FFF Friday: “These are the memories I have of my son’s first few weeks…”

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 chose Caroline’s story as the last FFF Friday of the year, because she hits on so many aspects of what is wrong with our current infant feeding discourse. The misrepresentation of facts; the myths about how breastfeeding is “supposed” to be; the guilt women are feeling when they fail to give their babies “the best”; hell, the very name of what we give our babies as an alternative to breastmilk, as Caroline so wisely points out below…this is all wrong. And the more women that speak up – brilliant, honest, brave women like Caroline - the more that I feel it has to stop. Being that it’s time for resolutions and all, I’d like to make one in Caroline’s honor: I will do whatever I can in 2013 to attack these injustices, and I don’t mean simply by writing about it. It’s time we took this discussion off the page and onto the streets. Maybe it’s just because I saw the movie version of Les Miserables last night (98% perfection except for the super stinky 2% composed of Russell Crowe and his atrocious attempt at singing) but I am feeling like a revolution is just around the corner, and 2013 will be the year it begins.

Do you hear the people sing?

Happy Friday – and happy New Year, fearless ones,

The FFF

Caroline’s Story

I always knew I would nurse if I had a baby: it’s natural, easier, and best of all, free!  When I was pregnant, I pored through nursing books and websites, attended a lactation session, and asked nursing moms for tips.  Unfortunately, I also bought into several myths quite prevalent in pro-nursing circles: better bonding, fewer illnesses, formula=obese and breastfed=healthy, etc.  The worst (and most arrogant) myth I bought into was the claim that very few women are truly unable to nurse.  So, by the time my son came, bottle-feeding wasn’t even a consideration.

According to the nursing experts, everything was in our favor: my son was not born before term or underweight; I had immediate skin-to-skin contact following birth for one hour; no epidural or other placenta-crossing drugs were taken to run the risk of leaving a newborn too lethargic to latch for hours/days; his APGAR score was high; I was in a comfortable environment (home) when it was time for my milk to come in; we were blessed not to have a c-section; my son did not have tongue-tie; I had a supportive husband…  Name the factor that improves your odds of success, and I probably had it.  In fact, three days after my son was born, my breasts began to feel a tad heavier, so I convinced myself my milk had, indeed, truly come in.  I was happy, and my son was healthy.  Sure, he cried a lot, but at least I was able to nurse!

Looking back, I was ignoring warning signs during those first few days.  My son’s crying and screaming got worse each day.  At his check-up three days after his birth, we were told he was extremely dehydrated and he’d lost a higher percentage in body weight than average, but I assured them my milk had just come in, so that would solve that – no formula for us!  Most significantly, I had never seen any white liquid in his mouth after a feeding or even heard him swallow.  Despite all this, I was so self-assured in my ability to use my breasts for what they were there for that I was blissfully blind – after all, very few women truly can’t nurse, right?

Several hours later, panic…  My baby’s cries and screams had progressively gotten worse over the course of the evening to the point that his voice had grown hoarse.  He began refusing my breast, thrashing his head about and screaming instead of trying to nurse at all.  We couldn’t get him to settle down, he would not rest, and we simply didn’t know what to do.  We called our midwife at 2 a.m. in the morning, and she suggested we give him a bit of formula.  It still makes me cry to recall that first time I gave my son what I saw as white poison.  I had a sample tin of formula I’d received from my OB’s office that my husband used to go prepare some in a cup (we didn’t even know to sterilize), and I grabbed a baby syringe dropper because we owned no bottles.  I had bought into the line that giving any formula at all to a newborn can be detrimental, so I sobbed as I administered that first dropper.  However, something remarkable happened: after swallowing his first few drops of real food, his stomach gurgled wildly, and his mouth became wet for the first time.  It dawned on me that my son had been out of the womb for more than 80 hours, all without food and very, very little liquid.  He was starving and extremely dehydrated, but I had ignored the signs because I was so confident that I was, in fact, nursing him.

