FFF Friday: “People were acting like Aubrey had some kind of condition… rather than just eating formula…”

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.

Some of the judgment women experience for formula feeding is overt. Other is more subtle – like the type FFF Brittany describes below – and in some ways, more harmful. It’s easy to fight back when someone says something really extreme, like “formula is poison”. But when well-meaning friends imply that they feel sorry for you due to the fact that you aren’t breastfeeding, or professionals make statements about how successful breastfeeding is all about commitment… well, maybe you feel like a jerk, getting all huffy. I know I have in the past, convincing myself that these people “mean well”.
 
However, I believe we need to start speaking up about these “quieter” forms of formula feeding judgment – because it is judgment, and judgment has no place in this discussion anymore. We can evolve past that. I know we can.
 
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
 
The FFF
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Brittany’s Story
I was due this past October to have my first baby, a little girl, and I was 100% planning on breastfeeding her. All my friends and my sisters-in-law breastfed their babies up to about a year, and so I thought that this was the right thing to do.
Aubrey was born Oct. 5, 6 lbs 13 oz. She was a week early but wasn’t very undersized; just a petite baby. We attempted breastfeeding within the first hour of her birth, to pretty much no success. Aubrey could not figure out how to latch on at all. Regardless, I wasn’t feeling frustrated because I’d heard that this if often the case for the first attempt. I was sure it would work out later on.
However, after attempts pretty much every hour that first day, Aubrey still didn’t know how to latch. After about 12 hours of trying unsuccessfully, the nurse came in and told me they were concerned that Aubrey’s blood sugar was low, and would I be ok with giving her a bottle. Being very concerned at this point, I consented to give her a little formula. The next day we tried again and still no latch. The nurses suggested I use a nipple shield, as this can help the baby figure out how to latch, but warned me under no circumstances should I use it past a week. I tried it out and Aubrey took right to it. From then on, if she breastfed, it was with the shield.
I never really felt that my supply was very good, because even after feedings Aubrey always seemed hungry. She would nurse for an hour or more and then STILL be hungry enough to drink a full bottle (we were planning on supplementing with formula at this point). At my doctor’s advice I tried oatmeal, fenugreek, power pumping, and visited a lactation consultant, but my supply still wouldn’t increase beyond what it was already at. At this point, my boobs felt like they were going to fall off, they hurt so much, and Aubrey wasn’t gaining weight like she needed to.
We fought the breastfeeding battle for 2 months until one day, Aubrey decided that she flat out would not breastfeed anymore, shield or no shield. I would try to feed her and she would scream until she was purple, and I was crying out of frustration. After talking with my husband (who has been tremendously supportive about all of this) we decided I would give up breastfeeding and switch to formula full-time. It wasn’t worth it to Aubrey, who was always upset with breastfeeding, and to me, since I was incredibly frustrated with the experience.
I felt a great deal of guilt when I gave up breastfeeding, both self- and other people-imposed. The lactation consultant I saw suggested to me that “I could make breastfeeding work if I was actually committed to it” which suggested that my problem was just a lack of commitment  That really irked me. Other times moms, I’m sure without meaning to offend, would post these extreme pro-breastfeeding, anti-formula feeding articles all over Facebook touting the “immense advantages” of breastfeeding. One article even talked about how “formula fed babies die more often from SIDS”. My husband’s brother died as an infant from SIDS, so this was already a sensitive subject for me and that article about sent me over the edge. Other moms constantly expressed to me how disappointed they were for me that I couldn’t breastfeed: “Oh, what a shame”, or “Oh, that’s really too bad”, the whole time during which I was thinking, you do notice that my baby is completely healthy and happy, right? It was very strange to me that people were acting like I was telling them that Aubrey had some kind of condition or something rather than just eating formula instead of breast milk.
Since giving it up, though, I have been SO much happier and Aubrey seems a lot less stressed out about eating. I don’t dread feedings that take 2 hours and leave me feeling sore for a day anymore, and Aubrey gets her fill and has been gaining weight like a champ! For my sanity and Aubrey’s, formula feeding has been the answer for us.
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Share your story: email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

Study says: Breastfeeding problems aren’t serious. And are probably your fault, anyway.

