FFF Friday: “I never expected people to be so quick to blame me for not trying hard enough.”

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. 

One of the changes I’d like to see from the I Support You movement is better access to truly supportive support groups for all new parents- whether they are breastfeeding, combo feeding, or formula feeding. It’s a tough thing to discuss, because what constitutes “helpful” and “supportive” for some does not mean the same to another – I’ve talked to some people who are adamant that if anyone had given them “permission to quit” by not emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding/danger of supplementation, they wouldn’t have met their breastfeeding goals. And yet so many women in the FFF community (and beyond) talk about their breastfeeding support groups and Mommy & Me classes with a distinct but subtle bitterness; a strange hybrid of nostalgia and anger. For every woman who “permission to quit” would’ve been detrimental, there’s another woman who desperately needed that permission.
I hope to see more neutral groups sprouting up – get-togethers that are truly about supporting each person’s unique journey, needs, and desires rather than pushing ideologies. It sounds like in Julia’s (who blogs at Pugs Not Drugs, one of the best names for a blog ever) case, a group like that would’ve allowed her to make decisions which were right for her family without so much heartache. I think that’s something worth fighting for.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
The FFF
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Julia’s Story
I had always planned to breastfeed, but in the back of my mind I knew it wouldn’t be easy, as so many friends have so openly shared their struggles with me.  I read books, took the breastfeeding class offered at our hospital, and had the name and number of a highly recommended lactation consultant programmed into my phone just in case.  I didn’t register for or buy any bottles, and I threw away any formula samples that I received in the mail or at the doctor’s office.  I’d read that having it in the house was a black mark against one’s chances for successfully breastfeeding, and I wanted to do everything I could to make breastfeeding successful.

My daughter came into this world just shy of 36 weeks at 5lbs 13 oz and we did immediate skin to skin contact just like all the books recommend.  She latched right away the first time and I felt so much relief. I gave birth in the middle of the night on a Sunday and all the nurses were extremely helpful in getting her positioned and latched as it became more difficult to do after that first time.  Since she was born so early they were watching her blood sugar and temperature very closely.  Both were low and I was encouraged to feed her every 3 hours.  Because she was so sleepy and not sucking very well the nurse brought me a pump to see if I could express some colostrum to give her through a cup or a syringe.  I got nothing from the pump so we started supplementing with ready to feed formula via cup feeding, thinking we’d only need to do it for a day or so until my milk came in and the baby was over her sleepiness and then we’d be set.

The next day a lactation consultant came by my room to observe a feeding. She said we had a good latch, handed me a folder of info, and said we’d be well on our way once my milk was in.  No mention of renting a pump or any information about the breastfeeding support group they had weekly.  There was a flier for the support group in the folder but it did not state where or when it met, simply that it existed.  My daughter’s temperature and blood sugar were improving by the middle of the day and even though she was always asleep, we knew that was a normal and figured she’d wake up and get more interested in eating soon.

When her blood sugar and temperature regulated and we were discharged from the hospital with instructions to keep breastfeeding every 3 hours and supplement with formula via cup feeding after she nursed until my milk came in.  We took all the formula samples we could fit in our bag home in hopes we wouldn’t have to buy any formula ourselves.  I was still running pretty high on adrenaline at this point but the lack of sleep was catching up with me.  We knew we were fortunate that she had spent zero time in the NICU despite being a late term preemie, but we were so nervous about taking home such a small baby and having to care for her ourselves.  She was just so tiny and fragile.

The day after discharge we saw the doctor in the office and learned that my baby was quickly losing weight (down from 5 lbs 13oz to 5lbs 6 oz) and becoming jaundiced, so we had to come in daily that week for blood draws and were told to breastfeed/supplement every 2-2.5 hours around the clock.  My daughter had plenty of wet diapers but hadn’t pooped since birth.  I scheduled an appointment with the LC I’d heard good things about for the end of the week.  The doctor encouraged us to go to the breastfeeding support group for a weighed feeding and told us where and when it took place.  At one point I thought my milk had come in, but it was wishful thinking. My breasts felt fuller but I wasn’t getting anything when I tried to hand express and my baby was growing increasingly frustrated at the breast.
Again the next day we were back in the doctor’s office for more blood work to check her billi levels.  She was turning a nice shade of orange by this point and we were in full freak out mode.  I had consulted with many of my friends online about our breastfeeding issues at this point and they were so incredibly helpful and encouraging, however, over and over I was hearing  from them and reading online that I should be pumping if I was supplementing.  Moms that had been in a similar situation as myself had been sent home with a pump and instructed to pump every time they supplemented with formula so that their supply would not suffer.  The LC at the hospital never mentioned that.  They’d sent me home with the pump flanges and tubing from my one failed attempt at pumping in the hospital but I was given no info on pump rentals.  When I called the information desk at the hospital to inquire I found out I could rent a pump at the BF support group where we were headed that afternoon.

