Just like most first-time mothers-to-be, I had a lot of concerns—OK, neuroses—about caring for a newborn. After all, what did I know about changing a diaper (something I hadn't done since babysitting in my teens), let alone cleaning an umbilical cord stump or, most terrifying of all, a fresh circumcision (oy vey)? But I was fairly confident I could master the whole breastfeeding gig. I simply assumed it would be the easiest part of being a mother—something innate and virtually impossible to screw up. I was so sure I'd be nursing my son for at least a year, I nearly tossed out the free formula samples I kept receiving via the various mommy-to-be websites I'd signed up for.
The night that baby Jack arrived, a nurse showed me how to get him to latch on. The next day or two went well, and I bragged to anyone who asked that my kid was breastfeeding like a champ. Then my milk came in—and things went horribly wrong.
Jack flailed and wailed, refusing my breasts in a way no male ever had. Twenty-four hours later, fearing dehydration, I called the pediatrician, who instructed me to give Jack some distilled water. "Nooo! " screamed my inner nipple nazi; I'd been warned about "nipple confusion" and would not introduce a bottle, not offer a pacifier, not put anything in my baby's mouth but the almighty mammary for at least four weeks.
Reluctantly, I gave Jack the water. He certainly seemed happier ... until the next day, that is, when he continued to refuse the breast. At this point, deciding the damage was done, I broke out the breast pump. If my child didn't want to nurse, I'd bottle-feed him my milk.
Unfortunately, since my supply hadn't been established, I couldn't express enough milk, and that's when I really did the unthinkable: I pulled the promotional formula from the back of the pantry and fed my son from a can! All the while, the words on the container—breast milk is recommended—echoed in my head.