Saturday, July 2, 2011

Attitude Isn't Everything

I have been thinking about this post on and off for the past year, since I first started writing it.  Then this week I was reading at To Find A Silver Lining about unrealistic expectations, and Elizabeth's advice to new parents.  I guess this in part, is mine.  A common saying it seems, is that “Attitude is everything.” I first wrote this post about a year ago, when I was coming to terms with not being able to breastfeed Munchkin. I concluded that sometimes, attitude isn’t everything. I managed to breast feed until Munchy baby was eight weeks old. It would take us an hour and a half per feed to breast feed then bottle feed, and it was exhausting for us both. We tried. I couldn’t will things into being that weren’t there, but I could (and did) try to use what I had available, and reassess my goals to suit. Being a planner, goals are important for me, but I’m realising more and more that the expectations I place on myself are often unattainable, and unnecessary. I need to remember that while my attitude is important, willpower alone will not always get everything done (there are after all, only 24 hours in each day and I have only two hands and one brain!). So here are some of my thoughts from a year ago, when I was so sleep deprived I was slurring my words:

"I was going to breastfeed my baby. This was not negotiable; I didn’t have plan A, B, or C. I knew how good breast milk is for babies (and Mummy too for that matter), and I wanted my baby to have it. I figured there was no reason I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. After all, I’d frequently heard that ‘size doesn’t matter.’

Well, firstly, I’d like to state that attitude is not everything. Sometimes people can have a blas√© attitude, and still manage something admirably well (I know some women who approach breastfeeding with a more ‘take it or leave it’ approach and end up ‘taking to it’ like a duck to water). On the other hand, sometimes you can have the best intentions and the biggest willpower combined with the greatest dreams and still end up falling short of your hopes. This has happened to me. I discovered myth number two: size really does matter. Apparently it is not that I am small busted that is the issue per say, but more that I don’t have much breast tissue (which is what makes the milk). Plus I have a long baby boy who has trouble getting latched on my rather small frame. Put those 2 factors together and you end up with a very hungry baby and a Mummy who feels like she’s let the side down.

So I’m coming to terms with the fact that I physically can’t breastfeed my baby to give him everything he needs. With the best willpower in the world, I simply can’t conjure milk out of thin air. And believe me, I have tried. I’ve used homeopathic remedies, medication, breast pump, nipple shield, prayer, diet and I forget what else to try and increase production. Hasn’t really worked. The result is that Munchkin is currently getting about 10-15% of his needs from breast milk, and the rest from goats milk formula. This current regime will last only as long as I can continue the breastfeeding fight…which by current indicators may only be another week or so (yup, it was). But I figure that every little bit helps.

Munchkin, two or three days old and having formula in a syringe!
Now I just need to work on the feelings of guilt that keep surfacing when I think about the possibility of stopping the breastfeeding. It’s downright silly, feeling this way, when I am doing the best I can do. After all, considering how much blood I lost after Munchkin’s birth, I’ve done very well to give him any breast milk. This is what my amazing midwife has been reminding me. And that formula was created for a reason. I don’t get a choice as to whether or not we need formula. We just do. But we are giving our boy the best we can, opting for goats milk to avoid any dairy allergies seeing as both Boyo and I have dairy allergy histories. And Munchkin is no less loved or cared for because he doesn’t get much liquid gold. He gets cuddled and talked to, and fed and changed, just like he would if he were breastfed. Only he now gets the added bonus of Daddy feeds…Boyo has been giving him one feed a day to give me a break so I can study. I think at this stage Munchkin is much more interested in the contents of the bottle than in who is holding it, but it is still nice for him to have that contact. Grin. (And at just over a year old, Munchkin and Daddy have a fabulous relationship!)"

Come on Daddy! I might be laughing, but I sure am HUNGRY!

Bonding with Daddy.
So there you go, attitude isn’t always everything. That’s not to say it isn’t very important, but sometimes we have to reassess the role it plays in our lives. I now find myself needing to shift my attitude from, “I shall breastfeed no matter what,” to the more realistic expectations of, “I am going to do the best I can with what I have and stop fretting over what I cannot change.” We cannot control what life hands us. We can only decide what we will do with it. We need to give ourselves a break, and run with what we’ve got.  Amy

Out and about!  He wouldn't be able to do this straight-legged now!


MaxineD said...

You are right - attitude isn't everything, but being flexible does help - you did what was best for Munchkin and that was what mattered.

Elizabeth said...

Oh exciting - I have just spotted that you have two new followers!

((((((((((hugs))))))))))), we know you did (and do) your best with Munchkin... he is one happy wee boy!

Hope you're doing okay about it all now though, a year on?

Amy said...

Thanks for the encouragement Maxine and Elizabeth. I am doing fine now, thanks Elizabeth. Just had to work through the expectations versus ability and so forth. And it does help that we have a very happy, contented, well-fed little man! No one could say he is in the least bit underfed, that's for sure! Grin.