My daughter would.not.wake.up. during the group so I didn’t get to do a weighed feeding.  I did weigh her and was so upset to learn that she had dropped another 2 oz, down to 5lbs 4oz.   I did get my pump from the LC but no instructions on how to use it.  Thankfully youtube filled in the gaps for me!  I started pumping right away (after every feeding, day and night) but just got a few drops of colostrum as my milk still wasn’t in yet. Fortunately I got a call at the end of the day that her billi levels were leveling off and we breathed a sigh of relief.  Goodbye jaundice!

Five days after her birth my milk still hadn’t come in and my baby was screaming and crying when I brought her to the breast (and by that point I was crying too!)  When she wasn’t screaming and crying she was fast asleep and difficult to arouse for feedings, typical of late term preemies.   I got so tense and filled with dread before every feeding.  I was letting her breastfeed for 10-15 minutes per side (although I had to pull her off and wake her up every 2-3 minutes since she kept falling asleep) and then we’d supplement with the cup.  15-20 ccs after every feeding.  She gulped it right down.

The LC was amazing.  We met with her for 90 minutes and she helped me improve our latch, gave us tricks for keeping our sleepy baby awake and sucking, and taught us about doing compressions to bring the fatty hind milk forward.  I felt so encouraged during that one feeding in her office.  It was a weighed feeding but at the end when we weighed her she had gained nothing.  Nothing at all. She hit her lowest weight yet: 5lbs 2 oz.  I was armed with information and new techniques to try but no milk, the key ingredient to breastfeeding!

During our consultation the LC asked lots of questions about my medical history including a question about whether or not we’d had difficulty getting pregnant.  As a matter of fact, we had.  After going off birth control in early 2011 I never ovulated on my own and I needed Clomid to get pregnant.  The doctor suspected PCOS but while I had some of the classic signs, I didn’t have any cysts on my ovaries or irregular lab work, so it was never an official diagnosis.  The LC informed me that many women with PCOS have problems with low milk supply.   Other issues she noted were that my breasts never changed in size while I was pregnant  and I’d had zero leaking of colostrum during my third trimester.   Both of these things can be normal and not indicative of one’s ability to breastfeed, but sometimes they are a clue that difficulties are ahead.   She gave me some mother’s milk special blend supplements and detailed instructions on how much to take and how often.  She also fitted me with a hands free pumping bra and told us it was okay to use bottles instead of cup feeding.  Less messy and unlikely to cause nipple confusion if we used the right kind of bottles. I can honestly say if we hadn’t met with this LC we would have given up breastfeeding before the end of that first week.  She armed us with enough strategies and confidence to persevere, at least until my baby reached her due date, the first goal we set for ourselves.

My milk finally came in a week after my daughter was born, but I was never engorged and never leaked.  I was only pumping about an ounce a day.  I went to the BF support group weekly for weighed feedings and they were depressing.  One week she got 2/3rds of an ounce.  Another week she got about 1/3rd of an ounce.  The milk just was not there.  I was taking the supplements, pumping, drinking a shitload of water, but to no avail.  My milk supply was not increasing despite my best efforts.

I cried a lot during those first weeks and wanted to quit breastfeeding so badly but held on to the advice friends gave me, especially “never quit on a bad day.”  My husband hugged me and gave me pep talks and finally my daughter’s due date arrived.  She did wake up some, but it wasn’t a drastic change as I’d hoped for.  My pump rental was expiring and I returned it to the hospital.  I was so done with that thing, it had done nothing to increase my supply and all the time and effort I was putting in for approximately 1 oz a day was not worth it.  We needed much more than that to supplement so we had to rely on formula.