One of the most interesting interviews I did in my research for Bottled Up was with a physician who had studied breastfeeding-related neonatal hypernatremia (severe dehydration leading to electrolyte imbalance). We discussed the fact that these days, this condition is typically caught early and can be treated successfully. But the doctor also cautioned that while the prognosis wasn’t usually dire in terms of long-term health (thanks to modern medicine), we shouldn’t forget about the emotional and financial effects on the parents. He worried about a first time mom, trying to do the best for her child, who ends up seeing that baby hospitalized – sometimes for weeks- due to what she might perceive as her own failure to nourish him adequately.

I’ve been thinking about this interview since I read several articles yesterday, detailing a new study about the same condition. According to the Guardian (“Breastfeeding problems rarely lead to serious illness, study says“), a new paper on neonatal hypernatraemia found that “Very few babies become dehydrated and seriously ill because they are not getting enough milk from breastfeeding…Dr Sam Oddie and colleagues found only 62 cases from May 2009 to June 2010, a prevalence of seven in every 100,000 live births… the babies were admitted to hospital, mostly because of weight loss, and some were intravenously fed…However, all were discharged within two days to two weeks having gained weight and none had long-term damage.”

Seem like good news, right? Put on the Def Leopard, because we’re about to start headbanging.

Source: http://www.yaindie.com/2012/12/banging-your-head-against-wall-is-it.html

Banging-my-head-against-the-wall Problem #1: 

Okay. So, correct me if I’m wrong, but having a 2-week-old newborn in the hospital hooked up to an IV for a week or two isn’t considered serious? And as for long-term effects – these babies were born between 2009-2010. The study is not available online, so I don’t know what the details are in terms of how the researchers followed up with the subjects… but considering studies on breastfeeding and intelligence have tested kids at the age of 8, I think one could fairly say the jury is still out on this sample of 4 and 5-year-old kids. And how were they assessed in terms of long-term effects? Psychological? Emotional? Physical?

With all the focus on mother-child interaction in the first days, and the effect of fatty acids on brain development, the superiority of breastmilk in the first weeks… doesn’t it seem a little ironic that we’re so quick to dismiss a condition which a) separates parents from babies through NICU stays and b) starves/dehydrates a child in those same “fundamental” weeks?

I understand that we’re talking small numbers here – 7 in every 100, 000 is admittedly a reassuring statistic. But while we’re talking about that figure… what exactly does it mean?

Banging-my-head-against-the-wall Problem #2:

First, without access to the study, I can’t tell you if this statistic means 7 in 100,000 of ALL LIVE BIRTHS – meaning EBF, formula-fed and mixed-fed infants, inclusive. The UK has lower breastfeeding rates than many countries, so if this was the number of babies in all live births, it doesn’t mean anything substantial. What we need to know is the number of babies admitted who were exclusively breastfed before we can start making statements about breastfeeding, milk supply, and what needs to happen to avoid this risk.

Banging-my-head-against-the-wall Problem #3: 

Even if this study did look only at EBF babies, there are major limitations in what we can fairly assess from the data.  We can’t know how many women can adequately produce milk so that their babies aren’t at risk, because most people would supplement before it got to the point of hospitalization. What the researchers did discover is that the babies hospitalized could nearly all breastfeed successfully:

Almost every baby is capable of breastfeeding, Oddie said. “In only a few cases were there special features of the baby that made it likely that there would be a severe feeding problem. [One of the babies, for instance, was found to have a cleft palate.] Normally all babies can get established with breastfeeding with the right support.”

Again, I’m a little confused. If there were only a few cases of this condition, what exactly is a “few” of a few? Of the seven babies hospitalized in a group of 100,000, does that mean one of them had a “special feature” which created a feeding problem? Was it a statistically significant number?

