Guest Post: I Am Not a Cow

I’m thrilled to share this post with you, from my friend Andrea Nord. Andrea is like the FFF of Sweden, which can’t be an easy job, considering the infant feeding attitudes of that country. She’s one of the most astute, brave, and seriously awesome women I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in this crazy sort of advocacy I’m in, and I’m glad I get to share her brilliance with you via this post (which she graciously translated into English for us). The post originally appeared on Andrea’s website

 

About twenty km east of Lund, in the southernmost part of Sweden, is a large natural area called Revingehed. The Swedish military uses this area for short periods for their exercises and sometimes you can hear the sounds of gunfire in the village of Veberöd where I live. But for the most part, the area is a quiet and peaceful place where hundreds of cows graze freely to keep the grass short and the grounds open. Sometimes we take a drive there for a near-cow-experience, as my kids call it. If you are lucky you may see cows on the road just when you are driving by. It’s a really lovely experience that I heartily recommend, especially now when the calves are small.

When you think of cows you might think of beautiful black and white Holsteins wandering back to the barn after a long day of grazing in the meadows. All the cows are the same, it’s just the patterns on their coats that are different. Otherwise, they all have the same needs, they all want the same things and they all do the same things all day long. There are no cows with any special needs or aspirations, except of course the famous fictional cow Mamma Moo from the Swedish children’s books with the same name, the cow who was not satisfied with just grazing and chewing. She wanted to do everything that people did, she wanted to swing and go down a slide, despite her good friend the crow’s desperate attempts to point out to her that she is in fact just a cow, and cows do not behave like humans. Period.

Source: http://9teen87spostcards.blogspot.com/2011/07/mamma-moo-cow-riding-bicycle.html

Source: http://9teen87spostcards.blogspot.com/2011/07/mamma-moo-cow-riding-bicycle.html

 

Part of what makes Mamma Moo so funny is her inability to comply with expected and “natural” cow behaviour. Mamma Moo is a.. feminist! Imagine that! And then the idea hit me – why does the WHO and our Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare assume that all women in the world are the same, that we all do the same things and want the same things? Why do people think that women don’t have different needs, wants or conditions? Why this astonishment whenever we want to do something different from the expected and “natural”?

Does the world see us women as.. cows? Because if you do not see women as unique individuals but as cows, then it is close at hand to recommend that we should all do things exactly the same way. What is “best” is then best for everyone. The word recommend is perhaps the wrong word, require is probably closer to reality. And there are many “truths” that we women are expected abide by and now we come to The Mommy Wars, which I see as the social pressure to get all women to comply to a perceived truth. You see, all of us women are supposed to do things exactly the same way!

If there was tolerance for women doing things in different ways, then there would be no reason to get all upset about it. But women do in fact want different things – some want to work, others want to be at home. Some breastfeed, others bottle feed. The nerve of them!

It’s interesting that I find it hard to find similar examples where one would try to get all men to do the exact same things or get upset if they didn’t. The mere idea is completely ridiculous, for men are seen as individuals, they are all different and they are allowed to do what they think is best. The only example I can think of, when trying to get all men to do the same thing, is when you recruit them into the army and send them out to war. Then and only then are men oppressed to all do the same thing. But in peacetime, they are all free to do whatever they want and however they wish to do it. Now I would like to end this rant with an appeal to the WHO, the National Board of Health and Welfare and all the health authorities: stop seeing us women as cows! See us instead as unique individuals capable of thinking and making decisions about what is best for ourselves and our families!

Let us be free to decide how we want to feed our babies and stop trying to round us up and herd us all into a corral. We are women, not cows.

FFF Friday: “I wish everyone could feel confidence in their feeding choice from the get-go…”

I’m off to MommyCon tomorrow to speak about #ISupportYou with my co-founders, Kim Simon and Jamie Lynne Grumet. I’ve been thinking about what I want to say; what I want to impart about my goals with this project, and why I wanted to do it in the first place. Reading through Mandy’s story, I feel like she expressed my answer better than I could have. I want every parent to have confidence and support, no matter how s/he ends up feeding her/his baby. That’s it. Simple. Yet apparently so complicated, that we are still seeing articles, blogs, and chat rooms explode with anger over this topic. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF

***

 Mandy’s Story

I’m a mom who tried to breastfeed but had to switch to formula.  It isn’t an unusual story but when it is your own story, it feels anything but ordinary. It’s painful and heartbreaking and exhausting and lonely.  Your friends and family have so many words and tips to offer but so little helps. Your modern female mind betrays you and tells you that you are less of a woman—less of a mother—because you cannot breastfeed, though you know that thought is irrational and untrue. For me, it is a thought I struggled with long after the last drop of breast milk fought its way out.

