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,
“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 – firstname.lastname@example.org.