FFF Friday: “Your road to Mommyhood is your own.”

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 don’t even know what to say about this week’s FFF Friday, because it is so personal, so intimate, so beautifully written, that it’s hard for me to look at it objectively. But I do think that Kathy’s story illustrates an essential aspect of this debate, one which I’ve been arguing over these past few days: yes, “Breastfeeding Guilt” is a condition which typically afflicts those who have attained a certain educational level (I don’t really think it is a socioeconomic issue, because the population of this page runs the gamut from those on welfare to those making seven figures, nor geographical, as the audience represents over 50 countries and all 50 of the United States). But that doesn’t make it any less real, or not worth fighting against. Our experiences are ours, and ours alone. It’s hypocritical that the same folks who fight for a woman’s right to a good birth experience can turn around and tell other women that their feelings surrounding breastfeeding are “privileged” or invalid. I think it’s rather elitist for us to assume that these feelings are only white, or only straight, or only rich.  Moms want to do the best for their babies. That’s pretty universal. And as Kathy found, sometimes doing what is best for your baby means doing what is thought of as second (or fourth) best to others.  I hope women like Kathy continue to speak up, because that message needs to be heard, loud and clear, across racial/economic/geographical lines.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Kathy’s Story

Today was one of those days. The Boy went from being in a fine mood, cordial and polite (for toddler) to being a world-class scoodge around 2:30 p.m. When we were in the grocery store, of course. The only way we finished our shopping was with me carrying his butt around the store for… oh… three quarters of the trip.

Now, my child is not small. He’s big. And solid. And heavy. He’s not really a chunker, he’s just… big. And strong like bull.

Seriously, he feels like he’s filled with cement. I mean, I know that oatmeal turns into a frighteningly spackle-like material when it’s dry so it could be that feeding him oatmeal every morning is actually like filling him with cement every day, but still.

My son didn’t start out big. In fact, he was actually a really skinny newborn. He was about 7 lbs, when he was born and then dropped deep into the 6′s after the first few days. He was in newborn onesies for a terribly long time, and in newborn-size diapers because he was just narrow, and had these skinny little chicken legs.

One of the reasons he dropped so much in weight is that I simply didn’t produce any breast milk, or well, hardly any as I’ll detail later. Now, to see me, you’d think “she must be like a frickin’ dairy farm!” because, ladies and gents, I’m not small in the breastular area. No one found the fact that I didn’t produce hardly any breast milk more ironic than me. I couldn’t help but think, “Jesus, I’ve lugged these goddamned things around for 34 damned years and they don’t do ANYTHING?!” Dammit.

Anyway…

We knew something was up pretty fast in the breastfeeding area. When I fed him, he would suck and suck and suck and just get… nothing. Barely a drip of colostrum, even. If I were a cartoon, when I took off my bra, moths would have flown out of it, or a comical puff of dust would poof out with a funny sound effect.

Of course, I went to the lactation consultants (three of them) and pumped like my life depended on it. Or like his life depended on it. We tried the nipple shield, different positions, he had a good latch, but nothing at all seemed to be happening. Needless to say, we had to supplement pretty much right away, because he was dropping weight frighteningly fast. Fortunately, our pediatrician was totally no-nonsense about it, she flat-out said to go right to formula because (and doesn’t this make sense?) “Kid’s gotta eat.”  I really do love her, she knew that I was totally killing myself over this, she could just tell, and looked me straight in the eye and told me that it was okay, and that the most important thing was that he eats, bottom line.  Still, while we supplemented with formula (supplement being a euphamism for feeding him formula exclusively), I tried everything else I could thing of. I tried herbal remedies, I tried to drink tons of water, I tried to eat enough, I shook a rain stick, I did a dance on the front lawn to appease the Boob Gods, I pumped and pumped and pumped with the industrial-grade pump, I tried pretty much everything that I, or the lactation consultants, could think of.

See what I just did there? I just went through the myriad of ways that I tried… because of the fear of being judged for “not trying”. Isn’t that terrible?

I joke now, I can be light about it now, at the time though, it was absolutely, utterly…heartbreaking.

I’ll never forget the last weekend that I was doing all of this routine just to get my milk to come in.  Pumping every two hours, feeding him through a feeding tube into the nipple shield (to mimic breast-feeding), and agonizing over the entire process, ripping myself apart inside. Crying almost non-stop. Crying because I felt like the ultimate failure, like this one thing that my body was supposed to provide to my child, besides the whole gestation thing, this one last thing I just couldn’t do.