The following day was one of more panic and worry: oh, no – my milk hasn’t come in yet, the tea must not be enough, what else do we try, etc.  We contacted La Leche League and a lactation consultant, spent a bit of money on every known milk-supply aid out there (what in the world is Goat’s Rue, anyway?!), revisited all of my nursing literature, and followed every bit of advice (Have we used the correct position while reclining in bed in order to aid milk production?  Did my mental imagery exercise of my breasts flowing like waterfalls last long enough?).  My midwife came by to double-check our latch and the baby’s tongue, and I broke down in sobs over the fact that I wasn’t breast-feeding my son.  She placed her hand on my shoulder and said something along the lines of, “Your first priority is to feed your son.  Your second priority is to nurse him if you want to, and are able to.”

When I think of my son’s first 25 days, I don’t have memories of soft cuddles, gushy fall-in-love moments, or happy dreams of his future.  Instead, I remember day ten, when he had regained his birth weight but was still very dehydrated, and me, at wit’s end, consulting an internet forum of nursing “champions” to see if it took any of them longer than ten days for their milk to come in, only to have woman after woman tell me I should just cut off the formula completely.  I remember my husband being away at work, and me spending the day pumping and pumping for tiny droplets of liquid, one hand on the breast pump for one side, and the other holding a screaming infant, watching the timer to tell me when to switch sides, then carrying the infant and supplies down to the kitchen to sterilize, and beginning it all again later after feeding him.  I remember that at the height of my breasts’ milk production, yielding almost a full ounce of watery, whitish liquid in one single day, and me pleading with my son to drink all of it because it had mommy’s special, hard-earned milk in it.  I remember my bull-headed determination to nurse my baby first for 20-30 minutes before giving him any formula, despite the fact that as he grew stronger, the pressure he exerted in trying to get something out of my breasts increased to the point that it felt like he was sucking knives from my ribs out through my nipples.  I remember the shame in having to reply in the negative to all the friends and family who asked if we were nursing.  I also remember feeling like I had been slapped in the face when consulting the information labels on formula canisters, all of which begin with a hurtful warning statement, usually in bold: “Experts agree on the many benefits of breast milk,” or “IMPORTANT NOTICE: BREAST MILK IS BEST FOR BABIES.”  I remember the worry over giving my son formula, opening him up to viruses and obesity.  I remember being more comfortable feeding my son a complete stranger’s donated milk rather than that horrid formula milk.  I remember all of the disdainful looks I received when having to break out a bottle to feed my son in public.  I remember the emotional turmoil of getting my hopes up that a new solution would work, only to have them dashed again when it didn’t.  These are the memories I have of my son’s first few weeks.

The little “milk” I had (which never looked anything like the donor milk) quickly dried up.  I still remember the last time he rooted towards my chest, when he was about a month old.  It had been a few days since he had nursed or I’d seen anything at all come out of my breasts.  He latched on for a minute or so, lightly suckled while looking up into my eyes, then dropped his head back to fall off my breast.  That was the last “comfort feed” he ever received from me, and it was also the most peaceful nursing session I ever had with him.  It was as though he somehow knew that there was nothing in there, but maybe he wanted to try to let me know the bottle would be okay or something.  When he was six weeks old, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and placed on medication.  A few weeks after that, I read a book describing formula or bottle feeding as “artificial.”  That was probably my rock bottom – I lost what little self-esteem I still had as a mother.  I had obviously failed my son if I could only feed him artificially.  Those were the days of constant weeping and continual apologies to my son for getting stuck with such a bad mom.

As the months went on, the pain lessened in intensity, but only grew with experience.  It hurt every time I heard a nursing mom complain about nursing, claimed I must have it easier, ask why I wasn’t nursing, etc – the pressure in our society to nurse can be brutal, and there were countless times I went crying to my husband because someone’s offhanded comment broke my heart all over again.  I began resenting all of the fuss and time it took to clean, sterilize, and prepare bottles of formula for my son while he had to wait and cry.  Thankfully, I never projected that resentment toward my son himself, despite all of his colic and neediness, but at the same time, I was pretty numb in the midst of my post-partum depression, simply going through the motions while taking care of him day and night.

More time passed, and I began to heal.  I read the stories of dozens of women who weren’t able to nurse – I was not alone.  I began calling formula “milk” when preparing it and offering it to my son – formulas are things you use in geometry; milk is a food source for babies.  When he was five months old, I remember giving him a nice hug and kissing him on the cheek – I had my first experience of any sort of motherly love toward him as a baby in my arms.  I realized my son will not care if he received breast milk or formula milk during his first 6-12 months of life – I care, but he doesn’t, and won’t.  I came across information that dispels some of the harmful myths about formula feeding.  Finally, what my midwife had told me began to sink in – my first responsibility as a mother is to feed my son.  In the end, it really doesn’t matter so much where that food comes from – what matters is his ability to grow and thrive.

