FFF Friday: Letting Go (A Feeding Story That May Surprise You)

The following essay is by Jennifer Campbell, who blogs at Mama Lion Strong.  

I don’t want to give anything away about her story, so all I will say is this: we all have so much more in common than we think. These commonalities are like a spider’s web – so seemingly thin, but incredibly strong.  It we could drop the rest of this bullshit and hang onto these threads of sameness… well, it could change the experience of new moms. And to stick with the spider web analogy, maybe we could also catch some seriously annoying bugs in the process, rendering them powerless, instead of letting them fly around and inject people with their poison. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Letting Go: A Feeding Story That May Surprise You

I knew Will was weaning himself. He’d been sleeping through the night for months and during the day he had gradually lost interest. He was eating three solid meals a day and snacks in between. He was more than happy to drink out of a sippy cup. His main concern during the day had become keeping up with his older brother.

I reached a point where the morning and night feeds were the only ones I was bothering with. The mornings were actually the worst time for me as far as being able to stop and enjoy it because mornings were (and still are) chaotic in our house. But that was the next feed Will dropped. As soon as he could hear his brother’s voice at the breakfast table, that’s where he wanted to be. 
Our-Feeding-Story-3

I wanted to keep the nighttime feed. I LOVED the nighttime feed! It was the part of my day I looked forward to most. My little boy would come to me fresh from the bath, flannel jammies on, and we would cuddle up on a chair in his room. I would cradle him to my chest and he would drink, smiling up at me.  Sometimes he would play with my hair; sometimes he would touch my face and smile. There were jokes that passed between us, that only another mother feeding their child could relate to. I might make kissy sounds or pretend I was going to bite his fingers. He would stop sucking, jerk his hand away and giggle, begin drinking again, and start the game all over.

Eventually he would nod off to sleep but I would continue to feed him as long as he was still sucking. Partly because I worried about him waking up hungry and partly because I enjoyed watching him sleep. I would kiss his forehead and rub my cheek in his soft hair. I would count his eyelashes and breathe in his babyish smell. I would reminisce about holding him as a newborn and marvel at the little boy he was becoming.

Then came the last night. He was exhausted from our busy day. He drank for just a moment then pushed me away. He started feeling around for his pacifier and pointed to his bed. Something inside me shattered. I knew it was time.

He was ready. I was not, but I knew this was not my choice. What’s a sad Mom to do? You hold your child’s hand as he moves into the next phase of his life knowing he still needs you, utterly and completely needs you… Just not for this one thing.

I choked up as I thought of milestones ahead of us…

He’s not even two, I reminded myself. Slow down Mama.

The next night we read a book. Will sucked on his pacifier and nodded off to sleep in my arms.  And that was that.

 

He never took a bottle again.

 

I had a wonderful bottle-feeding experience with my second son. I’m currently having a wonderful breastfeeding experience with my third son.  As a mother who has experienced both I feel qualified in saying: they were both special. After reading this post, how could one disagree? They are a little different; they are a little the same. There have been aspects of each I loved, aspects of each I didn’t always love. But they were equally as wonderful.

 

If there is one thing I could tell my son about that time it would be this: my Darling Boy, I adored feeding you, every moment. There is nothing – NOTHING – I would change about that time we had together. It helped to form the bond that is still strong today.  I know you are on your way to becoming an incredible human being… Because from day one you always knew how much I loved you.

 

A-Feeding-Story

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

 

FFF Friday: “What I desperately don’t want is for future mothers to feel like I did.”

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. 

There are times when I question whether this blog does more harm than good; times when I think that no matter what anyone does or says, people will always find a way to make parenting an us vs. them team sport. 

And then I read a story like Cat’s, and I think, yes. Exactly. This is why. This is how. For people like her, who deserve better. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones, wherever you are, and however you feed. 