I felt like less of a woman. I felt like less of a mother.  And I felt on some level incomplete.

Sure, I did like that I wasn’t tethered to him via the boob all the time. I liked that I could rely on my husband to help shoulder the responsibility of the frequent feedings. That was nice.

But this breastfeeding thing was my cross to bear and I couldn’t do it. Plus, there is the factor that it’s so beaten into us as new Mommies that this is what you’re SUPPOSED to do. This is what good Mommies do, why else would they coin the phrase breast is best? Well, that means I’m second best.

I have never truly let go of feeling that I failed at breastfeeding. Not fully. It also makes me feel sometimes that there is an aspect of being a mother that I have never really experienced, at least not in the way that most other Moms did. Like I missed out on something precious, and since I have always known that my Boy will probably be my only child, it’s something I will likely never experience.

This might sound like I’m really beating myself up, but this is a big part of my Mom experience, truly. This was a defining, polarizing thing for me.

After a few weeks of this routine, I realized that I was spending more time pumping and crying (sounds like the worst country song ever, “Pumping and Crying”) than I was spending with my child. There was a moment where I realized that I had to pick a time to cut bait, to let it go. It was one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. I had always known that I wasn’t going to go through getting on prescriptions, and I knew that it was rapidly approaching that point that my next option was just that; trying a prescription to force my milk to come in, or start with doing blood tests to see if everything (thyroid, organs etc.) was actually in working order. I knew that was the threshold for me.

It was a Sunday afternoon. I was sitting in the Baby’s room, pumping away and I had decided that after I was done pumping I was going to take a shower. I finished, I closed the little Medela milk container, filled with a measly 10 ml (whatever the lowest mark is on the little tube, that’s what I had produced up to)… which was all I had squeezed from my useless breasts over the span of four entire days. The lowest tick line on the container, THAT was what I was able to produce. I brought it downstairs, and gently put it in the fridge, knowing that that was the last time I would pump.

And that I was giving up.

It’s weird to give up something for the sake of your child, something that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE will scream from the rooftops that THIS thing that you’re actually going to actively give up is the best thing for your child. This thing that you’re not going to do (or that you can’t) is the thing that is best.

But that’s what it was. I was stopping so I could be with him. I could be with my boobs for half the day or I could be with him for the WHOLE day. And I figured that I’m going to be gone plenty once I started working again, and I had a really small, precious window of time to be with him all the time, and that window was closing. I only had eight weeks of maternity leave, I’d already sacrificed a significant portion of that time to my breasts.

I put my milk in the fridge and went up to take a shower.

I stood in the shower and cried. Cried like I’ve never cried before, leaning against the wall, sliding down it, just sobbing as I laid my head on the floor in the shower letting the warm water hit me. And wishing that it could hit me even harder because I felt that it should hit me as hard as I wished I could hit myself. I turned it up as hot as I could stand because I wanted to feel that heat against my skin, almost hot enough to burn.

And then I sat up. I took the soap in my hands and washed myself, washed my hair in that terribly hot water. I stood up, and ran my hands over my hair, wringing it out.

And I shut off the water. I got out of the shower, and looked at my puffy, wrecked face, tears still marking my cheeks. I dried myself off.  I got dressed.

I went downstairs and picked up my beautiful baby boy, hugging him and then put him down to go get a bottle and fix him two ounces of warm formula. No one knew how hard I had just cried or that I had just let go of that last ditch effort to get more milk from my very useless breasts.

I sat on the couch and held him while I fed him his bottle, he ate it easily and hungrily, just like a baby should. I smiled and cried a little, but more than anything I smiled…

Of course, I cried more about this, I cried the next day when we met with the lactation consultant again. With her, I was also really scared that she was going to berate me for choosing to stop. She didn’t. In fact, she was terribly kind, which was unexpected. She saw what I had produced and gasped at how little it was. Then she simply asked “what would you like to do now?” When I said through a thick, teary voice that I didn’t want to do this anymore, she simply said “I don’t blame you. I’m not the breastfeeding police, I’m here to help you do whatever make whatever decision is best for you and your little Boy.” And with that, we moved on, she counseled me for a long time about how much formula to give, how to properly bottle feed him, advised me on which bottles to by and spoke to me about things to look for that tend to happen more for formula babies than breast-fed ones.