***

Viva la revolution! Email your FFF submission to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “We have to do what’s right for our family, not what’s right for others.”

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.

Shannon’s story describes – in exquisite, painful detail – how different pregnancy can be when dealing with a prenatal mood disorder. With all the talk of mental health lately, I find it discouraging that we still pay so little attention to maternal emotional well-being. I think when we become pregnant – and again once the baby is born – we become invisible. We are no longer women, with our own needs, desires, and emotional struggles; we become incubators, and then feeding receptacles. It’s okay to subjugate ourselves, because it’s self-serving to do anything but. We are expected to be happy, glowing, and head-over-heels in love with our offspring, ready to do whatever it takes to give them the best. 

But there is so much more to it than that. There is so much more to us.

Thank you, Shannon, for giving us a glimpse into how too many women suffer during their pregnancies, and beyond. And most of all, thank you for doing what you needed to do in order to take care of yourself as well as your child. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Shannon’s Story

Most women are fully aware of post-natal depression and are highly oblivious of prenatal depression and anxiety. You see, pregnancy is supposed to be this happy thing. You glow. You are growing a baby. You are becoming a mom. Total strangers are quite curious creatures and want to know about mom-to-be. Your family members spread the news among their friends. Prior to the first appointment, our entire group of friends knew. Who then, in-turn, spread the ‘wonderful’ news to their friends. All of whom made me the center of attention, which was what I was trying to avoid. I wanted life to continue as normal. I am not the center-of-attention type of person nor am I a type-A personality. Unfortunately, my pregnancy was beyond normal filled with severe prenatal depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts. It was horror from the beginning.

I had major tendon reconstruction in my left foot a mere two weeks prior to conception. You would think two doctors in the same network with computerized access to my files would understand the predicament. How could I assume that? They were not on the same page; not even in the same book. My OB wanted a minimum of 35lbs. My podiatrist, on the other hand, wanted a maximum of 20lbs. That particular foot was braced and wrapped for my first three OB appointments. Both the OB and her nurse noticed and commented, but could have cared less. Quite possibly, could that have been my first red flag about how bitchy and cold this OB was? Maybe. However, I continued to go to her appointments.

Although I was discharged from the Air Force Reserves a few months prior, I still had the military mentality of being a gym-rat and keeping my weight in-check. Yes, in this day in age, that is great. Work out, be healthy; Eat right, be healthy. It was in-grained into my lifestyle. That almost perfect, athletic body was gone. I could not see past the ever-growing alien. Nor did I develop an understanding that I was supposed to gain weight. The weight gain was only the start of my life-altering struggles.

When I wasn’t highly denying the pregnancy to family friends, I raised my voice in terror. I wanted to disappear from this Earth; never wanting to leave the house, not talking about the pregnancy. To blatantly put it, I was becoming depressed caught up in the anxiety attacks, trapped in my own place, and terrorized by cameras. The flags where there. Yet, my OB, who I trusted with both of our lives to, ignored them. She asked the same questions every appointment. Never once asking about my mental health. I brought up the depression; she ran out of the examination room. She mentioned that my depression was not ‘deep enough’ for a mental health treatments. From that point on, I was repeatedly bitched at for lack of weight gain, for losing 10lbs prior to the 3rd month, hospitalized for dehydration and extreme nausea and most importantly, for continuing to use the gym. For me, the gym made me happy by equalizing the hormones in my brain. I felt normal for 2-3 hours. I swam competitively, ran on the treadmill and tossed 20lb weights like they were candy. Pregnancy is not a handicap, why must this OB believe I couldn’t do anything except walk? I cried prior to every appointment in fear of what new development to be horrified about. I cried after each appointment because I wasn’t gaining weight like I was supposed to. I checked into every appointment, but wanted to turn around and leave. My husband was actually supportive, listened to the complaints, witness the crying and was clueless on how to speak pregnancy without me overreacting in horror and terror. My pregnancy was far from normal and she wanted nothing to do with it. I could have followed a family request to switch, but I remained under her care.