The FFF

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Cat’s Story

I thought I had prepared for just about everything as the due date for our first baby approached. My husband and I had talked about how we would feel and where we could find support if our child had special needs of one kind or another; I was prepared for my intended medication- and intervention-free birth to go awry and end in a C-section; I had thought a lot about how we would cope with the coming sleepless nights and the possibility of colic; we even had a plan for how our dog would keep getting walks. I am an avowed information junkie and I read piles of birthing and baby books. The only thing I hadn’t given a second of thought to was how our child would be fed.

I would breastfeed of course, exclusively and for as long as I could, but at least until a year. I had duly prepared for this through our prenatal classes, whose teachings supported my firmly held assumption that if we met any breastfeeding challenges, my baby and I would overcome them. “Virtually all mothers can breastfeed.” Sounded good to me.

The birth was smooth and natural, exactly as I had hoped, and our beautiful, tiny daughter Emily was handed to me immediately after she was born. No one thought anything of the fact that I didn’t produce any colostrum or that my breasts hadn’t changed at all over the course of my pregnancy. My midwife helped me plan a pumping regime and work on Emily’s suck. We were home the same day, but that night, we called our midwife. Emily was rooting around and screaming with hunger, and nursing wasn’t making any difference. Our midwife suggested we syringe some formula into her mouth. Formula? Why would we have formula in the house? We ransacked the house and found a free sample we’d gotten from somewhere, read the instructions, mixed some up, and gave it to Emily. She drank it down and fell into a satisfied sleep. I returned to my breast pump, determined to make nursing work.

Weeks later, after days spent seeing more of a breast pump than my newborn daughter, taking herbal supplements and galactogogues, and struggling with finicky supplemental nursing systems, it became clear that my breasts were hypoplastic; I had insufficient glandular tissue. My midwife finally had to say to me, “You need to think about what to do if you’re not able to produce a full milk supply.” That hadn’t occurred to me, even after a month and a half of my intense pumping regime. Everything — everything — I had read indicated that if I tried hard enough I could make this work. That night, my husband came in to find me weeping on the bed with a copy of Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding on my lap. “She’s going to be stupid, and diabetic, and obese, and have asthma and ear infections, and it’s all my fault.” The anguish and guilt I felt at not being able to exclusively breastfeed were consuming. When my daughter wound up in the hospital at six weeks with viral meningitis, nothing could persuade me that it wasn’t my fault that she was sick. My husband, a family doctor, showed me studies and explained that this had nothing to do with breastmilk, that Emily would be fine, that formula was a great way to feed our baby. I didn’t believe him.

I was still trying to make the SNS (supplemental nursing system) work one terrible night when my husband was out at a work function and Emily would not settle. I had nursed her and nursed her, though I could see she wasn’t getting anything, and had used the SNS and a syringe to give her formula, but I could tell she was starving. I ran around the house, wearing my hungry, screaming infant in a sling, crying along with her while I ransacked all of the baby gifts people had given us looking for a bottle. Finally, at the bottom of a closet full of baby gear, I found one, and was about to fill it with formula when I thought that maybe I needed to sterilize it first. Wasn’t that a thing people did? Still crying, still trying to bounce my starving newborn, I Googled “how to sterilize bottles” and was presented with piles of conflicting information that in my distress I just couldn’t understand. Then I remembered that friends had given us a sterilizer! I dug it out from under the pile and, after a few tries, I understood the tearstained instruction booklet in my shaking hands enough to make it work. My new baby daughter screamed and screamed while the sterilizer was in the microwave and I scalded my hand on the steam as I took the bottle out to fill it with formula. I screwed the lid on tight and put the nipple to Emily’s lips. She sucked hungrily and, finally, silence prevailed. My husband came home to find us sitting on the couch, Emily peacefully asleep with a full belly at last. I remember smiling tearfully when he came through the door. “I guess we’re using bottles now.”

