FFF Friday: “I know that I did try hard enough for me.”

Back when I was going through my own breastfeeding struggle with Fearless Child, I saw a slew of lactation professionals. Some were great, some not so great. There was one who I particularly liked, who seemed to actually know what she was doing and tried to look beyond the obvious. But lately, I’ve been thinking…. when I ultimately decided to switch to exclusively formula feeding, I called her. The same woman who had immediately called me back for other requests, telling me how to find secret Westside dentists who would fix my son’s mild tongue tie, or offering evidence to counter my pediatrician’s assertion that there weren’t sufficient studies to say that nursing on my medication was “completely safe”, never called me back. I left two messages, asking for her advice. Nothing.

Lactation consultants are charged with a lot of responsibility – getting baby fed, making sure mom’s body is working properly and isn’t in pain – and it makes sense that the same women who spend years of their lives learning about breastfeeding are pretty passionate about it. But would a heart surgeon dump a patient because he had another heart attack, despite that surgeon’s attempt to address his lifestyle factors? Babies need to be fed; if a mother decides that breastfeeding isn’t going to work for her, I believe the same professionals who’ve tried to help her breastfeed have a responsibility to guide her through the transition to formula. At the very least, they should refer her to someone who can. Because leaving her in the lurch sends a clear message: you’ve failed. Or maybe, you’ve failed me.

Amber didn’t fail. As she so eloquently puts it, she “tried hard enough for her”. Done. Enough said. She does not deserve to be ignored, or “dumped”, as she puts it, by a healthcare professional who she trusted to help her through her struggle.

It’s about people, not promotion. People, not policy. People, not politics.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Amber’s Story

As many people have said before on these FFF Friday essays, I was expecting to breastfeed. Not only was the data compelling but I liked the idea that it would help me lose weight, my uterus would shrink faster, and most of all it was free (being a very frugal person this was a highlight for me). I didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to breastfeed. My own mother formula fed my brother and I. She stated that my brother refused to breastfeed and honestly I thought she was weak. I thought she didn’t try hard enough and I never bothered to ask her what she meant by that, until I was in the trenches myself. I was incredibly wrong to think these things of her. I feel ashamed that I fell into the hive mentality that most people have when it comes to formula feeding. She was incredibly strong, when she saw her baby was starving she told them to hand her the formula and never looked back.

I was expecting breastfeeding to be challenging, they told me so in the breastfeeding class. I imagined that the hardest part of breastfeeding was getting the baby to latch. When my son immediately latched onto my breast with no fuss, no pain. I was amazed and thought to myself “I lucked out, this is going to be easy for me”.

The next day things were not as easy as that first latch, we were struggling a bit and we had the LCs coming in to help. He’d get latched and they would leave. Then things started going down hill. My baby was jaundiced and they were concerned about his bili levels being too high. So they brought in the formula. I didn’t think anything of it honestly, I knew it could take 3-5 days for my milk to come in, I knew this was temporary. We would be on our way to exclusive breastfeeding in no time. Then they brought in the pump and informed me to pump after every session. They also brought in a tube and syringe to put formula in. This way we could have Callum latch and feed him the formula at the same time. My first few pump sessions I got nothing, absolutely nothing. The nurse said not to worry, that was common in the beginning.

We were discharged the next day with formula, syringes and tubing and informed to give him 20mls at each feeding. We went to the doctors a few days later and had him weighed. He had lost more weight and his bili levels were still high. We were told to keep doing what we were doing and visit an LC. I still was getting very little while pumping, 10mls at most. Due to the jaundice, Callum was difficult to wake and get him to feed. Feedings were taking 45 minutes to an hour, then I would have to pump.

