FFF Friday: “She’s going to be okay, so we’re all happy.”

Ah, combo feeding. Some feel it’s the best of both worlds; others feel its the worst of both worlds. In my opinion, combo feeders are left out of the conversation more than anyone else in the infant feeding debate. This is unfortunate for obvious reasons, but it’s also just plain stupid – because who better to help heal the us vs them nature of this discussion? They understand how it feels to nurse in public, and to love the act of breastfeeding so much that you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to. They understand how using formula has nothing to do with how good a parent you are, how it can mean a full baby and a calm family, and how public health messaging can make you feel like unless you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you may as well not even try. 

They understand all of this. So maybe it’s time that everyone tries to understand them. Reading Anna’s story is a good place to start.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Anna’s Story

A year or so before I got pregnant with my first child, my sister-in-law, a nurse in training, took a class about infant care and came over, bursting with information about breastfeeding. By the end of that conversation I felt guilty about not breastfeeding my non-existent child. I was on anti-depressants at the time, and knew that if I had a baby, my chance of developing post-partum depression was automatically higher, and that many anti-depressants were not compatible with breastfeeding. The ones I was taking, that worked for me, were not.

Then I got pregnant and got off of my meds around the same time. I started reading up on breastfeeding. I was asked at my first pre-natal appointment if I planned to breastfeed. At that point, I was willing to give it a go and hoped that it would work. I ran across Bottled Up, and read it avidly. It helped me come to terms with the possibility of formula-feeding, but I still wanted to make breastfeeding work if I could.

When I gave birth, after nine months of morning sickness and several months of gestational diabetes (which forced me to be very careful about what I ate), I had a tiny child who took a day or so to realize that the breast was where the food came from. Then she got pretty excited about it and wanted to eat constantly. At one point, in the middle of the night, she wanted to eat again right after a feeding. I’d been going to get some rest while my husband looked after her. I was exhausted, still sore from giving birth, and my nipples hurt. I punched the wall. Then I got myself settled and fed my daughter again.

We got into a routine: she’d eat every two hours or so at night, and during the day, she’d eat a little more frequently. It felt like all I did was breastfeed. My nipples were still sore, and getting worse, and it turned out I had thrush. A trip to the doctor got me a prescription for drops for her mouth and cream for my nipples, and a suggestion that we go to the public health unit to weigh her before and after a feeding to see how much she was getting, since she was barely back to her birth weight at a month old. The doctor was careful to reassure me that everything else was fine with her, and that I was doing everything right.

The nurse was the same, but after a feeding where she was so fussy we spent most of the time wrestling with her and trying to get her to calm down enough to eat, my daughter had gotten a grand total of 5 grams of milk. I’d already upped my fluid intake and started doing breast compressions while feeding her, and the nurse suggested a few more things to do to up my supply. I also went back to the doctor for a prescription for Domperidone. He told me that we might just need to supplement, and gave us some of the sample cans of formula he had lying around the office. My husband and I talked things over and decided to give the medication a few days to kick in and then we’d check her weight again.

After three days on the medication, which didn’t seem to be making much of a difference, I walked her over to the public health unit, plopped her on the scale and stared at the numbers. I had last weighed her on Monday. This was Friday. In those five days, she had gained one ounce. One! At a time when she was supposed to be gaining somewhere between 5-8 ounces a week (at least, that’s what I gathered from WHO and a couple other sources) and had spent hours of each day on the breast!

My body seemed to be capable of making enough milk to keep her going and to get her gaining a little bit of weight, but it just wasn’t enough. I was almost relieved when I stared at that scale and knew for sure that we needed to supplement. We weren’t going to give up the breastfeeding, but knowing that someone else could give her a meal too took a lot of pressure off of me. It was frustrating knowing that my body wasn’t quite up to the task, but given that my body’s response to pregnancy was copious amounts of vomiting, followed by diabetes, I wasn’t entirely surprised that my body wasn’t entirely cooperating with breastfeeding.

When my husband got home from work that night, I mixed up a bottle, handed it to him, and he fed our daughter. She looked a little confused by the whole thing, but she happily downed a few ounces of formula and then dozed off for the first time in hours.

Has it made a difference?

She’s sleeping better. She’s happier when she’s not eating because she’s not constantly hungry, which means I can set her down for a few minutes without her crying about it. She’s going through even more diapers than before and is back to pooping daily, rather than every couple of days. The poop smells weirder with formula, but I’ll happily take a smellier child over an underweight one.