I had my first baby in 2011 and when the stick turned blue I immediately enrolled in the University of Google and learned everything I could about pregnancy, labor, delivery and, of course, breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was the obvious choice and I had no question about whether or not I would. I even got annoyed with people who asked whether I would breast or bottle feed. Aside from being annoyed simply because that is a rude question, why would I even consider formula when “breast is best,” right? And how much easier could it be? You have a baby, they latch on, the milk comes in and that’s that.  I even remember the lactation consultant reassuring an expectant mom in my breastfeeding class who asked, “What do I do if I don’t make enough milk?” that “you WILL make enough milk. Your body will ABSOLUTELY make enough milk for your baby.” Supply and demand. Very simple.

I’d like to smack that lady.

My daughter was born and she latched on but I waited and waited and no milk ever came. Well, no more than an ounce every three hours. I was an overwhelmed first time mom and nursed less and less until eventually I stopped trying altogether and switched to formula exclusively after three weeks. Boom…formula baby.

When my daughter was 3 months old I became pregnant with my second baby and I was hell-bent on breastfeeding!  I had been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I was certain that had to be the reason for my previous struggle and now that I was controlling it with medication, I’d have no problems with milk supply. I even had dreams about freely flowing breast milk and hoped it was a sign that buckets of liquid gold were in my future. Although I also knew that I fit the profile of someone with insufficient glandular tissue but tried to put that possibility out of my mind since there is really nothing you can do to overcome that. I was going to remain determined and hopeful.

When baby girl number two arrived, she was nine pounds of cuteness and latched on to the breast with the expertise of a baby weeks her senior. I was more than proud; I was teeming with hope! This time I was careful to nurse on demand and pump right after nursing to increase my supply but to no avail. I still only produced a maximum of one ounce every three hours. As my big girl got bigger she just began to get frustrated at my out-of-order breast but I just couldn’t give up on it, so I pumped. To complicate things further, her stomach and palette seemed to not tolerate any of the five different formulas we gave her. She seemed to only tolerate breast milk and I couldn’t make any. For about five months I received pumped breast milk from dear friends and trusted donors while I continued to pump around the clock to get my measly ten ounces per day and, of course I supplemented with formula.

Through thousands of tears over five months I told my husband I would stop when she and I were both ready because the around the clock pumping was killing me. Eventually my supply of frozen donations began to wane and she was getting more and more formula. She was doing better with her soy formula and doing well with solids. And I was emotionally ready. I clearly remember sitting in my “pumping chair,” one day and just deciding that I was spending more time pumping than it was worth for eight to ten ounces a day. I cut back slowly on my pumping sessions until I was not pumping at all and she was on formula exclusively. Boom…formula baby number two.

But this time I felt a freedom in the change. For one, I knew I’d done and tried everything possible: power pumping, fenugreek, Reglan, Domperidone, lactation cookies, oatmeal, water, visits to the lactation consultant, (side note: you know it’s pretty hopeless when the lactation consultant says, “you know, formula isn’t that bad,”). I did everything and I felt good switching to formula. I didn’t have the shame I had before. I still have moments of regret or sadness that it didn’t work but I do not feel like a failure as a mother. When I see my friends nursing their babies or pumping an abundance of milk I am a little sad and jealous but overwhelmingly, I feel happy for them because I know the struggle.  And when I see a friend choose formula with less internal struggle than I had I am happy for her as well.

I go back and forth on whether or not our family is complete with only our two children, but when I contemplate a third or fourth child, I cannot help but think of what my feeding choice would be. I say with absolute freedom and confidence that I would start right out of the gate with formula. My body does not make a full supply and the struggle to get what I can is too emotionally gut-wrenching to go through it one more time. I actually fantasize about being in the hospital room and requesting the formula for my imaginary baby with pride and confidence instead of timidly.  I imagine getting to know my newborn without the stress of trying to force my body to make milk that it just cannot make. I am sure that little daydream is not reason enough to have another child but it makes my heart happy. I wish everyone could feel that confidence in their feeding choice from the get-go whether they are a fearless formula feeder or a courageous nursing mommy.