We visited the LC a couple of days later and Callum had lost more weight. We were told that he could go no more than 2 hours between each feeding. The LC decided  to do a weighing before and after feeding at the breast. He gained nothing in between one breast and only half an ounce from the other. I broke down, it’d been 5 days PP, why was my milk not in? Turns out my baby was starving as well, 20 mls for each feeding was not enough. The pediatrician had said it was a fine amount, I think the belief was that I was producing milk and so he didn’t need a lot of formula. So we upped the amount of formula and he ended up gaining weight quickly after that.

So then the insanity started. I needed to get my milk in. I was told this could take 4-6 weeks. What!? No one told me that. It was 3-5 days, that’s what the breast feeding class said! We would feed Callum with the tube and syringe at the breast for 45 minutes to an hour, then I would pump for 20 minutes, then wash everything. Leaving me with approximately a half an hour to sleep, eat or do whatever else need to be done. I was going insane. I would start to cry every time I would feed my baby. I would look down at him that that tube in his mouth and just lose it. I hated feeding him. It was a black mark against me. Why couldn’t my body do this? Once I was done feeding I would go and pump. My nipples were starting to hurt, I was still only getting 10-20 mls per pump. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating enough because I didn’t have much of an appetite. I wanted to hide from my child, I didn’t want to look at him. Looking at him made me cry. I knew this wasn’t normal. But I was too proud to admit that I was sliding down a very slippery slope. I wanted to run away.

At the same time I refused to let my husband bottle feed him. I was going to do this. I had to stimulate my breast. The milk needed to come in. The LC told me to try fenugreek, nothing happened. Other than I smelled like maple syrup, which was nice since I wasn’t bathing. She was pushing me to try acupuncture but it would take an hour. How would I schedule something that would take an hour when I needed to feed and pump!? She kept telling me not to focus on the numbers to just keep pumping. I started to up my time on the pump, I would sit there for a half an hour, 45 minutes. Trying so desperately to make it happen and yet I was still only getting 10-20 mls. By the end of the day I had just enough for one feeding.

I was trying to put on a brave face but I was falling apart. I hated being a mother, I hated everything. Then I talked to another LC, she told me to only pump or only breastfeed. I needed sleep. It had been about a week and a half postpartum. It had been almost 2 weeks since I had gotten any sleep at all. At some point that weekend my husband decided to just bottle feed Callum without waking me up. I woke up when he finished and I was furious that he didn’t wake me so I could pump. Didn’t he understand!? I needed my milk to come in! What he understood was his wife was losing it and needed rest. He was completely right. I kept telling myself that once 6 weeks PP came, I would call it quits. But that was stressing me out, that number was stressing me out. How could I keep up with this? So I thought I would just keep going as long as I could. When I did talk to the LCs, they always told me that I needed to be healthy and happy and bond with my child. They told me I could formula feed exclusively but I didn’t want to hear it.

Then LCs had a social worker call me. She really slapped me awake. She asked me how long I was going to keep this up. I told her as long as I could. She told me that I couldn’t do that, I needed to set a deadline. I couldn’t leave it open like that. So I set a deadline, that deadline was that day. I decided to exclusively pump. It made me feel a bit better. I started to sleep more. I was still getting 10-20mls. So I thought maybe my breast just didn’t like the pump. After a few days I tried to put Callum on the breast. He screamed at me, he was having none of it. My breasts were not giving him enough.

I talked to the LC a few days later. I told her I was exclusively pumping and Callum hated the breast. She told me to keep trying him at the breast after feeding him. My little breast milk was liquid gold! She told me she would would check up on me by the beginning of the next week. But I think she knew I was a lost cause. She never called. I had depended on those calls and I was dumped just like that. Who needs help with formula feeding, right?

I exclusively pumped for 2 weeks. It was depressing seeing nothing. The most I ever got was 30 mls and that was when I had gone 12 hours between pumping sessions. It was getting difficult to pump with my husband back at work. My breasts never got engorged. The only thing they were, was sore. Every time I turned on that pump my toes would curl in pain. The day I packed away the pump, I felt sad and happy at the same time. I know that I made the right decision but I still get a little teary eyed or angry when I see “breast is best” stamps on the formula bottle or on the internet. I sometimes wonder if I did enough, if I tried hard enough. And then I remember those feelings of despair and I know that I did try enough for me. I also remind myself that I was formula fed and I’m rarely sick, I have a Master of Science. I have not suffered because I was formula fed and neither has my baby. He is healthy and happy and I can’t be more grateful.