Then, the Deputy Manager of UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative weighed in:

Anne Woods, deputy programme manager for Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI)…said the number of babies who could not feed was negligible and only a very small percentage – about 1% – of women would struggle to make enough milk. “The numbers who breastfeed in this country do not reflect the numbers who could breastfeed if they had effective support,” she said.

Where there are problems, she added, “it fundamentally boils down to the fact that the baby is not attached to the breast effectively. The whole of the baby’s mouth has to make contact and draw the breast tissue into the mouth.”

But because we have a bottle-feeding culture in the UK, she said, some women do not realise this and “try to bottle-feed with their breast”, so the baby takes only the nipple and does not get enough milk.

The other problem is when babies do not feed often enough. After a difficult labour or pain relief, the baby may be sleepy. There is also an expectation she said, that a baby will feed and then sleep.

Ah, right. It’s the mom’s fault. Who cares that this study proves – hell, even suggests – nothing about the true incidence of physiological lactation failure. The researchers are talking about the baby’s ability to feed, not the mother’s ability to produce milk. That doesn’t stop Anne Woods from hurling the 1% (the lowest number bandied about regarding lactation failure, by the way – she could’ve at least given us a break and used the higher end of the oft-cited 1-5% assumption figure) statistic at moms who’re already feeling like failures for landing their babies in the hospital. And of course, the mom probably can’t be bothered to feed as frequently as needed – not that it’s entirely her fault, since the formula companies have convinced her that her breast is actually…wait for it… a bottle!

Banging-my-head-against-the-wall Problem #4: 

I know, I’m being snarky. And I do appreciate that the lead researcher of this study, Sam Oddie, emphasized the need for better breastfeeding management and support. I’m fully on board with that. But I’m also concerned about what Dr. Oddie was saying back in 2009, when he embarked on his study:

Dr Sam Oddie, a consultant in the neonatal unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary, who is leading the study, said: ‘Once we understand the scale of the problem we can work out what to do about it – how to spot it, and how to act on it. But as far as I’m concerned the answer isn’t more formula feeding, but increased support for breastfeeding from the outset in the form of counsellors.” (Marie Claire, 2009).

I don’t disagree with him, necessarily, but going in to a study on hypernatraemia with a strong desire to avoid formula supplementation – even if that ended up being the best course of treatment – implies a certain degree of bias.

One could argue that there’s no harm in a study like this making the news; it will bring attention to those experiencing early breastfeeding problems and perhaps make medical professionals take them more seriously. But as we’ve seen so many times, these studies have a way of creeping into the breastfeeding canon and being misused as “truth” to back up future claims. I can already see Dr. Oddie’s quotes as being taken out of context, being used as “proof” that “all babies can breastfeed” and that the risk of inadequate feeding isn’t all that serious (so there’s never a need to supplement, even if your formula-pushing pediatrician tells you that there is).

Still think I’m overreacting? Here are the headlines from the other two major news sources covering the study:

Most mothers who struggle to breastfeed WILL be providing enough milk for their babies, say experts (The Daily Mail)

Dehydration risks from breastfeeding are ‘negligible’, study finds (The Telegraph)

Would you like me to move over and make a little space for you on the wall? Come on over. Bring some Metallica, and wear a helmet.

 

Read more about neonatal hypernatraemia:

http://fn.bmj.com/content/87/3/F158.full http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/e343.full

 

 

FFF Friday: “What are we really feeding them?”

 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 freelancing for a parenting website for over a year now, and part of my job as content editor is to watch hundreds of videos on raising happy, healthy children. I’ve heard nearly every parenting author/expert in the English-speaking world share their two cents on what it truly means to be a “good” parent, and one thing is clear: no one has a definitive answer. It’s not the kind of thing you can quantify, because it’s such an intuitive thing. There’s a multitude of ways to support your kids, help them thrive, and maintain a positive home environment. Happy families – “good” families – don’t look a certain way, and the best parents are sometimes the ones who do everything “wrong” but do it with enough love and positivity that it all just works. And as we all know, you can do everything right as a parent, and still have a child who is intrinsically unhappy or must travel through life with insurmountable challenges. 