The Monday after we started supplementing, I headed back to the public health unit to use their baby scale. I’d had to give her a bottle earlier because she’d emptied out my breasts and was hungry and my body wasn’t replenishing the milk quickly enough. She’d dozed off right after that. I was actually able to put her in the stroller and be the mother with the sleeping baby, rather than the screaming one. When she woke up while I was taking her clothes off before plopping her on the scale, she was happy and for once, didn’t cry about it. I was hoping desperately for a weight gain of at least 3 ounces, something to get us almost to six pounds. I set her down and then I stared at the scale. Then I blinked and looked again.

Six pounds, four-point-seven ounces.

Over the weekend, she had gained almost half a pound. This was the difference that the addition of 6-8 ounces of formula per day made. I almost burst into tears of relief right there.

So now we are combo-feeding, or mixed feeding, or whatever else it’s called. I’m going to breastfeed as long as we can (or until we hit a year, because I doubt we’ll want to do it longer than that), and as much as I can, but she’s probably still going to get a bottle or two per day unless my milk supply suddenly and drastically increases. She’s content with different kinds of bottles and different kinds of nipples, the basic infant formula appears to be fine with her, and she doesn’t have a problem switching back and forth from breast to bottle. As I write this, she’s attached to my breast, but she’s getting a bottle at her next feed when my husband gets home from work.

I’ve definitely had moments of angst and frustration that my body’s not enough, but it’s been mingled with relief that she’s no longer hungry all the time and that she’s finally gaining weight. My tiny child now has ribs that don’t stick out, and legs that don’t look like sticks. She’s going to be okay, so we’re all happy.

***

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

FFF Friday: “I promised myself it wasn’t going to go down like this…AGAIN.”

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. 

 

This story speaks volumes about – well, about so many things. 

So for once, I’m going to be quiet and let it speak for itself. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones. And Happy Valentine’s Day – I’ve got nothing but love for each and every one of you, including the wonderful Caroline. 

-The FFF

***

Caroline’s Story

Recently, I was putting the final touches on the spread I had laid out for our lunch guests when I unexpectedly began to panic.  We were awaiting a visit from a new-to-town couple and their toddler, and I wasn’t worried about normal things, such as kids behaving and everyone having a good time.  Instead, I realized it had been an hour since my baby had had his bottle, and with the frequent feedings his reflux demands, I knew he’d have to eat again during our guests’ visit.  My mind began racing to consider if this was going to be an issue and I immediately recalled the first time I’d met the mom at church, and her tone then and comments as she’d discussed infant feeding with another mom.  I had forgotten about that, and now I was worried about the inevitable discussion (you all know the one!) when the bottle would come out.  Was I going to get the verbal “At least you tried,” accompanied by the condescending smile, or would it be the, “Well, so-and-so’s milk/baby didn’t do x for y whole days, but then she tried z and she was able to nurse!”?  Should I just plan to take my son covertly upstairs to the nursery for a diaper change and give him a few RTF bottles in private?  I spotted my bottle sterilizer – was there still time to hide the contraband from the kitchen?

You know, I promised myself it wasn’t going to go down like this…AGAIN.  You see, this was me (FFF Friday: “These are the memories I have of my sons first few weeks”). Short version: no milk supply.  The happy ending to that story didn’t take place until my first born son’s twelve month pediatric appointment when we were given the clear to switch to cow’s milk.  I drove home that day crying tears of joy, thinking, “He’s FINALLY going to be eating the same as all the other kids his age!  Thank God!  It no longer matters!”

While pregnant with my second born, I became committed to not having another horrible first year.  I read up on IGT and myth vs. fact regarding nursing (yay for this website and Joan Wolf’s Is Breast Best?) and talked at length with my best friend who happens to have both an MD and a PhD in biomedical research.  While I knew in my head that the supposed benefits of nursing are often overstated without proper scrutiny, in my heart I still genuinely wanted to be able to nurse.  I hated bottle feeding my first born – aside from the social pressure and guilt, I hated the preparation time and hassle of keeping sterile equipment, not to mention the mess and cost.  However, while I had decided to give nursing another shot, I wasn’t going to go overboard spending hundreds of dollars on supplements, equipment or consultations – this time, the only extra thing I was willing to try was the one thing we had not tried with my firstborn: placenta encapsulation (talk about the epitome of crunchy motherhood!!).