***

Have a story you’d like to share? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “I wore it like a badge of honor.”

Here’s the thing about judgment: it’s part of life. We all do it. It’s sort of like picking your nose, or pooping. We all wish we could pretend that it never happens, but humans are gross creatures. It’s inevitable. 

That’s why I don’t tell people not to judge, because it’s useless. Instead, I ask them to listen. To consider how your experience might keep you from understanding the other person’s experience. We can’t possibly know every moment of someone else’s life, or every layer of their heart. There are exceptions, of course – go ahead and judge axe murderers or neo-Nazis, please – but I’m talking about that mom you see at McDonalds smelling of cigarettes with a morbidly obese child. Or the mom on the playground who grabs her misbehaving son a bit too hard. In these isolated moments, in our generalizations about certain parenting behaviors, it’s so easy to think that we are superior, that we are infallible. Just remember that tomorrow, it might be your child who hits another. It might be you who loses your job, and needs to fill your child’s belly with whatever food is cheapest and most accessible. You just don’t know. 

But regardless, you will judge. And that’s okay. But I think it’s awfully nice when you can acknowledge it, like the amazing Dana does in the story below. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Dana’s Story

Before I begin my storyline from breast to bottle, first let me begin with my public apology to anyone who heard me speak about breastfeeding vs. bottle before, during, and even shortly after pregnancy. I was one of “those women.”  I was obsessed with breastfeeding. I couldn’t even wrap my head around the idea of bottle feeding. I thought women were selfish and lazy for not at least attempting breastfeeding. It’s for your dear child after all! Whenever people asked if I would be bottle or breastfeeding I proudly proclaimed breastfeeding. I wore it like a badge of honor. Family, doctors, nurses would all smile and say “good for you!” I was IN. I was a part of the club. Or so I thought…

Boy did I get slapped in the face by reality! I had an amazing 9 months. I had almost zero morning sickness, despite being overweight prior to pregnancy I was gaining at a good rate and only what was expected, I had the BEST midwife ever. I suffered from some pelvic pain towards the very end, and there was slight worry about pre-eclampsia as well but nothing off the charts. I went into labor March 10, 2013. Around 11:00am contractions began. My pull towards everything natural and my  true hippy inside drove me to labor as long as I possibly could in my own home. I labored on the couch, in the shower, on the floor, in our bed. Everywhere around our little 2 bedroom duplex till about 3:00pm when I couldn’t stand it anymore and contractions were 4 minutes apart. We got to the hospital at 3:30pm the nurse checked me and exclaimed “Wow you’re at 9 ½ centimeters!” Everything was going exactly as I had planned. My husband and midwife were wonderful, I retreated into myself and had my eyes closed 90% of the labor process. I delivered my beautiful 8 pound 9 ounce son at 6:44pm with zero pain medication! My hippy heart soared with pride, another badge to add. He latched on right after birth and nursed while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. Everything was going exactly as planned.

My son was extremely sleepy and had a very difficult time latching on. My breasts are naturally large before pregnancy and only got more cumbersome after. It was like trying to fit a watermelon into a kitten’s mouth!! Nurses and lactation consultants buzzed around me trying to “help.” One nurse was so rough with my son and I shoving his face into my watermelon sized chest over and over until myself and my son were crying and I finally asked her to leave the room. Despite all the difficulty we were sent on our merry way with NO IDEA the torture we were walking into.