One thing that I’ve never done, even through all the agonizing over it, is that is I’ve never questioned my decision to cut bait and to have my Baby be exclusively formula-fed. I might feel bad, terribly bad, for having to do it, but I never did question my decision. I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do for all of us. And as agonizing as those days were for me, those horrible days leading up to that terrible afternoon laying on the floor in the shower, I actually felt brave in a sense for putting my foot down. I’ve never felt like a chicken for doing this.

It’s such a strange thing, I had a tremendous amount of anxiety about decision, not because I’ve been unsure of my course of action, but because of the deep-seated fear regarding the stigma of formula-feeding, and without realizing it, fears over what was being driven home with every container of formula, that I wasn’t doing the best thing for my child.

But I’ve never felt like a coward for stopping something that just wasn’t working.

My little chicken-legged Boy has never been worse for wear for it. Now he’s not chicken-legged, he’s a strong, happy, healthy kid, and we’ve come and gone out of the time when he was eating formula at all. Now he’s one and a half, has a mouth full o’ teeth and eats anything and everything!

Sometimes a big part of being a parent is looking at things that don’t work and saying “this just doesn’t work for me” and figuring something else out. There is so little about parenting that’s black and white, there are very few hard, fast rules and the game changes constantly. You have to really roll with those punches and be able to see something for what it is, for me, it was clear very quickly that for whatever reason, breastfeeding just didn’t happen for me, I had to be willing to go down a different path.  Even if it’s a path that most Mommies that I know weren’t on themselves.

You are the maker of your own destiny, and with your child, you choose their path. But that path is not a single road with guardrails down each side. It’s a path with many different branches and vast meadows on each side, teeming with options and possibilities.  Sometimes those options are overwhelming and scary.  But just know, that in those moments that you encounter a person who wants to show you, tell you, or snidely throw that roadblock up in front of you: “Breast is best”… it’s okay if that’s just not your path.

Your road to Mommyhood is all your own.

***
 Share your story with the FFF community: email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “You never can understand another mother’s situation unless you’re in her shoes…”

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 recently discovered a fantastic parenting blog, School of Smock, which discusses many facets of childrearing (education, health, discipline, etc.) and manages to balance solid research-based analysis with wit and warmth. I’m thrilled that Jessica, the blogger behind this site, has decided to share her story for this week’s FFF Friday. 

It’s interesting that Jessica only started questioning her choices when confronted with the opinions and suggestions of other mothers. As someone who is clearly educated on how to read research, I’m sure Jessica was able to (quite wisely) rationalize her decision to formula feed. But even if you know in your head that you made an informed and reasonable choice, it’s so easy as a new mom to let your heart convince you otherwise. We question ourselves; we need validation. The power of our peers is not something to take lightly, and to have someone tell you that it’s a “shame” you aren’t doing something you tried very hard to do is just plain rude. And hurtful. 

Infant feeding, along with birth culture, are the first things that both unite and divide us as new moms. Imagine how our support networks – and perspectives –  could expand if we could all take it down a notch and realize that these issues are but a tiny blip on the parenting screen. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

 ***

Jessica’s Story

I planned on breastfeeding and bought every conceivable preparation tool and resource — from two different breastfeeding pillows, books, nursing bras, nursing pajamas and shirts, breast pumps, creams.  I asked our birth doula about getting breastfeeding support after the baby was born.  I was intimidated by the idea of it, but I was committed to trying it.  After an emergency c-section — that even my doulas said was absolutely necessary because my son’s umbilical cord was too short, a fact which caused his heart rate to drop — breastfeeding started much better than I had hoped.  My milk came in quickly, I had a lot of wonderful support at the hospital from lactation consultants, and soon the delivery nurses said we were the only c-section delivery in the whole hospital in which we were nursing successfully.
But after a few weeks, things were not going so smoothly.  I developed a yeast infection and blocked ducts that, according to the lactation consultant that I hired to help, were caused by my son’s newly “bad latch.”  I was in constant pain, and no one could figure out — not the lactation consultants or doulas — how to change my son’s “barracuda” latch.  Then my son started spitting up and screaming afterwards, often on me even when I was nursing, and he was always hungry, always.  He cried all day long.  I would read descriptions of colic in my baby books and thought that colic sounded much better than whatever was bothering my son.