My second born son’s arrival was nothing out of the ordinary, save him being post-term, with nothing happening that might interfere with nursing.  The day he was born, he had no interest and would not latch, but I was encouraged not to worry.  Eleven hours after his birth, he still wouldn’t latch and had been crying out in hunger pains, so I chose to give him his first bottle.  It honestly felt wonderful to be able to feed my newborn and ease his pain with a bottle!  I had dehydrated and basically starved my first born and wasn’t going to do that with my second born – I refused to put nursing above my child’s health again.  By day two, the placenta pills were ready, my son had a perfect latch, and we spent the day working on getting my milk to come in.  To my utter amazement, it did!  Something white began to come out of my chest, and the feeling I got the night of the third day when I heard a child of mine actually swallow for the first time while attached to me was amazing.  I was not given that blessing with my first born son, so I am grateful to have had it with my second born.

As the days went on, we spent the majority of my newborn son’s waking hours nursing. I would switch him from side to side to side for one to two hours, and only when he was super fussy from hunger and would no longer latch would I allow him a bottle.  The formula milk would then settle him to sleep for a quick nap, and the cycle would repeat.  I was determined to give nursing all that I could, and began to dream that my milk supply would increase so that I could drop off the formula.  As the days and weeks began to pass, the ounces of formula seemed to be winning the race, so I added pumping in to the mix to try to increase my supply, sometimes able to pump one or two full ounces in a twenty-four hour period.

For the following months, I rode the combi-feeding emotional roller coaster.  Breastfeeding became my primary focus.  I knew most of my son’s daily calories were coming from the formula milk, but I continued to get my hopes up about one day nursing exclusively.  I remember getting so happy just to see a bit of breast-milk poo mixed in with my son’s dirty diaper and hoping the next diaper would have more.  I found nursing to be so much easier than bottle feeding.  My son had a textbook latch with only the occasional lip tuck, and he would drop off and re-latch himself if he wasn’t on properly, so I didn’t have pain from the latch – the only pain I experienced was the glass shard sensation from him sucking on an empty breast.  It was also a breeze to soothe a baby at 2 a.m. with the breast while my husband prepared the bottle of formula that would eventually get the baby back to sleep – so much better than having the baby scream while waiting for a bottle!   When I had female visitors over and had to nurse in front of them, they gave me happy smiles as though to say, “Welcome to the club!”  Our pediatrician even treated us differently, talking about the superiority of breastfeeding and how she wouldn’t need to monitor his growth like she did with our toddler (even though they are following a similar curve), which meant no monthly weight checks or daily intake reporting this time.  I even got to experience the odd sensation of nursing in public, both in a private room and in our car, finding that to be an extremely efficient way to soothe a crying baby when out and about.  The only drawback to the nursing side of combi-feeding came in the bonding department: it wasn’t the bee’s knees I’d thought it was supposed to be.  We nursed tummy to tummy with him looking over my shoulder, and I found I better enjoyed gazing into his beautiful eyes while he ate from a bottle.

Eventually, combi-feeding with low milk supply proved to be unsustainable.  By the time my placenta encapsulation pills ran out, we were giving him a bottle every two hours plus nursing every four, and I had lost all hope of ever being able to nurse exclusively.  When my son was a few days shy of four months old, he refused to latch for several days.  I tried to express, but could no longer get anything white to come out.  My milk had dried, and my son had self-weaned (yes, such things actually DO happen!!!).  Rather anticlimactically, with no painful swelling or leaking, nursing was now over.  Meanwhile, my husband had noticed some of the familiar signs of post-partum depression creeping into our lives again, but so long as I had been nursing even a tiny bit, I was unwilling to feed anti-depressents to my son.  Looking back, I know it was a stupid decision to put the idol of nursing above maternal mental health, but at the time, all I could think of was how much we’d gone through with my older son and how I would have done anything just to have been able to give him a teaspoon of breast-milk.  I just didn’t have the heart to pull nursing away from my younger son (once he pulled himself away, though, I did get back on the medication).

So, there it is.  That’s my story for unsuccessful breastfeeding, take two.  There were some lessons I learned the first time around that made things easier: avoiding public baby groups, feeding my son at church in an out-of-view location, ordering formula online or sending my husband in to the store when we had a coupon, avoiding militant lactivists on the internet, staying away from baby books, and taking the toddler but leaving the baby home with my husband when our whole family is invited to a party.  Maybe such tactics make me a far-from-fearless formula feeder, but if you recall my goal of not having another horrible first year, it was essential for me to avoid hurtful comments and invasive questions.  It has also helped to read every post on the FFF so that I can be reminded that I’m not alone.  I have learned the hard way to limit my interaction with some of my more judgmental friends so as not to have another criticism of my child’s feeding, my birth choices, or my parenting decisions bouncing around in my head for days afterward… except for that tiny little omission I mentioned at the beginning of my story.

