FFF Friday: “I succeeded because she made it clear whatever I could handle was okay…”

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.

Before Catherine sent me this FFF Friday post, she emailed me to make sure it was kosher, considering that her baby gets 100% breastmilk. Obviously I said yes; heck, I wish I received more submissions from mothers who exclusively breastfed, combo fed, or exclusively pumped (as Catherine does). The ethos of this page has nothing to do with feeding method – you can just as easily be an FFF if you’ve never used formula as you can if you’ve never breastfed. What we stand for here is flexibility when it comes to parenting in general, especially when it comes to early parenthood. FFFs don’t believe dogma belongs in breastfeeding promotion or practice, and we believe that formula can be a conduit to breastfeeding “success”, however you choose to define it. What matters to us is that mothers and fathers are supported and educated in feeding and caring for their babies in a way that works for their family. I think Catherine’s attitude exemplifies this, and I’m really excited to share her story this week.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Catherine’s Story

I had my daughter at the beginning of March, and almost immediately she was labeled a “champ nurser” by everyone in the hospital.  Two lactation consultants came by over the course of my stay, and they told me that my milk was already in and my body could teach classes on nursing. I was pleasantly bewildered–I had no idea why everything was going so well, but I wasn’t about to complain.

Things changed the day after I got home. Rapid engorgement, fussy baby, unfilled diapers. I pumped and nothing came out. I went to see a lactation consultant just in time to avoid mastitis.
We ended up making several visits. My daughter latched perfectly and seemed to be nursing just fine, but when the LC weighed her afterward she’d sometimes only have gotten two or three mls. The LC didn’t know what was wrong, but she put me on a strict nursing-pumping-feeding schedule, gave me a breastflow bottle for the pumped milk, and filled a bag with ready-made formula to supplement with. She said I needed to offer the baby 2 ounces of formula at every feeding, because the most important thing was that she get enough calories.
Then, my supply disappeared due to all the time I’d spent getting engorged while my daughter wasn’t pulling enough milk. We ran out of the ready-made bottles and had to go buy some more. It was one of the saddest grocery runs of my life, reaching for the can and seeing “BREAST IS BEST” written prominently on the front of it.
Thanks. Like I wasn’t already trying not to cry in public.
Two weeks later, things hadn’t really improved. My supply was up a bit, but my husband was headed back to work full time and my mother was going home. The baby still wasn’t nursing well. I was exhausted from a 45-minute routine that had to be performed every 2.5 hours around the clock. We went back to the LC and I told her that at 3 weeks postpartum I was ready to give up.
“I don’t blame you,” she said. “You’ve done pretty much everything you can at this point.”
She told me that continuing to pump was an option even if I cut out the attempts to nurse, that my daughter would still get the benefits from breastmilk even if I supplemented with formula. She gave me a schedule for shortening and dropping pumps if I decided that I did want to quit altogether. Her only note of caution was that formula was expensive. She said I could call her anytime if I just needed someone to talk to.
I decided that if I dropped the nursing, pumping alone might not be so bad. We gave my daughter breast milk and formula in tandem for a couple of weeks until my supply was high enough that we could cut the formula altogether. My daughter is almost four months old and it’s looking like I’ll be able to pump milk for her until she’s 12 months at least.
I guess the militant breast-is-best crowd would call it a success story, of sorts. But why did I “succeed”? I succeeded because the lactation consultant shoved a ton of formula at me when my daughter was in distress. I succeeded because she made it clear that whatever I could handle was okay. I wish more people understood this–every time you lock up the formula, every time you make a mother dole milk into her newborn’s mouth with a tiny spoon to avoid “nipple confusion,” every time you tell her that even ONE bottle of formula will be the end of her milk supply, you are setting her up to fail. Your very inflexibility will drive her to exclusively formula feed her baby once she crashes and burns and can’t take it anymore.
I’ve done the best I can for my daughter, but some people still don’t think it’s enough. It has to come straight from the tap, you see. Fresh but bottled is slightly inferior, refrigerated even more so. The antibodies deactivate.
It was around this point that I realized that this is ridiculous. It’s insane. It has very little to do with the well-being of babies and everything to do with how women need to feel about themselves.
Yes, my baby gets breast milk. But I work half-time from home, and I cut holes in my bra so I can pump at the computer. I have to pump every two hours–if I worked in an office it would be absolutely prohibitive. I am not some mama bear earth goddess. No one is. I am fortunate because my circumstances allow for it, and more women need to realize that that’s all there ever is to it.
***
If you have a story to share for FFF Friday, please email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “Though I know breast milk is best for babies, producing it is not best for me as a mother.”

