FFF Friday: “It’s like I can breathe again.”

Abigail’s story (below) beautifully illustrates how each and every experience with feeding babies can be different, even for the same mom. Aside from being an important concept to share with moms, it also highlights the inherent flaws in universal recommendations for what is “best”. Even within the same family, “best” can be subjective; it can change and shift.

Not everyone has the strength and perspective that Abigail did, the courage to say that the universal “best” isn’t the personal best. So it’s up to the rest of us to make sure moms receive this message: you do YOUR best. You love the way YOU love. The rest is just, well… it’s like oversupply. It’s extraneous; it complicates things. It can feel like too much, and that’s okay.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Abigail’s Story

Like many moms out there struggling with nursing, I came across your website after Googling something like “how to switch from nursing to formula”.  I have read a number of the mom’s stories on your blog, but have not yet come across a story like mine.  Mind you, I don’t think I’m necessary special, but I would love to share with you my Formula Conversion story, just in case there is someone else out there like me who needs encouragement.

I’ve known and read about many moms who switch to nursing because of lack of supply, but what if a mom makes too much milk?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told how ‘lucky’ I am that I produce so much milk.  It’s a curse!  My body has always overproduced milk, when I was nursing both my son (now 2) and my daughter (now 8 weeks today).  I nursed my son for 7 months, which was not the easiest, and I guilt-tripped myself into it most days… but we persevered.  I had an overactive letdown and oversupply, but he was able to handle it.  I did turn to formula after 7 months, and then whole milk at 11 months.  So, when I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, I was excited to nurse again.  This time, I told myself, I can do it!  I know how to do it, there will be no excuses.  I assumed, correctly, that I would have an overactive letdown and oversupply again, but she would be able to handle it in a few weeks postpartum as my son did.  Boy, was I wrong.

Over the first 7 weeks of her young life, I watched my daughter choke, gag, burp, spit-up so badly… I went to La Leche League online forums, desperate for help, because I really wanted to nurse her.  They gave me all the same tips that I already knew – lean back, block feed, etc. etc… I talked to a number of lactation consultants, too… meanwhile, my marriage was rocky, as my husband and I fought about my nursing anxiety.  I know I was stressed when I was nursing my son, but I absolutely was not stressed like I was this time – pacing for hours until my feet and back ached, no appetite, afraid to hear my daughter’s cry because I just didn’t want to nurse her.  Not only did we have these letdown issues, but her latch was just awful.  I know EXACTLY what to do to get a baby to latch, but she only wanted my nipple. I just couldn’t get her to latch correctly, the poor thing.

One day, my friend came over with her 4 month old baby, who has been formula fed for most of her life.  I watched her feed her baby… she was so calm, so peaceful… my little girl has never been at peace while nursing.  A few nights later, my husband and I had another big blow-out about nursing vs. pumping vs. formula… and I knew something had to change.  He just doesn’t/didn’t understand my nursing anxiety, so I had to make a decision.  Either I continue nursing and drive myself and my family crazy, or I switch to bottles.  The next morning, I made my decision: I’m making the switch.  And it was absolutely the best decision I’ve made in the past 8 weeks.  How so?

I can’t fully explain why, but my daughter is almost like a new baby.  The day she started taking bottles, she’s been more relaxed, happier, and just overall content.  In fact, her schedule finally fell into place, which I’ve been working so hard on since she’s going to daycare in four weeks.  I did try pumping and putting my milk in bottles, but I was still having anxiety with the pumping.  So a few days later, I switched to formula.  I will admit, I don’t think it was the formula per se that makes her happy – the bottles themselves are a major factor.  But, La Leche people, and many other nursing extremists still frown upon bottles, even if they contain breastmilk.  Judging by my interactions with them, nothing will be good enough unless I am shirtless and nursing on demand.

At the end of the day, I truly believe that I was feeding her my anxiety through nursing – and its the nursing that made her so unhappy and ‘refluxed’.  I thank God for intervening, and showing me the way to peace… nursing is a deeply emotional issue, and this decision I made to switch to bottles/formula was gut wrenching.  But, I feel like my old self!  I really do.  It’s like I can breathe again.quotescover-JPG-47

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you, because having too much milk is also a cause a great grief and stress to a mom and baby.  If there are any other moms that are suffering as I did, know that there are more options than ‘just lean back’ or ‘pump the extra milk’.