Bonding with my baby was extremely difficult that first month.  I was growing to resent her and resent the pump.  My husband got to snuggle her and play with her and was clearly bonding with her and I was stressed out and in tears worried about how much she was eating.  The grueling feeding schedule was taking its toll on my mental health.  I remember crying while she cried during a feeding one night thinking “I just want to be able to enjoy my baby.”  Breastfeeding was not the warm, lovey dovey, bonding experience the books had promised it would be.  It was anything but.  When I turned the pump in and accepted that supplementing with formula was just what we were going to have to do, things really started to turn around for me mentally and emotionally.

Around 6 weeks I stopped going to the breastfeeding support group.  The weighed feedings were depressing and stressed me out.  The LCs leading the group offered me no advice that I hadn’t already read online. One mom in the weekly group was regularly pissing me off and making it a very hostile environment for several of us (many of us attending had premature babies with latch/supply issues).  She openly criticized those of us in the group that were supplementing with formula.  I dreaded the group and wasn’t getting anything from it but more frustration.

I was slowly reaching the acceptance stage by this point and was just breastfeeding on demand and following up every feeding with a bottle.  She was gaining weight thanks to the formula and I was grateful.  Around 12 weeks my daughter started refusing the breast.  She was hitting a growth spurt and going on nursing strikes for 12-24 hours, leaving me with clogged ducts and rock hard breasts.  She was screaming at my breasts and happily sucking down her bottles of formula.  I knew it was time to wean and over the course of a few days we did.  Sudafed dried me up and just like that we were exclusively formula feeding.

During those first three months of my daughter’s life I got some really great advice and encouragement from friends and family.  I also got some horrible advice, was judged by other moms, and felt so much guilt and disappointment over how things were playing out.  I soaked in encouraging words like “every drop of breast milk you give her is a gift” and “it gets easier” (and it did get easier after about 6 weeks just like everyone said.)  ”Don’t quit on a bad day” was probably the best advice I received.

some of the hurtful advice I was given when people learned I was struggling with my supply:

  • I needed to spend more time with my baby (24/7 wasn’t enough??)
  • I needed to just stop formula feeding altogether and trust my body to produce milk (so starve my child in the meantime??)
  • I needed to pray harder for God to increase my supply (what the…I still have no words, this is SO insulting and I heard it from multiple people.)

I didn’t respond to those comments.  I honestly could not think of a response that wasn’t “go !#@$ yourself” in many cases, so saying nothing was the better road.  I never expected people to be so critical and quick to blame me for not trying hard enough.

I am so happy I was able to breastfeed for 3 months when at one point I didn’t think I’d get past the first week, but I also wish our breastfeeding relationship hadn’t ended so soon.  I was disappointed that I didn’t have the “easy” and “natural” breastfeeding experience that so many books and friends touted nursing could be.

I knew going into it that breastfeeding could be difficult, but I was expecting difficulties such as cluster feeding, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, and oversupply/engorgement (lol, as if).  I really had no idea how exhausting it could be and I certainly had no idea what kind of emotional toll it would take.

My daughter is now 9 months old and happy and healthy.  She is thriving on formula and I am so grateful to live in a time and place where we have easy access to ways to feed our babies when breast milk is insufficient.  I really have a heart for new moms dealing with breastfeeding difficulties and guilt over using formula.  Being open with others about my own experience has led to so many great friendships and connections with other moms.  I hope sharing my story can provide encouragement to others to share their story and be a voice for formula feeders.

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If you’d like to share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday, feel free to shoot me an email at 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

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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.

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

FFF Friday: “I don’t know how to feel.”

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.


There’s been some anger floating around the Facebook page lately, and my impulse is to urge people to simmer down and not let themselves be baited. And then, I get stories like Mandi’s in my inbox, which make me wonder if anger might be an appropriate emotion to embrace. I think we should feel angry that women like Mandi have to keep questioning themselves, because imagine how much women could accomplish if this kind of intelligence, spirit, and insight didn’t have to be muted – even momentarily – by self-doubt. Anger can be a useful emotion; at least more useful than guilt or fear. What matters is where you direct that anger. It’s pointless to waste it on extremists, or random haters on the internet who get their jollies from seeing their hateful thoughts typed out on a Facebook thread. It’s more healthy, and productive, to direct quiet, controlled anger towards those who can truly create change, and influence them by rising above the sloppy rage so prevalent in this debate.