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.

I love the vivid description of Anna’s final moments with her breast pump, detailed in her FFF Friday post below. I also have a distinct memory of returning my pump to the hospital I’d rented it from… the liberation I felt driving home, windows down, music – er, pumping. It was the first moment I felt truly free to enjoy my baby, snuggled safely in his infant seat. I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror and spoke these words aloud: I’m sorry. 

And it wasn’t because I’d returned the pump, but because I hadn’t returned it sooner.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

****

Anna’s Story

“Giving up breastfeeding?” the lady at the shipping store asked when I set down my breast pump.

“Yes, it was just too much,” I said, looking at my 3-month-old who was happily nestled in my front carrier. My 2-year-old was checking out the shipping supplies.

“I breastfed all of my children. If you can just get past those first few weeks, it gets easier,” she said as she packed the pump into a box.

“I gave it a month with both of my boys. It was just too much,” I responded.

“Oh well, you know what they say, even just a little bit is good. Those first few weeks are especially important,” she said as she yanked a piece of tape across the box’s flaps.

I nodded. “They both seem happy now,” I said. “I’m sending my pump to my friend Jane who is having a baby in October.”

As she weighed the package she looked at me and smiled. “It’s $39.60. It will arrive day after tomorrow.”

“Is that the cheapest option? She really doesn’t need it so soon.”

“That’s the cheapest if you use UPS or FedEx.”

“Okay.” I said as I waited for my receipt.

“That’s it. You’re all done. Anything else I can do for you?” she asked.

“Nope,” I said. “Thanks for your help.”

I picked up my wallet, took Levi’s hand and walked out the door. It chimed as we left.

I was done.

Breastfeeding is a topic that is discussed a lot if you are expecting or are a new mother. Before you deliver your doctor may ask about your plans for feeding. At the hospital the staff will ask. Friends and family ask. Even strangers ask.

When I was pregnant with Levi, my firstborn, I responded quickly that I planned to breastfeed. I knew that was the best choice. Using formula was an afterthought.

When Levi didn’t latch on after delivery I wasn’t too concerned. I tried again and again with the lactation consultants’ help to get Levi to breastfeed while at the hospital. After trying all sorts of positions, holds, and devices I still was not able to get Levi to latch on. On the morning of our discharge, one of the nurses told me Levi needed to eat. While he was fed formula I had my first experience with a breast pump. It was such a strange sensation, but it was also a wonderful feeling, knowing I was producing what my baby needed.

The next three weeks are a blur. My day was a cycle of feeding Levi, pumping, washing bottles and pump components, changing diapers, and trying to rest. While trying to pump enough milk to keep up with Levi’s appetite I experienced a variety of issues: clogged milk ducts, a yeast infection on my breast, and mastitis. The most painful was the initial engorgement. Although my husband was amazed at the size of my breasts when they swelled full of milk, I did not share his enthusiasm.

“They look like cantaloupes,” I wailed to him.

“They’re about to hit your chin,” Ashley said. To this day he still wishes he had taken a picture of how big they were. I’m glad he didn’t.

I was on an emotional rollercoaster, but I continued to pump because Levi was doing so well. When it continued to be painful, however, I started to have doubts. Both my mama and my mother-in-law began to hint maybe I should give it up. Ashley reminded me we could afford formula. And I heard that voice in my head saying I turned out fine without being breastfed.

Even still, I struggled with the decision to switch Levi to formula. After a lot of crying and soul searching, I gave up breastfeeding after almost a month. As I dealt with the pains of my milk drying up, I started to enjoy my baby more. He was beautiful, and I hadn’t realized how much I was missing while worrying about trying to pump.