***

Want to share your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

FFF Friday: “I don’t think I have ever felt quite so judged about any other parenting choice.”

So much of the conversation on infant feeding focuses on first-time mothers and their breastfeeding experiences, for understandable reasons. But that also makes it easy for some to dismiss these experiences as simply “misconceptions”, “nervousness” or “inexperience with breastfeeding”.

But what happens when a third-time mom has twins, and despite the fact that she breastfed successfully twice before, she finds herself dealing with unexpected complications? Turns out, in Michelle’s case, that mother ends up dealing with the same emotional turmoil, conflict, and confusion as the first-timers. Because breastfeeding problems are not the sole property of any “type” of mother, of any age, socioeconomic group or ethnicity, or parity. These problems can strike any mother – and when they do, each and every one of us deserves support, respect, and the opportunity to make the best decision for our families. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Michelle’s Story

When I found out that baby #3 was going to be baby #3 and #4 I was understandably excited and nervous. One one the first things people commented/questioned me about was whether i was going to try to breastfeed them. My answer was always that I would play it by ear and see how it went.

The twins developed something called TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome, which can happen when identical twins share a placenta) and I was hospitalized for 6weeks with daily ultrasounds and monitoring, to make sure the babies were still okay. Every day I worried that one or both babies had died. It was not a relaxing pregnancy.

My babies were born at 31 weeks….tiny but perfect. They spent 6weeks in the NICU and I spent those six weeks pumping every 3-4 hours and making trips back and forth to the hospital while also trying to care for my other two kids who were not quite 2 and 6. I was generally NOT at the hospital for feedings, but the girls were getting my milk, first through an NG tube and then when they got better at suck/swallow/breathe, through a bottle. When they were getting close to discharge, the nurses told me to buy bottles and I was clueless and overwhelmed because I had always breastfed my others and had never used a bottle. I had requested a lactation consultant to help me transition them from bottle to breast, but she told me to nurse them and give them bottles afterward if they still seemed hungry. Prior to their discharge, I had attempted putting them on the breast exactly one time and it was not what in would call a rousing success.

They were discharged at 37 weeks and they were still incredibly sleepy and not interested in working for their food. I continued with nursing, bottle feeding, pumping every 3-4 hours. I was attached to the pump. I was miserable . I got in touch with a different LC who was more helpful and over the course of a week or so, I got the girls to latch and eat and finally I could be rid of the infernal pump.

Around 40 weeks the girls woke up. And they screamed. They screamed and they screamed and they screamed. They were miserable. I contacted the same LC again and she thought maybe I had oversupply. I worked on that. The babies continued to be miserable. I took them to the pediatrician who said some babies are just miserable and despite the fact that I had experience with two other babies, I had not had experience with twins. The girls still screamed. Finally when they were around three months old I read about milk protein intolerance and decided to eliminate dairy from my diet. There was much less screaming. There was still some though, and their stools were still showing signs of further intolerance, so I stopped eating soy also. That seemed to be the magic thing. Finally, I had happy babies (their bowel movements still seemed weird, but they were happy, I was happy…everything was finally good in our world). They were five months old at that point and I was finally enjoying them.

Fast forward to their weight checks. The older they got, the less they were gaining. They started out at three pounds, were almost five pounds when they came home at 6weeks old, and at five months were eight pounds. At six months they were up a couple more ounces each. We were going to the pediatrician for weight checks weekly and they were gaining, but slowly. Nobody suggested formula (I had on occasion used nutramigen when I got too touched out and needed a break. They also suffered from pretty severe reflux and wanted to nurse ALL THE TIME. I had tried a “gentle” formula once and it had resulted in immediate screaming that lasted two days, so that solidified my belief that these babies could not tolerate any dairy).

At their NICU developmental follow up appointment at almost 8months, the neonatologist was very concerned about their weights. At first they were recommending physical therapy, but he thought that if they started growing that it would not be necessary. They were 8 and 9 pounds and had been within 6 ounces of that same weight for at least 10 weeks. He suggested me doing an elimination diet and also supplementing with puramino formula 2x a day to see if that would help. I was already struggling without dairy/soy and feeding the rest of my family, so I was not thrilled about an elimination diet. I was not thrilled about the prospect of formula either. I thought long and hard about it, and decided to give them the formula and go back to eating what I wanted. I continued to pump just in case, for about three weeks. I watched my supply dwindle. I initially struggled with guilt, despite the fact that in the month they have been on the formula, they have each gained THREE pounds. There are rolls of chub on their legs! They are finally thriving and I love seeing them grow (they are almost 9months old now).

