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 are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
FFF Lisa’s submission highlights a condition called Insufficient Glandular Tissue, or IGT (also called “mammary hypoplasia” or “tubular hypoplastic breasts”). I had never heard of such a thing until I started this blog, and unfortunately, neither have most of the women I’ve encountered who have it. What’s truly unfortunate is that there are physical characteristics which can indicate IGT, and none of us are alerted to this prior to giving birth. If any of the women who’ve struggled to breastfeed with IGT were told by their OB/GYNs during routine prenatal visits that they may have this condition, imagine how better prepared – both physically and mentally – they could have been for the challenges ahead. These are the things that should be talked about in regards to breastfeeding initiatives, and yet they are only discussed in hushed voices in internet chat rooms and blogs.
But I’ll shut up about that for now, because Lisa’s story isn’t really about IGT. It’s about triumphing over the pressure to “try everything” in order to breastfeed, and doing what you feel is best for yourself and your entire family.
Happy Friday (or Saturday, in most timezones), fearless ones.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I had never even heard of insufficient glandular tissue. I also never thought for a moment that my PCOS could hurt my chances to breastfeed. I just figured it would work for me like it had worked for all of my friends. The fact that I had had no breast change over the course of the entire pregnancy left a small, nagging feeling in the back of my head, but I just ignored it and continued on the breastfeeding path. After three unsuccessful days of laboring, a magnesium IV for high blood pressure, and a pitocin IV that proved to be useless, I had a c-section. Over the course of the next three days at the hospital, I needed help from a nurse to get him to latch every time. Every time, he would suck voraciously for a few minutes, then fall asleep. I started to wonder if he was getting anything to eat, but every time I asked a nurse, I got the same response: “Everyone can breastfeed. Your milk is coming in. Just be patient.”
To make a long story short, I got home and couldn’t get him to latch (surprise, surprise!). I called my pediatrician in tears at 4:00 in the morning, and he told me to give him some formula. We had some formula we had received in the mail, so my husband mixed up a 2 oz. bottle and gave it to our son. He completely inhaled it, and then immediately fell asleep. Needless to say, I cried for most of that day (ok, week, but who’s counting?). I had failed. I spent the next few weeks searching the internet, calling my doctor, trying to figure out what I could do to salvage my breastfeeding relationship with my son. I received an endless list of suggestions, many of which I tried, but nothing worked. I spent a great deal of time on the LLL site, which proved to be a bad idea for me. They are very nice and well-meaning, but I was left with a feeling of “If I don’t try EVERYTHING, I haven’t done enough”, which was not good for me in the mental state I was in. I became very depressed, and bonding with my son became very difficult. I am so thankful that my husband was there to pick up the slack, because I was not “all there”. After a few weeks of trying various suggestions with no results, I quit trying to breastfeed and just moved on, but in the back of my mind, I was always thinking about my plans for the next baby.
When I got pregnant the second time, I immediately started doing research. I read all of the best breastfeeding books. I believed all of these women that told me “just because you have problems with the first, doesn’t mean you’ll have problems with the second” (even though I, again, had no breast change at all). My husband was worried about me. He saw what I went through with the oldest, and he didn’t want me to be disappointed again. When my second was born, it was perfect. A scheduled c-section, a perfect latch, and….still no milk. I stayed in the hospital for 4 days talking with every lactation consultant numerous times, trying everything they said (different positions, breast compressions, etc, etc), until one very nice LC came in to help me and told me something that completely shocked me. She felt my breast and said, “Well, you’re really soft for 4 days postpartum“. I mentioned to her that I had PCOS, and she told me that that could be what’s affecting my supply. She also made a comment about the shape and spacing of my breasts. “You can only do what you can do. Not everyone can breastfeed”. Well, this was news to me! Where was she last time I was at the hospital!? I was shocked. And, just like with my first, my milk never came in, and I was disappointed again.
This time, I did a different type of research. After looking into my symptoms and talking to my doctor, I learned that I most likely have IGT, and I would probably never be able to solely breastfeed. I think my husband was hoping that this revelation would help me move on, but it didn’t. I now started looking into information on IGT, and searching for any information on women who have breastfed successfully with this condition. I knew we wanted a third child, so I was determined to be prepared this time. I joined internet sites where women talked about the many things they were trying to do in order to get past this condition, from drugs to supplemental nursing to milk sharing. Reading all of the posts, I was inspired, but also nervous. Many of these women were greatly affected by the fact that nothing they tried was working. They were so hard on themselves, and you could hear the desperation and sadness in their posts, and I just didn’t want to go down that road again. I tried to push those feelings aside and tell myself, “This is what I need to do as a mother. I need to fight this battle”. I read about domperidone, reglan, goat’s rue, you name it. I felt like if I didn’t try all of these possible cures, I would always wonder, “What if…”.
One night, when I was doing research on one of these medications, my husband came in and sat with me. He said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You don’t know if any of this is going to work, and what the possible side effects are”. I told him that I really wanted to breastfeed our last baby, and I felt like I had to look into every possible solution in order to have no regrets. With that comment, he pointed over towards our sons. Our 2 1/2 year old was wrestling with our 15 month old, laughing and giggling, both strong, healthy, happy…and formula fed. It finally started to hit me: Why am I spending this much time and energy on this? What outcome am I hoping for, and will it be worth it? Am I going to miss those precious first few weeks pumping, taking supplements, weighing the baby, analyzing diapers, doing more research, etc, etc. And for what? I have proof that babies can thrive on formula, so why am I going through all of this? Guilt? Validation? My husband isn’t pressuring me, so why am I pressuring myself? My husband doesn’t care if our babies have breastmilk or formula, as long as they’re happy, healthy, and thriving. He would also like a happy, calm, non-neurotic wife, which he unfortunately didn’t get with the first two babies.
So here I am, 22 weeks pregnant, and I’ve decided to give my husband a gift…a wife who is happy, calm, and neurosis-free. He was there for both myself and the boys when I wasn’t able to breastfeed, and he was always the patient voice of reason. This time, I’ve decided to let it go. I’m going to relax, breath, and just enjoy being a mom. My baby will get some breastfeeding at the hospital, and when that is not enough, he or she will get formula. No herbs or medicines, no power pumping, no internet searches at 3 in the morning…nothing. That is my gift to my sons, who need a mom who is present and there for them. It is a gift to my husband, who has held my hand, listened to me as I cried, and has been a tremendous support. Most of all, it’s a gift to me, so I can just enjoy motherhood this last time around and have no regrets. Since having this revelation, I am now more excited than ever about having this baby. I have stopped reading information on the condition, stopped my association with IGT and PCOS-related internet groups, put my books away, and have made a conscious decision to accept what I cannot change and focus on enjoying this time with my kids, because we all know how fast it goes. It took me a long time to get here, but I’m glad I made it!
If you feel like joining the ranks of the bravest guest posters in the Interworld, shoot me an email with your infant-feeding-related story: firstname.lastname@example.org.