You Aren't Alone: Dr. Diane Shares the Highs and Lows of Her Breastfeeding Story
August is National Breastfeeding Month. From one mom to another, Diane Arnaout, M.D., is sharing her personal story.
By Diane Arnaout, M.D., Cook Children’s Medical Advisor for Digital Health
August is National Breastfeeding Month.
And as much as I hate the word “journey,” allow me to tell you about my breastfeeding journey.
I figure there’s a lot of curiosity out there about a pediatrician’s breastfeeding experience. I mean I sit in my clinic rooms all day counseling about it, right? So surely it was an easy task for me? Surely I would sit in daily joyful motherhood bliss while my babe nursed happily with ease and comfort, right?
In fact, I disliked a lot about breastfeeding. But I loved some of it, too.
(And guess what? GASP! This pediatrician used some formula, too! What? Did she say the F word?)
Before I gave birth to my first kid, I knew breastfeeding could be challenging for some moms. I didn’t worry or fret about it too much, though, because how hard could it be?
I mean, you just put the baby on the boob, right? I’m a pediatrician! I got this!
My first kid refused to latch from day one. I worked with lactation consultants. I struggled with pain. I had his mouth anatomy evaluated (all was fine). I tried shields. I had supply issues. My kid screamed. Every. Nursing. Session. And I cried every nursing session. His reflux was constant and affected positioning, length of feeds, and general happiness.
My postpartum anxiety was vicious. And made everything probably 10 times worse than it already was.
So, I decided to pump. Exclusively.
And it was the hardest damned thing I’ve probably ever done.
It satiated my need for control in a situation where I felt I had no control. But it was hard. And mentally and physically exhausting.
I’d pump in my office many times a day, running late for patients and adding stress to an already stressful day. And while my also-pumping work partner would pull out 10 ounces at a time when she pumped during lunch with me, I’d get a measly 3 or 4.
And every day, I went into the bathroom and cried. What was wrong with me? Why was motherhood feeling so robotic and protocoled and cold? Why did I cry for 45 minutes if I spilled a bottle?
But I knew pumped milk was so beneficial to my baby. So I kept on going. For 6 months. Until my supply tanked because I couldn’t pump enough at work. So we used formula. And guess what? My baby survived. And I survived.
It took such a mental toll on me to not be able to breastfeed my child that when I was pregnant with my second, my husband and my mom both nervously asked me…”you have some cans of formula just in case…right?”
They asked me this out of the kindness of their hearts, and I responded with, “yep! In the closet!” because I too remembered the dark days. And I wanted the experience with my next baby to be different.
And it was different.
Guess who breastfed like a champ? My next kid.
And the breastfeeding experience was great. And flawless. And so easy. And tear-free.
I loved bonding with my child in this special way. I loved feeling like nutrition and protection were transferred to her from my body. I even loved the exhausting 3 am feeds.
So why tell you all this?
To let you know that every mother is different, just as every child is different.
To let you know you aren’t alone if you felt breastfeeding was a struggle you totally weren’t prepared for.
To let you know even the professionals are human, and struggle just as much as you do.
To let you know it is okay to both love and hate breastfeeding.
To let you know I (and any pediatrician) will never judge you for the choices you make in how you feed your child.
Get to know Digital Medical Advisor Diane Arnaout, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician at Forest Park
"I didn’t realize how important the job of the pediatrician was until I had kids of my own. My education, experience in medicine, and cocky attitude made me feel like I knew it all before my first one came around. He proceeded to make me very aware of how little I actually knew.
Thankfully he survived, as did the next one, and they’ve helped me to grow and to help YOU, the parent, in so many ways. Sure I’m here to make sure your kids are healthy and happy at all ages. But I’m also here to make sure you’re educated, to make sure your family is thriving, and to make you feel confident in caring for your kids. From diaper rashes to sleep problems to school difficulties - I’m here to help.
I write a lot about common problems and ailments online – you can find me busy on Facebook and Instagram, and I write articles for the Cook Children’s Checkup Newsroom blog. A lot of stuff you’ll hear me say in the office will be typed out on there, too. And we’re in a day and age where the internet helps make connections – you can connect with me on there, or e-mail me anytime.
It takes a village to raise a child – and I’m so grateful to be a part of yours. And as Master Yoda teaches us – “Always pass on what you have learned.” I fully plan to!"