly" bonding with my baby. I get it. I suck.

So, yeah. I blamed myself. I blamed myself for everything, really, but mostly for this perceived failure. Because, while other women were effortlessly breastfeeding around me, I couldn't do it. I wasn't willing to "tough it out," I guess. Honestly, though, I was just trying to survive having a newborn, and that moment surviving meant switching to a pump and salvaging whatever was left of my sanity.