Nobody says “Good for you for feeding your babies!”. People insinuate that I didn’t try hard enough, that if I were a really good mother I would have gone on the elimination diet. One lady told me that I finally gave in to the evil medical establishment and that I should go back to breastfeeding. I don’t think I have ever felt quite so judged about any other parenting choice. I hate that I feel like I have to explain how we got to this point and despite me resolving NOT to explain, I feel oddly compelled to anytime anyone comments (which they all do immediately upon seeing a bottle).

One thing these babies have taught me is empathy. I never really understood empathy like I do now. I am much better able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and not be judgmental (secretly or otherwise).

I am so incredibly grateful that i found FFF when I did. My healthy thriving babies are glad also!

***

Share your story. Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “What matters to me is not my ‘breastfeeding relationship’ but my ‘relationship relationship’.”

My feelings about Toni’s story can be summed up in two words: Absolute Awesomesauce. 

Hope this gets your weekend off to a good start. I know it did for me. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Toni’s Story

I never wanted to breastfeed.  I understand that it’s supposed to be good for babies and I don’t doubt that it is but I also don’t believe that formula is poison or even less good than breastmilk.  I don’t think comparing formula to fast food is at all fair and if anything the culture of mom-shaming that surrounds the breastfeeding debate only deepened my ambivalence towards breastfeeding.

I recently reread Hannah Rosin’s article, “The Case Against Breastfeeding” and her words ring so true to me still today while I mother a toddler and the whole feeding debate isn’t nearly as central for me.  In fact, I think because the emotional investment has dissipated for me, I can finally look at feeding in a clear light.  Rosin writes, “[W]hen people say that breast-feeding is “free,” I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. I always understood that having a baby would be a huge time commitment but that didn’t mean I was willing to sacrifice all my time and comfort.  And I didn’t want to pump.  I think the best thing about breastfeeding was the closeness and getting close to a pump…eh.

So, I did breastfeed a little, three or four months, always supplementing with formula, more and more as time went on.  Before and after my baby’s birth, I kept telling the hospital people I intended to supplement and they gave me no support on that front whatsoever—even acting as if what I, a 34 year old grown woman with a master’s degree, had decided for my family was wrong.  So, I felt combative pretty much my entire hospital stay.  I did not ask for any help on anything and even when I worried that maybe I wasn’t holding my baby right or that he was maybe not getting enough milk, I kept quiet.  My one and only goal was to get the heck out of that hospital as soon as possible so I could try supplementing with formula in the privacy and comfort of my own home with no one around to judge me.

Even my child’s pediatrician did not seem to understand anything about supplementing.  When he developed reflux, she was sure I just wasn’t holding him right—because how could breastmilk—liquid gold– possibly upset his stomach.  It must’ve been the formula, she thought, even after I explained that he spit up more when I breastfed him.

There was no special reason for me stopping except I realized that the soothing my baby got from me breastfeeding him could just as easily be gotten from me just holding him.  And there was no special reason why I wasn’t into breastfeeding. A friend had told me that while in the hospital after her baby’s birth a nurse actually grabbed her boob without permission to aid in the breastfeeding process.  This image haunted me—a shocking violation of personal space.  I don’t care if someone just assisted in delivering my baby—no one touched me without permission like that.  I see breastfeeding advocates claim that this reserve I maintain is residue of a culture obsessed with breasts as sexual objects to which I reply: Yep, that’s right.  My breasts are sexy and private and not just anyone can touch them.  I understand that they are also at times for feeding my young but I’d smack your hand if you touched my baby’s food without asking first, so what’s the difference?  I informed the nurses at the hospital that while I agreed to try breastfeeding no one was allowed to just come up and grab my boobs.  I thought maybe I was being a bit overcautious until they actually expressed surprise that I’d be uncomfortable with this and suggested that maybe I have a history of sexual abuse.  I let them think it.  If that was what it was going to take to maintain some personal space, so be it.