Fast forward two years and I’m pregnant again. I decide to try breastfeeding again; however, I tell my midwife if it’s not working I’m switching to formula. Mason arrives after an easy delivery. He latches on immediately and nurses wonderfully. I was so proud of my son and myself. The ease didn’t last, however. When I came home, my breasts became engorged. Mason loved nursing so much that he wanted to stay attached all the time. Because of his enthusiastic sucking, my nipples started to crack. And I had a 2-year-old who needed my attention.

A lactation consultant helped me find a better position and assured me Mason was getting enough milk after weighing him before and after nursing. Everything seemed to be going okay until I started getting clogged ducts. At one point I thought I had mastitis. Again I struggled with knowing breast milk was good for Mason, but the process didn’t seem to be good for me. For some reason I couldn’t give it up. Until my mother-in-law said I should.

There are times when you need someone to step in and give you advice, and this was one of those times. Yes, I felt guilty about stopping breastfeeding while knowing there are mothers who desperately want to nurse. This time, however, instead of wrestling with my decision, I made it and moved on.

Even though I know breast milk is best for babies, producing it is not best for me as a mother. So when I paid $40 and left the pump at the shipping center I felt a sense of relief.  The chiming doorbell gave me the go-ahead to feel good about the decisions I make for my children, whether that be how I discipline them, how much television I allow them to watch, or what I feed them. I will continue to support my friends who choose to breastfeed, but I’ll also be there for my friends who feel guilty about choosing to use formula instead.

***

Feel like sharing your story for an upcoming FFF Friday? Send it on in – formulafeeders@gmail.com. 

FFF Friday: “All of our decisions were made with an eye towards ensuring breastfeeding success.”

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.

Of all the misconceptions and untruths running rampant in the parenting community regarding breastfeeding, one bothers me more than any other. It’s the “you just didn’t try hard enough” sentiment, often heard alongside it’s ugly stepsister, “Nearly everyone can breastfeed if they just are willing to put in the work.” 

My analysis of these insulting adages? They usually come from a) people who have never breastfed themselves, b) women who had some minor breastfeeding issues and were able to work through them or c) women who breastfed effortlessly. When I encounter such attitudes, I always feel like screaming the immortal words of MTV’s Diary- you think you know, but you have NO idea.

Amanda’s story gives us yet another example of an intelligent, educated, dedicated breastfeeder who ended up turning to formula. She did everything right, and was still made to feel as if she did something fundamentally wrong. What’s even more ridiculous is that Amanda is still pumping (at least as of her submission date to FFF), trying her damndest to give her baby the “best”, and yet it’s still not considered breastfeeding “success.”

Well, that buck stops here, folks. Let’s take back the word “best”. Best is subjective. Best means your personal best; how best is defined for your family; what is best for your particular child. Your “best” is…well….best. (FFF Desiree Johnson came up with that one a few weeks ago on the Facebook page, and I think it’s pretty spot-on. )

I’ll be back with my own posts next week… focusing on the book promotion crap at the moment, but I don’t want it to be at the expense of the blog…so I promise to kick my butt in gear soon.

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF

***

Amanda’s Story

From the moment my wife and I decided to start trying to conceive, I just knew I would breastfeed.  First, we generally fall on the attachment-parenting-hippie-crunchy end of the parenting spectrum, and breastfeeding seemed like a natural fit with that.  Second, we live in a community where breastfeeding is very common, and breastfeeding support is truly first rate. Third, we are frugal people…throughout my pregnancy, we referred to my breasts as “the best coupons ever”.  I honestly never considered any other options.

I have PCOS (we’ll call that “warning sign #1”) so we guessed that getting pregnant would be a bit of a challenge for me, but 12 days after our very first IUI we got our positive pregnancy test. I was still hesitant to relax – my progesterone was low (warning #2), and miscarriage rates are incredibly high in women with PCOS.  When the first trimester ended, I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief…I’d overcome my big PCOS hurdle, or so I thought!  My pregnancy was mostly uneventful – a bit of nausea once or twice, some body aches, but nothing to write home about.