So, did I cower in the nursery?  Did she see the bottle supplies?  In the end, the family ended up not coming to our house that day, so I was worried for nothing.  That’s how it goes.

***

Be my valentine. Email me your FFF Friday story: formulafeeders@gmail.com. 

FFF Friday: “The pointlessness of all this breastfeeding guilt struck me…”

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. 

 

Ashley’s story illustrates why I worry about our current, restrictive breastfeeding recommendations, not just for those who don’t want to nurse, but for those who do.  Breastfeeding can and should be an amazing experience for both mother and child. By making it a parenting imperative rather than viewing it as a choice (because we do have a choice, as we have throughout history – formula is a more attainable, normalized, and stable alternative than wet-nursing or using paps/unprocessed animal milks, but alternative have always been there), it becomes more like a root canal rather than a massage. If someone wants to nurse once a day for 3 months, they should be just as supported in that choice as someone who breastfeed exclusively for a year. As Ashley explains, sometimes combo feeding can offer the best of both worlds; isn’t it the right of every nursing dyad to find what works for them, with their individual needs? Imagine how it could be if we lived in a world where everyone viewed infant feeding like Ashley’s daughters do. From the mouths of babes, as they say.

Anyway. Have a great Christmas, FFFs. This is my gift to you – one of the most well-written, stand-up-and-cheer, affirming pieces that has come floating through my inbox. Enjoy.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Ashley’s Story

Today, I nursed my baby for the last time.

And because she’s my last child, I’ll never nurse a child again.

Here’s my confession: We are a full 4 months shy of the AAP-sanctioned 1-year, “it’s-okay-you-can-quit” point.

For me, weaning “early,” entirely by choice with no dramatic reason other than I WANT TO was big step forward in shaking off the rather paternalistic expectations of Bloomberg, my baby-friendly hospital, breastfeeding pressure–promoters in general who advocate breastfeeding for a full year, the sacrificial nobility (yet apparently second-best option) of pumping at work, and the crock that a simple but firm “no bite!” during teething will eliminate all nipple strife.

With my first child, Charlotte, I went through typical breastfeeding hell. Bloody nipples, bawling (me) during oh so painful nursing, and more bawling (her) due to hunger, because I had been told a bottle of formula was a “slippery slope” that would lead to more formula and a reduced milk supply.

I dreaded each next painful feeding and pumped (often while my daughter cried—pumping takes TIME, and you can’t do much mothering attached to the machine) to get a break from my child’s mouth. I longed for sleep or a feeding time-out. My entire support system lived on the opposite coast, and I felt utterly alone and terrifyingly inept.

Finally, when Charlotte was 3 weeks old, I turned to formula. After hours and hours of her frantic crying and equally frantic nursing, I called the pediatrician. Formula, he said. Give her formula.

This being couple years prior to those blasted baby-friendly initiatives, I had some formula from the hospital. I sobbed as I fed my daughter that first bottle, devastated at my failure to merely feed my baby The Right Way and The Best Way. Charlotte drank bottle after bottle. Finally satisfied, she drifted off into a 5-hour nap. From then on, I guiltily slid down that slippery slope, becoming a combo feeder and supplementing when my supply came up short. I vowed to never again let my baby go hungry. I kept my promise. I never skimped on a formula feeding to try to increase my own supply, and cranky Charlotte became a jolly, lively baby.

Returning to work, I pumped for a while. Eventually, I quit, which added to my guilt. Of course I had read statistic after statistic on how working outside the home was the #1 reason women quit breastfeeding “early.” And of course I had read those glib assertions that with a wee bit of commitment, working mothers could still hang onto their I’m-a-good-mom badge by pumping multiple times a day. “Think of it like a little break!” the pamphlets said. Hardly. “Return calls while pumping!” our (male) pediatrician’s hand-out said. Um, pumps are LOUD. “Think of pumping as a way to connect with your baby!” a website cheered. No, pumping just reminded me that she was away from me.