The anger expressed in the post below is the kind I’m talking about – it hits you in the gut; fills you with drive rather than rendering you impotent. It’s the kind of anger which will provoke us to fight for better rights for ALL parents,  formula feeding, combo feeding, and breastfeeding. We need to make it clear to the powers that be that we are not fighting a petty mommy war – we are standing up for every parent’s right to feed their baby in the safest and healthiest way possible, whatever that ends up being.

(Oh – and just one caveat: this story does touch upon politics, and I know we are a very diverse group here – so I hope we can give the same respect to differences in opinion on political matters as we give to differences in opinion on parenting styles.) 

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF
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Mandi’s Story
When I was 16 years old, I wore a size 10 pants.  I also wore a size 2x top because I wore a size 42 G bra.  I was ludicrously disproportionate.  So when I had the opportunity to have a breast reduction, I jumped on it, not even caring what the repercussions might be down the road because I was 17 and 17 year olds just don’t think like that.  I vaguely remember the surgeon mentioning that I might or might not be able to nurse my kids later on, but that it would be a “wait and see” situation.
Fast forward 15 or so years, and my husband and I are trying to start a family.  I’d been diagnosed with PCOS (though in hindsight I disagree with the diagnosis and think it’s based on my weight, not on the actual diagnostic criteria).  We defied the statistics.  I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant without clomid, progesterone, IVF, some sort of fertility aid, etc…. but I became pregnant within the first 2 months we were trying.  I continued to defy statistics…. I was supposed to have gestational diabetes because I supposedly had PCOS, so it was treated like a foregone conclusion… no diabetes. As far as nursing was concerned, I approached it with the same attitude: the doctors say I won’t be able to, so I’m going to prepare everything to be able to anyway because if things keep going like they are, it shouldn’t be an issue. I researched nursing bras for larger mamas, got myself set up with a medical-grade double electric pump, and had daydreams about rocking my baby while we peacefully nursed and bonded.
I was wrong. You hear about inadequate supply all the time and the more vigilant lactivists will insist that there’s no such thing and that the mother just isn’t committed enough or doing the right things to boost her supply.  I made next to nothing.  I tried latching my newborn daughter in the hospital to no avail.  I used a hospital pump and got nothing.  And when I say nothing, I don’t mean a little colostrum like one would expect while waiting for the milk to come in.  I mean that after 40 minutes of pumping I would have 2-3 drops of breastmilk in the bottles.   Still, I thought that maybe once I got home my milk would come in and we could still nurse.  Nope, nothing.  I tried herbs. I tried tea.  I tried warm compresses, drinking a ton of water, pumping regularly, etc…. but never produced more than an ounce of milk in an entire day.  We bottle fed that to my daughter, got a can of formula and moved on with life.  It was only then that I started feeling the “sting” of being a bad mother, having not tried hard enough to nurse, etc…. I have several “crunchy” mom friends and while their attitudes weren’t so Judgy McJudgerson, they frequently posted articles to FB and such that demonize formula as chemical poison and insisted that all women could nurse, allowing reprieve only to those who didn’t have breasts due to mastectomy or some such thing.  I began to wonder if these people truly believed it would have been “healthier” for me to starve my daughter by insisting that breastfeeding WOULD work if I tried hard enough, despite empirical evidence that I didn’t just have a low supply, I had a no supply.
