FFF Friday: ” I had to make a choice – comfort him, or make his next meal?”

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.
Meghan B.’s story makes me cry. That’s all I can say about it right now. I feel so much anger for her. I’m sitting here at Starbucks rereading it, and I’ve totally lost my appetite for my sacred maple scone. 

Meghan, if you’re out there….you are an AMAZING mom. It will get better, I swear. Hang in there, lady.

I had every intention of breastfeeding, believe me.  I defiantly threw away all of the formula coupons that I received, registered for the fancy Breastflow bottles for when I had to go back to work, and read and watched every single thing that I could find about breastfeeding.  I never bothered to listen to anyone talk about formula because I didn’t think that it would ever apply to me and my perfect little life.
Well, I also had every intention of having a natural homebirth, mostly so that I could get a good start with breastfeeding.  My water broke a few days after I hit 37 weeks and after over 24 hours of laboring at my midwife’s house and 4 hours of pushing with no progress I threw in the towel and we went to the hospital.  I totally became the lady screaming for an epidural as she walks through the door, by the way.  I pushed for a few more hours, and I could see in the mirror that I requested that he wasn’t moving down the birth canal at all.  The doctor tried the vacuum a few times, but it wouldn’t stick to his head.  I felt all of this, and it was so painful.  I got an episiotomy and they could finally get the vacuum attached and he came out a few minutes later.  He had been in such a hurry to get out of there that he was trying to come out with his head sideways.  So I didn’t get my natural birth- at least I could breastfeed!  That would ease the trauma, or so I thought.
We left the hospital without getting established.  There was only one lactation nurse on staff each day, she was only there until 4 pm, and every single room in the maternity ward was full.  I didn’t get much help.  He would latch ok if someone was helping, but I couldn’t get him to do it on my own.  He would mostly just sleep.  The general attitude that I got from the staff was “You’re doing it WRONG, but I’m not going to help you.”  I was told to pump a little and give it to him with a syringe, that would take the edge off of his hunger and help him latch.  I thought that once I got home and away from the hospital, things would straighten themselves out and I could talk to my doctor about seeing some different lactation consultants.  I was released Thursday night and on Friday morning I brought my under 6 pound, yellow newborn in to my FP doctor and cried and cried and asked her for help.  She hooked me up with a visiting nurse, but she couldn’t come until Monday morning.  She gave me some tips and her phone number and said to call if I needed more before then.
Then, he started to be awake more.  And he was HUNGRY.  Every time he cried I got this feeling of dread because I knew what was coming- me trying to get him to latch, him crying because he was hungry and getting hungrier and not latching.  Me SCREAMING at him “JUST LATCH YOU STUPID BABY.  YOU CAN’T EAT IF YOU WON’T LATCH.  I’M TRYING TO FEED YOU!” maybe he would latch, but just for a few seconds before he fell asleep.  I had no idea what I was doing.  No friggin clue.   The nurse weighed him on Monday and he was down to 5 pounds 5 ounces (down from 6 pounds 9 ounces).  She came by every day and tried to help me, meanwhile he kept losing and getting yellower and getting sleepier.  When he was 8 days old, it got bad.
We were having a 2 am “nursing” session, with both of us crying.  I looked away for a minute and when I looked back he was laying in my arms completely limp and colorless and not breathing.  My husband somehow got him breathing again before the ambulance came.  We were brought to a small hospital near us where he was pumped with fluids until the ambulance from the bigger hospital (where I had birthed at) showed up.  He was severely dehydrated and his sodium levels were through the roof.  We were in the hospital for a week, and I started hardcore pumping with the hospital grade Medela.  I was barely getting an ounce per session, but that didn’t matter much when he would only drink 13 milliliters at a time. He was hooked up to so many machines that it was hard to hold him, and the nurses had to remind me and say “hey, how about you hold your baby?”  I didn’t want to hold him.  I was a terrible mother and I wanted nothing to do with him anymore.  Not only was I still in massive amounts of pain from my traumatic birth, I wasn’t breastfeeding, AND I had almost starved my baby to death.  I kept trying to get him to latch at the hospital, but no dice.  We left and I decided to just pump.  I accepted the can of formula and decided to use it for emergencies, since I wasn’t pumping enough for him anymore.  Once we got home I was able to pump about an ounce every time, but usually closer to 45 milliliters.  No matter how often I pumped, it never amounted to any more than that.  So basically, I had to pump two-three times for every one of his feeds.  I was extremely depressed.  I spent more time pumping than I did holding and loving my baby.  If he cried while I was pumping, I had to make a choice- hold and comfort him, or make the food for his next meal?  Luckily my husband was home to pick up my slack.  Eventually at 3 or 4 weeks, I had had enough.  I cut down my pumping sessions until my milk dried up. 
So, formula feeding moms are lazy and just didn’t try hard enough to breastfeed?  That is how I used to feel.  Until I tried EVERYTHING- nipple shields, hospital grade pumps, SNS systems, ungodly amounts of oatmeal, you name it.  I still cry often, but I start my treatment for PPD tomorrow.  My baby is on 100% formula, and he is fine.  At 3 months old he is a great big healthy boy who gets to eat all he wants, which is a lot!  It kills me to think about how hungry he must have been, and if he wondered why his mommy wouldn’t feed him.  He’s happy now, because I’m happy.  I no longer feel guilt for formula feeding, I feel guilt for being so thickheaded about breastfeeding that it almost cost my son his life.  In time, I’m sure that that guilt will fade as well.
It’s that time again – getting low on the backlog of FFF submissions. Come on, peeps…share with the rest of the class, will you? formulafeeders@gmail.com


Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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9 thoughts on “FFF Friday: ” I had to make a choice – comfort him, or make his next meal?”

  1. I'm so glad to hear the baby is fine, and you are getting help with PPD. What I don't understand is why the doctor, and various nurses and LCs you saw didn't tell you to give him formula? Couldn't they tell the baby was starving?

    I'm sorry you had to go through that, it's awful.

  2. This reminds me SO much of what I went through with my baby (My story was on FFF Friday awhile ago). It is so scary and I'm so sorry. I promise, it gets better. You are doing a great job!

  3. What an awful experience! But you and your baby have made it through and it only gets better from here! Isn't it wonderful that we have so many good kinds of formula to feed our little ones these days? Enjoy those new baby snuggles!

  4. I too am on medication for my PPD, and I am even more grateful that I can feed my baby food that isn't laced with medicines in which there isn't enough research to suggest that it is safe to do. It will get better, and after a few months the guilt does fade as your treatment kicks in and your mind unmixes itself. You are doing a great job.

  5. Our experience was not quite this scary, but it easily could have been. We did end up back in the hospital with our daughter because of weight loss, so I know the guilt of feeling like you were unknowingly starving your child all too well.

    It gets better, I promise! I had terrible PPA and after the failure of breastfeeding I started having symptoms of PPOCD as well. With treatment and time things have gotten so much better for us. My relationship with my baby is amazing. Mommy is still her favorite person in the world, despite my shortcomings at first. Babies are pretty amazing like that. 🙂

  6. Oh, Meghan. I'm so sorry that this is the way it all went. As new moms, we could die trying to out-crunch the next woman but we all have to do what is best for us and our own – and I'm so so glad that you and little A. are healthy and happy. Much love to you and your family. <3

  7. I had a similar experience in that I had an induction that went bad, a baby in nicu for two days who had bottle first and didn't want to latch. i was pumping a reasonable amount…. at first, by 3 weeks in though – i was STILL healing from a difficult induction and c-section, the pump i had wasn't very good and my supply kept dropping, and all I did was pump and sleep and never get to hold and bond with the baby. That's the point where my mother (Lamaze and LLLI person from her era) took over and said enough… time for formula. We made the switch and never looked back. And she is a happy healthy 2.5 year old. You are strong and wonderful mama… most important is to FEED the baby…

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