Anyway, while I strongly feel like I made the right decisions, I know that next time around, I will be more forceful with doctors and nurses.  While recovering from labor, I will request the nurses give a bottle to the baby so I can rest up for the rough sleepless nights ahead and if that one bottle “ruins our breastfeeding relationship” then that’s fine—not all relationships were meant to be.  What matters to me is not my breastfeeding relationship with my baby but my relationship relationship—that is enough of a struggle on its own with a mother as used to her privacy and independence as I am.  Breastfeeding wasn’t bad but I do know that nights when I stayed up breastfeeding as my husband slept soundly in the other room, a dark resentment crept into my already exhausted, hormonal brain.  Maybe I’m just not, as the now infamous Time magazine cover harangues, “mom enough” for breastfeeding.  But I’m completely fine with that.  It’s not a competition, at least not on my end.  While the super moms fight it out to see who can be best, I’ll be at home, telling my husband to fix the baby a bottle while I take a much-needed nap.

 ***

Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. 

 

FFF Friday: “I fear the feeling of becoming a failure as a mother for a second time.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so. 

 

I received the following story from Hope during the #ISupportYou campaign last summer, and it broke my heart. I know it’s difficult for people to accept/believe/admit, but when you live in a community where breastfeeding is the norm, feeding your baby a bottle can be just as terrifying as attempting to nurse in public on a plane. True, you won’t be asked to leave or to cover up – but that doesn’t mean the shame, embarrassment, and vulnerability isn’t as powerful. 

When my article on supporting formula feeding moms was posted on HuffPo this week, I saw many discussions stating that bottle-feeding parents didn’t need/deserve support, and why wasn’t HuffPo posting articles on how to support breastfeeding moms? (Incidentally, they have posted these. Many of them. Daily.) I also saw comments marveling at how ridiculous it was that this was even an issue. 

It never ceases to amaze me that people can be so opinionated about situations they’ve never been in. And even if you have been in a similar situation, you can’t possibly know someone else’s emotional baggage, tolerance for shame, triggers, and so forth. Telling someone they don’t deserve support and understanding is ridiculous. Breastfeeding moms need support. Formula feeding moms need support. It’s great to see a campaign showing how men can assist and support their breastfeeding partners getting so much positive attention, but wouldn’t it be nice if showing a man lovingly bottle feeding his baby wasn’t met with rapid backlash?

There’s room for all of us at this party. Squish over to the left, and pass the mom next to you that basket of tortilla chips, no matter how she fed her kid. Being a mom is flipping hard, and we ALL deserve support. Hope certainly did, and I wish she’d been given it. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Hope’s Story

It was 5:30 on a June morning last year.  I was sitting up in the hospital bed, extremely groggy.  I had just gone through an excruciating labor which involved 4 ½ hours of pushing, a third degree episiotomy, the loss of a lot of blood, and my body going into shock as a result.  I was holding my daughter, but I don’t recall when she was placed into my arms.  At that point she was 3 ½ hours old.  This is my first recollection of being a mother and where my struggle with feeding my baby began.

The nurse who had helped deliver my baby was trying to teach me how to nurse, but my daughter, who you could tell was hungry, refused to turn her face toward my breast.  When her mouth was placed against my nipple and her lip rubbed against it she would scream even louder and try to push away.

I had been at this now for 45 minutes and I was feeling horrible for my hungry baby who just wanted to eat, so while it broke my heart to do so, I requested a bottle of formula.  The nurse in a disgusted tone replied, “I’m not letting you give up!  You said you wanted to breastfeed, so that’s what you are going to do!”  Again I pleaded with her, but again she refused.  My daughter was still in my arms, screaming, pushing herself away from my breasts the best that she could for a baby who had just entered this world a few short hours prior.  With tears streaming down my face, I turned to my husband and said “Go down the street to Walmart and buy some formula!”  As my husband grabbed his hat and his keys the nurse ran out of the room and reentered with a bottle of formula for our daughter.

Later that morning the hospital lactation consultant came in.  She too was surprised by the way my daughter physically fought my breast.  She gave us the advice to just continually offer her the boob prior to every bottle feeding.  During the remainder of our stay in the hospital, I had heard comments from several nurses to the effect of “You’re just not trying hard enough” or “You WILL learn how to breastfeed on my watch.”  Those comments stung deep.  I was trying, and I continued to try even after leaving the hospital.  I continued to follow the hospital lactation consultant’s advice.  For the next week, every two hours I would offer her my breasts, she would refuse, and I would hand her off to my husband to formula feed, while I pumped.  But despite all that pumping, no milk was collected.

