This week’s story is one of those great examples of why there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to women and breastfeeding. Ally’s reasons for choosing formula are quite specific (although I bet there are other women out there with similar issues, and just don’t talk about it), and no amount of support would have changed her unique anatomy. And there is no reason why a woman like Ally should feel the need to defend her uniqueness.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
In today’s “Google” era, I feel like you can find anything on the internet. When I became pregnant and later a new mother, I was pleased with the wealth of information, opinions, ideas, and common ground available on every baby topic. You can seriously bury yourself in the “baby side of the internet.” Any question, any ailment, any milestone, any condition…you can always find someone who has been through it before you…well, almost always. Maybe I haven’t found the right combination of words to “Google,” but I still can’t find any information, opinions, ideas or common ground for my “condition.”
Ever since I went through puberty, I have had VERY sensitive breasts. Before I even understood what was going on with my body, I remember running into a wall with my chest and it HURT. And it seemed to never stop “hurting” after that. It’s not like a pain kind of hurting, it’s more of an extremely uncomfortable tickle that kind of makes me want to vomit. I do not like my breasts, especially my nipples, being touched at all, not even with my own hands. I cringe anytime anyone, even my poor husband, comes near them. They DEFINITELY are not an erogenous zone, more like a no-touch-zone. I’d rather have a pap smear than a breast exam any day. I don’t even like washing them in the shower. I guess you could describe me as phobic of having my breasts touched; I know it’s partly a mental thing as well. The only topics I can find on the internet regarding breast/nipple sensitivity are related to menstruation, pregnancy, and/or breastfeeding. No, this is every day since I’ve had breasts. I hate them. I AM THE ONLY ONE??????
Needless to say, I knew breastfeeding was going to be hard for me. I didn’t register for any breastfeeding supplies, but I did buy nipple shields (I figured they were my only hope) and researched renting a pump because I would “try.” Well, after latching my baby for about 15 seconds and then crying and quitting, then trying the pump for about 15 seconds and then crying and quitting, I became a formula feeder. I described the pain as worse than labor and delivery. I read so much about women/babies with latching issues, supply issues, and some pain issues, but never anyone with a pre-existing sensitivity condition. The ironic part is I think my baby would have been a good latcher, and I think I had a pretty good supply even though it was never used. Today, I still wince if my baby lays funny against my breast or touches them through my clothes and bra. How did I ever think I would allow his strong mouth and sharp fingernails near my bare nipples?…yikes!
I, like many of the women whose stories I’ve read on FFF Fridays, was shocked at how many people asked if I was breastfeeding and why not. I felt like a crazy person when I tried to tell them why without sharing too much detail. Nobody understood. My mom suggested I just make up something “normal” like he was tongue-tied…I usually just said that “it didn’t work out for us”. Unlike many others who I read about here, I never really felt guilty because I knew my baby was just fine on formula. When the lactation consultant came to my room at the hospital, my only question for her was how to get my milk to dry up; I guess you could call me fearless at that point. It is more embarrassing to me than anything: one, because of societal pressures and formula stigma, and two, because my “why” is so different and I feel like I’m the only one with this “condition.” Maybe there is someone else out there reading this who has this condition and will know they are not alone.
Feel like sharing your story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.