I had no idea that people would comment on how I fed my baby. I was already embarrassed to be seen in public giving my daughter a bottle; I had never wanted to cover up this badly while nursing in public. The first time it happened was our very first meal out with our new baby: I almost dissolved into tears when a waitress asked why I was giving Emily formula. My sadness turned to anger at these insensitive women — it was always women — and I later called a woman by the pool in Florida a sanctimonious bitch for asking me if I didn’t know that breast was best. I caught dirty looks and raised eyebrows at playgroups; I went to great lengths to work “medically unable to breastfeed” into conversation with people so that they wouldn’t judge me when I gave my daughter a bottle. I became scared to feed my daughter around people.

I can see now how woefully ill prepared I was for the trouble I had. All the information in my prenatal class and all the reading I had dutifully done hammered home the same messages: If you try hard enough, breastfeeding will work for you. And you will try hard enough, because it is the only healthy way to feed your baby. When I needed to give Emily formula, I didn’t know what to buy or how to mix it safely. When I needed to give a bottle, I wasn’t sure how to sterilize it or even if I needed to. I didn’t know anything about bottle feeding or even where to look for the information, because it wasn’t in my baby books. I didn’t know this blog existed. I wasn’t Googling “fearless formula feeding”; I was Googling “risks of formula feeding” and being terrified and lashed with guilt by the results. I was so scared that I wouldn’t bond enough with my daughter because I couldn’t nurse that I forgot to focus on just bonding with my daughter, and I was so obsessed with how she was fed that I was missing my daughter’s infancy. I didn’t know what to say when strangers asked me why I was bottle feeding. I felt like I must be the first person to fail to breastfeed a baby. Surrounded by supportive friends and family — not to mention an amazing husband who brought me Gatorade, ran out for more fenugreek supplements, made me sleep, and was the one to finally figure out how to make the SNS work reliably — I still felt utterly alone, completely lost, and like an utter failure as a mother. My daughter was eight weeks old and already I had screwed up this parenting thing, comprehensively and irrevocably.

Emily never got more than 30 percent of her nourishment from breastmilk, mostly far less. She is now 27 months old, a bright, beautiful, healthy little girl who rarely gets sick. Her language skills are very advanced for her age and I no longer fear that formula has damaged her in any way. I have since read more about the somewhat shaky science behind this formidable push to breastfeed and question why on earth we put so much pressure on moms to feed their babies this way at all costs.

Our second child is due in five weeks’ time. I know that I will not be able to nurse him or her exclusively — it seems unlikely that my breasts will have grown more glandular tissue between pregnancies. This time, we will be prepared: we will have sterilized bottles ready and a good formula in our house. And I’ll have some choice responses prepared to the people who will choose to judge me. I remember joking about writing “Don’t judge me — I tried!” on the side of our bottles with Sharpie last time around; I think this time I might do it.

What I desperately don’t want is for future mothers to feel like I did. The act of becoming a parent already comes pre-loaded with stress, challenges, and guilt enough. Let’s not heap more of all three onto mothers who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Time magazine asked, “Are you mom enough?” Yes, you are. We all are. There is a little girl who calls me “Mommy” and, for that reason alone, I am and always will be mom enough. And my answer to that question has exactly nothing to do with how I feed my baby.

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Want to share your story with the FFF audience? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Guest Post: I Am Not a Cow

I’m thrilled to share this post with you, from my friend Andrea Nord. Andrea is the chairperson for the non-profit organization “Bottle Feeding in Sweden” and is an admin for a Swedish Facebook group like the FFF private group, which can’t be an easy job, considering the infant feeding attitudes of that country. She’s one of the most astute, brave, and seriously awesome women I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in this crazy sort of advocacy I’m in, and I’m glad I get to share her brilliance with you via this post (which she graciously translated into English for us). The post originally appeared on Petra Jankov Picha’s bottle feeding blog “Att Flaskmata”.

About twenty km east of Lund, in the southernmost part of Sweden, is a large natural area called Revingehed. The Swedish military uses this area for short periods for their exercises and sometimes you can hear the sounds of gunfire in the village of Veberöd where I live. But for the most part, the area is a quiet and peaceful place where hundreds of cows graze freely to keep the grass short and the grounds open. Sometimes we take a drive there for a near-cow-experience, as my kids call it. If you are lucky you may see cows on the road just when you are driving by. It’s a really lovely experience that I heartily recommend, especially now when the calves are small.