That entire week after our daughter was born, I felt sick, but I had just chalked it up to all the hormones and the rough labor and delivery that I had gone through.  Then early one morning I woke up sicker than I had ever been in my entire life.  I was running a 105.8° fever.  My husband didn’t waste any time by driving me to the hospital or calling an ambulance.  He drew up an ice bath in our own tub and forced me to get in it.  Only after I was in the tub, did he take the time to call the doctor, who told him he did the right thing.  He was instructed to leave me in the bath until my temperature dropped to 102° and only then was I to get out of the tub and go in to be seen.

Once at our base clinic, a series of tests were performed on me which included multiple ultrasounds and a lot of blood work.  Apparently a sliver of placenta was still stuck to my uterine lining.  It was so small that even though they had inspected the placenta after my daughter was born, that couldn’t tell that there was piece missing, but it was enough to convince my body that it was still pregnant as it started to rot within my uterus.  I sat there as the doctor explained all of this to me and how that had been what prevented my body from producing milk.  She even explained that the reason my daughter had been pushing herself away from my breasts, was because since there was no milk, there was no scent of it, which is essential for a baby to realize that “this is food.”  There was some glimmer of hope though.  She explained that some women who suffer from placental uterine infections are able to start producing milk after their DNC is performed.  She wrote me a referral to a private lactation consultant to come visit me at home, but told me that if I did start to produce any milk, that I would have to just pump and dump until a week after all of my antibiotics were complete.

I spent the next three weeks meeting with the lactation consultant and being a slave to the pump.  Every two hours, whether my daughter was eating or not, my breasts were hooked up to the pump.  But not a single drop of milk came out.  With every session of pumping, I became more and more depressed.  A few days after my daughter turned one month old I had had it.  I could no longer do it.  I could not take the mental anguish of pumping one more time only to have an empty bottle at the end.  I was so embarrassed by what I perceived to be a failure as a mother that I had my husband make the call to the lactation consultant.  When he told her that I was done, she said she was relieved to hear it, because while some women who suffer those infections are able to start producing milk, a lot of women aren’t, especially those whose infections were as bad as the one that I suffered from.  She had seen how much I was struggling with this emotionally as well, but as a lactation consultant she was not allowed to tell me to just give up.  Her words were encouraging, however, my embarrassment did not subside.

Everywhere I turned it seemed that the concept of “Breast is Best” was being thrust upon me.  A week after I stopped pumping was the start of Breastfeeding Awarness Month.  The internet was flooded with messages about how much better breast milk is for babies than formula.  I even saw one of my friends on Facebook post something about how moms who don’t breastfeed their babies don’t deserve to keep them.  I refused to leave the house on August 15th.  I did not want to see the abundance of mothers breastfeeding in public that day just to make a statement.  It was not because I didn’t support them in their efforts to feed their children, but because seeing that many of them would remind me of just how much of a failure I was.

It wasn’t just Breastfeeding Awareness Month that bothered me though.  Mostly it was the words I heard from others and their reactions.  People often would say to me “I assume you’re breastfeeding.”  I never minded when someone asked “Are you breastfeeding?”  But to make the statement saying that they assumed I was made it seem as if that was the only right way of feeding my children.  Some people, even told me that I was poisoning my daughter.   Sometimes they would say it to my face and other times it would be a conversation that I overheard.  I recall one time as I was standing in the checkout line at our base’s Commissary while my groceries were being rung up and bagged.  The first bagger started to put the canister of my daughter’s formula in a bag with the laundry detergent and toilet bowl cleaner.  After the bagger standing next to her corrected her and told her to put it in a different bag she said that she thought it was a chemical.  The second bagger then responded “It might as well be a chemical. My wife and I never trusted formula. She nursed all of our children until they were two and could drink milk. I don’t understand why anyone would give their baby this man-made powder.”  I could not believe that they were talking like that right in front of me.  I was devastated.  I had no other choice, but to trust that “man-made powder.”  It was either that or let my daughter starve, which I definitely couldn’t do.