All of our major decisions were made with an eye toward ensuring BF success.  I chose my OB/midwife practice because they delivered at a birth center inside a Baby-Friendly hospital, and we hired an amazing doula so we could stay home as long as possible, because I was determined to avoid epidurals or a C-section.  The pediatrician we chose is married to an IBCLC and is incredibly pro-BF.  We took our childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes, and I read just about every major pro-breastfeeding, pro-unmedicated-childbirth book that I could lay my hands on.  I told my wife I wanted to donate all of our formula samples before the baby arrived –I wouldn’t need them, after all, and research showed that if I even had them in the house, I’d be jeopardizing my BF chances (she, wisely, said “Well, let’s keep them, just in case”).  I had my breastfeeding pillows, lanolin, breast pads, and a pump all ready to go, along with multiple boxes of milk storage bags for my soon-to-be-overflowing freezer supply. Meanwhile, my breasts had gotten a bit fuller, but not nearly as much as I’d expected(warning sign #3).

After 5 days of prodromal labor, things picked up in earnest.  We had an active labor at home.  I ended up arriving at the hospital at 9.5 cm, and they just managed to get the tub filled when he was ready to be born.  His birth got a little hairy – first the cord was around his neck, then his shoulders were stuck for about a minute and a half and he was born “stunned”, so had to be taken immediately to the warmer (he was just fine, we were both just a bit worn out from the ordeal). Then, probably because of the 5 days of prodroming, I hemorrhaged (warning sign #4).  My 8 lb, 4 oz son was put to my breast and immediately latched on, which was great, because it helped to control the bleeding.

All of the nurses at the hospital had lactation training, and they all commented on what naturals we were.  My doula said that I had “perfect” nipples for breastfeeding, and the IBCLC told me that our latch was great.  I kept waiting for painful fullness (that’s #5), but eventually we ate the cabbage that I’d bought anticipating engorgement…it just never materialized.  Our son fed CONSTANTLY, but didn’t appear to be dirtying diapers nearly as much as was expected (#6). The advice nurse told us that as long as he was wetting diapers, we were still fine. At our first post-discharge appointment, the baby had lost 7 ounces, but the doctor said he wouldn’t worry unless he was still losing at the two week appointment.  Nevertheless, he continued to poop less than expected, nurse for hours on end, and be hard to rouse for and during feedings (#7) – we resorted to rubbing him with cold washcloths, to try to keep him sucking for more than a minute or two at a time.

At his two-week appointment, he had lost 5 more ounces, and the pediatrician was officially concerned.  He suggested that I buy a Supplemental Nursing System to give him a little formula until we got my supply up, and asked us to come in for a re-weigh in 3 days.  I cried my eyes out all the way to the specialty mom and baby store, cried in the car while I made my wife go in to buy a short-term SNS and an expensive herbal tincture to increase production, cried on the ride home, cried while I mixed up the formula, and cried while I struggled to tape on the SNS.  My son ate like he was starving (which, you know, he was) and then fell fast asleep while I called the pediatrian’s  IBCLC wife.  She gave us a ton of suggestions on increasing supply, all of which I followed – water, hours of skin-to-skin, using the SNS, pumping every two hours or after every feed, whichever was more frequent, enough Fenugreek that I smelled constantly of maple curry, Goat’s Rue, and a prescription of domperidone at a dose that cost us roughly $5 a day.  With that, he was still drinking about 20 ounces a day of formula, so we think I was producing maybe 5 ounces total per day.

With the formula supplements, he started gaining right away, and became a totally different, much more alert, much happier baby.  I, however, was becoming exhausted and depressed.  We were completely tied to the house – even if I could somehow bring the pump, SNS, tape, and formula out with me, I was so mortified to be “failing” at breastfeeding that I refused to feed him in public, or even in my living room if anyone was there other than my wife. I began to dread the sound of him waking up, knowing that each time he cried from hunger, it would start an hour plus session of feeding, pumping, and washing all of the bottles and pump parts. He was super-alert and playful right after his feedings, but of course I missed all that, having handed him off to my wife to hold and play with while I pumped.  9 times of 10, he was asleep again before I was done.  I found myself yelling at him and getting angry and frustrated when he’d spit out the tube in the middle of the night, knowing it was going to be a battle to get him re-latched onto the finicky, leaky SNS.

