Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I Was Forced To Bottle Feed My Baby & It Ruined My Confidence

Ad failed to load

Within the hour after my son’s traumatic birth, he was already breastfeeding. A nurse came in and saw him latch, and though I felt unsure that everything was good and right, she nudged me on the shoulder and told me most first-time moms don’t have it so easy. I wanted to breastfeed exclusively, and had no plans of bottle feeding my infant, and I felt confident after her comment that everything was going according to plan. I never imagined a few days later that I'd be forced to bottle feed my newborn son.

Once I was wheeled away to a recovery room, things started to fall apart. I couldn’t tell if the latch was right, or if he was getting any milk. He wouldn’t stay at the breast for long, and I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Yet another nurse came in and watched him latch and proclaimed him an early pro. They told me I didn’t need to see a lactation consultant. My milk simply hadn’t come in yet, but it would soon, they assured me. Perhaps my new-mom jitters were simply getting the best of me. We were sent home with our tiny baby a mere day after he was born, even though I wanted to shout at the hospital staff: "Let me stay! Help me! I have no idea what I’m doing!"

Because in the haze of new motherhood, I had so many questions.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

When we got home, only one uncertain day passed before I was on the phone with a nurse airing my concerns. My son wasn’t nursing as well as I thought he should. Is he cluster feeding? they asked. “I don’t know. He’s sleeping so much and he doesn’t seem interested in breastfeeding.” Babies sleep a lot, is he lethargic? they asked. “I don’t know. I don’t know what is normal.” I didn’t know anything. Is he wetting enough diapers? “He isn’t going very much, but I don’t really know.”

She told me I was putting my baby in danger from dehydration. In fact, I'd done it already; that's was why he was here. He needed to eat, and for all she could tell, I wasn’t feeding him.
Ad failed to load

They chalked it up to new-mom phobia, and I sat wringing my hands until his three-day old appointment. When we arrived, I didn’t have time to tell them all my fears. They took one look at him and started running tests and called the hospital. He was severely jaundiced and dehydrated. I sat in a room holding his tiny hand while they tried to put an IV into his tiny, dried up veins for an hour. They put him under bilirubin lamps in a little plexiglass box and told me to take him out to feed him every couple of hours.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I was a wreck. Adjusting to being a new mom was hard enough without having my newborn out of my arms for most of the day. My milk still hadn’t come in, and I didn’t know what to do other than continue to try breastfeeding as often as they told me to. I felt like I was doing OK, but then a new nurse came in to check on us. She immediately started asking me about his feeding habits. I was exhausted and needed her to repeat some of her questions. I wasn’t sure exactly how much breast milk he was getting, or if he was getting any milk at all. I told her about how often and how long he was feeding but she was not impressed. "You need to feed him a bottle so I can see how much he’s eating," she said.

Ad failed to load

I felt really uncomfortable with the fact that she jumped immediately to bottle feeding. I was worried about nipple confusion and about the ease with which he may take to a bottle. I asked if there was some other way to tell how much milk he was getting. If there was any other way than the bottle, I'd take it. Then she threw out the ultimate trump card: she told me I was putting my baby in danger from dehydration. In fact, I'd done it already; that's was why he was here. He needed to eat, and for all she could tell, I wasn’t feeding him.

I felt like I couldn’t trust my body to provide for my baby. It took me nearly six months to feel like we really fell into a breastfeeding groove, and there were many, many moments I wanted to quit.
Courtesy of Gemma Hartley
Ad failed to load

I tearfully sent my husband out to get a breast pump and bottles from Target. It wasn’t a part of my plan, but my plans were obviously wrong. By the time my husband got back, my milk had come in and my breasts were engorged and aching. I sadly pumped instead of breastfeeding my baby, and the nurse came in again, instructing me to use the bottle so we could accurately measure his milk intake.

What I needed more than anything was somebody who stood in my corner and reminded me that my body could do this. What I got instead made me question my own confidence.

We were in the same hospital building where I gave birth. Just a floor or two away were plenty of lactation consultants (who I didn’t know I could request), ready to help me through our breastfeeding struggles. Instead I was forced to bottle-feed my newborn, putting our breastfeeding journey on an even rockier path than we'd been on. He still didn’t eat much, and for all I knew, he might have been getting the same amount — or more — from breastfeeding. He left the hospital a few days later, healthy, and ready to be home, but once again, I didn’t feel ready as a mother.

Ad failed to load

Though my son wasn’t completely turned off from breastfeeding once he used the bottle, my confidence was shaken from the experience. I felt like I couldn’t trust my body to provide for my baby. It took me nearly six months to feel like we really fell into a breastfeeding groove, and there were many, many moments I wanted to quit. I know that the lack of support I received in those early days was directly related to the feelings of inadequacy I felt as I waded uncertainly into motherhood. What I needed more than anything was somebody who stood in my corner and reminded me that my body could do this. What I got instead made me question my own confidence.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I wish I had someone who could have advocated for me in those early days when I needed breastfeeding support so badly. I wish they would have given me the lactation consultant I wanted in recovery, because even though everything “looked” good, I needed more than a quick pat on the back to feel confident enough to stand up for myself when someone told me I wasn’t enough for my baby. I needed to know my choice as a mother was valuable and respected. I needed to know that breastfeeding would be hard, but oh, so worth it.

Ad failed to load

Our story turned out fine. I breastfed for 15 months and loved it eventually. But our path didn’t need to be so hard. A little postpartum care instead of judgment would have gone a long way. I needed more, so much more, than the care I received as a new mother. No one should ever have made me feel like I was making the wrong choice by wanting to exclusively breastfeed, and if I could do it all over again, I would have stood my ground. I would have said no to that pushy nurse. I would have done what was right for my son and my family and, most importantly, me.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

9 Easy Kid Foods To Turn Green, Just In Time For St. Patrick's Day

The best part about having kids is that you get your own personal crew to celebrate the holidays with, in all your color coordinating and matching glory. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you are obviously working on turning everyth…
By Mishal Ali Zafar

Here Are Some Conditions That Might Require You To Be On Bed Rest During Pregnancy

When I worked in an office, I worked with quite a few pregnant ladies all at the same time. Something must have been in the water, because while I was there for three years, two of my coworkers got pregnant twice, and another girl was pregnant with h…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

I Didn't Follow The Pregnancy Diet Rules & My Daughter Turned Out Just Fine

My diet is an ever-changing and wholly personal thing, which is precisely why I refused to follow any pregnancy diet rules when I was expecting my daughter. For years, I've essentially practiced intuitive eating, in that I listen to my body and eat w…
By Marie Southard Ospina

5 Foods You & Your Partner Should Eat If You're Trying To Get Pregnant

When you're trying to conceive (TTC) and it's just not happening, it's easy to feel like you're doing something wrong. It can be soul-crushing to keep seeing negatives when all you really want to do is wave a positive pregnancy test in the air. So wh…
By Kate Miller