My son suffered from jaundice so we went home on March 12, 2013. That’s the moment all hell broke loose. He was exhausted. My husband and I were exhausted. There was absolutely NON STOP screaming, arching, congestion, painful hiccups, zero sleep….my son was literally sleeping 4 hours in a 24 hour period. He viciously pushed away from me every single time my breasts came out. He couldn’t latch on and when he did he fell asleep instantly. My breasts were not sore, they did not crack or bleed, my sons pitiful latch never hurt one time.

My mental state on the other hand…I have never in my life felt more depressed or rejected. I can’t even begin to truly tell anyone how horrible I felt. All that “pride” I had in me and my capabilities was GONE. I hated myself. I hated my son for only being able to rely on me. For needing something so badly but not being able to just figure it out! I hated my husband for encouraging me to continue going because he knew just how badly I wanted to breastfeed. After all I was the one who religiously educated him on the WONDERS of breast milk. I hated my Mother for begging me to stop. Looking at me slumped over the breast pump for hours and hours at a time with an expression of agony. As I listened to the pump tell me over and over again “you’re failing you’re failing!” And still…a tiny part of me continued to clutch that badge of pride with white knuckles. My husband and I would weep right alongside our son as he screamed in pure misery. Still, that proud woman I was before would spat out nasty hateful words like “No wonder breastfeeding Mother’s are so righteous! Formula feeders have it so easy. Pop the bottle in the kids mouth and done. Breastfeeding Mother’s have EVERY right to act holier than though. They ARE better. WE are better!”

My son was losing weight, I was losing weight. Neither one of us was getting the nutrition we so sorely needed. We were exhausted, and way beyond the end of our rope. One fateful day my amazing husband was moving my precious bags of liquid gold in the fridge. (Nothing was being frozen as I was barely producing enough to keep up with my son’s demands. I had switched to exclusively pumping and those bags were EVERYTHING to me, to my son!) My devoted, encouraging, supportive husband dropped an entire bag full of milk. Hysteria is the only word that comes to mind. I literally saw red. I crumpled to the floor sobbing and shaking. Screaming how I couldn’t do it anymore. I was making myself sick. My son was struggling to live on what I was giving him and getting at most 4 hours of sleep (the only time he wasn’t screaming!) in a 24 hour period due to his reflux.

I saw my midwife and told her I felt like I was inside a dark hole with dirt caving in on me, I was digging out as furiously as I could but it all just kept falling in on me no matter what I did. I was prescribed Zoloft and given the kindest words I had heard since delivery in terms of breastfeeding. She said “Dana, its okay to stop.” I just looked at her through bloodshot tear filled eyes. She continued. “Your mental well being is directly tied to your son’s well being. Your breasts are not.”

It was over. I gave up. I took the pills, I gave in to the “poison” that is formula and with that I turned into the Mother I always dreamed of being. I loved my son; I loved staring into his eyes as I fed him. I enjoyed him and he was finally able to enjoy me because I wasn’t hooked up to a pump anymore!!! We took him to a Chiropractor and we never looked back! His reflux totally changed from that day forward. His belly was happily full for the first time in his little life, and he wasn’t in agonizing pain. You know what I have to say about that badge of honor I toted around like the Holy Grail? Screw that! I traveled to hell and back for my son yes, but more so because I feel like I was brainwashed, like I had joined a cult and drank the kool aid!! There was no gray, it was all black and white terms. No leeway whatsoever! Formula was poison and it didn’t matter that my son was rapidly losing weight and doing worse and worse by the second, I truly believed that what little breast milk he was getting was going to solve everything, apparently create world peace too! NO! IT DOESN’T! You know what did restore peace in my home, my heart, and my life? FORMULA.

Ask me how long I lasted breastfeeding? Based on my personal hell and agony that I went through it sounds like quite a while right? It felt like an eternity, the story alone has taken me 8 months to be able to put into words. I breastfed my son for a mere 12 days. No cracked bloody nipples, no physical pain…just a mental hell.  12 days of what my husband and I now fondly describe as “living in a horror movie.” My son will be 8 months old in 2 days, he is happy and healthy. He is beautiful and bright. He is pulling himself up and trying to take off walking at only 8 months old. I guess 12 days of breast milk and currently 227 days on formula will still give you a breathtaking intelligent child. Who would of thought?