We took him to his pediatrician at Mass General, and his crying was so intense that he referred us to a pediatric GI doctor.  After tests — he had blood in his stools — he was diagnosed with reflux and milk protein allergy.  She said that he would have to be fed a hypoallergenic formula until any allergens were eliminated from my diet, and because my son’s situation was so severe, they asked me to work with a dietician on staff to design my diet.  I tried this, pumped for a couple weeks, but I just couldn’t handle it:  the colicky, crying baby, no sleep, constant pain from the yeast infection that wouldn’t go away, were too much.  I stopped pumping and felt fine about it.  I had really done all I could.  And my doctors and my son’s doctors were completely supportive.

It wasn’t until I joined mother’s groups later that I felt bad about my decision.  A few women in one play group — who were breastfeeding toddlers — told me that it was such a shame that my son missed out on breastfeeding and that they knew women who had successfully breastfed despite allergies.  I’ve heard many similar comments about how it was not so bad if you’re committed to breastfeed despite a baby’s allergies or food sensitivities.  And over the months, I started to feel a bit ashamed of my non-breastfeeding status, when other women would brag about all the hardships that they endured to breastfeed.

And, despite my rational brain telling me that I’m crazy, I still wonder if I gave up too soon.  And it wasn’t the medical professionals who made me wonder this.  It was other mothers.  I think that it’s important for other women to know that you never can understand another mother’s situation unless you’re in her shoes.  Maybe breastfeeding after a c-section would be hard for many women.  Maybe after a yeast infection is too painful.  Women make choices that are best for themselves and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty just because another woman’s situation is different.

***

Share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday – email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Support versus advocacy: how finding balance is like keeping a white carpet clean

I lost a few very dear followers over on the Facebook page recently (and I assume on the blog as well), and I’ve been obsessing over their departure. As too often happens on the FFF community page, we have been visited by a few breastfeeding advocates who have, at times, pushed their agenda to an uncomfortable (and sometimes quite emotionally triggering) point. Tempers flared, statistics and studies were tossed around like grenades, and my failure to wield the “ban stick” resulted in a loss of security for some members. They no longer felt safe around the FFF community; no longer felt like it was a positive and healthy place to heal their postpartum wounds and work through their feelings about infant feeding.

Yeah. Shitty.

What really burns me up about this is that in trying to stay open and neutral, I have singlehandedly sullied a place which I’d built to be the safe haven I personally craved. Even I have felt a pit in my stomach when I’ve gone over there lately, wincing in anticipation for the latest infiltration of misplaced “education” or not-so-thinly-veiled hatred (like a comment the other day that referred to me as the “Bitter Formula Feeder.”) When you don’t want to visit your own page, you know there’s a problem.

Some colleagues have suggested that I haven’t protected my community from the types of voices which have already caused so much hurt in their hearts. I fear this is true – people come to a page called “The Fearless Formula Feeder”, not knowing squat about my blog, and assuming that it will be a safe place to discuss bottle feeding and negative feelings about breastfeeding. Instead, they find acrimonious debates about the dangers of formula and critiques of the way that they are choosing to nourish their children. It ignites anger (quite justifiably) and people lash out, sometimes in the wrong direction. They expect me to come to their defense, and it takes every ounce of my being not to lunge like a bloodthirsty mama lioness, but I usually don’t.

What kind of fearless leader does this make me? Not a very good one, I fear. I completely sympathize with the people who feel betrayed by my allowance of dissenting voices, and encouragement of highly emotional debate. There was a time, not so long ago, that I would have felt the same way.

The problem is, I’m against hypocrisy more than I’m against anything (well, maybe not anything. I mean I’m probably more against human trafficking or the unethical treatment of animals or John Wayne Gacy… but you get the point). It would be agonizingly hypocritical of me to only allow those who agree with me to post on this blog, or on my Facebook page. Now, there’s a fine line between being outright obnoxious and posting things which challenge someone else’s beliefs. In the case of the former, I have no problem wielding my ban stick with a theatrical flourish. But with the latter? Well, I’ve had that happen to me on other anti-formula blogs, just because I politely dissented, and it sucks. I don’t want to be part of the very problem I rage against.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know where to draw the line. Having someone come and throw the same studies we’ve discussed and (I believe quite fairly) critiqued on this blog in our faces every day can feel rather antagonizing and confrontational. Sometimes, I will attempt to express this – telling the person in question that we are well aware that WHO ranks formula feeding fourth in its hierarchy of feeding, and that breastfeeding contains live blood cells, and that studies have shown that formula feeding leads to SIDS, cancer, and the plague, and the slaughter of innocent lambs at the alter of Enfamil, and so forth. And sometimes they keep pushing. And sometimes it makes me want to stick my head in the oven.