That’s why I love Suzanne L.’s (no relation ;0 ) story below. I honestly believe that no matter how you do this parenting thing, whatever rules you follow or labels you attach to yourself – what matters most is the energy you put behind it. If we are modeling the behaviors we want to see in our kids – grace, resilience, kindness, fortitude, positivity – we are doing our job as parents. And by the same token, by taking care of ourselves, of our own needs and desires, we are sending a message to our kids that we matter; that we, and they, are worthy of respect. So, here’s to saying sayonara to the “crazy head trips”  and focusing on what we are actually feeding them, as Suzanne L. describes below.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Last year, I gave birth to my son and I totally went into a crazy head trip about feeling less than a mom for not breastfeeding. My son had really bad jaundice and needed to be in the NICU for his first week of life. I was a new mom and trying to learn how to breastfeed while the hospital staff needed my son to be fed as much as possible and as quickly as possible to get back under the 3 lights that he needed to be under due to the severity of his bilirubin levels. This was definitely not conducive to a happy breastfeeding experience. All I wanted was for my son to be well and for us to be able to take him home as soon as possible, so I was fine with formula. It was fast and he needed to get back under those lights.

When we brought my son home, he was already so trained to eat from the 4 oz. bottle that he protested very loudly for his bottle every time I tried to breastfeed him because it was easy, fast and gave him 4 oz, which my breasts could not provide.

I felt terribly guilty. Thank God for my Mom who saw what I was doing to myself and said, “Sue, you, your bothers and your sister were all formula fed. You are all healthy, kind, smart and athletic people – what more do you want for your son? You all turned out fine. He will, too”

Then my Mom told me how my aunt, her older sister, did not produce milk for her son, my cousin. Back then, formula was not available, so my aunt had to have her sister-in-law who had given birth to her son around the same time as my cousin breastfeed my cousin for his first year of life. I could not even fathom having another woman feed my son. Back then, there was no other choice.

I gave birth to my daughter this past November and even after the experience with my son, I still felt a bit guilty about formula feeding. Thankfully, I got over the guilt a lot sooner and my daughter actually liked to breastfeed from time to time which I stopped last week due to the lack of milk supply. She is very happy with formula and she is very healthy as is my son who is now almost 18 months old.

I know of many women that have tried breastfeeding and either did not have enough milk or got serious infections which forced them to stop and go to formula.

I also know of many women that chose to use formula immediately due to their own set of circumstances.

If you can breastfeed successfully, which my sister was able to do with her 2 children, that is great; however, that gives NO ONE the right to judge anyone else’s circumstances. My sister breastfed both of her children and she would NEVER judge anyone else for formula feeding, including me.

Above all, the most important thing is attachment and I know of mothers who breastfeed who are not all that great with their children. Breastfeeding will not automatically make you Mom of the Year. There are so many wonderful ways to build a healthy attachment relationship with your children, just like my Mom was able to do with my brothers, sister and me.

Feeding a baby is just one part of a huge whole when loving and caring for your children. Playing with them, hugging them, soothing them when they are hurt; the list goes on and on. Focusing only on which way you are feeding your child is really missing the big picture – as I noted above with my Mom “you are all healthy, kind, smart and athletic” – these attributes do not come from a bottle nor a breast – these attributes come from love and guidance – a child witnessing the actions of their parents. Our actions are what we really need to be focused on as opposed to whether or not we are giving our children a breast or a bottle – what are we really feeding them? love/hate judgment/acceptance, intolerance/respect – take a good long look in the mirror, your own mirror, not anyone else’s, because that is what your child is seeing, that is what your child is being fed.