 ***

Have a story you’d like to share? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

 

FFF Friday: “Judge Me – I Don’t Need Your Approval”

This isn’t a typical FFF Friday, but more of a guest post. I think it fits, though, because it’s coming from the same place so many of your stories come from. It’s the result of a mother’s journey.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that easy to just stop caring what other people think, especially if you’re a people pleaser at heart. Like me. Hell, I was in tears the other day over some drama on the FFF Private Facebook page, because I felt like I was being misunderstood and unfairly judged. But I wish I didn’t care, and that’s why I love Michelle’s piece. It makes me want to work on this part of myself, to be more successful at letting useless hate roll off my back. 

So – I’m going to hand the floor over to Michelle, who is a lot stronger than I am. My hope for you is that you can take at least a little of her message and live it. You may not be able to stop yourself from caring what people think, but at least try and make those people ones who are worth caring about. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Judge Me – I Don’t Need Your Approval

by Michelle Shelemay

Judging.  In the context of the “mummy wars”, feeling judged is the biggest complaint. Every decision relating to pregnancy, birth, feeding and parenting has been turned into an absolute moral choice – every decision is judged as objectively “good” or “bad”.  For some reason, people find it difficult to accept that what’s good for you, isn’t necessarily good for me. I would even say that some decisions are simply personal preferences that in the long run, have little impact beyond being convenient and what suits you.

But really, why do we care so much about what other people think?  As someone who chose to have a c-section and chose to formula feed from day 1, I’ve made decisions that are typically subject to a huge amount criticism.  Do I care? Not really.  Why should I care?  Why should I care what random people on the internet think of me? I’m very happy with my decisions.  I will almost certainly make the same decisions again, next time round. I do not need other people’s approval. For me, the advantages and benefits of both decisions greatly outweigh the disadvantages and the risks.  I do not need to prove to anyone that my decisions were carefully considered and informed. It should be a given that that’s how a normal person makes important decisions (and let’s be honest, if I was a man, it probably would be).

It’s my body, my life and my responsibility.  I most certainly do not need the approval of people who don’t know me and share no responsibility in the outcome of my decision.  Although they are personal decisions, I am happy to discuss them with people who are genuinely interested or for whom the discussion will be helpful.  However, the point is, my decisions don’t need anyone’s approval (ok, apart from the medical staff who performed the c-section) and NEITHER DO YOURS.

Let’s make it clear – there’s a difference between approval and support. I join facebook groups like Cesarean by Choice Awareness and the Fearless Formula Feeder for support and advice.  Not because I need someone’s approval or endorsement of my decisions. Of course, I also don’t make decisions entirely on my own.  I read, I seek medical advice, I talk to people who I TRUST, who don’t have an agenda and who I know have my best interests at heart. But that doesn’t include every  “alpha mama”  lurking online.

So ladies, here’s my call to you.  Stop seeking approval.  Stop feeling guilty.  You don’t need to justify your decisions to strangers. Be confident in your ability to make good decisions.  I genuinely believe that once we stop caring what people think, once we stop seeking approval for our decisions, the judging will stop. The judgers will get bored. They are seeking a reaction and as long as we give them one, they’ll continue.  Once we stop caring and stop reacting, they’ll get bored and stop.  Frankly, I find other people’s obsession with how I gave birth to or feed my child (and interest in the the respective body parts), a little sinister and weird.  And that’s something that reflects badly on them, not me.

I’m specifically addressing this to women, as this seems to be an issue that predominantly affects women.  The feminists among you will understand why – patriarchal society infantilizes women.  Questioning women’s ability to make good decisions is part of that infantilization and nowhere do we see this more clearly than in how we relate to women around pregnancy, birth and motherhood.  It’s no coincidence that we talk about the “mummy wars” rather than the “daddy wars” and it’s not just because more mothers than fathers are the primary care givers.