When this happens – when the attempt at “education” or “correcting misinformation” becomes aggressive and contrary to the purpose of my page (which is outlined here, if you’re wondering), people begin to get bitterly angry. I understand this, because I feel the same anger. I have to fight against it, sometimes ranting to Fearless Husband for hours on end to get the rage out. But I have the advantage of having done this for nearly four years, and I’ve heard so much hate, passive aggressive “education”, pity, and condescension that it begins to blur into a nice, easy-to-ignore din. For many of you, the wounds are just too fresh, and these people are pouring salt into a wound, and then pouring on some vinegar for good measure even after you’ve asked them to stop the salt. It sucks, I get that.

At the same time, though, I also notice myself allowing people on “our side” to engage in name calling and, at times, unfair attacks. That’s because, on the most fundamental level, I think we are in the right. It is our territory – a place that is supposed to be free from drama, free from the usual critical voices. If someone wants to come into our house and visit for awhile, I’d appreciate they didn’t stomp around with muddy boots.

The thing is, sometimes the boots aren’t exactly caked in mud – sometimes these guests just have a bit of sand on the bottoms. We’re already so sick of vaccuuming up after rude guests, though, that the tiniest bit of sand is enough to turn us apoplectic. And that is where I get uncomfortable, because I don’t want to stoop to the level of other communities, where the slightest disagreement is treated like a federal offense. If it’s just a little sand, maybe it’s better to just kick it aside, and see if offering the guest a drink of water might just make them sit tight for a minute and stop tracking sand all over the floor.

I get that this can veer into uncomfortable interactions for some people, because hey, when you’ve been treated like freaking Cinderella and forced to clean up someone else’s shit while simultaneously ridiculed and insulted, a tiny bit of sand can be a huge pain in the ass. But I’ve seen the same people who initially came in tracking mud on the floor turn around and ask if they could help mop it up. Sometimes you just need to give someone a chance. Sometimes you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar (a nice reminder for those perpetuating the salt-and-vinegar torture I alluded to above).

I see Fearless Formula Feeder – the site, the Facebook page, and the persona- as standing for infant feeding freedom first and foremost. But FFF also stands for honesty, open-mindedness, respect, and fairness. We have to give people a chance to engage with us if we’re going to make any progress in ending this ridiculous breast vs bottle war. I know, I know – many of us feel like it’s only a war because the “other side” has made it so, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. And I know it feels really sucky to have to be the bigger person and treat others how you want to be treated, especially when they aren’t giving you the same respect.

Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean you can’t fight fire with fire. I love the articulate, targeted way some of you choose to fight back. You fight science with science, studies with studies, anecdotes with anecdotes. That’s the way to do it. Stooping to calling someone a “lactonazi” or making blanket statements about breastfeeding mothers is only perpetuating the belief that all formula feeders are anti-breastfeeding, when I know most of us are the farthest thing from it. I don’t want to feel like a sanctimonious jerk by reminding the community about that. I also don’t want to seem like I am not jumping to the defense of those I care so deeply about defending.

I think the point of this rant is as follows: FFF serves a few purposes – it exists to support mothers who are bottle feeding in a practical manner, both emotionally and with research-based and peer-oriented advice on feeding logistics. It also exists as an advocacy site, to protect the rights of formula feeding, tube feeding, and combo feeding parents. It supports  women in their individual breastfeeding journeys (i.e., helping with encouragement for moms wanting to try again, or moms who are currently struggling but want to continue to breastfeed). And it promotes a conversation between infant feeding activists, mothers, physicians, researchers, and interested parties to try and make some progress so that things aren’t so crappy for future generations of mothers.

Therefore, the Facebook page is sometimes not going to be a safe haven. There are going to be times when someone might say something that hurts you deeply, and I invite you to express that hurt, and strike out in the most powerful way you can – by speaking your truth, being proud of your choices, and knowing that the power of the community is behind you. And my promise to you is that while I will gladly allow the sandy shoed folks to hang around and contribute, I will not stand for people tracking mud all over my living room. Or if they do, they better plan to stick around and Hoover the crap out of the place.