When you think of cows you might think of beautiful black and white Holsteins wandering back to the barn after a long day of grazing in the meadows. All the cows are the same, it’s just the patterns on their coats that are different. Otherwise, they all have the same needs, they all want the same things and they all do the same things all day long. There are no cows with any special needs or aspirations, except of course the famous fictional cow Mamma Moo from the Swedish children’s books with the same name, the cow who was not satisfied with just grazing and chewing. She wanted to do everything that people did, she wanted to swing and go down a slide, despite her good friend the crow’s desperate attempts to point out to her that she is in fact just a cow, and cows do not behave like humans. Period.

Source: http://9teen87spostcards.blogspot.com/2011/07/mamma-moo-cow-riding-bicycle.html

Source: http://9teen87spostcards.blogspot.com/2011/07/mamma-moo-cow-riding-bicycle.html

 

Part of what makes Mamma Moo so funny is her inability to comply with expected and “natural” cow behaviour. Mamma Moo is a.. feminist! Imagine that! And then the idea hit me – why does the WHO and our Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare assume that all women in the world are the same, that we all do the same things and want the same things? Why do people think that women don’t have different needs, wants or conditions? Why this astonishment whenever we want to do something different from the expected and “natural”?

Does the world see us women as.. cows? Because if you do not see women as unique individuals but as cows, then it is close at hand to recommend that we should all do things exactly the same way. What is “best” is then best for everyone. The word recommend is perhaps the wrong word, require is probably closer to reality. And there are many “truths” that we women are expected abide by and now we come to The Mommy Wars, which I see as the social pressure to get all women to comply to a perceived truth. You see, all of us women are supposed to do things exactly the same way!

If there was tolerance for women doing things in different ways, then there would be no reason to get all upset about it. But women do in fact want different things – some want to work, others want to be at home. Some breastfeed, others bottle feed. The nerve of them!

It’s interesting that I find it hard to find similar examples where one would try to get all men to do the exact same things or get upset if they didn’t. The mere idea is completely ridiculous, for men are seen as individuals, they are all different and they are allowed to do what they think is best. The only example I can think of, when trying to get all men to do the same thing, is when you recruit them into the army and send them out to war. Then and only then are men oppressed to all do the same thing. But in peacetime, they are all free to do whatever they want and however they wish to do it. Now I would like to end this rant with an appeal to the WHO, the National Board of Health and Welfare and all the health authorities: stop seeing us women as cows! See us instead as unique individuals capable of thinking and making decisions about what is best for ourselves and our families!

Let us be free to decide how we want to feed our babies and stop trying to round us up and herd us all into a corral. We are women, not cows.

FFF Friday: “I wish everyone could feel confidence in their feeding choice from the get-go…”

I’m off to MommyCon tomorrow to speak about #ISupportYou with my co-founders, Kim Simon and Jamie Lynne Grumet. I’ve been thinking about what I want to say; what I want to impart about my goals with this project, and why I wanted to do it in the first place. Reading through Mandy’s story, I feel like she expressed my answer better than I could have. I want every parent to have confidence and support, no matter how s/he ends up feeding her/his baby. That’s it. Simple. Yet apparently so complicated, that we are still seeing articles, blogs, and chat rooms explode with anger over this topic. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF

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 Mandy’s Story

I’m a mom who tried to breastfeed but had to switch to formula.  It isn’t an unusual story but when it is your own story, it feels anything but ordinary. It’s painful and heartbreaking and exhausting and lonely.  Your friends and family have so many words and tips to offer but so little helps. Your modern female mind betrays you and tells you that you are less of a woman—less of a mother—because you cannot breastfeed, though you know that thought is irrational and untrue. For me, it is a thought I struggled with long after the last drop of breast milk fought its way out.