So here’s my challenge to you – stop caring what other people think.  Make whatever decisions are right for you and be happy with them.  You certainly don’t need my approval.

***

Have a story you want to share? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

 

#bottlebonding

Bonding requires love.

That’s all.

Thanks to the FFF community for showing this to be true! (And special thanks to the amazing Amanda Peters for coming up with the #bottlebonding idea and hashtag!)

FFF Friday: “I feel like I’m the only one with this condition.”

This week’s story is one of those great examples of why there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to women and breastfeeding. Ally’s reasons for choosing formula are quite specific (although I bet there are other women out there with similar issues, and just don’t talk about it), and no amount of support would have changed her unique anatomy. And there is no reason why a woman like Ally should feel the need to defend her uniqueness. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Ally’s Story

In today’s “Google” era, I feel like you can find anything on the internet.  When I became pregnant and later a new mother, I was pleased with the wealth of information, opinions, ideas, and common ground available on every baby topic.  You can seriously bury yourself in the “baby side of the internet.”  Any question, any ailment, any milestone, any condition…you can always find someone who has been through it before you…well, almost always.  Maybe I haven’t found the right combination of words to “Google,” but I still can’t find any information, opinions, ideas or common ground for my “condition.”

Ever since I went through puberty, I have had VERY sensitive breasts.   Before I even understood what was going on with my body, I remember running into a wall with my chest and it HURT.  And it seemed to never stop “hurting” after that.  It’s not like a pain kind of hurting, it’s more of an extremely uncomfortable tickle that kind of makes me want to vomit.  I do not like my breasts, especially my nipples, being touched at all, not even with my own hands.  I cringe anytime anyone, even my poor husband, comes near them.  They DEFINITELY are not an erogenous zone, more like a no-touch-zone.  I’d rather have a pap smear than a breast exam any day.  I don’t even like washing them in the shower.  I guess you could describe me as phobic of having my breasts touched; I know it’s partly a mental thing as well.  The only topics I can find on the internet regarding breast/nipple sensitivity are related to menstruation, pregnancy, and/or breastfeeding.  No, this is every day since I’ve had breasts.  I hate them.  I AM THE ONLY ONE??????

Needless to say, I knew breastfeeding was going to be hard for me.  I didn’t register for any breastfeeding supplies, but I did buy nipple shields (I figured they were my only hope) and researched renting a pump because I would “try.”  Well, after latching my baby for about 15 seconds and then crying and quitting, then trying the pump for about 15 seconds and then crying and quitting, I became a formula feeder.  I described the pain as worse than labor and delivery.  I read so much about women/babies with latching issues, supply issues, and some pain issues, but never anyone with a pre-existing sensitivity condition.  The ironic part is I think my baby would have been a good latcher, and I think I had a pretty good supply even though it was never used.  Today, I still wince if my baby lays funny against my breast or touches them through my clothes and bra.  How did I ever think I would allow his strong mouth and sharp fingernails near my bare nipples?…yikes!

I, like many of the women whose stories I’ve read on FFF Fridays, was shocked at how many people asked if I was breastfeeding and why not.  I felt like a crazy person when I tried to tell them why without sharing too much detail.  Nobody understood.  My mom suggested I just make up something “normal” like he was tongue-tied…I usually just said that “it didn’t work out for us”.  Unlike many others who I read about here, I never really felt guilty because I knew my baby was just fine on formula.  When the lactation consultant came to my room at the hospital, my only question for her was how to get my milk to dry up; I guess you could call me fearless at that point.  It is more embarrassing to me than anything: one, because of societal pressures and formula stigma, and two, because my “why” is so different and I feel like I’m the only one with this “condition.”  Maybe there is someone else out there reading this who has this condition and will know they are not alone.

***

Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

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