And then there were the judgments. I posted on a few message boards about my troubles, and got a whole lot of “well, you gave into the pressure to give him formula, so his gut bacteria are already ruined, and it’s no wonder your supply tanked after you supplemented” and “before formula existed, people found a way, so there’s no reason you can’t make it work if you want to”.  Once, a woman who spotted my can of formula in my shopping cart told me that she “just feels so bad for children whose parents are too lazy to feed them properly.”

We slowly accepted that this was not going to be quickly resolved and bought a new, permanent SNS. I resigned myself to rashes on my breasts from taping on the tubes, cracked nipples from the pump, and allowing my wife all of the bonding time with my son, still convinced that my supply would increase and we’d eventually be able to have a “normal” nursing relationship.  Several times, I put him to my breast, only to have him scream and cry when almost nothing came out…which of course made me cry more.  I kept trying, convinced that if I just did everything right, things would all work out. At my 4 week follow-up with my midwife, I cried when I saw the “It’s Easy to Make Plenty of Milk” poster hanging in her office, and felt the need to explain to her all of the things I had tried, afraid she was going to judge me for my failings (she didn’t, and was awesome, as were the lactation consultants.  All of the medical professionals in my life were much kinder to me than I was).

With all of this, after 4 more weeks, my production was up to maybe 12 ounces a day.  One night, in a haze of exhaustion, I accidentally put part of the SNS down the garbage disposal.  My wife exploded about how much my breastfeeding failure was costing us in supplements, Canadian drugs, formula, and expensive nursing systems, I cried for 2 hours, and we eventually decided that paying another $70 to replace it just didn’t make sense.  I resigned myself to pumping and giving my son whatever I could make.

Funnily enough, once we dropped the SNS and I let myself accept that I wasn’t going to ever breastfeed him as I’d imagined, my supply jumped (I think the stress of the whole SNS/pump/wash cycle, combined with the worry over whether my supply was increasing or decreasing, playing a big role).  We got a car adapter for the pump so we could leave the house, I started timing my pumping so that I could spend time with the baby while he was awake and alert, and I started to really enjoy feeding times, where all I had to do was focus on him, instead of on whether the SNS was leaking, whether the tube was in his mouth right, or how long it would be before I could be done feeding and pumping, because I only had 2 hours before I had to be up for work.    And I slowly started “coming out” as a partial formula feeder, talking about my experience with a few other new moms, always starting with a long diatribe of all of the things I’d tried to make feeding work.

I still combination-feed my son, who is now 3 months old, with about half of his diet coming from formula, and the other half coming from what I pump.  I work from home, so I am able to pump whenever necessary, and for another, my wife is staying home with our son, so I have extra hands to help me with feedings that take longer than normal…otherwise, I have no illusions about whether we’d be able to continue this way.  For us, this is what works best.  But I am still working through my phobia of giving him bottles in public.  Today, I gave him a bottle in the middle of our Farmer’s Market…baby steps!  I am so incredibly grateful to FFF and other websites providing support for women who are feeding formula, wholly or partially – I truly believe that this site was a big part of me regaining my sanity around feeding my son.

***

Tell the world why your best was best. Send me your story for an upcoming FFF Friday – formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “It takes more than breastmilk to make a good mother…”

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 I hope we can all give them the space to do so.


FFF Sarah, whose story is below, makes a really interesting observation about how perfectionism and the concept of “failure” play into our breastfeeding experiences. I know we’ve talked this issue to death, but I think it’s worth continuing the conversation. For many of us who come to motherhood later in life, the loss of control over our lives can be intensely disconcerting. Control is so intimately tied to a myriad of mental health issues – eating disorders, OCD, depression – and parenting, in general, requires a certain degree of surrender, emotionally. So when your physical self decides to punk out, it can rock an already unsteady boat. As Sarah discovered, sometimes you need to adjust your plans to keep that boat from capsizing.