I had my first baby in 2011 and when the stick turned blue I immediately enrolled in the University of Google and learned everything I could about pregnancy, labor, delivery and, of course, breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was the obvious choice and I had no question about whether or not I would. I even got annoyed with people who asked whether I would breast or bottle feed. Aside from being annoyed simply because that is a rude question, why would I even consider formula when “breast is best,” right? And how much easier could it be? You have a baby, they latch on, the milk comes in and that’s that.  I even remember the lactation consultant reassuring an expectant mom in my breastfeeding class who asked, “What do I do if I don’t make enough milk?” that “you WILL make enough milk. Your body will ABSOLUTELY make enough milk for your baby.” Supply and demand. Very simple.

I’d like to smack that lady.

My daughter was born and she latched on but I waited and waited and no milk ever came. Well, no more than an ounce every three hours. I was an overwhelmed first time mom and nursed less and less until eventually I stopped trying altogether and switched to formula exclusively after three weeks. Boom…formula baby.

When my daughter was 3 months old I became pregnant with my second baby and I was hell-bent on breastfeeding!  I had been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I was certain that had to be the reason for my previous struggle and now that I was controlling it with medication, I’d have no problems with milk supply. I even had dreams about freely flowing breast milk and hoped it was a sign that buckets of liquid gold were in my future. Although I also knew that I fit the profile of someone with insufficient glandular tissue but tried to put that possibility out of my mind since there is really nothing you can do to overcome that. I was going to remain determined and hopeful.

When baby girl number two arrived, she was nine pounds of cuteness and latched on to the breast with the expertise of a baby weeks her senior. I was more than proud; I was teeming with hope! This time I was careful to nurse on demand and pump right after nursing to increase my supply but to no avail. I still only produced a maximum of one ounce every three hours. As my big girl got bigger she just began to get frustrated at my out-of-order breast but I just couldn’t give up on it, so I pumped. To complicate things further, her stomach and palette seemed to not tolerate any of the five different formulas we gave her. She seemed to only tolerate breast milk and I couldn’t make any. For about five months I received pumped breast milk from dear friends and trusted donors while I continued to pump around the clock to get my measly ten ounces per day and, of course I supplemented with formula.

Through thousands of tears over five months I told my husband I would stop when she and I were both ready because the around the clock pumping was killing me. Eventually my supply of frozen donations began to wane and she was getting more and more formula. She was doing better with her soy formula and doing well with solids. And I was emotionally ready. I clearly remember sitting in my “pumping chair,” one day and just deciding that I was spending more time pumping than it was worth for eight to ten ounces a day. I cut back slowly on my pumping sessions until I was not pumping at all and she was on formula exclusively. Boom…formula baby number two.

But this time I felt a freedom in the change. For one, I knew I’d done and tried everything possible: power pumping, fenugreek, Reglan, Domperidone, lactation cookies, oatmeal, water, visits to the lactation consultant, (side note: you know it’s pretty hopeless when the lactation consultant says, “you know, formula isn’t that bad,”). I did everything and I felt good switching to formula. I didn’t have the shame I had before. I still have moments of regret or sadness that it didn’t work but I do not feel like a failure as a mother. When I see my friends nursing their babies or pumping an abundance of milk I am a little sad and jealous but overwhelmingly, I feel happy for them because I know the struggle.  And when I see a friend choose formula with less internal struggle than I had I am happy for her as well.

I go back and forth on whether or not our family is complete with only our two children, but when I contemplate a third or fourth child, I cannot help but think of what my feeding choice would be. I say with absolute freedom and confidence that I would start right out of the gate with formula. My body does not make a full supply and the struggle to get what I can is too emotionally gut-wrenching to go through it one more time. I actually fantasize about being in the hospital room and requesting the formula for my imaginary baby with pride and confidence instead of timidly.  I imagine getting to know my newborn without the stress of trying to force my body to make milk that it just cannot make. I am sure that little daydream is not reason enough to have another child but it makes my heart happy. I wish everyone could feel that confidence in their feeding choice from the get-go whether they are a fearless formula feeder or a courageous nursing mommy.

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

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