Hey everyone! Happy Friday. Two years, countless hours, and $70 to UPS for next day air service later, I can officially say that the first draft of my book is in the hands of my editor. Which means, of course, that my schedule just got a whole lot clearer, and will let me revive this dying blog. Starting this weekend.
I finally could enjoy my son. I had more time with him. I had mobility. I began to heal from the surgery. My son was beginning to thrive and I no longer had the fear and anxiety of being faced with helplessness through his hunger. My mother was there and supported me thoroughly. She had done it, after all. She didn’t understand my mother in law’s enthusiasm for breast feeding. I didn’t want to tell my mother in law. She has a very strong personality and I often find myself a little intimidated around her. She’s very kind and respectful but I didn’t want to feel intimidated around her about this emotionally charged decision. I didn’t want to face that shame.
I am going to let you in on a little secret… even though I subscribe to the blog, I am not always a Fearless Formula Feeder. In fact I border on being the opposite. Fearful. But I don’t fear the outcome of Aiden being a formula-fed baby. I fear the opinions of others. I have been told by several people that motherhood requires a tough skin. They warn me that “people are not always going to agree with your decisions, but you have to do what is best for you and your family.” I so want to be that woman. I want to be the mama who can ignore the hurtful statements and ignorant assumptions. Unfortunately, I am not. Yet.
When I found out I was pregnant, I automatically assumed I would breastfeed. In fact after my Nebraska shower I made a comment to my mom about how many bottles I got that I would “never use”. I remember being shocked that she didn’t know I planned to breastfeed. I just assumed she expected me to. After all we had all been breastfed. During that time before Aiden was born I was surrounded by literature enforcing the importance of breastfeeding. I had been signed up for just about every baby list out there, and so I would get the information from the formula companies, but even THAT said “Breastfeeding is best” before going into the details of formula feeding. My mother-in-law was a group leader for the Le Leche League. I honestly never even considered any other feeding option.
Aiden was born 3 weeks early by csection. In the hospital, I was visited daily by a lactation consultant. We never had much success, but they all assured me that it was just because he was early. They told me it would be a matter of days before my milk came in and he started to nurse. I pumped faithfully, feeding him green colostrum with a syringe and googling on my phone to make sure it was ok it was green! The nurse told me it was fine, but she had been surprised herself. I determined it was okay based on the oh-so-reliable online world, and continued the process while we were in the hospital. We refused the little bottles of formula they kept offering us, because we had been told over and over that they would ruin all of my breastfeeding efforts.
Aiden was a hungry baby. The tiny dribbles of colostrum were ok the first couple of days, but we were in the hospital 4 days after he was born, and by the last night he absolutely would not stop crying. The nurse came in and basically said I was abusing my baby by not feeding him, and so I cried while I fed him one of the tiny bottles. He finally stopped crying, and slept after that. I, however, felt like a total failure. Basically the pediatrician told me that if I didn’t either start producing milk right away or continue feeding him formula we would not be able to go home because he was losing too much weight. I looked at my tiny, jaundiced, shrinking baby and it was all too much.
I continued feeding him the formula in addition to trying to nurse and pump. I was in soooo much pain from the csection, and could not get up and down or get any privacy. I got used to the fact that everyone in that hospital had seen me topless as they wandered in and out as I tried to pump in bed. We were able to leave the hospital after promising to check in at our local doctor for a weight and bilirubin test the following day. They gave me a prescription for a hospital grade breast pump, and directions to the rental place, along with a good supply of those guilt-inducing little bottles and a can of formula. Of course my insurance did not cover the breast pump. So I put down the deposit and paid the $20 fee for the week and headed home.
Once I got home, I continued pumping every 2-3 hours. Eventually, the green went away, and what I was pumping looked more like milk but there was never much of it. It was thick like the fatty milk that comes first, but there was never any of the thinner blueish milk I was told would come after that. I continued to try to nurse Aiden before feeding him the formula and then I wuld pump after that. By the time I was done pupming I could sleep for about 20 minutes before we started all over again. The next day we had to go back to the hospital, this time our local hospital, because Aiden needed jaundice treatments. I packed up my pump, and stood in the bathroom (which was still pretty painful) to pump during our hospital stay. I would give the results of the pumping to the nurse, and she would store it for me. She would encourage me each time, and tell me how good I was doing. She is the only person I remember hearing that from.