I’ve been told, point blank, that if I don’t nurse my baby, I don’t love her. No.  I love my baby so much that I am willing to sacrifice nursing in order to give her all of my heart without the heaviness of postpartum anxiety.

***

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

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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6 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “It’s like I can breathe again.”

  1. Abigail – just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. My story is similar to yours in the sense that I produced more than enough milk (oversupply plus an overactive let down) but nevertheless experienced significant post partum anxiety connected to the nursing experience I had with my daughter, which ultimately led us to switch to formula. By all objective standards, my daughter was doing well – indeed, she gained weight almost too rapidly – but subjectively, I just couldn’t accept that our nursing relationship was going well since our feeds were so short (less than five minutes long by the time she was a month and a half old) and she went for many hours between feeds at a very young age. In other words, my daughter didn’t follow the “typical” nursing pattern of a baby her age. For the sake of my sanity and my relationship with my daughter and husband, we switched to formula when she was four months old. While I still experienced anxiety after we switched, things dramatically improved. Your words, “…. having too much milk is also a cause of great grief and stress to a mom and baby” certainly rang true for me. I would also add that “non-typical” nursing experiences can do the same.

  2. This is so true about individual babies. I also had a strong letdown/flow. My daughter was able to handle it without problem. Her latch and feeding were so coordinated and efficient. She did not have to be burped because she swallowed so little air. She spit up exactly 2 times in her entire infancy, both tiny amounts. My son was the exact opposite. He simply could not handle anything other than the slowest flow. He sputtered and choked and would vomit up an entire feeding frequently. He too insisted on a very shallow latch, and constantly bit down, probably because he was trying to stop the flow of milk. I ended up switching him to the bottle, first with a specialized medical nipple later switching to a commercial slow-flow/newborn nipple at 6 months. He was never able to handle anything faster. He ate baby food until he was 2 because his chew/swallow was discoordinated. He also attained gross motor milestones late, although had no trouble with fine motor or talking. Each baby is different.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I had the same problem. I despise hearing how blessed I was because I couldn’t nurse both of my children because of this and other issues. People that “never leaked” have no idea what it’s like to leak like a fountain, have plugged ducts daily, and only be able to nurse lying down!

  4. Sounds so similar to us except my fist was a girl and second is a boy. My daughter adjusted to everything quickly (by 12 weeks) even though nursing in public ended up with me drenched half the time as she would still pop off during letdown. My son however was born with a tongue tie. We did have it revised, which made a little difference. But then he started getting very gassy, fussy and pained again. I tried cutting out dairy and managing my oversupply better by block feeding. It helped a lot, but after a few weeks it seemed to get bad again. He is now just over 14 weeks. I just tried pumping and using bottles but this makes him spit up a lot too. So unsure as to whether he is sensitive to something in my milk or not. Anyway, we are in the middle of trying a low lactose formula from Baby’s Only, which after just a day he seems to be tolerating well. Relatively minimal spit up. I guess time will tell as to what will work. But just sharing to say that yes, oversupply can be a burden! I have friends with undersupply who are able to help their babies and continue breastfeeding simply by supplementing, but with oversupply there are just more factors involved.

    I completely agree with the idea that what will make someone a good mom isn’t doing what’s “best”, but knowing your child and doing what is best for him or her! Even if that means sacrificing breastfeeding. I realized that if I’m doing it more for myself than him I need to reevaluate.

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. I remember, but of course can’t find, reading a study on chimps or something like that that showed that stress hormones are passed through breastmilk, enough for the infants to be stressed by it.

    Babies can also pick up on family stress, which can also be an impact. But, yeah, it’s definitely possible you were literally passing your stress hormones to your baby- making everything harder for both of you!

  6. Hello 🙂 I’m speechless after reading my own story – has it really been eight months?! Time truly flies. Our little girl is almost 10 months old, is big and healthy, and just as sweet as can be.

    Thank you for all your kind comments, ladies. I am glad that I shared my story, for all the moms that can’t stand hearing those trite recommendations in response to their pleas for help. On a more personal note (as if my story wasn’t personal enough…) I was diagnosed with depression in September (two months after I emailed in my story), and have been on an anti-depressant since then. I am so glad that I made a decision to go back on meds – who knows if the nursing drove me a little crazy, or if it was a post-partum thing. Regardless, my kids have a happy, healthy mama.

    Many blessings to everyone!

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