I couldn’t get time off for the anatomy sonogram. I was on a days shift rotation at that time and worked 12 hour days. Needless to say, my work schedule didn’t sit well with either the scheduling nurse or the OB. They wanted the sonogram report yesterday. I didn’t want it done. Most importantly, I didn’t want to find out the sex. I was wishing this alien would leave my body. The earlier, the better. I was wishing for the sonographer to not find a heartbeat.  After the sonographer blurted out the sex of our child, I cried. I found out that we were having a baby girl. By this time, both families were extremely anxious for baby showers. Against our families wishes, I refused the baby showers. With my mental angst against the world, baby showers were out. I wasn’t in the mental capacity to act happy nor was I thrilled to see a camera. I was horribly petrified of cameras and mirrors. I didn’t want to see myself. There was no way that I could have gotten through a baby shower without crying or disappointing party go-ers. I was lectured about the so-called importance of baby showers and was called selfish for not putting my unborn child first.

I’m extremely anti-pink, so pink was immediately out. To blatantly put it, my husband owns more pink than I do. A baby girl is beautiful. She doesn’t need to wear tutus and pink to prove that. The thoughts of pink from my family members echoed sin and sorrow in my mind. My mother-in-law threw herself a grandmother shower and basically forced me into Babies R Us, Wal-Mart and Target to get ‘ideas’. The rule that I refuse to budge — absolutely NO pink. I painfully picked out some needed supplies. Did I get those supplies? No. What did I get from her co-workers? Ugliness, pure pastel pink ugliness. I do understand the thought was there, but why is it so difficult to respect the new mother’s decision? This made me hate my unborn child even more. I cried as I realized that my unborn child had to be photographed in clothing that resembled pepto-bismol vomit.

After being hospitalized for pre-term labor at 29 and 30 weeks, my OB’s colleague was appointed my care due to her vacation. He was an idiot and tried giving me medication I was highly allergic to. The doctor had zero bedside manner. None. He didn’t read my charts, missed the bright red band on my wrist with my drug allergy and refused to listened to the nurses who believed my daughter was well ahead of the suggested gestational age. By this point, my husband and I were discussing a switch to another OB. We finally had the third strike. How could we trust this colleague to possibly deliver our baby if he doesn’t understand medical allergies? He put me on bed rest. Four days later, I took myself off. The medication given to slow the progress of pre-term labor did nothing to ease the contractions. I returned to her care and 34 weeks, I immediately switched OBs. Granted it should have been MUCH sooner, but regardless, I stuck it out. Every legitimate complaint I had about the pregnancy was pushed aside. My daughter’s foot was painfully wedged in between my ribs, ripping apart the muscle. She acted blind about the problem, not feeling for my daughter’s foot or giving a suggestion about re-positioning her foot. Never once during my antenatal care, did she feel the position of the baby. Only measuring for growth.

I was debating about breastfeeding pumping at first, but soon felt trapped with my mother-in-law as she tried to take my bras into Babies R Us to find the ‘perfect’ pump. Neither one of her boys were breast fed. Quite honestly, she was living vicariously through me. She wanted the best for her grand-daughter, not some laboratory formula. She also had to take pictures of everything– Including the delivery (which I immediately shut down) and me feeding our newborn ‘properly’ with human milk. Every time my mother-in-law brought up the front row seat at the delivery, the terror re-surfaced. I screamed at her. I told her to watch the paint dry at her own place. I told her son will be the ONLY visitor until we go home. I wanted to deliver at a hospital without her knowledge.

The new OB immediately noticed the flags. She stepped in and talked with my husband and I about formula feeding. She mentioned that because of my imminent threat to develop postpartum depression, breastfeeding would have been the death of me. She understood the predicament and questioned the surgical scar on my foot. By delivery, I had gained only 22 lbs. Most importantly, I was still in MY clothing. Due to the severe depression and the painful position of my daughter’s foot in my rib cage, I was medically induced at 38weeks. She saved my life. Come to find out, she also saved my daughter’s life. Her placenta was in the process of rupturing. I had no symptoms to question that my daughter’s health was in jeopardy, just my typical every few minute Braxton Hicks.