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

Breastfeeding might not protect kids from obesity. So what?

The past few days have produced a flurry of articles on how breastfeeding may not protect against obesity. You’d think I’d be shouting an obnoxiously loud DUH or TOLD YOU SO. Instead, I want to poke my eyes out and claw at my ears until they bleed. That’s maybe slightly dramatic, but seriously – I’m at my wit’s end, here.

The truth is, there have been quite a few studies and reviews that showed negligible or conflicting results regarding the effect of infant feeding practice on later obesity (ie, this one, this one, or this one). That hasn’t stopped numerous government or health organization from urging us to support breastfeeding because it will solve the obesity epidemic, opting to focus on this convoluted claim rather than the myriad of health benefits that have been repeated consistently over metastudies and reviews (i.e., lower risk of gastrointestinal infection, lower risk of ear infections, hell, even the IQ thing is more soundly supported by the research).

I get why there’s more attention being paid to this finding – it comes from the PROBIT study, which is the closest thing we have to a randomized, controlled experiment in the infant feeding world (other than sibling studies, of which there have been exactly two- at least that I’ve been able to unearth). For those who don’t spend their free time reading the canon of breastfeeding research, let me give you the Cliff’s Notes: PROBIT was a study undertaken in Belarus, which had low breastfeeding rates at the time. They took a cohort of pregnant moms and gave one randomized group more intensive prenatal breastfeeding education and baby-friendly hospital etiquette when they delivered; the other group got the status quo by way of breastfeeding support. The thought was, the group that got better education and support would breastfeed more exclusively and for longer; the other group probably wouldn’t.

Are you confused? You should be. The thing that puzzles me (and hopefully you as well) is that while this plan might have convinced more women to initiate breastfeeding, the same pitfalls that plague all breastfeeding research still remain. Some of the women in the “breastfeeding friendly” group still – presumably – could not breastfeed for physical reasons, others may have chosen not to. All this study can really show us, after all the necessary confounders are accounted for, is whether this type of breastfeeding promotion and support can increase breastfeeding rates. Otherwise, it’s basically more of the same. There are still fundamental differences in the women who were able to breastfeed and those that couldn’t/didn’t.

But, for whatever reason (desperation?) the medical and advocacy communities have grasped onto PROBIT as the Holy Grail of irrefutable breastfeeding science. So, if PROBIT shows that breastfeeding confers no protective effect against obesity, that means something. (Incidentally, as the babies involved in PROBIT get older, I’m sure we will see a lot of headlines on the long-term effects of breastfeeding… so if you’re interested in this stuff, try and familiarize yourself with it now. Here’s some good literature on it, to get you started.)

While I believe, based on my reading of additional research into the obesity link (more on this in Bottled Up, not that I’m plugging my book or anything. I mean why would I have to, book sales being as horrible great as they are?), that there truly is little to no advantage to breastfeeding in regards to later obesity, there’s no excuse for bad science or bad reporting. And this, my friends, is a both. We are taking ONE finding from ONE study – a well-designed one, to be sure, but far from perfect or immune from the problems plaguing most infant feeding research- and proclaiming its results as absolute truth. The sad thing is, some of the biggest breastfeeding advocates are just as guilty of this as the knee-jerking media: Dr. Ruth Lawrence, one of the founders of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, even admitted that she was “disappointed” about the result (although as someone so wisely pointed out on our FFF Facebook page, how freaking ridiculous is it that she is “disappointed” to find out that the vast majority of Western babies – being that they are nearly all at least partially bottle fed – are not doomed to a life of morbid obesity just because their mothers were “suboptimal” breastfeeders?? And what does this suggest about the inherent bias of breastfeeding researchers?).