If it were up to me, I would be one of those mothers like I saw at the local early childhood center or the squadron playgroups that would just whip their boobs out whenever their baby was hungry, but I couldn’t.  There was nothing in them to feed my baby.  Those that personally know me knew the situation and were for the most part very polite about it when I would need to make a bottle for my daughter.  But having heard so many rude remarks from total strangers, I was completely embarrassed to give my daughter a bottle in public.  Often times I would hide in a corner to feed her.  I dreaded running out of water and having to ask a waitress to bring me some so that I could make another.  There were times that I even thought about taking out my nursing cover and putting it on so that it would hide my baby and her bottle and maybe people would think that I was actually nursing her instead.   However I had packed it away with my pumps and never had it with me.  I knew it was a silly thing to want to do, but that’s how self-conscious I was about feeding my daughter in public.  I was tired of the comments and tired of the stares.  I don’t know exactly when it was that I no longer felt the need to hide when feeding her a bottle in public, but eventually it did happen.  However, the pain and embarrassment did not subside.

Around the time my daughter turned four months old, I found out I was pregnant again.  I talked to the doctor and was told that having had that infection as severely as I did, that I ran the chance of not producing milk again when the second child was born.  Not wanting to set myself up for disappointment, I convinced myself from the beginning that it just wouldn’t happen, that once again I would not be able to breastfeed my baby.  When my son was born I was thrilled to be able to breastfeed.   Things went well at first, but then he started refusing to open his mouth all the way and it became difficult to feed him no matter if I was nursing him or he was given a bottle. We started having to supplement him earlier than we had wanted just to make sure that he was able to get back to a healthy weight and he was taking in enough calories to handle the heart murmur he has.

I have an extremely active and advanced 13 month old daughter who needs the attention of her mother.  At the same time, I have a seven week old son, who takes nearly 10 minutes to latch on.  Then once he latches on I have to remain pretty much perfectly still or he detaches and we have to start the process all over again.  I find myself resorting to feeding him formula during the days while my husband is at work, because even though it still takes him nearly 10 minutes to open his mouth wide enough to get the nipple in he doesn’t lose it as easily as he does my breasts.  It makes it much easier to care for my daughter at the same time if I feed him formula from a bottle.  If my daughter is napping or when my husband gets home in the evenings I make my best effort to put my son to my breasts.   I don’t have the chance to pump during the day, because my daughter is so interested in the pump and wants to play with it that the only time I am able to pump is in the middle of the night while my husband feeds our son bottles.

I am not ready to give up on breastfeeding altogether though.  I felt so guilty about not being able to breastfeed my daughter when I didn’t produce anything, that I think I would feel even guiltier giving up breastfeeding my son when I actually am producing milk.  At the same time, I know it is what would be easiest for my family.  I cannot completely ignore my daughter during the entire hour or more it takes of being completely still in order to nurse my son, especially since my husband is a military officer who is working long hours as he prepares to deploy soon.  Once he is gone, I will have no one here at all to help out with my daughter in the evenings while I nurse our son and I will have to be the one to feed our son in the middle of the night instead of him, which will take away my only chances to pump.  I realize, that breastfeeding probably isn’t what works best for our family this time around either, but I just can’t seem to shake that guilt of not being able to breastfeed my daughter.  I fear the feeling of becoming a failure as mother for a second time.

What a wonderful thing it would be if we could all just support all mothers trying to feed their babies, so that none of us have to feel that failure and none of us have to be embarrassed.  As mothers, we are all just trying to do our best to care for our babies and make sure that they have the nourishment they need to survive and thrive in life.  To the mother out there that is pulling your breast out in public to feed your baby, I support you and I wish I could be you.  To the mother out there that gives your baby nothing but that “man-made powder,” I support you and I was you.  To the mother out there that gives your baby formula as you also try to maintain your supply of breast milk, I support you and I am you.

Hope recently sent the following update:

“Shortly after I wrote this story my son was diagnosed with a condition where his body won’t digest proteins in their natural form. No matter what kind of changes I made to my diet he would not be able to digest them. We were forced to put him on a special formula where the proteins were already broken down for him. The reason he had fought feedings so hard was because it literally hurt him to eat. It was amazing the sudden change that occurred in him. He went from being a malnourished baby that was always crying from pain and hunger to a happy healthy baby. I continued to pump for another month until my milk supply dwindled to nothing with the hope that he would out grow the condition and would be able to accept the milk, though he still hasn’t. Even though he did become a exclusively formula fed baby he is now an 8 month old who is developing right at the level that he should be. As much as I dreamed of being a breastfeeding mom, I am so thankful for formula, because it saved the lives of both of my babies.”

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Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

 

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