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 is Michelle’s second FFF Friday contribution, and it describes a very different experience than she had the first time around. I hope this will inspire breastfeeding advocates and healthcare workers to consider approaching moms with more sensitivity and individuality. Because by doing so, both my goal and he goals of breastfeeding advocates can be achieved: more women will be empowered to breastfeed, and all women will be treated with the respect that they deserve.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
Michelle’s (Second) Story
With my first daughter M, I had my mind made up from the beginning that I was going to breastfeed for 2 years. No problem. I was always told it was natural. It ended by the time she was 6 weeks by bouts of reoccurring double mastitis, low milk supply, a screaming baby, and me on the brink of PPD by wondering why couldn’t I do this one natural thing.
A year later , I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme’s Disease. Given the reoccurrent mastitis, I was on antibiotics while nursing M. This may have been a blessing in disguise as she did not contract this disease from me. I completed successful treatment of Lymes Disease. Come 2.5 years later I am pregnant again. Hooray! I can move forward and give M a new sibling. I was always happy about this new mystery baby, but I have a pregnancy condition that is known as hyperemesis gravardium. It’s when you have severe nausea and vomiting that does not go away by normal methods of treatment and you face severe dehydration and weight loss. I had it with my first up until about 24 weeks. No one ever told me it became worst with each subsequent pregnancy. I spent the first 2 trimesters being hooked up to a Zofran pump and on IV fluids on and off. By the time I was 32 weeks I was hospitalized for 3 days for severe dehydration. There were times I would lay there in my stupor with the haunting fact that I was going to have to breastfeed. Wait did I say. “Have to”? There were times I was so miserable I decided that I just wasn’t going to do it at all. I did not care who said what about it and I was ready for the defense.
Labor Day came. It came on really fast. I checked into the hospital at 4:30am in complete denial about being in labor and by 6:36am E was born. They ran many tests on her because when I had her I was anemic, deficient in protein and calcium. Miraculously E was given a battery of tests and was completely healthy and was born 8lbs. 6 oz which was actually a ½ pound lighter than my first. I loved her to pieces. I really enjoyed looking at her while still in shock at the same time. The nurse asked me, “So would you like to start breastfeeding?” I just looked at her stunned and told her that I needed time to process all of this first. Honestly, I sort forgot about breastfeeding at that moment. A few minutes later I told my nurse and OB that my last breastfeeding experience was horrible and I felt tremendous pressure to do it and to keep making it work when it just was not working so now I just didn’t know what I was going to do. The nurse kindly nodded and my OB said, “Well, you just have to do what you think is the right thing and only you can decide that.” Maybe that was a monumental turning point for me. I just felt so comfortable and accepted. There was no judgment in the room. Twenty minutes later I put E up to breast and she was eager to be breastfed. It felt so normal after having 9 months in an abnormal situation. I had a wonderful stay at the hospital and stayed there the whole 2 days. I decided to combo feed from the beginning. No one gave me a bad time about this. As a matter of fact, one nurse said, “Yeah, I’m old school, and I think you are doing the right thing.”
During the next 3 days drawback #1 happened, E was breastfeeding well, but losing weight. I also had a nipple injury. Before having E I thought I would just give up if things weren’t going right, but for some reason after having her I just couldn’t. She was a baby that really loved to breastfeed and I just wasn’t ready to end that relationship. So I did something I never thought I would do. I made an appointment with a Lactation Consultant. The whole time I was in the hospital I just couldn’t bear to speak to an LC because of my previous experience. When I had my first daughter I spoke to 2 LCs and it did not go well. I basically was scolded for giving M formula and told I was not giving her a good start. I remember her arguing with me and walking out of my room as I was saying “No, she is hungry. She really is hungry.” I went the LC appointment with my husband and I figured if I didn’t like her I could walk out unlike being the confines of the hospital room. I told my LC right from the beginning, I do not really enjoy breastfeeding, but I can tolerate it so I want to go a little longer and now this has happened what should I do? The LC said, “Well at least you’re honest.” She fully examined me and we discussed my goals. She identified the problem with my nipple and helped me get the right technique down for making it work. She was very patient and positive. My husband was so helpful and really diligently following the instructions she gave us. I had a few more visits with her and her partner and they treated me with a lot of patience and openness that I really felt for the first time that I can do this.
Then Drawback #2 happened. I sustained a severe nerve injury in my arm that left me with an auto-immune disorder. Without wanting to go into any debate, it is vaccine related, but also having Lyme makes me a target for autoimmune disorders. So after 3 weeks of breastfeeding that was getting on the right track, I was told the only way I could get better was to go to physical therapy and go on prescription medicine that unfortunately was not breastfeeding friendly. It was devastating news for me, but I knew that with the excruciating pain I was in and not having the use of my left arm, I was facing another problem: How on earth can I take care of my 2 children? So that was it. My mind was made up and I quit breastfeeding and went on medication.
The next day or so I felt I was mourning a breastfeeding relationship and I would see E eagerly trying root for me and it would leave me with a void. I thought to myself “What if I could actually get better and re-lactate?” Some people encouraged me to do it. I had my industrial strength pump and realized that maybe I could make it work. So I pumped and dumped everyday and I used natural methods without medication to increase my milk supply. I was getting better at a fast rate. Five weeks later I was able to wean off the dangerous breastfeeding medication. I put E up to my breast and sure enough she never forgot how to latch! Her latch was a little weak at first, but once she had it down she was back to being the good nurser she always was. I never got back the milk supply I once had and always had to supplement with formula, but I didn’t care. Our breastfeeding relationship was back and that’s all that mattered. For the next couple of months I breastfed with no stress and formula fed with no guilt.
E one day decided at 4 months that she was not much into nursing anymore. She was fussy and wouldn’t take my milk if I used certain herbs and one day she didn’t want my milk at all. It was then I decided to wrap up all my nursing supplies and be done with nursing as there was no point in forcing my baby to feed. I have no regrets and never looked back. I went from only bfing for 6 weeks my first to making it to 4 months with my second! I felt like I really made a huge accomplishment and it was very much a good quality breastfeeding experience and not about the length of time I did it for.
Breastfeeding went much better the second time around. What was it I did differently? I had no breastfeeding timeline goal! My goal was to have a good bfing experience and that could’ve meant breastfeeding for 1 day or 1 year. While I many women make goals like EBFing for 3, 6, 12 months, I realized that would’ve put tremendous pressure on me and would’ve made me miserable. I also want every breastfeeding advocate to know that approaching a mom with an open mind and not putting pressure on a mom to breastfeed can go a long way. I really felt like if I was pressured or told it was hospital policy I would have panicked and would have not attempted to breastfeed my baby. Most of all, I am very happy I attempted to breastfeed again and I grateful to all those who helped make it happen one of them being my husband.
Feel like sharing your story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.