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.
This weekend, I will be announcing a new focus and goal for this blog, and for my personal advocacy efforts. Part of this new endeavor has to do with prenatal and postnatal education, and Julie’s story below illustrates why this is so important. We cannot keep setting women up for disappointment by only offering potentially detrimental half-truths. I hate that Julie feels guilty, and worries that her aversion to formula was due to selfishness on her part. With messages like ”good mothers breastfeed!” and “all it takes is one bottle of formula to destroy your child’s health!” dangling over our heads like some sort of macabre mistletoe, it’s completely understandable that new moms become obsessed with breastfeeding “success”. I hope we can all start turning that anger and disappointment outward, but in a positive way – using our experiences to change the course of breastfeeding education and promotion for the better. But more on that later. Right now, I hope you’ll give Julie’s FFF Friday submission the attention it deserves.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
When I heard the hospital I was going to deliver at had a breastfeeding class I registered right away. I was going to breastfeed. There wasn’t another option in my mind. I had given away all the free samples of formula I had received because in the class, led by the hospital’s 2 LC’s, we were told having them in our house would be “booby traps” in the middle of the night when we were frustrated with a crying baby. I was told that only 2% of woman can’t physically breastfeed so it was very unlikely that anybody in the room would fall in that 2%. If we really wanted it to work, we could make itwork.
I delivered my daughter after 16 hours of induced labor after my water broke and I had no contractions on my own. Right to the breast she went, skin to skin, everything I was told to do in that class but something didn’t seem right, even to this first time mom.
The nurses tried to help, I called the LC and she said everything looked perfect, and as we were being discharged the pediatrician told us to come back the next morning to have her bilirubin checked because her jaundice didn’t seem to be improving. That next morning came and I felt like the worst mom in the world – her levels were so high that the doctor on call questioned why we were even released to begin with. My 4 day old baby was admitted to the pediatric floor for phototherapy.
I was given a pamphlet telling me what detrimental affects prolonged jaundice could cause but I was still unwilling to give her formula because I kept hearing the voice of the LC. “Introducing a nipple or pacifier before our breastfeeding relationship was established could ruin any chance of successfully nursing.” The doctor hadn’t insisted on it, so I kept nursing her like clockwork and her diapers were weighed to see what kind of output she was producing – or in her case, wasn’t producing. She was sucking on empty breasts. It wasn’t until her doctor told us that she was very seriously ill and that we NEEDED to give her formula that I caved. Then, I broke down in tears because I had been starving my baby. I was so dead-set on breastfeeding – it was natural, the best nutrition, and 98% of woman can do it. (I’m a math teacher so the logical part of me should have realized that SOMEBODY had to be in that 2% but I was stubborn and thought it surely couldn’t be me).
I still didn’t give up hope that we could regain our breastfeeding relationship, so I took herbs, ate oatmeal, saw an outside LC, had her tongue tip clipped (although thinking back, I don’t really think it was necessary but I was desperate for a solution to our problem), and pumped and pumped and pumped. I never saw an increase in supply and at my best, I only pumped 1/2 an ounce from both breasts combined.
I hated feeding my daughter because it meant attempting to nursing her, giving her a partial breastmilk/partial formula bottle, then pumping. By the time I was done I had about enough time to use the restroom and then I was back at the triple feeding again. I spent more time with that pump than I did with my little girl for the first 2 months of her life.
I finally said enough is enough but I doubted that choice several times before I finally committed to 100% formula feed. To say I was sad would be a huge understatement. I was devastated and would soon after be diagnosed with postpartum depression. I would have crying spells anytime I thought about the dream I had to have that close nursing bond or when I heard about somebody else loving the cuddle time they were having while nursing. I was mourning the loss of the perfect scenario I had in my mind (and was flourished by that oh so inspirational breastfeeding class).
As my daughter’s first birthday rapidly approaches (this coming Friday, June 22nd) I am just now finding peace within myself about not breastfeeding her. By reading the other stories on this site and by realizing there are so many other facets of my daughter’s childhood to rejoice in, I can FINALLY see how important being happy and enjoying my daughter grow up really is. I don’t mourn the loss of breastfeeding anymore, but I do look back and think about how selfish I was being by wanting it to work so bad. I was choosing to not feed my baby formula at the risk of “ruining” our breastfeeding relationship. I wish I had known that we would still have a seriously strong bond, that we would have plenty of cuddle time and that everybody would be happier if I just let it go earlier and accepted it wasn’t meant to be.
That class was a disservice to my daughter. I know the LC’s must have meant well by glorifying breastfeeding and dismissing formula feeding all together, but it put my daughter’s health in danger. Every parent wants to do the very best they can for their children and according to that class, breastfeeding was the only way to accomplish that in terms of feeding. I am so grateful this site exists so other moms can see that there are other right choices for their babies.