And as always, let me reiterate: I realize that (an embarrassingly small amount of) research suggests that only 2-5% of women are physically incapable of providing sufficient milk for their babies. 2-5% still means a significant amount of women. These voices are not some snidely stated statistic. Sarah is one of these voices. Listen up.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF
***

Sarah’s Story

My struggle with breastfeeding (and subsequent formula feeding) is different from the ones I’ve read here on FFF, and yet it’s exactly the same. Like many others, I planned on breastfeeding my child. I took the breastfeeding class offered by my hospital, I read the books written by LLL and the AAP, I lurked on the breastfeeding forums so that I would know what kinds of struggles I might face and how to overcome them. I knew it would be hard, I was up to the challenge and I felt fully prepared for anything that would come my way.
Fully prepared, except for what DID happen. We had no latch problems, no nipple pain – breastfeeding was a wonderful experience and I loved every second of it. For 3 1/2 weeks, I thought everything was going great. I thought the reason we were camped out on the couch all day long was due to the cluster feedings I’d read so much about – it didn’t occur to me that he was always nursing because I wasn’t making enough and he was hungry. I was a new mom, so I didn’t know what to expect my breasts to feel like; in retrospect, I never felt engorged, they never felt firm, they never leaked – those were big clues that my milk wasn’t in and I wasn’t producing properly. But after an amazingly easy pregnancy and L&D (seriously – 6 hours of labor, no drugs, 3 pushes, and my 9lb 4oz son came out with no tearing and without breaking a sweat) I figured my luck was just continuing. How great was it that I didn’t have to deal with leaking and engorgement? Yay for me! Finally at 3 1/2 weeks old, I used my bathroom scale to weigh him, and found out he was actually losing weight – cue the mommy guilt and crying.
Right away we went to the LCs. We did a weigh-feed-weigh, and found he was only getting about half an ounce total from both sides. They said he was a lazy/sleepy eater, and told me to start a routine of nurse-supplement-pump. They told me if I couldn’t pump enough for the next feeding to supplement with formula. They even gave me an RTF bottle right then to top him off! All of the LCs I saw at my hospital (we went back several times) were absolute saints, and so different from the ones many of you have dealt with. They were so supportive and knowledgeable, but not pushy or anti-formula. I love them. However, no amount of pumping, fenugreek, blessed thistle, oatmeal, etc could get my meager supply up enough to support my son. I think the main issue all along was not that he was a lazy/sleepy eater, but that my milk just didn’t come in and that I don’t have a milk ejection reflex at all – it would take 40 minutes of double pumping (with very aggressive massage/compression) to get an ounce of milk. Total. I don’t blame him for giving up and sleeping! I was producing about half of what my very hungry son needed – the day he eat 37 ounces, I felt so defeated. As many of you here on FFF know, the process of nurse-supplement-pump takes an incredible amount of time, so I decided to just pump and bottlefeed until my supply was up enough to EBF.
After 2 solid weeks of taking herbs and pumping 13 times a day (yes, THIRTEEN), 40 minutes at a time, my supply was up by 3 ounces a day. Not much to write home about, not even enough for a whole bottle. Bonus, it had destroyed my nipples. They hurt SO BAD, all the time, since they weren’t really getting a break between pumpings. I was also getting frequent clogged ducts and clogged nipple pores. The pain was excruciating – worse than labor pains, in my opinion. Of course, my clogged ducts eventually developed into mastitis. You can guess what happened to my supply. A hospital-grade pump was no better at removing milk, nor at increasing my supply. Finally, my mom (who breastfed me and each of my siblings until she had to go back to work) asked me, “How long are you going to keep doing this to yourself?” That made me step back and realize the insanity of what I was doing – the constant pumping, the pain of the clogged ducts and destroyed nipples, not to mention the fact that my son basically just sat in his swing all day long while I pumped.
After a few more days of “I will succeed at breastfeeding!” stubbornness, I finally admitted to myself that I was never going to make enough milk for him, and it was better for my son to have a sane, engaged mother than a few ounces of breastmilk a day – no matter how magical the lactivists made it out to be. My supply was so low that I just quit cold turkey – I had only one day of discomfort and was totally dried up in 48 hours. I never leaked a single drop.
Even though my son is doing great on formula (he was a completely different baby once he started getting enough food), I mourned the loss of our breastfeeding experience. It had been so wonderful, and it was hard to let that go. I had never failed at anything before in my life, and it was hard to accept that this was beyond my control. No amount of education, LC support, or willpower could change the fact that I just didn’t make milk. I had no idea that that was a possibility and I never saw it coming. I am hoping and praying that I don’t have an underlying problem like IGT and that I will be able to breastfeed my next child. Even if I am unable, I know I am no less of a mother because of this. It takes more than sperm to make a good father, and more than breastmilk to make a good mother.
***
Share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday. E-mail me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “I couldn’t discern rhetoric from sound breastfeeding advice.”

