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.
I haven’t posted this week, because it has been a rough one for me and my family. A few days ago, we had to say an unexpected goodbye to our beloved dog. I don’t usually bring up my personal life on this blog, unless it has to do directly with infant feeding, but in a weird way I do associate Fearless Pup with my struggle to breastfeed. While in the midst of my postpartum depression, and trying desperately to feed FC, my only refuge was when I retreated to the bedroom to pump every 90 minutes. Fearless Pup would trail after me, jump up on the bed alongside my hospital-grade Medela, and lick my tears away as I cried. He was the only creature that was able to reach me when I was so entrenched in the hell that is PPD. He was there through those dark days with his soulful brown eyes looking up at me, willing me to get through this, to heal, to do whatever it would take to swim back to shore. He was my furry lifejacket, and I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through those first few months without him.
Anyway – this has nothing to do with the following post by Erin, but I wanted to share this memory with you because to me, it is the iconic image of my postpartum depression. Erin’s story is wonderful on many levels – I love her positive response to the “mommy wars”. But I think the most important aspect of her submission is that she associates her postpartum mood disorder with breastfeeding. I’ve said it before and I will say it as many times as I have to: breastfeeding is a different experience for different women. While studies may show that for some women, breastfeeding keeps the PPD and postpartum anxiety demons at bay, for others of us it can be a major trigger. And unfortunately, not everyone has a furry lifejacket to help them crawl back to safety.
Happy Friday, fearless ones…
I am 30 years old and just had my 2nd child, a boy 2 months ago. I have a daughter who will be 3 in August. When I was pregnant with her, I was one of those people who thought I would breastfeed with no problem. I didn’t buy a single bottle. I talked endlessly about breastfeeding with my friends and even found myself tempted to belittle someone on a website who said they didn’t plan to breastfeed at all. How could they? Didn’t they KNOW how much better it is for their baby? Well I knew and I had every intention of feeding her for one solid year.
My baby was born and it was the best day of my life. I couldn’t wait to feed her! She tried to latch on and couldn’t without a shield. This began the downfall of my breastfeeding experience. By the time I left the hospital, not only my nipples, but every part of my breast that was sucked into the shield was cracked and bleeding. My daughter cried at every feeding and never seemed full. I kept at it, determined that I would make it work. At her first check up she was 5 oz under weight her birth weight. At her two week check up she was still 4 oz under her birth weight. My nipples hurt so badly that I would sob when I fed her. I dreaded each and every feeding. That’s about when the postpartum depression/anxiety set in. I have never experienced anything so intense in my life. I felt like I was going insane. I couldn’t concentrate, worried about everything, couldn’t sleep, lost interest in my baby and my family and my entire life. I cried all the time. I wished I could go check myself into the hospital. And it all centered around the fact that I did NOT want to breastfeed but was too ashamed and stubborn to admit it. After her 2 week check up, the doctor told me to pump my fore milk out and start her out with the hind milk, then feed her the bottle of fore milk. So I did. And that was the last time my daughter EVER latched onto me. She got a bottle in her mouth and never went back. She loved drinking from a bottle because she could actually drink! And she wasn’t drinking my blood. I started pumping and thought I would just try pumping as long as I could. But my postpartum issues were taking over my life. I would pump one feeding and couldn’t at the next. I was a mess. I went on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety pill and it helped tremendously. I remember reading recently that breastfeeding helps with postpartum depression. For me, it was the cause of it. And I don’t buy that information because when I was having so many issues and called my OB doctor, the first question out of her mouth was “are you breastfeeding?” Apparently she’s seen this before!
I remember calling a Le Leche League representative that someone gave me a phone number for. I told her my problems and her first question was “did you HAVE to have an epidural?” I said “Um, I gladly received one!” She said, “Well epidurals cause babies to stay drowsy and not very alert for weeks and makes it hard to breastfeed.” At that point I dismissed her as a complete idiot and said “thanks for your time.” That night my husband and mom sat with me while I cried and both advised me to just quit. My husband did a lot of research on breastfeeding and determined that the risks did not outweigh the benefits in our case. I went to formula that night and NEVER went back. I felt horrible guilt and judgement, mostly self inflicted, but deep inside I felt relief. I finally bonded with my baby girl. I started to fall in love with her and started to love motherhood. I put the pump away and let my breasts return to their normal selves
With my son, I attempted breastfeeding again but went into it with a totally different attitude. I didn’t assume it would work, I just thought I would see how I felt and if it worked it worked, if it didn’t, it didn’t. He latched on like a champ and I fed him solid for 2 weeks. Unfortunately I dealt with the same postpartum anxiety again. I apparently am very sensitive to hormonal changes in my body. After a near kidney infection, a back injury, and my anxiety at an all time high, I made the same decision to not breastfeed. And I immediately began to heal once I made that choice. My mind started to ease, I was able to take the medication I needed for my infection, my back, and my anxiety that I couldn’t take while nursing. I felt better.
For me, breastfeeding is directly in correlation with my anxiety and both times I have not felt better until I totally quit. I can let myself feel like a failure, or I can realize that this is so small in the scheme of things. It is a tiny insignificant part of what makes me a good Mama. I adore my children. I stay home with them, I spend all of my time with them, and I love motherhood. I take hundreds of pictures every week of my kids. When they go to bed at night, I watch the videos that I took of them that day and cry because they are growing up too fast. I miss them while they nap. They are beautiful, healthy, smart, perfect. No part of me thinks I did them a disservice by not breastfeeding them for longer. I do not regret it.
My husband who was not breastfed an ounce and is 6ft 6 inches and a college athlete likes to make the joke that if only he had been breastfed maybe he wouldn’t be so small and weak I think about all the moms in my life that I love. Whether or not they breastfed isn’t something that comes to mind when I consider how they are as a mother. My own mother who I truly believe is one of the most selfless people on earth did not breastfeed any of her kids for much time, or at all. It does not matter. What matters is your heart, your love for your kids, and your commitment to family. There is a lot more to this life than whether your babies drank out of your boobs. I have so many friends who breastfeed and I support them wholeheartedly. And they support me. The only thing I ever ask of them is not to pity me because it didn’t work out. I adore feeding my baby a bottle, it’s wonderful!
Whatever you’re story may be, the last people who should be against you are your fellow moms. It is our own insecurities that cause these “mommy wars” to begin with. I support moms who love their babies. Whatever your methods or reasons for each little decision, if those choices are made in love, they are the right ones.
You know what would really cheer me up? A great FFF Friday submission. Send one over to email@example.com.