As I checked into the hospital, the assigned nurse asked about my feeding preference. I gave her my formula requirement. All but one nurse happily understood. The night nurse was a so-called breastfeeding nazi and tried everything to get me to give my daughter the colostrum. The moment she woke me up to feed my daughter and pushed breastfeeding, I asked her to leave. The lactation consultant was nice enough to give me pointers on how to dry up my milk, if, and when it did come in. As my almost 9lb daughter was being examined by the pediatrician, she quickly noticed my daughter was approximately 41 weeks gestation. That would explain the partial placenta rupture.

As I talked with the OB the next morning, she made a comment that has stuck into my mind. Happy Momma = Happy Baby = Happy Family. My delivering OB in her greatness, worked with my husband and I on how to alleviate postpartum depression. Breastfeeding was out. Leaving our place with a newborn in tow was in. Talking to friends and family was a must. After the tumultuous pregnancy, our marriage has thrived and my husband taught himself how to bond with his daughter. My husband became a stay-at-home father for eleven months. Yes, it was a role reversal, but financially, it was our only option because I carried the insurances. He could feed her without needing me to pump. Most importantly, he could bond and developed his own style of parenting and feeding. After a year of infant and parental development, anxiety and challenges, I can happily say that postpartum depression has not reared its ugly head.

I’m all for breast is best for baby, but what many people fail to understand, in some situations, breast is not best for the new mother. Some mothers cannot breastfeed due to a medical condition, severe mastitis, surgery or a crazy work schedule. Some infants do not accept the mother’s breast. I could not stay home any longer than 6 weeks. Pumping in my line of work is not appropriate nor accepted. I work corporate aircraft flight planning and cannot step away from the flight planning desk for a five minute lunch break, let alone ten minutes to pump. We do not have a pumping room and work a twelve hour swing shift rotation. Pumping in traffic was also not an option. We have to do what’s right for our family, not what is right for others. Our daughter is an extremely healthy and active one year old. She’s absolutely perfect, formula baby.

 ***
Share your story for FFF Friday. Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Math is hard.

Remember that controversial Barbie whose little canned, battery-operated voice intoned “math is hard?” She may have had a point. Math can be hard, and not just because some of our brains (ahem, mine) can’t wrap themselves around geometric concepts and algebraic proofs. Math can also be hard when you’re using it to prove a public health point. Numbers are tricky little buggers; they might look all impressive on a page, but when translated to real-world meaning, they lose their power.

Source:http://20prospect.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/math-class-is-tough-barbie/

A nice example of this can be seen in the media reaction to this Irish study, which (among many other more important findings) mentioned “potential public health concerns over the large formula milk volumes consumed by infants (mean 205 ml/kg/day) relative to infant feeding guidelines (150 ml/kg/day)” being raised from the authors’ research. The Irish Times, reporting on the study, states that “Irish infants who are formula fed are consuming 25 per cent more formula milk than recommended which is worrying given the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in young children in Ireland.”

This worried me, for obvious reasons. I had visions of an entire nation of babies being force-fed barrels of formula while their uninformed mothers sang nursery rhymes in their charming brogue… well, the second part didn’t sound so bad, I suppose.

But then I did the math, and a bit of research. The study claims that the guidelines for infant feeding are 150 ml/kg/day. This translates to about 2oz per pound of body weight per day, same as here in the US, where we don’t use the metric system because, you know, we’re badasses. What the mean of this particular sample of Irish babies were actually drinking was closer to 3.5 oz per pound of body weight per day – so, for a 10 pound baby, that would mean about 35 oz of formula. Now obviously, if we’re talking about a 15 pound baby, that could translate to more than 52 oz a day, which is pretty troubling… but hang on a sec.