 Then about 18 months later I went off birth control again because we were thinking we’d like to conceive a second child in the next 6 months or so.  As Yoda would say, “There is no try, there is only do,” and I was knocked up again the very first time we tried- literally within days of having my IUD removed. Infertility and I were not acquainted.  This time around I changed the focus of my research, typing searches into Google such as “Chances of lactating with second child if unable to nurse first,” and began to believe that I was the only person in my situation who either really couldn’t breastfeed or didn’t just say I don’t care, formula feed and avoid the internet.
Still when it became time for my younger daughter to be born, I was hopeful that maybe this time something would change.  As soon as she was born I asked for a pump to be brought to my room.  I didn’t have very much faith in my boobs, so to be honest I didn’t even try to latch my new baby.  I tried pumping, every hour, for the time we were in the hospital.  Again, nothing. Same story at home, different characters.  I admit it, I gave up. I didn’t want to be a slave to the pump for 1oz of breastmilk a day.  With such a tiny amount, my daughter needed her Mama much more than she needed my breastmilk. 
Still, despite all the logical conclusions on Earth, a part of me still has guilt.  My tendency towards overeducated and passionate friends means that I have read countless horror story articles, articles denouncing me as less than a mother.  When our daughter had colic, I wondered if it would have been different if I could have nursed her. When she was diagnosed with a sacral dimple and possible occult spina bifida, I wondered if whatever was “wrong” with me that caused me not to lactate had made my poor baby imperfect.  And I can’t shake those feelings of guilt, not yet.  If I had it to do over, would I still have had the reduction surgery?  Yes. So I don’t know how to feel.  I have received the message loud and clear that I failed.  No matter how many times the judgment is followed up by “but you have to do what works for you,” etc…. it doesn’t change the underlying message of “what works for you is WRONG.”    And for what it’s worth, that message has never come from a man, a Republican or a Tea Partier; those people who are waging the legislative battle against women’s reproductive rights.  It has come pretty exclusively from the community of educated, prosperous women for whom childrearing has become a competitive sport.  The world where Apgar scores are mentioned in conversation as a way to compare how good you were at being pregnant, where women who take advantage of the advances of medical science that allow the vast majority of pregnant women not to die in childbirth the way we have for millennia are viewed as irresponsible and negligent, where pseudo-scientific studies tout how much smarter, thinner, faster, better, healthier the Bionic Breastfed Children will be than my own, poor, unloved formula fed daughters, where strollers (except for super expensive BOB strollers of course) are neglectful because you should be wearing your child in a sling….. where every message of “support” is clouded with judgment that some choice you’re making (or in my case, was made for me) is WRONG and the “supporter” is overtly telling you how much better of a mother she is because her children have only eaten organic tempeh with carob dip  and your kid has had McDonald’s nuggets.  My guilt comes from hearing, over and over, the message that Breast is not just Best, it ought to be ONLY. If I’d done what that community insists I should have been able to do, my kids would be dead.  But that does little to overcome the guilt of my own failure. Thanks for that.

