In a recent interview with the British morning show “GMTV,” Angelina Jolie admitted that she struggled with breastfeeding her twins, Vivienne and Knox, and confessed that she quit after three months. “(That was) about as much as I could do.”
“There’s this football hold — it’s a lot harder than it looks in the books,” she said in the interview. “You think, ‘Ah, if anybody can do that, I can do that.’”
Funny…that’s EXACTLY what I thought. I mean, how hard could it be?? And as the oldest of four kids, I remember watching my mother breastfeeding my younger brother and sister, so there was never a question that I would breastfeed my children…I just always knew that I would. And I also knew that I’d do it for at least a year (I mean, come on, if the American Academy of Pediatrics says that’s how long you do it for…hell, that’s how long I was going to do it for…I’m nothing if not a rule follower).
Unfortunately, it didn’t work quite out like that for me.
Here’s a somewhat brief synopsis of my breastfeeding experience:
- Baby hospitalized at one week old for “failure to thrive” because apparently, my milk hadn’t come in and he was STARVING; Doctor prescribed some drug (can’t remember the name) to jumpstart my milk production; Rented heavy duty pumping machine from the hospital to get those mammaries a goin’.
- Drug turned my boobs into hot lava boulders hanging precariously from my body by…oh, that’s right…SKIN! If anyone touches me…I scream.
- Milk finally comes in.
- Baby is still starving. Visit lactation consultant at hospital. She weighs baby before and after I feed him. It appears after nursing him for 20 minutes on each breast he only consumed one oz. of milk. She’s confused. Looks at my breasts…good nipples. Checks baby’s sucking reflex…good strong suck. Sends me home with some feeding contraption with a long thin tube that I fill with breast milk or formula and then tape to my boob so that both the baby and my breasts think they’re breastfeeding and “won’t get lazy”.
- Breastfeed with feeding contraption. Major hassle…have to clean tube thorougly after each use, so in addition to giving the baby supplemental breastmilk or formula AND pumping after each feeding, I have morphed into a human cow. Haven’t washed my hair in a week.
- Despite following every breastfeeding book I could get my hands on, the constant pumping (which on a really good day yielded only a couple of ounces of breastmilk), the feeding contraption, and not giving the baby a pacifier or a regular bottle so he wouldn’t get “nipple confusion”, I’m still unable to exclusively breastfeed my son. Something I always expected (and wanted) to do. I feel like a failure.
Now that my rugrat is almost 10 years old (and the healthiest kid I know despite being fed, dare I say it…FORMULA), I can almost think back to those painful months without crying. My breastfeeding experience wasn’t what I’d hoped for and to be honest, I feel jipped.
But despite the major beating I inflicted on myself, I still suffered from judgemental looks and comments from friends and other new moms when they found out that I’d weaned my son after only 6 months (which to be honest, I view now as a major accomplishment). These women should have been my biggest support. Instead, they were the biggest reminders of what I’d deemed at the time to be my biggest failure.
So, as I read about Angelina and her breastfeeding struggles and the subsequent comments and criticisms from bloggers, I find myself wishing they’d just lay off. True, maybe she opened herself up to the grief after making her breastfeeding a public affair (see picture above). And I, for one, HATE celebrities that put out this life-is-totally-perfect-and-wonderful image when in reality they’re dealing with the same crap we all have to deal with.
But I give her credit for being honest about the difficulties she experienced. Why? Because when you’re struggling with something that so many well-meaning moms take for granted as “natural”, or something that some people have a tendency to pass judgement on if you decide not to do (or for whatever reason, cannot do), there’s no lonelier place. And sometimes it’s a little comforting to know that you’re really not alone.
Click here to subscribe to That Cool Broad.