My kid is 17 months old. I haven’t breastfed or pumped for 16 months. For four weeks after he was born, I tried and tried to do something that would have never worked, although I didn’t know that at the time. The guilt was awful, the physical exhaustion and pain were intense. If I knew then what I know now, I would have given myself a freakin’ break.
My son is in the process of being diagnosed with Mitochondrial disease. Mito is a genetic disease that affects every cell in the body. The disease presents in a variety of ways and can cause problems in any organ system in the body. Many, many Mito patients have GI and eating issues. Grayson is no exception. When he was a tiny 5 pound newborn, asking him to breastfeed was probably more than his body could handle.
Grayson is now 100% G-tube fed. He survives on formula (Pediasure). Not breastmilk, not organic fruits or free-range chicken, and not anything I’m cooking him. I pop a can of Pediasure 3 times a day, pour it in a bag attached to a long tube, and it slowly drips directly into his stomach 22 hours a day. When I was a 35 week pregnant woman sitting in that breastfeeding class, I could never have imagined the way I would actually be feeding my baby a year and a half later.
Since Mito is a genetic disease, my husband and I will have to be tested to see if we will be able to have any more biological children (we won’t if there’s a significant chance we would have another child with Mito). I may never have another chance to be pregnant, give birth, or try breastfeeding. This makes me very sad, although I don’t dwell on it much since we are not emotionally, financially or logistically ready for another child right now.
If I do have the chance to breastfeed again, I will not put any pressure on myself. If I succeed, great. If it doesn’t work, I will gladly make those bottles of formula without an ounce of guilt. Breastfeeding is an incredible, amazing way to feed a baby. But so is bottle feeding, and tube feeding, when they help a baby grow, gain weight, and thrive.