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,
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.