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.
When I had Fearlette, I was really enjoying breastfeeding until the lactation consultant came in and informed me that there was “no way” I could nurse on just one side. I’d been doing exactly that for the first 24 hours of Fearlette’s life, due to nerve damage of “unknown origin” I had discovered in one of my breasts during my breastfeeding hell with FC. I knew I couldn’t withstand the pain again without heavy painkillers (not an option while taking care of two under two) and according to the hospital LC, I would have to pump religiously on my bad side in order to continue any sort of nursing relationship with my new babe. I had already promised myself I wouldn’t go to heroic measures to breastfeed when I felt confident as a formula feeder; it just wasn’t worth the risk of my PPD rearing it’s ugly and all-too familiar head.
It wasn’t until months later that I questioned the LC’s advice. Why couldn’t I nurse on one side? If our bodies were made to adjust to our babies’ needs, couldn’t my body have adjusted to this situation? Couldn’t I have at least given myself the opportunity to try? Wasn’t there a possibility of some sort of happy medium?
Reading Brittney’s FFF Friday essay brought up these feelings once again. As she so wisely says, there is so little black-and-white – and yet we are treated as if every woman’s experience, every woman’s body, is one and the same. Without the shades of gray, I doubt we’ll ever be able to provide the right sort of support to mothers – the type of support that allows for supplementation, for combo feeding, for odd and individual nursing relationships.
Here’s hoping we can get there, someday.
Happy Friday, fearless ones.
I have so enjoyed Fearless Formula Fridays, but never felt my story was interesting enough or my writing talented enough to submit. But recently when Suzanne talked about the need for mothers who’ve seen both sides to be a part of the discussion, I decided I would share my story with you.
When pregnant with my first child, I heard all the benefits of breastfeeding, of course. I have seen many women in my family do it, and we were short on money… so of course I decided I would breastfeed. I went in optimistic but apprehensive, after all, I had surgery to remove a tumor on one breast, and I was told it would probably be ok but there is no way to know until you try.
My breastfeeding journey, like so many other women, was fraught with stress and turmoil. Both breasts made milk, but because the ducts were severed during surgery, one breast was painfully engorged and nothing would come out. Already down half my supply, days in I started supplementing with formula. Once I introduced a bottle, my son’s latch became worse and he was uninterested in the breast. The lactation consultant said if you do all the right things (extra pumping, fenugreek, drink liquids, etc.) your body CAN make enough. So I pumped. And pumped and pumped… every 2 hours around the clock at first. I seem to be one of those women whose body doesn’t respond well to pumping, because it was less and less each day. About 3 months in, when I was barely pumping half a bottle a day, I stopped. I was relieved to put it away, but I still struggled with guilt off and on that first year. I could see he was healthy and happy and intelligent. But some small voice (or the very boisterous voices on baby-themed internet message boards) told me that I obviously hadn’t given 100%. The regret resurfaced when friends had babies and seemed to effortlessly breastfeed their infants. They didn’t have to purchase formula, carry bottles, do dishes, and have bottles littering their kitchen counters. I envied their convenience and bonding time.
When I became pregnant with my second child I was determined to breastfeed, fixing some mistakes I had made and armed with the knowledge that I could only feed from one side. It worked! I may look a little lopsided, but that’s ok! It involved lots of pain and marathon nursing sessions (thank goodness for Downton Abbey DVDs at 3am!) but we are going on 9 months of breastfeeding. I know it’s not easy or automatic, so I am that much more grateful it is something I could experience. I am also thankful to be able to relate to both sides of the “debate” better. I grew to truly love breastfeeding, so I understand why people get so passionate about it. But I also know that formula is a good food for babies, and that you don’t understand another mother’s journey. Ultimately I believe that each mother does the best for her child, because no one loves them like she does.
There is so little black and white: in the research, mothers’ anatomy, babies’ inclination and individual circumstance. Many of those friends with seemingly easy breastfeeding relationships supplemented and eventually switched to formula when pumping at work became too much. Statistics say that most mothers do introduce formula at some point. And many of us start out breastfeeding in the hospital. So there are many of us combo feeders out there, whether purposeful or not. We can make sure that breastfeeding is accepted in public and supported when the assistance is desired. We can ensure that formula is safe, available, and the best nutritionally it can be. I hope I do my own small part to help mothers when I tell my story and speak up for women coming under judgment for their feeding choices, because I’ve seen both sides. And both of my sons are thriving and healthy and wonderful. I’m a blessed mother – blessed to produce milk from my body, and to live in a country with fresh water and accessible formula. I needed both.
When you’re ready to share your story, send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t bite. Unlike my 2-year-old.