The near-hysteria surrounding this finding is just further evidence of how warped our thinking is around infant feeding. Why is it such a big deal that breastfeeding doesn’t solve the obesity epidemic? Because we’ve made it a big deal. We’ve built a house of cards on top of this one health claim: it’s the basis of the First Lady’s push to support breastfeeding; Mike Bloomberg has used it to justify locking up formula in NYC hospitals; pretty much every article about breastfeeding in the past year has suggested that formula fed babies better start saving up for Lap Band surgery. The grotesque amount of fat-hating aside (because if you think formula feeders have it bad, you should see how awfully we treat overweight people in our public health discourse), it’s ridiculous that we’ve focused so much attention on this supposed benefit of breastfeeding when common sense says that our nation’s growing waistlines are due to a multitude of factors – genetics, cultural differences, lack of clean air/safe streets/room to move in our cities, processed food, sedentary lifestyles, the time we waste on the (ahem) internet….

My hope is that breastfeeding advocates and health officials might learn from this; that they might take a step back and reassess the way they are promoting something that should be a basic human right as a medical necessity. But at the very least, I hope this will be a cautionary tale for those of us who strive for critical thinking to remain skeptical of absolutism, in both science and in life.

 

FFF Friday: “Without support I just didn’t feel I could stop.”

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.

Today is International Women’s Day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how infant feeding dynamics play into women’s rights. I admire those who are vocal about all types of feeding rights – those who fight for longer maternity leaves and better pumping accommodations; those who defend a woman’s right to nurse in public and breastfeed as long as she cares to; and of course, those who have the audacity to actually choose to formula feed (the horror!) simply because they know it’s the best option for their families, without going through the requisite heroics. 

You can think a woman who opts not to breastfeed is selfish or uniformed. You can raise your eyebrow at her, make a snarky remark on the internet, or (as in Kelly’s case, below) bring her to tears with your judgment. Just please do not tell me that choosing not to breastfeed isn’t a women’s rights issue. Taking away the “rights of the baby” and all that rhetoric for a moment, one must acknowledge that insisting a woman endure physical pain, loss of autonomy, and pressure from the patriarchal influences in her life can easily infringe on her basic human rights (and before the comments come pouring in, I am in no way suggesting that breastfeeding causes any of these hardships for the majority of women- but for some people, it can and does). It’s fine if you’re going to argue that the good of the child and of society supersede those of the mother (although I will fight you on the quality of the evidence to support those claims), as long as you don’t turn around and tell me you are genuinely concerned about the plight of your sisters.

But enough feminist ranting. I think Kelly’s story illustrates what I’m trying to say here (far better than my overtired self can manage on a Friday night when I’m itching to go watch Zero Dark Thirty on pay-per-view) and I bet the strength and confidence she exhibits by the end of her journey will leave you cheering. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Kelly’s Story

Before having my first kid, I figured I’d be skewing granola on most things – carrying baby instead of using a stroller, co-sleeping, and of course breastfeeding. It wasn’t long before reality came along to challenge me. Boy#1 was delivered via emergency c-section, and was immediately whisked away to the NICU, so my hopes of holding him and nursing him after birth were dashed. In fact, I didn’t get to see him until the next day. Still, I hoped it wasn’t too late, that we could establish a breastfeeding relationship. This proved to be extremely difficult. He didn’t latch on well, and the pain – even with a nipple shield – was intense. The lactation consultants I worked with with equally unable to get a good latch out of him. By the second night, the NICU called me in the middle of the night and insisted that they be allowed to give him a bottle. I agreed, but felt that I had started down a slippery slope.

My feeling was correct. By the time we went home, I couldn’t get him to so much as look at a nipple, forget about latching on to one. He was all bottle, all the time. I felt terrible over it – all of my friends breastfed their babies, why couldn’t I do the same with mine? Reinforcing this feeling was the judgment from the public. I clearly remember deciding to attend a new mothers’ group, thinking it would help me to make connections and fight the creeping sense of depression and isolation. I did chat a bit with a few women, but when Boy#1 cried and I pulled out a bottle…backs were literally turned. And a loud conversation about how breastfeeding was so difficult but so rewarding was begun. I immediately burst into tears and left, vowing not to go to mom’s groups anymore. At home, my husband was somewhat supportive, but couldn’t understand why I didn’t try harder to breastfeed, and expressed disappointment and resentment that I was unable. So I kind of felt attacked from all sides.