Here’s where the math gets all funny. We need to know exactly how big and what age these babies were at when the data was collected. A 10-pound baby in a growth spurt may easily consume around 40oz of formula in a day, and it’s not a big deal at all. In fact, it’s developmentally appropriate. Says Vincent Ianelli, MD, on About.com:

(T)here is no specific amount of formula that all babies should be eating each day. While some infants may be eating just 24 ounces a day, others may need 32 ounces or more…The American Academy of Pediatrics… suggests that ‘on average, your baby should take in about 2 1/2 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight.’ So for an average 3 month old baby boy who weighs 13 pounds, that would be about 32 1/2 ounces a day…Keep in mind that these are still averages though, and some babies require more or less formula at each feeding and on each day…

I think this study had really wonderful intentions, and I am in NO way knocking the results – I’m sure they are valid and if anything, the impression I got from the study’s abstract was that the author is pushing for better formula feeding education, so I’m already a big fan of hers. However, the tiny hairs on my arms (yeah, I should probably wax them, but who has the time?) stand up whenever people talk about overfeeding based on amount of formula, rather than behavior. If a baby is spitting up, choking on formula, pulling away from the bottle, letting formula drip out of his/her mouth, being propped up and ignored with a bottle and eating out of boredom… then we can talk. But as I’ve written about before, babies are like, er, people. They have different metabolisms, different needs, etc.  (Granted she’s a toddler and not on formula, but let’s use my daughter as an example. She eats constantly. I mean like 24-hours-a-day, begging for snacks. And yet she’s a peanut. She can barely stay on her weight curve. I’d do anything for that kind of metabolism… )

General guidelines are there for a reason, but I think we need to be very careful about using the words ‘obesity epidemic’ when talking about a study based on self-reported data (I couldn’t tell you how much my babies ate per day unless I was instructed to take inventory – I fed on demand, like I suggest all parents do, just like parents of breastfed babies are instructed to do. I’m sure I would’ve overestimated, and I suspect a significant amount of these women did as well), using babies of all ages and weights. And I think it’s really depressing that out of a study which tackled a number of important issues – like the lack of instruction for formula feeding, the feelings of the mothers regarding the “ease” and social comfort of bottle feeding – the one the media decided to highlight is this one, using the misleading headline “Formula-fed infants overfed by 25%”. One that attempts to portray infant feeding guidelines regarding amount as some sort of scientifically proven, hard line, when they are anything but.

Maybe we can re-issue that ‘math is hard’ Barbie, except she could be wearing a press pass…

 

 

So funny, I could cry

I’ve said it many times before, but SO much of the breast/bottle debate comes down to perspective. If you’re a breastfeeding mom in many (and I mean MANY) parts of the world, you most likely feel like an outsider. Sure, most educated folks know by now that “breast is best”, but a lot of them get squeamish when they realize what that actually means. (“What? You mean these ladies have to actually feed their babies from their…um…eww. That’s gross and I – Oh look! My new Victoria’s Secret catalogue arrived! Would ya look at that.. now that’s what boobs are for!”)

But Mommy World is not the real world. It’s an insular, secret club; one that’s hazing process often involves failed birth plans, brutal pregnancy complications, and postpartum adjustment difficulties. Most new moms desperately need to gain entry to the club, though, because the alternative is to go through all of this crap alone, with only a meddling mother-in-law or a Victoria’s Secret catalogue-obsessed husband to talk to.

Mommy World exists in post-natal support groups, LLL meetings, and online forums. It doesn’t really matter if the club chapter you belong to is virtual or corporeal; in either case, you desperately cling to what you hope will be your tribe, and pray that you fit in, even if you were formerly a successful, ball-busting professional who scoffed at the concept of college sororities. Because you need this. You need validation that you are doing the parenting thing right. You need help getting through the foreign terrain of empty, sleep-deprived days, where all you do is pump/feed/cry/pump/feed/repeat. You need friends.

The mommy world can be a beautiful place, full of true support and sisterhood, where struggle turns into empathy. It can also be a cold, cruel world, where struggle morphs into bitterness and sanctimony, and the need to validate our choices becomes an excuse for smug intolerance.

This is why I shake my head at comments about how formula feeding moms have no reason to feel ostracized, considering our bottle-friendly society. The majority of Americans are obese, and yet most of us understand why an anorexic teen would feel undue pressure to stay thin based on societal ideals. When you add in the complexity of postpartum hormones and our innate, Mister-Rogers’s-generation need to feel special and “best” – well, I think it makes perfect sense that we’d feel a bit funky about bottle feeding.

I’m rehashing these thoughts because FFF Naima sent me this pitch-perfect clip from a recent Simpsons episode. I love it so much that I wish I could marry it (Fearless Husband just saw it and wants to marry it too, so we’re cool).