FFF Friday: “I would dread having to hold her and feed her…”

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.


You know what I want to put on a bumper sticker? “Motherhood is not spelled Martyrhood.” It needs to be said, because a lot of people seem to be confusing the same terms.
Tonight’s FFF Friday post, courtesy of FFF Karen, highlights this syndrome in her astute assessment of how many feel you need to go to extreme lengths to earn the title of “good mother”. This has absolutely nothing to do with breast over bottle, but rather a pervading trend of glamorizing pain, sacrifice, and the relinquishing of one’s own needs and desires. Obviously, your priorities change when you become a parent – but a) it takes two to tango, and I’m sick of men being left out of the equation of what it takes to raise a happy, healthy child; and b) being willing to sacrifice and lay down your life for your child (which I bet most of us would do in a heartbeat) is not the same thing as craving the opportunity to prove your worth by glorifying pain and suffering.
Anyway. Off my soapbox, and onto Karen’s (which, of course, isn’t actually a soapbox but rather an impressively honest, laid-bare account of her experience….
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
The FFF
***
I was one of those women who was completely obsessed with breastfeeding when I was pregnant. I didn’t buy or register for any bottles or order any formula samples. When I had my daughter,via c-section after a marathon pushing session and long labour, She was a big, healthy girl (9lbs 12oz and almost 22 inches long). I asked to breadfeed her right away. She latched beautifully and I was so happy – even though my legs were still numb from the surgery. I stayed in the hospital for three nights following the surgery and it was an emotional rollercoaster. Each nurse who visited us reassured me that the baby and I were doing everything right when it came to feeding her. And we fed, like clockwork, every three hours. I would have to wake the baby up to feed each time, though, and often undress her or use a wet washcloth to get her interested in feeding. Then, after a few minutes of suckling she would usually fall asleep on my chest. On the fourth day, before I was discharged, I asked to see a lactation consultant because I felt something just wasn’t right plus I had a lot of nipple pain and burning.
The LC said that it shouldn’t hurt if done right but that the baby and I could be in a book – the latch and hold were perfect. She assured me things would get better. But the baby had lost a significant amount of weight and was still very lethargic. She was also jaundiced and not seeming to get better. We started supplementing with formula though a tube system so the baby would be on the breast but also getting formula without knowing it. We continued that at home every three hours. I was in a lot of pain and was stiff from the surgery so slept on the couch for the first week after we took the baby home. My husband would take the baby upstairs to bed and set an alarm to wake her up to bring her back to me for feeding. It was so exhausting and the pain was getting worse. It took two of us to feed her – to set up the tube system and then I held his hand and squeezed as the pain intensified as she sucked. I was starting to dread my little girl waking up and hated feeding her.
I saw the LC again and she said my milk was not coming in and that my breasts were still soft and not showing any signs of milk. She said a pre-existing condition I had, Polycystic ovarian syndrome, may have something to do with low milk supply. I saw several nurses, went to two breastfeeding clinics (incl. Le Leche League) and talked to my doctor. All gave me suggestions to try to increase my milk supply while I supplemented my baby with formula. I tried the herb fenugreek, drank beer, nursed more often and for longer periods of time, and finally took a prescription drug which was supposed to help with supply. Nothing seemed to help. Our little girl was growing faster than my supply. And my nipples were starting to look and feel like they would fall off. At one point, I told a public health nurse i had cracked nipples so bad that they were bleeding. She boasted that she had the same thing and that feeding my baby milk with blood in it was not anything to be worried about. This seemed like a crazy comment to me and it felt as though she (and others I had met at the clinics) was proud of the battle scars she had from the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. It was almost like, if it was easy then it wasn’t worth doing. I felt like, if I hadn’t tried everything humanly possible then I was a bad mother.
About two weeks in to my daughter’s life, I was up for a late-night feeding and just started to cry uncontrollably from the pain of my baby at my breast. By this point I was convinced she wasn’t getting anything from me other than the formula in the tube. When I pumped, I was able to get just under one ounce from both breasts – even after all the herbs, drugs and tricks. My husband walked in on me sobbing and said “enough is enough”. We bottle fed our baby for the first time at the next feeding and she was a champ. I felt like dirt but she sucked back all the formula happily. I still pumped whatever I could and added it to her bottle. But after a few weeks, my daughter’s bottle was still 95% formula and just a tiny amount of breastmilk. So eventually, with a heavy heart, I gave up altogether.
Now, my baby is almost four months old and she’s big, strong and happy. She’s been sleeping through the night since just shortly after we started giving her the bottle and she’s growing like a weed. I look back at those hard weeks in the beginning – and all the guilt I still sometimes feel – and wonder if it was worth it. I do believe breastfeeding is best but my baby was sucking on dry breasts. We were both stressing out and there was little benefit. I cringe when I think of how I would dread having to hold her and feed her. I had thought it would be a beautiful was for us to bond but it turned out to be nothing of the sort.
I proudly bottle feed now and wish there were more resources out there for bottle feeding mothers and families.
***
Like Karen, I wish there were more resources for bottle feeding families. By sharing your story for an upcoming FFF Friday, you’ll contribute to one important resource – one which helps new parents feel less alone in their struggles. Send yours to formulafeeders@gmail.com.





FFF Friday: “I have no regrets about using formula…not a one.”

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 are also 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.


I specifically chose this FFF Friday submission from Liz for this week because, with all the discussion over the attachment parenting TIME spread, there’s been a renewed conversation about personal choice within the parenting realm. Choosing to bottlefeed from the start is (at least for now) a choice we are allowed to make, and I find it tremendously refreshing to hear that some women don’t get all that bothered by the pressure to breastfeed. (On the other hand, it sort of negates the need for my blog and book, but whatever. I’d much rather be the Fearless Famine Fighter, or the Fearless Fairness Forger. Early retirement would be fine.)

I’m kind of in awe of Liz’s ability to focus on what’s important and block out the rest, and I hope you all enjoy her unique perspective.