 

FFF Friday: “Punished because I formula fed”

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’ve been working with Teri Noto, developing literature about the Family Friendly Hospital Initiative, and this FFF Friday post from Ashley (who blogs at Being a Conscious Parent) is a fantastic kick in the butt to get it all sorted, and soon. Like, yesterday.

I believe that regardless of how you choose to conceive, birth, or feed your baby, you should be given respect and quality care in labor, delivery, and beyond. Sometimes medical necessity gets in the way, and (after two complicated pregnancies and slightly scary births) I of all people commiserate with the doctors and nurses trying to ensure the safety of all involved. But in Ashley’s case – and, I fear, so many other women’s experiences – the minute a baby is born, she ceases to matter unless there’s a maternal medical emergency. As long as the mom is healthy, she is quickly dismissed as little more than an incubator that has finished the job, and later, as a source of food. I don’t blame the care providers, as they are attempting to meet the requirements of the hospitals that employ them, and there is a lot of pressure nowadays to fulfill quotas and follow protocols than ever before. 

We need to ensure that voices like Ashley’s are heard, so that the powers that be can truly comprehend the human side to postpartum care. The system is failing breastfeeding mothers, and it is clearly failing formula feeding mothers as well. Maybe it’s time for a new perspective?

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

*** 

Ashley’s Story: Punished Because I Formula Fed

I have read so many stories about hospitals that push women to formula feed their babies and how nurses/hospitals need to be more supportive of women and breastfeeding.  My personal experience is a little different from that with the birth of my second child.

While pregnant with my daughter I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, or Post-Postpartum Depression as a result of my son being born just over a year prior.  I was in my third trimester and felt that it was best for my family and me if I went on medication.  Knowing that I was not going to stop the medication once my daughter was born, I decided that I was going to formula feed from the beginning.  I truly didn’t enjoy it with my son and I didn’t want to pass the anti-depression medication I was taking onto my baby through breast milk.

After 14+ days of a non-stop headache migraine, I was admitted to the hospital at 35 weeks and 3 days for an emergency caesarian-section.  I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and delivered my healthy daughter only a few hours after getting to the hospital.

The nurse on duty asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding before I went into surgery.  When I responded “no”, she proceeded to tell me that breastfeeding was what is best for a premature baby and that they need all the immunities they can get.  I informed her that I was on medication that was not good for her, which is something that she should have seen in my chart.  This was the first time throughout my hospital stay when the nurse on duty said something that implied that I was less of a mother because I was not breast feeding.

After my daughter was born, I returned to the labor and delivery room, where my daughter was with me.  Because her blood sugar was low they asked if I was breastfeeding.  When I informed them I wasn’t, my daughter’s nurse proceeded to open the bottle of formula and feed my daughter.  Both my husband and I were in the room to feed her and when I asked why we couldn’t feed her, she said that she had to do it because they wanted to get her blood sugar up. What would she have done if I was planning on breast feeding?

As this was going on, I was getting pumped with magnesium in response to the preeclampsia.  Per hospital policy, I could not have my baby in my room with me and be on magnesium, unless I had another adult stay with me.  One of my best friends was going to stay with me through the night, so that I would be able to have my daughter in the room with me.  The next thing I knew my daughter’s nurse was telling me that she had to stay the night in the nursery.  I was trying to get answers as to why, but she kept saying that it was because of me being on magnesium.  The nurse then said that the pediatrician needed to see my daughter in the nursery and she would bring her back up right after the pediatrician looked her over.  The last thing I said to her nurse was that I wanted to feed her, and to please bring her up if she needed to eat.

The next thing I knew it was several hours later and I was in a different room, and my baby was nowhere to be found.  I later found out that my friend had tried to get them to bring my daughter back, but because she was not a family member she could not do anything.  I had no number to call and had no idea where my baby was.  I was able to get in touch with my nurse and get the information I needed, only to be pushed aside because it was a shift change.

