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.
After an emergency c-section my baby girl was admitted into the NICU immediately after being born. She had ingested a great deal of meconium, and required CPAP her first night to help her breathe. The hospital we were at was a WHO designated “breastfeeding friendly” hospital. Staff were very proactive in getting me pumping early on so my milk would come in. I was able to nurse my daughter in the NICU 12 hours after she was born, and every few hours after that, supplementing as needed with the colostrum I pumped. My daughter never needed formula in the NICU, and on day 4 she was well enough to room with us just as my milk came in. I felt pretty pleased with myself. In spite of needing a c-section and not having immediate skin to skin, here I was, successsfully breastfeeding.
At 10 days old, my baby started having bloody and mucousy stool, diarhea, gas and abdominal pain. She also became very fussy at the breast. I cut dairy from my diet. Then soy. Then nuts, eggs, and several other foods. Her issues continued, and her hemoglobin dropped to below acceptable levels. After meeting with a pediatric surgeon who performed a rectal biopsy, we confirmed she had allergic colitis. I met with a nutritionist to ensure my diet was apropriate, and persisted. I was finally beginning to enjoy nursing, and didn’t want to give up just as I was really getting the hang of things.
Finally, after over 2 months of a restricted diet, we made the choice to temporarily use hypoallergenic formula while I pumped, in the hopes her GI would heal and I could resume nursing. Short term pain, long term gain. I’ll never forget the exchange with the pediatric nutritionist at the hospital as she was giving us samples of hypoallergenic formula to try. It felt like we were doing a drug deal in the parking lot. Since it was a breastfeeding friendly hospital, she felt ashamed to be giving us formula samples, even knowing my daughter’s GI issues.
First we tried Alimentum, but within 12 hours her bleeding was significantly worse. Since Alimentum contains elements of cows milk protein, it can cause a reaction in some babies with milk protein intolerance. So, we switched to Neocate. The change was immediate, but it took 2 weeks for her symptoms to completely resolve.
Making the choice to switch to formula was incredibly liberating. my depression lifted, and I was able to get out of the house with my daughter, eat like a normal person and enjoy life again. Still, I always feel the need to justify why we formula feed. I feel like an anomaly-I’m a formula feeding, c-section having mom in the land of home births and extended breastfeeding. I should have tried harder, eaten less, or -this one takes the cake- kept breastfeeding even if my daughters GI issues didn’t resolve. Because “breastfeeding is best.” Even if it means having a GI tract that is so inflamed, it is BLEEDING.
If anything, my experience has made me so much more empathetic to other moms and the difficult choices we all have to make as parents. We do the best we can with what is presented to us. Ultimately my goal as a parent is to raise a kind, compassionate, open-minded human being, and I seriously doubt that being formula fed has any bearing whatsoever on what kind of a person she will grow to be.
However a mom comes to the choice to formula feed, or have a c-section, or whatever, is ultimately her own business, and we could all stand to be a lot more open minded and empathetic.