ORIGINALLY POSTED ON YODELINGMAMAS.COM
This past week the blogosphere has been abuzz about the many wonders of breastfeeding. There’s new ammunition thanks to an article in the journal of Pediatrics that claims if most new moms would breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars a year.
So why wouldn’t you breastfeed, right? I’ve seen claims that women’s mothers and grandmothers discourage it since formula was more prevalent in their generations. Others blame hospitals for making formula an easy option. Then, of course, are the accusations that women give up due to discomfort and inconvenience. And women who are told they can’t nurse? They’re simply buying into a myth to make a hard time in life a bit easier. After all, women’s bodies are made to lactate.
Well, most women’s are. Not mine.
When I was pregnant with my first, I took the breastfeeding prep class from the local guru and I was determined to have the smartest, healthiest, most bonded baby imaginable. He came out and cooperated beautifully—he even had the best latch in our class at the hospital. (Yes, I’m that competitive.)
As I left the hospital, the nurses assured me that it was ok that he screamed the entire night in starvation. It was ok that my milk hadn’t come in yet (and there was no sign that it was on the way). It would all be ok if I just kept at it.
When he was five days old, we took him to our pediatrician for a well-baby visit. He’d lost a pound and a half. He cried non-stop. There was still no sign of milk—no swelling, tenderness, nothing. It was time to introduce the thing that I’d been taught to think of as poison: formula. I refused to give him a bottle—I’d read all about nipple confusion—so I started to feed my teeny tiny baby boy formula from a syringe to, yes, save his life.
I visited lactation consultants, changed my diet, took herbal supplements, tried prescription medication and pumped. I’d attempt to nurse, then feed my baby with a syringe and my finger, then pump. I followed this regime every three hours around the clock—even setting my alarm to wake up and pump when my baby was actually sleeping. By the end of the day, all those hours of pumping would get my baby about 4-8oz total of breast milk (though it looked a lot more like foggy tap water than milk).
Ten weeks in, our pediatrician said it was time to let go. That the time I spent pumping would be far better spent resting or bonding with my baby. The weak milk and my depression, guilt, confusion and exhaustion weren’t doing him any good.
“Why is this happening?” I kept asking. My OB, our pediatrician, lactation consultants, blood tests and ultrasounds couldn’t explain it. Maybe stress? My father had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer and was fighting his battle. That on top of being a new mom must be it. Since there was no explanation, the next time around I’d be just as likely as any mom to have a great milk supply.
So when baby #2 was on the way, I was proactive. I changed my diet ahead of time, started nursing and pumping immediately, got the herbal supplements ready, and even had a prescription for domperidone on hand. Nothing.
So why am I telling you this? Because every time I make a bottle of formula in public—particularly in an area where I’m surrounded by moms—I get “the look”, which makes me feel even more alone in this struggle than I already do. And every time one of my babies has an ear infection, pneumonia or allergy attack, I blame myself. So maybe you could be a bit easier on me (and others like me) than I am on myself. Because while it’s not even close to as good as breast milk, formula saved my babies’ lives.
Thank you for this post. I am a mom of two and experienced a very similar situation. I have had a very low milk supply (about 8-10 oz. per 24 hrs) with both babies, and no explanation as to why. I too went through weeks of pumping every 3 hours, taking all of the galactogogues, prescription medication etc., all to no avail. It breaks my heart to not be able to exclusively breastfeed, and I feel the same guilt as you do when I have to feed my baby from a bottle in public. It’s nice to know that someone else understands these feelings…..
Amy, Using Our Words says
Erika, I just had another baby and have been going through it all again. I’m going to write another post about it in the next couple weeks and I’d love to have you chime in. I think it’s so important for people to know they’re not alone. Thanks for sharing your experience.