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 I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

In this week’s FFF Friday, Lindsay eloquently dissects the “dichotomy that exists between the social and political messages aimed at promoting breastfeeding and touting it as ‘best’, and the complete and utter lack of meaningful support provided to many women when they experience problems breastfeeding.” 

I recently got named to a “best pregnancy blog” list, and my immediate, panicked reaction (after being sincerely flattered) was that if I’m considered to be writing a pregnancy blog, couldn’t the discussion here frighten prospective mothers out of nursing? But reading Lindsay’s post reminds me that sometimes, being forewarned is forearmed. There are plenty of sites out there that offer inspiring, positive stories of blissful breastfeeding experiences, but hardly any talking candidly about the problems  - however rare – that women may encounter. If a physiological problem is going to impede your breastfeeding goals, wouldn’t it be better to know beforehand, to either a)prepare yourself emotionally for what lies ahead b) investigate various remedies or possible solutions, or c) perform your own informed, risk/benefit assessment and make a decision about how far you are willing to go, before the postpartum hormones and newborn craziness set in?

I don’t think the answer is the same for everyone. Some prefer to go into new experiences with blind positivity, and that is absolutely okay. But it’s also okay to be the type who wants to be aware of all the potential roadblocks before getting on the road. Going with that analogy, I hope this blog is sort of like the Sig Alert of infant feeding.