I continued as a combo-feeder, breastfeeding mornings and evenings and bottle-feeding during the day. Ashamed of what was my apparent lack of maternal commitment, I’d hide the canisters of Enfamil at the bottom of my Costco shopping cart, fearing judgment from strangers.

Here’s the screwy thing: At that point, I actually ENJOYED breastfeeding Charlotte, although (or because?) I did it only twice per day. I missed her desperately when working, and now that nursing was no longer a painful, bloody horror show, I loved our sweet, quiet time together.

My daughter weaned herself at 8 months old (yes, babies CAN wean themselves).

Charlotte’s weaning was a mutual and well-timed decision. But even after all the tears, angst, and sheer work that getting to that point entailed, I still felt like a failure. Like I had come up short due to inexperience, the audacity to work outside the home, and the fact that Charlotte simply adored her bottles of formula. In the back of my mind, I worried that I should’ve tried harder.

Next time, I vowed, I’d do better.

When pregnant with my second daughter, Lorelei, I dreaded the upcoming burden of breastfeeding, knowing it would steal from the joy a new baby brings. The pain. The stress. The nurses coming into my room every 2 hours to reprimand me for letting her (and myself) sleep instead of feed.

And that’s pretty much what happened. Sure, I was more adept this time around, but this child also tore me up. Again, I spent hours and hours of my maternity leave pumping, always paranoid about having a relief bottle on hand, loading up the freezer, and giving damaged nipples a chance to heal.

Except for an ounce or two of formula now and then to “top off” a feeding before bed, my daughter was, I suppose, exclusively breastfed for the first 3 months.

But I saw myself as a formula feeder. I viewed that yellowish powder like the Ben & Jerry’s pint I always have in the freezer—there if I needed it but technically off limits. And yet, like the ice cream, I knew I’d eventually consume it, so I felt preemptively guilty. Worrying about the next feeding and my milk supply absolutely consumed me, especially after I returned to work and was at the mercy of what my pump could do.

I pumped at work for 3 months—miserably. My employer, bless its heart, installed a lock on my office door. I had a private place to pump, so what was my excuse? I figured I better keep going. Pumping, pumping, pumping.

My supply faltered, especially after several weeks of ongoing illness. Eventually, I had to mix in some formula with the breast milk when I prepared bottles for day care. Then a whole bottle. Then two bottles.

This devastated me. I had worked so hard! But I realized that I could not WILL myself to make more milk. I just couldn’t. Still, I pumped.

Then one glorious day, my pump broke. My $300 pump that had caused so much misery was dead.

I could buy a new one, I thought.

Or, I could quit pumping.

Though initially upset and panicky, not super thrilled to be backed into a weaning corner, I slowly started to remember what life was like before my body was expected to produce meals every 3 hours. I could take my older child to birthday parties and gymnastics on weekends without pumping a bottle for my husband to give to Lorelei and rushing home for that next feeding. I could get more work done at work, I could spend less time cleaning parts, and I had so much less to remember to pack on hectic mornings.

So, I quit pumping.

With Lorelei, I eventually found that nursing sweet spot I had hit with Charlotte, breastfeeding entirely on our terms—Lorelei’s and mine. Again, I breastfed in the evening, before putting her to bed, and again in the morning before work, my now 3-year-old Charlotte nestled against me, chatting or rubbing her little sister’s head.

Yesterday, as I nursed Lorelei before work, Charlotte asked, “When I was a baby, did I eat from you like Lorelei?” I said yes. “And when I was a baby, did I drink from bottles like Lorelei?”

Looking at Charlotte’s bright, healthy, nonjudgmental face, the pointlessness of all this breastfeeding guilt struck me. To my daughters, breastfeeding is totally normal—a loving, nurturing form of mothering. And to them, bottle-feeding is also totally normal—a loving, nurturing form of mothering.

And they should know.

Lorelei unlatched, sidetracked by her sister, and my goofy girls started blowing raspberries at each other and giggling. My girls know they will always be fed and are deeply loved.

I’m grateful that formula helped me adequately feed my children, and that, with both my girls, I managed to have a segment of time in which I enjoyed breastfeeding.

I hope they know how much I’ve loved nursing them in those quiet, intimate evenings, when we were reconnecting to close out the day, breastfeeding on our terms—for us, and not to maintain supply, to support national anti-obesity agendas, or because hospital pamphlets told us to.

I’m done breastfeeding. I’m nostalgically wistful and a little sad.

But I do not feel guilty.

***

If you feel like sharing your story, email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. 

