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 I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
You know what I want to put on a bumper sticker? “Motherhood is not spelled Martyrhood.” It needs to be said, because a lot of people seem to be confusing the same terms.
Tonight’s FFF Friday post, courtesy of FFF Karen, highlights this syndrome in her astute assessment of how many feel you need to go to extreme lengths to earn the title of “good mother”. This has absolutely nothing to do with breast over bottle, but rather a pervading trend of glamorizing pain, sacrifice, and the relinquishing of one’s own needs and desires. Obviously, your priorities change when you become a parent – but a) it takes two to tango, and I’m sick of men being left out of the equation of what it takes to raise a happy, healthy child; and b) being willing to sacrifice and lay down your life for your child (which I bet most of us would do in a heartbeat) is not the same thing as craving the opportunity to prove your worth by glorifying pain and suffering.
Anyway. Off my soapbox, and onto Karen’s (which, of course, isn’t actually a soapbox but rather an impressively honest, laid-bare account of her experience….
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
I was one of those women who was completely obsessed with breastfeeding when I was pregnant. I didn’t buy or register for any bottles or order any formula samples. When I had my daughter,via c-section after a marathon pushing session and long labour, She was a big, healthy girl (9lbs 12oz and almost 22 inches long). I asked to breadfeed her right away. She latched beautifully and I was so happy – even though my legs were still numb from the surgery. I stayed in the hospital for three nights following the surgery and it was an emotional rollercoaster. Each nurse who visited us reassured me that the baby and I were doing everything right when it came to feeding her. And we fed, like clockwork, every three hours. I would have to wake the baby up to feed each time, though, and often undress her or use a wet washcloth to get her interested in feeding. Then, after a few minutes of suckling she would usually fall asleep on my chest. On the fourth day, before I was discharged, I asked to see a lactation consultant because I felt something just wasn’t right plus I had a lot of nipple pain and burning.
The LC said that it shouldn’t hurt if done right but that the baby and I could be in a book – the latch and hold were perfect. She assured me things would get better. But the baby had lost a significant amount of weight and was still very lethargic. She was also jaundiced and not seeming to get better. We started supplementing with formula though a tube system so the baby would be on the breast but also getting formula without knowing it. We continued that at home every three hours. I was in a lot of pain and was stiff from the surgery so slept on the couch for the first week after we took the baby home. My husband would take the baby upstairs to bed and set an alarm to wake her up to bring her back to me for feeding. It was so exhausting and the pain was getting worse. It took two of us to feed her – to set up the tube system and then I held his hand and squeezed as the pain intensified as she sucked. I was starting to dread my little girl waking up and hated feeding her.
I saw the LC again and she said my milk was not coming in and that my breasts were still soft and not showing any signs of milk. She said a pre-existing condition I had, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, may have something to do with low milk supply. I saw several nurses, went to two breastfeeding clinics (incl. Le Leche League) and talked to my doctor. All gave me suggestions to try to increase my milk supply while I supplemented my baby with formula. I tried the herb fenugreek, drank beer, nursed more often and for longer periods of time, and finally took a prescription drug which was supposed to help with supply. Nothing seemed to help. Our little girl was growing faster than my supply. And my nipples were starting to look and feel like they would fall off. At one point, I told a public health nurse i had cracked nipples so bad that they were bleeding. She boasted that she had the same thing and that feeding my baby milk with blood in it was not anything to be worried about. This seemed like a crazy comment to me and it felt as though she (and others I had met at the clinics) was proud of the battle scars she had from the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. It was almost like, if it was easy then it wasn’t worth doing. I felt like, if I hadn’t tried everything humanly possible then I was a bad mother.
About two weeks in to my daughter’s life, I was up for a late-night feeding and just started to cry uncontrollably from the pain of my baby at my breast. By this point I was convinced she wasn’t getting anything from me other than the formula in the tube. When I pumped, I was able to get just under one ounce from both breasts – even after all the herbs, drugs and tricks. My husband walked in on me sobbing and said “enough is enough”. We bottle fed our baby for the first time at the next feeding and she was a champ. I felt like dirt but she sucked back all the formula happily. I still pumped whatever I could and added it to her bottle. But after a few weeks, my daughter’s bottle was still 95% formula and just a tiny amount of breastmilk. So eventually, with a heavy heart, I gave up altogether.
Now, my baby is almost four months old and she’s big, strong and happy. She’s been sleeping through the night since just shortly after we started giving her the bottle and she’s growing like a weed. I look back at those hard weeks in the beginning – and all the guilt I still sometimes feel – and wonder if it was worth it. I do believe breastfeeding is best but my baby was sucking on dry breasts. We were both stressing out and there was little benefit. I cringe when I think of how I would dread having to hold her and feed her. I had thought it would be a beautiful was for us to bond but it turned out to be nothing of the sort.
I proudly bottle feed now and wish there were more resources out there for bottle feeding mothers and families.
Like Karen, I wish there were more resources for bottle feeding families. By sharing your story for an upcoming FFF Friday, you’ll contribute to one important resource – one which helps new parents feel less alone in their struggles. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.