We were once again cleared to go home. Basically my routine remained the same for the first 5 weeks of Aiden’s life. I never pumped more than 6 ounces in a full day. I cried at every doctor’s appointment when asked about it. I took so much fenugreek I thought I would smell like maple syrup forever. I hated myself for being out of work so long before Aiden was born, because money was tight and I could not afford to see a lactation specialist. All of this was going on amidst a serious bout of post-partum depression to boot. I cried in the shower every day, and every time my little sister complained about leaking or painful boobs it made me angry. She didn’t even want to breastfeed, and her body worked just fine. I was going crazy trying, and I got (almost) nothing. I never had any discomfort. When I finally stopped pumping it was like I never had. No leaking, no soreness… nothing.
The decision to stop was the hardest one I have ever made. Matt and I struggled for weeks. Well, actually I struggled. Matt was okay with formula from early on. I was all alone in those first weeks because he had to work, and I think he probably would have done anything to make life easier for me. Honestly, I never worried that feeding Aiden formula would make him any less healthy or smart. As someone who is very interested in sociology, I believe there is more to those studies than breastmilk vs. formula. I am very much on the side of nurture over nature, and I think the kind of mother who is likely to breastfeed has more of an impact than the actual milk. I absolutely believe breastmilk is best when it works, but I don’t worry about Aiden having any kind of disadvantage. In the end, I knew that if I was not producing more than 6 ounces a day after five weeks and tons of supplements something was wrong. I could not afford to keep paying $20/week for a pump that wasn’t able to produce enough milk to feed my son.
I couldn’t even return the pump myself. I felt like the women would look at me and know I was a failure. I cried as I packed away the pieces of the kit that didn’t have to go back. I couldn’t throw them away for some reason. They are still in a drawer in my kitchen. Feeding Aiden formula continued to make me sad for quite a while. I felt like a total failure.
Now, I can feed Aiden with no bad feelings. He is a happy, healthy, smart little boy. Meal times are just about feeding the baby. They are not a reflection of whether or not I am a good mom. His cousins all take the same formula he does, no one in our family makes me feel bad about that. I can even hear about my sister-in-law nursing her daughter without and bad feelings. I really have made good progress. There are still those occassional bad days though. I follow a lot of mom blogs, and read a lot of natural parenting websites, and every once in a while the guilt and fear creep back in. I feel like I should have tried harder. Like I somehow failed, even though it was my body that would not cooperate. Like I said, I don’t fear Aiden will be any less healthy or smart, but I fear what other people think of me. I feel like I have to hide from the natural parenting communities, because even though I value a great deal of the same things they do, I use formula and therefore am inferior.
I don’t deny that some of this might be all in my head, but the truth of the matter is that most of it is not. The fact is that there is a huge divide in the world of feeding choices, and just like the formula companies feel the need to print that breastmilk is best on their feeding guides, there aren’t many people willing to admit (out loud) that formula is just fine too. I am constantly surrounded by insensitive and vocal people willing to point out studies saying that babies who are fed formula will be less intelligent, obese, unhealthy adults. You might think I am exaggerating, but join some parenting forums and then we can talk. So I have two choices… I can stop reading those forums and blogs, or I can find that thick skin that I have been looking for.
I don’t want to take the first option. I may not breastfeed, but I still want to learn about all kind of parenting and I actually have a fair amount in common with some of those moms. I make my own baby food, believe in many attachment parenting practices, and would love to be more organic and earth friendly. I love the fact that they tend to be fairly anti-consumerism, and focus on helping stay-at-home moms live on a budget. So, I have no choice but to work on letting the little digs (and the not so little insults) slide by. After all, the people who are closed-minded (my doctor actually called them lactation nazis once, trying to make me feel better) are by no means the majority! They are just able to get to me because I am overly sensitive. So, my goal? To stop hiding. I did what was right for me an my family, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
“I was torn, as a blogger, because I knew that the API and natural parenting communityexpected me, as a green blogger, to breastfeed until Little Sir was at least a year old.Honestly, they’d prefer he be walking up to me at 2 years old and pulling up my shirt. (This idea creeps me out personally, but I understand the heart behind it and I respect that some people do this.)”
“I am actually thankful for my experience with formula because I think it will help me breastfeed longer this time. Hopefully this time I will not be so connected to the breast pump, which I still believe sabotaged my supply last time. I should be more available, time-wise, to nurse on a regular schedule. I am not so optimistic that I anticipate my milk production to be able to keep up with the growing baby at 4-5 months old – I wasn’t able to with Little Sir.
My boobs just don’t make much milk, even with massage, supplements, eating superfoods, drinking gallons of water, etc., etc. But, unlike last time, this time I know that I can start adding formula into the mix at any point and that doesn’t mean I have to stop breastfeeding. This time I can breastfeed as long as my baby is willing to keep breastfeeding, even though my production can’t keep up with him/her because I have the option of adding formula into the mix. I am actually very excited about trying this, and I feel a lot of freedom from the knowledge that it is not ‘all or nothing’.”