FFF Friday: “There is no failure if I am feeding my baby”

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.
FFF Jenny, a great blogger over at ConscientiousConfusion, is the author of this week’s FFF Friday feature. It’s a good reminder that not only is the “all or nothing” mentality isn’t necessary in breastfeeding, it also isn’t necessary in order to be dubbed “pro-breastfeeding”.
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Breastfeeding is a hot topic among mommy bloggers, especially natural birth/attachment parenting advocates, who are the majority of the mommy bloggers that I follow. I completely agree with the whole “breast is best” philosophy, and had originally planned on breastfeeding for at least a year with my first child, Little Sir.
Since Little Sir did experience a natural birth, he was able to breastfeed immediately and really didn’t have any issues with latch or gaining weight or anything – we were very blessed in that way. However, when I went back to work and had to pump for the majority of his day, he became less and less interested in breastfeeding. It’s not that he preferred the bottle per se, but just that he was (and is) a very active baby and wasn’t able to pay attention to the boob for more than 5 minutes unless he was feeding in his sleep.
We had to add formula at about 4 months of age because my production just could not keep up with his hunger. He never seemed to distinguish between formula and breastmilk, so that was easy to do. I didn’t feel guilty at that point because it was only supplementing.
As we neared 6 months, I was still pumping, but we had to add 2 oz of formula to every bottle in order to get the 5-6 oz he needed. Before bed he needed at least 8 oz in order to sleep through the night. We had to do straight formula for that one – there’s no way I had ever produced that much pumping.
I learned about breast massage, I ate oatmeal, I took herbs, I drank tea. I was working 10 hour shifts. I had to hook this machine up to my boobs and let it mangle me for a minimum of 3 or 4 times a day. And for what? So I could get a very minimal amount of milk, sometimes only 3 oz total. I started to hate that breast pump. I had fantasies about throwing it onto the highway and watching it be hit by cars.
When I try to get the little guy to breastfeed on weekends and on my days off, it was like wrestling a cat. He popped on and off for a minimum of 25 minutes each time, and didn’t get much, so we were back doing it again in 2 hours. Every 2 hours, 25 minutes of wrestling and hair pulling and squirming. Aaaggh.
There had to be better ways to spend my days and his.
“I was torn, as a blogger, because I knew that the API and natural parenting community
expected 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 wrote the above narrative in a blog post and got a lot of supportive comments from local friends (not a peep from the natural parenting/green blogging community), giving me the mental permission I needed to allow Little Sir to wean himself off the breast at 6 months.
I can honestly tell you that it was not traumatic for us to end our breastfeeding relationship. In fact, it was a huge relief. Now we could sit together comfortably on the couch with a bottle and I could look into his eyes and cuddle him, instead of twisting and fighting and forcing him to drink and ending with both of us frustrated. I never once felt we were less close after we ended breastfeeding. I feel blessed that I found The Fearless Formula Feeder blog during this time. Every Friday I would read other mother’s stories and feel less and less guilty.
However, because I did stop breastfeeding at 6 months, I ovulated unexpectedly soon and conceived our second child when Little Sir was only 8 months old.
As I approached our second natural childbirth, my experience with formula actually strengthened my confidence in breastfeeding. I wrote on my blog shortly before my daughter’s birth:
“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’.”
I’d like to encourage other moms having trouble breastfeeding and thinking about supplementing with formula. I know that formula is demonized by the green and natural parenting movement as a “booby trap”, but for me it has been the opposite. I wish I could apologize to moms on behalf of the green and natural parenting bloggers. I hope it is enough for someone to read from me that, as one of my fellow bloggers has said, we are not for breastfeeding – “we are for feeding babies”… however that might happen!
Update: We had a great natural childbirth experience with Little Lady, and although she did experience issues from having no root reflex after birth, she is so far breastfeeding successfully. I have clipped some coupons for formula already and I’m not worried about “failing” because there is no failure if I am feeding my baby – whether it comes from my breasts or from a can!
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Feel like contributing to FFF Fridays? Shoot me an email at 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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6 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “There is no failure if I am feeding my baby”

  1. Amen! The further into my relationship with my daughter that I grow, the more I realize that I did not “fail” at breastfeeding my son, either. We got the bonding experience just fine with a bottle, and my bonding with my breast and bottle fed daughter stems more from attachment parenting and play time than the boobage. I think so many more women would feel comfortable extending a breastfeeding relationship if they knew they could feed formula as well.

    Best wishes for you, your new little one, and your whole family!

  2. Just a wee comment: I wouldn't rely on breastfeeding as a method of birth control, even if you're breastfeeding exclusively. My maternal grandmother had four kids a year apart: all while breastfeeding full-time (admittedly, as advised by medical “experts” at the time, she fed them on a schedule, but even so, she might have ovulated even if feeding on demand).

    I wasn't interested in having more children (at least not right away) after my daughter, so I used barrier methods for the first six months and had an IUD put in when my daughter was seven months. And even though at the time my daughter was pretty much exclusively breastfed with a few other foods here and there, I started menstruating again about eight months after giving birth. So I wasn't going to leave it up to breastfeeding to plan my family.

  3. amazing! how empowering is this read!? For me, incredibly! We started supplementing in hospital due to low blood sugars and a traumatic delivery of my Monster.
    I bf'd for maybe…10 days and cried every time.
    Thank you so much for another amazing read!

  4. Fantastic! And maybe if you aren't pumping less, you'll be less stressed about it so your supply will even out no problem, and supplementing that way sounds good 🙂

  5. “Since Little Sir did experience a natural birth, he was able to breastfeed immediately…”

    What misinformation to include in this post! My daughter did not “experience a natural birth” (induction and epidural) and yet she was ALSO able to breastfeed immediately, had no problems with latch, etc. And as the post clearly states, the second child, which also “experienced a natural birth” (this phrasing is so twee) DID have problems.

    Don't women get enough guilt without implying that it was their evil, evil “choice” to medicate, induce, etc., that caused their breastfeeding failure?

  6. Anonymous: I assume the writer is contrasting a natural birth with a c-section, where at some hospitals, you are separated from your baby for several hours & cannot necessarily breastfeed until you're out of recovery.

    She never at any point inferred that she had made superior choices that somehow insured a natural birth.

    Jenny: I have had supply issues with my son & have supplemented with formula daily since he was two weeks old. I tried everything for nearly four months & then finally settled in to a routine of two formula top-ups a day in addition to breastfeeding. It's been a hell of a journey & I still try to figure out what happened in the hopes that I can avoid the same problems if/when I have another child. I still believe that breast milk is better than formula, but if it's driving a woman crazy to breastfeed, it's more important for a child to have a healthy & sane mama. 🙂

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