FFF Friday: “From formula to breast and back again…”

I’ve been floating in and out of a rather potent rage-fest this past week. Between the bizarre conflation of breastfeeding advocacy and disaster relief in the Philippines, bribing women to breastfeed, and the announcement of yet another documentary that talks about breastfeeding while completely ignoring the elephant in the room…. my head is swimming. Which is why I love Bria’s story, below – it cuts through the bullshit. It speaks to the gray area, the reality of breastfeeding in our Western culture, with all the ambivalence, mixed emotions, and varied experiences this act can entail. Her story illustrates in a starkly beautiful way why this discourse is not ever simple. It requires deep thought, reflection, and acceptance that breastfeeding is not just a public health issue, and not just an emotional issue. Those that are unable to see nuance and separate fact from hyperbole have no place in the discussion… and yet, it seems, these are the only voices that “matter”. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones (and let’s hope next week is better),

The FFF

***

Bria’s Story: From Formula to Breast and Back Again

I have been thinking of how to write this story for months.  I have gone back and forth trying to fit it into a linear box, but it is not linear, there is no clear beginning or end.  It is multilayered and multifaceted, much like parenting.

There was the labor: 36 hours before she made her sweet arrival into this world followed by no sleep for mama in our nic-u-only-nursery, mother-unfriendly hospital.

There were the articles I researched and read after our breastfeeding/lactivist class that convinced me that the science pales relative to the claims.

There was my own history, breastfed till I was two.

There was my desire to breastfeed and my desire to not breastfeed.

There was the satisfaction I got from preparing her one bottle of formula before bed and adding her vitamin D drops.

There was her 13% weight loss in the first week of her life.

There was the pediatrician, the most clear and non-hyperbolic voice in all of the swirling noise: baby needs calories – mom needs rest -offer breast every three hours _not more often _ supplement 2 oz formula in between.

There was the less-crazy lactation consultant.

There was the more-crazy lactation consultant.

There was more crazy lactation consultant asking what I had done to stimulate my milk production so quickly.  “I bought the Fenugreek and I am drinking THE tea.” I said,  “And I am only offering the baby my breast every three hours and supplementing in between.”

There was her frown and dismissive response: “Oh, well it must be the Fenugreek that caused your milk to come in.  We don’t recommend rest as a way to stimulate milk production.”

There was my inability to tell her: I-never-took-the-Fenugreek. 

There was the feeling of rejection that came in the early weeks when baby would scream in the afternoon every time I would offer her my breast.

There was the calm at night when I would offer her my breast and she would eat happily and go back to sleep.

There was the pump.

There was exclusive nursing for our month in Europe, no time to make bottles.

There was my satisfaction with being able to “do it”.

There was the simplicity of the food: always with you, always ready.

There was the feeling of wanting to take the baby off my breast as soon as possible every time she ate.  To have it be done.

There was the guilt I felt when I was sure I had ended the feeding earlier than the baby was ready because I couldn’t stand it one more second.

There was the sticker shock at the grocery store after she was weaned.

There was the amazement with my breasts, that they could produce this food on such a tight schedule, the filling, the tingling, the stickiness, the let down.

There was the decision at six months to wean the baby, though we had established a solid breastfeeding relationship.

There were my mixed feelings about weaning.

There were the wonderful Swedes who despite high breastfeeding rates, few of them nurse much past 6 months.

There was my desire to stand with women who choose formula and parents who must use formula. I chose to read the studies.  I chose not to feel guilt, because there was nothing to feel guilty about, other than how my predominantly white, educated, privileged cohort managed to co-opt the discourse on infant feeding by exploiting studies from impoverished 3rd world infrastructures, glossing over real conditions of poverty (such as lack of clean water and unreliable access to refrigeration and healthcare) and repackaged these studies as showing both alarming health risks associated with formula feeding, and a “norm” of lengthy breastfeeding, as though we are all one big happy world of mothers and babies, all living in together in the same cultural traditions and socioeconomic conditions.

Lastly there was this; breastfeeding and formula feeding were expensive in different ways.   Lucky me that I had the money for formula and the time to breastfeed.  Babies cost no matter how you feed them and of course the smiles, laughter and snuggles we get in return is the true purchase.

 ***

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

FFF Friday: “I’ve seen both sides…there is so little black and white.”

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. 

The FFF

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Brittney’s Story

 

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.

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When you’re ready to share your story, send it over to formulafeeders@gmail.com. I don’t bite. Unlike my 2-year-old. 

 

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