To Marge, and the rest of you hiding bottles under nursing covers – you’re not crazy. You’re just a citizen of Mommy World at the moment, and until you can beam yourself back into a normal dimension, know this: you are definitely not alone.

FFF Friday: “I thought for sure I was the worst mom in the world.”

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.


Just like Liz Ann, I recall feeling inexplicably angry at my son when he couldn’t eat from me without screaming. When I think about those first weeks, I always think of this one song I kept singing to him as he cried for hours on end: One day, is all it takes for things to turn around/and all I know, is you got me and I got you, babe… I’d sing the refrain over and over, willing it to be so, that one day things would turn around. And thank god, they did.  I am so happy that they did for Liz Ann as well. I know that if I’d read her story in those awful days, it would have made me feel like I wasn’t so alone – I hope that it will do the same for others out there, tearfully singing their babies to sleep.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF 

***

Liz Ann’s Story

My little girl is almost six weeks old and I have made the decision to switch to formula. I have been feeling so much guilt because of it, too. Though my side of the family were mostly formula feeders my husband’s side of the family are all-natural, no meds, midwives, at-home births, breastfeeding advocates.

I did all my research and listened to my mother-in-law lecture me for hours on the benefit of breastfeeding over formula feeding. Well, I delivered in a hospital without medication (mother-in-law still didn’t approve of that) and endured 28 hours of labor. I was exhausted but still wanted to breastfeed. The lactation consultant that I saw tried to get my daughter to nurse, but every time she went to latch she would do something weird with her tongue. I asked if she was tongue tied and they told me no. After getting frustrated the lactation consultant told me to take my pinky finger and push her tongue down every time I went to nurse to teach her how to latch properly, and then she left.

We came home from the hospital and things were going okay at first. I couldn’t get her to latch on my left side so I called my sister-in-law and she said that it was normal and all her kids did that so I nursed her mostly on my right. After three days I started having extreme pain and when she went to latch one time my nipple felt like it was being ripped off and began gushing blood. I couldn’t stop crying and had to walk away while my husband held my daughter in another room. My husband and I had to figure out a way to get her to nurse on my left side and I ended up having to nurse her lying down practically all the time. I became severely engorged (saw another nurse and she told me I came to her just in time, and that I was knocking on the door of a bad infection in my breast) and my left nipple was beginning to bleed as well as bruise (still have a partially blackish nipple).  Also, she was spitting up a TON and everyone kept telling me that she shouldn’t be because she was breastfed.

I changed my diet and it still didn’t help. I wasn’t sleeping well at night because even up to forty five minutes after she nursed, she would turn red in the face and stop breathing because she was choking on her vomit before she could spit it up. By the time she was about 3 1/2 or 4 weeks old I was very depressed. I would cry over nothing and dreaded feeding her. I was very resentful towards her and I felt so guilty because of it. I thought for sure I was the worst mom in the world. I felt drained every time she nursed and it didn’t matter how much I snacked or sipped on juice I would feel dizzy and exhausted all the time.

One night she went to latch on and it hurt so bad I pulled away and yelled at her “Why are you doing this?” I will never forget her little face looking up at me; Scared and innocent. She had done nothing wrong and I knew that but I was so angry. Breastfeeding should have been the most natural thing in the world for me to be able to do. I began telling my husband that I didn’t want anymore children and that I couldn’t do this, I was so scared. One night I mentioned something to my husband and he asked me if I had thought about hurting myself. When I admitted I had we both fell apart; something had to change.

We went out and bought infant formula for acid reflux and began transitioning to the bottle and I am so glad that we did. I feel almost like my normal self now and it’s only been a week. I’ve regained energy and her spitting up has significantly reduced and I am sleeping at night. Also, I finally feel maternal feelings towards my daughter and my heart melts every time she looks at me and smiles. I did some research and found out that women who have painful first experiences with breastfeeding are more likely to end up with  postpartum depression. I wish someone had told me this. I realize that a lot of women find success with breastfeeding and they wouldn’t do anything else, but it just didn’t work out for me this baby. Maybe next time and maybe not. I just know that it is better for my daughter to have a mother who is positive and nurturing towards her rather than an angry one that resents her day and night for her pain and tiredness.

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