Happy Friday, fearless ones…

The FFF
***
My experience thus far has (fortunately) been fairly free of bullying and drama but I notice that every now and then there will be a comment indicating that there wasn’t a whole lot of perspective from moms that were on the formula feeding wagon from the start.  So I thought I might offer my own story regarding How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bottle…which is probably too strong a statement.  Like I said I’m hardly a casualty of the Mommy Wars…yet.
I grew up in a formula feeding family.  My mom was formula fed.  I was formula fed.  All four of my younger siblings were formula fed.  My baby doll was formula fed.  Looong before I learned how to change a diaper I learned how to bottle feed a baby.  I wasn’t visually exposed to breastfeeding until I was a teenager and that was through a video I saw in biology class. 
Sad?  Maybe.  But if you’re feeling sad reading this, it’s more sadness than I’ve ever felt over it.  When I first saw that video I was staring with all the fascination of a five year old boy who discovered that snakes are not slimy.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable and intrusive with it.  But I wasn’t taken up in things like “how beautiful and natural!” either (“beautiful” really isn’t a word I use to describe most bodily functions..).  I was watching a mom feed her baby in a way I had never seen before and it didn’t weird me out.
What was I talking about?  Oh yeah!  Bottle feeding!  So being that I was brought up in this world of babies and bottles, of course I was going to formula feed my kids should I have any.  It’s only natural to do what you know how to do…right?  Well that was how I saw things.  For many many years I was blissfully unaware of this whole Mommy War that was raging on behind the scenes that my own mother already had to deal with and she didn’t have the the internet.  
A couple of months after I got married I was finally diagnosed with PCOS.  Instead of being devastated I was leaping for joy.  It’s a very frustrating experience watching your periods get farther and farther apart after you’ve long passed the age when cycles are supposed to be regular.  Now instead of being a freak I had a name!  An answer!  Something that could explain everything from the 6-9 month cycles to my tenor voice! (Though between you and me I think my voice is actually kind of sexy)  But eventually I had to face the realization that the bottle or breast issue might not be something I’d have to consider ever. It’s possible for us PCOS ladies to get pregnant but it’s not that easy.  So imagine my very happy and terrified shock when two months after having a period I see that BFP.
Now I’m not a very crunchy person and my husband is only crunchy when it saves money.  So two things that were a point of contention were diapering and feeding.  A very pro-cloth diapering FAQ was enough to turn him off to the idea. But breast feeding…  See, he comes from a breast-feeding family.  He was breastfed.  All three of his younger siblings were breastfed.  This was the world HE grew up in and I guess it never occurred to him that his wife wouldn’t be so hot on the idea.
Oh we talked about the statistics but that can only go so far with me when strong personal experience says otherwise.  Ye,s my husband was a gifted child but he’s the son of gifted parents (genetics?) and had their undivided attention for the first few years of his life to cultivate that gift (nurture?).  My siblings and I are no intellectual slouches either and I was also able to read at a more advanced level for my age because my parents were able to devote more time to me.  Bonding?  Emotional development?  Sorry, but I don’t think method of feeding isn’t the be all and end all of bonding when there are so many other hours in the day to spend with your kid.  Obesity?  Yeah I’M fat but my sibs are not.  I have a couple of ideas as to what led to that and formula isn’t one of them.  In the end the only thing I could see eye-to-eye with him on was that it was free and convenient…well, if things were ideal, of course.  I already knew of one friend of the family who went through a breastfeeding horror story because she was unable to produce enough milk.
In addition to the encouragement from my husband there was some additional encouragement from a group of ladies from my book club.  I didn’t get jumped on about breastfeeding or anything.  The topic just came up eventually.  “Are you going to breastfeed?”  “We’re talking about it but I’m leaning towards ‘no’.”  And well…there went the conversation.  It was a pleasant conversation and it was clear that for at least two of these women, the experience was nothing short of amazing.  It was quick, it was convenient, it was free, and they seemed so happy to talk about it.  They were so positive about it I…thought about breastfeeding.
In retrospect I think on some level they took how easy it was for them for granted.  In the midst of our conversation I did bring up the concern about my friend and how I think I would feel more comfortable knowing how much my child was eating at every feed.  They were very quick to sweep it aside.  “Don’t let that discourage you.” (Fair enough)  “She was probably doing something wrong.”  (Whoa…you don’t know this lady)  “Everyone can breastfeed if they try hard enough.”  (She was trying for two MONTHS)