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF

***
I flinch whenever I’m asked the question, “Are you breastfeeding?”  It’s almost imperceptible, but somehow the truthful response makes me feel inadequate, selfish and less of a mother than those who breastfeed their children.  Intellectually I know none of that is true, but I’ve had a hard time reconciling my truth with the many well intentioned but often insensitive pro breastfeeding messages women are faced with every day.  It’s hard not to be bitter.
Truthfully, I don’t feel like formula feeding was any more of a choice than my initial goal of breastfeeding was.  While pregnant with my first daughter an enthusiastic, “But of course!” was my standard response when asked if I planned to breastfeed.  Having inverted nipples did nothing to dampen my resolve.  I spent countless hours reading about breastfeeding, studying diagrams that showed various infant holds, and watching videos that differentiated between an infant that was drinking from the breast versus one that was just sucking.  A simple internet search of “inverted nipples” yielded hundreds of articles written by professionals who confidently proclaim that most women with this anatomical imperfection can indeed breastfeed.  This was assurance enough to convince me and I never gave it a second thought.
While in the hospital after the birth of my first daughter it appeared she was latching relatively well and able to draw my nipple out when she fed.  I tried to disregard the searing pain I felt each time she took my nipple in her mouth because the nurses told me that her latch looked good.  No one seemed to feel it was a problem as long as she was spending the requisite 15 minutes attached to my breast every three hours.  I asked to see a lactation consultant but was told there were none employed by the hospital.  I looked at the posters on the hospital walls that listed the many ailments and diseases my daughter would be at a reduced risk of developing if I breastfed her, and I smiled because I thought we were on our way.
The day after we brought her home is when my milk came in and the problems started.  If it was challenging for my daughter to latch onto nipples that would only stubbornly emerge when my breasts had been empty of milk, it was near impossible now that they were full and becoming increasingly engorged as the hours ticked by without a successful feeding.
I turned to hot water bottles and the pump to relieve discomfort from engorgement and soften my nipples in preparation for feedings. My nipples are inverted to such a degree that upon removal of the pump suction they immediately invert.  Timing it so that my breasts were ready when she was ready for a feeding was dicey.  If I miscalculated, and I often did, I was left with a frantically hungry baby that had no patience for stubborn, slow-to-emerge nipples.
Somewhere in the fog of those first days at home there were failed attempts to use nipple shields which had been recommended by nurses at the hospital.  They were quickly discarded along with the breast pillow and lanolin cream as I spent more and more time with the pump and less with my daughter at my breast.  After a week she was being fed almost exclusively expressed breast milk, often by my husband as I kept to a strict pumping schedule and lamented the breastfeeding relationship I’d imagined and which was quickly evaporating before my eyes.
By this point I was emotionally exhausted and despite needing help, I had grown increasingly wary of health professionals and any so-called lactation experts.  I felt that all of the advanced preparation I had done to ensure we were able to breastfeed was a waste, and most frustratingly I couldn’t discern rhetoric from sound breastfeeding advice.
My family doctor and obstetrician hadn’t bothered to examine my nipples during pregnancy; the nurses in the hospital had all given me conflicting information; the public health nurse that followed up at home was only able to look at me with sorrowful eyes and repeat over and over that babies “breastfeed, not nipple feed”; and most of all, I felt let down by the literature – where was all of the truthful information on the realities of breastfeeding with what I now know to be severely inverted nipples?  By the time I reached the point that I should have called a lactation consultant I was so guarded and apprehensive about receiving bad advice or worse, being judged, that I couldn’t even bring myself to make the phone call.  Emotionally I had reached rock bottom.
I exclusively pumped for my first daughter with a single electric pump until 8 weeks when I switched to formula.  It was during those weeks that I first began cringing when asked if I was breastfeeding.  Exclusively pumping was like an indeterminate state somewhere between breastfeeding and formula feeding.  I didn’t belong in either camp.  My family doctor thought I was crazy – she knew that exclusively pumping was much more time consuming and couldn’t understand why I didn’t just breastfeed.  Very few people understood that I couldn’t stand the heartbreak of trying and failing, even just one more time.
My second daughter is now 5 months old and with her I exclusively pumped for 12 weeks before switching to formula.  Our time in the hospital and first days at home were similar to the experience with my first daughter with mind-numbing pain each time she fed despite assurances that she was latched on correctly, and complete failure to get her latched once my breasts had any amount of milk in them.  Once again fear of judgement prevented me from reaching out to lactation professionals.  This time, however I was much more prepared emotionally and resigned myself by day four that a hospital grade double electric pump and I were going to be spending a lot of time together.
I know that I tried as hard as I could.  I also know there are many other options that women can explore when they experience problems breastfeeding such as cup or syringe feeding, lactation consultants, breastfeeding support groups, and so on.  None of those options made sense for me or my family, and I feel no regret over my decision not to attempt any of those measures.  I am completely secure in my belief that formula has provided my children the nutrition then need, and then some.
But what does occasionally keep me up at night is the dichotomy that exists between the social and political messages aimed at promoting breastfeeding and touting it as “best”, and the complete and utter lack of meaningful support provided to many women when they experience problems breastfeeding.  To add insult to injury, when women inevitably turn to formula after breastfeeding fails they are made to feel ashamed of their “decision” because in our society acknowledgement that formula is a healthy means of nourishing an infant is viewed as a threat to breastfeeding. 
I often recall three years ago when I tearfully offered my four day old daughter her first bottle of expressed milk and felt like I had already failed her.  The sadness has faded and the part I now recall, and which escaped me then, is the look of contentment and satisfaction she had after that feeding, and each one that followed it.  Breast milk or formula – I’ve learned that a healthy, satiated baby is what’s important, and both can do the trick.

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