At that point I was furious!  I could not believe that the entire night went by and they did not bring my daughter up for me to feed her or to be with her at all.  When my daughter’s nurse finally came back with my daughter, I asked her why she was not brought up for feedings and the nurse told me that I was not breastfeeding and she needed extra watching because she was borderline premature.  I was livid! I asked the nurse what she would have done if I had been breast-feeding and she informed that they would have brought my daughter up to me.   The hospital punished me by not doing what I asked because I was not breastfeeding.  The nurse had made the decision that it was not important for me to feed my child because I wasn’t breastfeeding without even consulting me.

I cringe every time I hear about a story where a nurse pushes formula on a new mother, or a breastfeeding mother making it very well known that they are breastfeeding and not to ask about formula or give their baby a pacifier.  I did not get to feed my daughter her first few feedings, and I will NEVER get that back.

It does not matter what the reason was that I chose to formula feed my baby.  It was my choice to do that, just as much as it was my choice to have her in the room with me.  It is not for the hospital or nurses to decide what is important to the parent.  Whatever is important to you, make it known!

Ashley is a working mother of two, who resides in Maryland.  She also writes for her parenting blog at beingaconsciousparent.wordpress.com

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Share your story: email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

FFF Friday: “Things were working fine, but I hated it…”

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.

A recent article on TIME.com asked if our medical community was failing breastfeeding women. I think the answer is a pretty obvious yes, and I’m thrilled the discussion about infant feeding is starting to widen its scope. However, I hope that one significant truth doesn’t get lost in our (worthy) battle to improve breastfeeding “medicine” – even if everything is going fine on a physical level, there are going to be women who still make an educated choice not to breastfeed. Nancy, whose story is below, is one of these women: and her reasons for making the decision to formula feed her second child are complex and highly personal. She tells the following story in such an honest and stark manner that it might be easy to overlook what’s between the lines… but I hope the lesson here is clear. You. Just. Never. Know. Why. And you shouldn’t need to know. It’s a parent’s decision, and we need to respect and trust that given good information, loving parents will make the choice that is best. It might just be that “best” means different things to different people. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Nancy’s Story

My first son Alexander was born a very healthy boy at 8lbs 14oz.  I heard all about how “breast was best” so I figured I would give it a try.  My husband also wanted me to do it because of what “They” say about it.   He was breastfed, I was not.

I had the usual problems at the start.  We did meet once with a lactation consultant.  It ended up being covered 100% by my insurance (no co-pay even). The lactation consultant also ran a (free) support group once a week, so I started to go to that.  It was a nice way to meet some other moms, too.

Things were “working” fine, but I HATED it!!  I actually resented my beautiful boy.  I was the one that had to get up all the time with him in the middle of the night, and I was lacking a lot of sleep. I kept saying that I was going to quit.  But since I hadn’t gone back to work yet, it just didn’t seem “right” to quit – so I kept going despite hating it.

I did go eventually go back to work on a per diem basies (I am a nurse) and he seemed to be okay with the bottle.  I pumped at my jobs – often in a bathroom, as that was the only “private” place!

When Alexander was 8 months old we found out that he had Neuroblastoma – a kind of pediatric (STUPID!) cancer.  After his first surgery, they noticed that breast milk was flowing into one of his drains. He had a “leak” in his abdomen.  I had to stop right away.  I pumped for a little bit, but as you can imagine, pumping while dealing with your baby having cancer is not a good mix.  I froze the milk that I did pump.  However, because of the cancer and the “leak” they put him on special formal, we ended up having to throw all the pumped milk away.  He eventually had to be on only IV nutrition.

Alexander died on April 1 2011 – 13 month after he was diagnosed.  He was only 21 months old.

On June 22, 2012, I gave birth to a beautiful girl named Julia.  She was a bit smaller than her brother 7lbs, 4oz.  She was born a week before what would have been Alexander’s 3rd Birthday.  I was filled with so many emotions. Because I had hated breastfeeding so much with Alexander, I had already decided that I would NOT breastfeed this new baby (Although my husband had made indications early on that he thought I SHOULD do it because “they” say it is better!)

Prior to the baby being born I had asked on Facebook for advice about what kinds of bottles to use, and to please NOT give me any breastfeeding advice. Of course, I did still get some “advice”.  However, thankfully I have not had any issues with people giving me dirty looks for not breastfeeding.  The two main nurses I had in the hospital were very supportive of me and my decision.

Sure, breastfeeding is “easier” and there are no bottles to clean – but I am so much HAPPIER.  My husband seems to be okay with it now, and loves being able to help feed the baby!

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Share your story – email your FFF Friday submission to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

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