Well like I said before…the conversation got me to think about it.  And I told my husband I would THINK about it (opportune word being “think” here).  And so I thought about it and thus began one of those nasty “mental” conflicts.  I could see myself forgetting to pack a bottle while on the road.  Having a method of feeding hard-wired into you sure sounded nice.  But would I like the feeling of having my boobs sucked on?  Bottles would have to be introduced eventually anyway.  Even though I’m a SAHM, my sister was getting married six weeks after my due date and I was her maid of honor.  SOMEONE besides me has to be able to feed this baby whether it’s hubby, or uncle, or grandma.  I don’t want this baby to be insistent on my boob.  Would my husband be willing to splurge for a pump to get the job done quicker?  Well breastmilk is natural…but am I really doing this because I want to or because I’m being pressured to?  I knew in the pit of my gut my heart was not in this breastfeeding thing but my head kept pounding on me and making me second guess myself as a new mom.  Even though I accepted formula now…would I feel one day guilty about not giving breastmilk?  One day I was checking out nursing tanks and reading pump reviews.  The next I was grumbling something about everyone sticking their nose a little too far into my boobies and if my husband wanted this baby breastfed so badly he better start lactating.
I eventually thought myself into a hole and ended up turning to my mother.  She was so wise that even when I was a teen I thought she was the wisest woman I knew.  So one day over the summer while I was visiting for lunch and we had a talk.  As soon as I said the words “I’ve been thinking about the possibility of breastfeeding” there was a shout of “Oh god WHY?!” from the other room.  My sister was the closest out of all of us to said family friend and was quite traumatized watching her go through whatever experience she had.  My mom kindly told her to butt out.  So we began to talk. 
Mom is the best.  She had her way of doing things but is definately on Team Fed Baby all the way.  Both methods come with their benefits and burdens and a lot of that balance will rely on your body and the baby’s body.  The issue really isn’t black and white.  Whatever you choose to do, it has to be the one you feel the most comfortable with and not the one that other moms are pressuring you to do.  You can’t do everything in order to please all those moms.  So just stick with what’s best for baby…and you too.  A miserable mom won’t be as effective as a happy one.
“But I will say this…there was not a single day where I regretted feeding all of you formula.  Not a one.  And I couldn’t ask for 5 better kids.”
I realized that until now I had never before met a woman that was so…positive…with her formula feeding decision.
With renewed confidence that it was okay to go with my gut, my husband and I had the penultimate discussion.  THIS baby was going to be formula fed.  I wanted to get back to treating my PCOS without worrying that my meds would be mixed in the milk.  I wanted to return to preparing for that “run a marathon” bucket list item (I’m still a few years away from that).  But most of all this whole mom thing was so new to me, I ‘d like to have at least ONE aspect of babycare be something I already knew how to do.  It’s not like he was going to do the majority of the feeding anyway so at least let me feed this kid the way I already know how.  Maybe if we have a #2 I can give breastfeeding a shot with that one.
Speaking of PCOS, it was this very blog that opened my eyes to the possibility that breast-feeding has a high chance of not being sunshine and rainbows for me.  I feel so stupid for having gone so far into this discussion and not once considering how PCOS might affect a breastfeeding experience.  After all, it mucks up with so many of my other womanly functions why shouldn’t this be any different?  When our daughter was born, I braced myself for engorgement and breast pain as I waited to dry up.  But except for some slight leaking from one boob that almost went entirely unnoticed if it wasn’t for a small bra stain and pain that was only noticeable as I was lying in bed free from distractions…nothing.  No cabbage leaves.  No ice packs.  Nothing that really needed a pain reliever.  Nothing.
We returned to the topic about a month after we returned from the hospital.  I was giving our daughter her final feeding for the day and he was watching us from the couch.  She was already able to hold her head up and just wanted to look at the world around her.  She was also sleeping through the night and no colic.  She’s never had a moment where she was completely inconsolable and was very healthy…further cementing in my mind that how you feed is a much smaller piece of this parenting pie than we all make it out to be.  She was able to drink a generic brand of formula that we could get at a wholesale price as opposed to what could have been a very stressful and expensive breastfeeding experience.
It turns out most people I’ve come across respect that.  The ladies in my book club have let me be.  I raised an eyebrow and couldn’t help but giggle on the inside when the newcomer said “Oh she’s beautiful!  She looks GREAT for a formula fed baby!” (in a twisted way I love it when well-meaning people are so innocently ignorant of their blatant disregard for tact).  Her pediatrician, though I could tell he doesn’t agree with our choice, was able to put biases aside to help us.  If anyone is giving me stink-eye when we have to feed in public, I haven’t really noticed.  I stopped being aware of everyone around me once I realized how dang cute she was.
Feeding her is an absolute joy.  I try not to take that for granted.
With a new perspective now that we were actually feeding a child, we were both able to be at peace with the situation.  In spite of a discouraging dry-up period I’m still thinking about breastfeeding a second baby.  But I will not put that kid, or myself, through a hard time while we wait for my boobs get their act together, something that may or may not happen.  Not when I have no regrets about using formula…not a one.
***

Make my day. Send me your story – formulafeeders@gmail.com – to be used for FFF Friday. 
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