For the next four months, I pumped and used formula as well. Given the time commitment involved in pumping, there were many times when the baby would be crying or wanting attention, which I would be unable to give since I was hooked up to that infernal machine. Now I look back and wish I had skipped the pumping – he wanted me more than he wanted breastmilk. But I felt so guilty about my failure I just didn’t feel I could stop. Finally, after a miserable bout of double mastitis, I decided it was time to be done. And slowly but surely, once I was free from the pump, I started to come out of my depression and actually enjoy the baby.

The second time around, I was determined to do things differently. Having done a good bit of reading on the subject, I was no longer convinced that breastmilk was a magic elixir – Boy#1 is healthy and happy, as well. I did, however, want to avoid the mess and expense of formula. I’d been jealous of my friends who never needed to mess with a bottle – they had food ready-made wherever they went! So when Boy#2 was born via VBAC, I thought that was an excellent start, and began trying to nurse him right away.

Unfortunately, he turned out to be what the lactation consultant termed a “barracuda baby” – his latch was SO strong, he left bruises on my areolas! And my nipples were battered and destroyed within a day. Nursing him was so painful I had to make sure I had a stack of Kleenexes available to blow my nose, as I sobbed through the whole thing. Actually, I’d usually start crying once I realized he was hungry, in anticipation of the pain I was about to endure. Given a newborn’s appetite, this meant I was pretty much crying nonstop. But I persevered, as I’d promised myself I would really try – and everyone agreed it was hard at first, right?

Things did not improve once we got home. Feedings were agonizingly painful and went on forever – and the worst part was, he always seemed hungry afterwards. I could nurse him for an hour and he would be screaming and sucking on his fists. I added in pumping sessions to up my supply, but rarely got more than a half ounce, and in the meantime, my nipples were getting worse. I desperately wanted to quit, but felt I couldn’t unless my husband promised he wasn’t going to hold it against me. I figured I could stand the judgment of outsiders if I had support at home. However, he admitted he couldn’t promise that, and felt I needed to just deal with it. I dreaded feedings, and was beginning to resent the baby for inflicting the pain, but without support I just didn’t feel I could stop.

But Boy#2 was losing too much weight, and not peeing/pooping enough. When he was nine days old, his pediatrician said that if he hadn’t gained or held steady in the next few days, he would have to be hospitalized. She instructed us to give him formula, and for me to pump for half an hour after every feeding session to get my supply up. I had a sudden flashback to Boy#1 crying all alone while I pumped, and thought, NO, I don’t want to do that! Even if I wanted to, I don’t know how it would be possible while trying to watch an energetic toddler. I told my husband I would be willing to continue to nurse, then give bottles, but I would not be attaching  myself to the pump ever again.

That night I nursed Boy#2, then immediately came down with terrible chills, followed by a high fever. Turned out I had developed infections in both nipples as well as a uterine infection, and ended up being hospitalized for three days. So once again my actions, intended to create greater closeness with the baby, had the opposite effect – in this case, complete separation! Once in the hospital, I decided to hell with what my husband thinks, I’m done. I was offered the use of a pump multiple times by the nurses, but each time I turned it down firmly. A couple tried to convince me I could still breastfeed, to which I replied, yes, I know, but I’m done. And I felt good and confident about saying so.

Boy#2 has been gaining weight and looking better now that he’s on formula. The lethargy is gone, and he dirties diapers with gusto (never thought I’d be so happy to see poop!). Feedings are now a sweet time when I can snuggle him close and talk to him, instead of crying and watching the clock. My only regret is that I didn’t stand up for myself sooner and say it’s MY body, and if I don’t want to be in agony, that’s perfectly reasonable and my right!

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Ready to share your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

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