Give Breast A Rest

You may be noticing a plethora of Breastfeeding related stories drowning out the usual engagement shoots and spaghetti covered babies on your social media feeds. August is National Breastfeeding Month, the first week of which is also recognized as World Breastfeeding Week. Even passive, go-with-the-flow mothers seem to morph suddenly overnight into flag waving advocates for nursing their children, your children, please-somebody-let-me-tell-them-about-nursing-all-the-children!! The number of gorgeous, ethereally lit, professionally photographed breastfeeding pictures on Instagram triples. As do the equally meaningful double chin, mommy-and-me midnight feeding selfies, the #breastisbest hashtags, and- unfortunately- the loud and proud mom shaming that often surrounds formula feeding.

There are worse things to feed your children...

There are worse things to feed your children…

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not bashing breastfeeding or the celebration of all the good it stands for, both for babies and their Mamas. I think it’s wonderful, in fact, and will never forget Mac’s satisfied, sleepy face smiling up at me after each of his feedings. I understand the passion behind the Normalize Breastfeeding movement and consider it completely ridiculous that someone could have a problem with a mother publicly feeding her child or require their employee to pump in a restroom or janitorial closet.

In fact, when I was pregnant, I thought there was no other way to go. I was so excited about the new (at the time) Kiinde Twist feeding system that it was literally the first thing I registered for. When I found out that our insurance, Tricare, didn’t cover breast pumps (It does now!) I spent months researching and bidding online so that I could still get the exact heavy-duty model I’d been hoping for, completely out of pocket. I wanted to breastfeed because it was healthy, inexpensive, and a mother-and-child life experience. Looking back, I realize I also wanted to breastfeed because it was “in” with #millenialmoms, might be a quicker way to lose that dreaded baby weight, and because social media- and not my doctor- was quick to make an outcast of everyone who chose a different path.

Back when we were still trying to Make Breast Best. Also, my legs have never looked so thin. Mental note to find those pants...

Back when we were still trying to Make Breast Best. Also, my legs have never looked so thin. Mental note to find those pants…

We started having trouble the very first night; Mac had a bad latch. Bad enough that, by day two, there was blood. The night nurse suggested nipple shields and lanolin and brought me both. Day three brought the lactation consultant, who immediately threw out the shields and replaced the lanolin with coconut oil. Again, the Instagram-researching #millenialmom in me cheered. “Coconut oil? Of course it will work!” Except it didn’t. A week out of the hospital, I was down to nursing on one side, the other cracked and bleeding. I would persevere, damn it (“If I don’t, I’m quitting on my baby.”) no matter how badly it hurt (“It’s supposed to. It’ll get better.”) and no matter how much I was starting to dread- sometimes to the point of tears (Mine, not my newborn’s)- every feeding. I kept on keepin’ on- because it was the right thing for my baby.

When Mac was a month old, the nurse weighed him at one of his many doctor’s appointments. She looked confused, glanced through his chart, weighed him again. Then she went to get the Doctor–who also looked at his chart and weighed him. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter how many medical professionals put the baby on a scale- if they’ve gone down two pounds since their 7 1/2 pound birth, it makes people take a second look. The doctor simply said he’d lost weight instead of gaining and we needed to “re-evaluate.”

 

But I heard- despite my literal blood, sweat, and tears- that I’d failed him.

 

They brought in a 2oz supplement bottle of Similac and said he needed to eat it right then, right there in the office. Defeated, I handed both the baby and bottle to my mom, praying he wouldn’t take it (and wishing, for the millionth time, that my husband was there to help with these decisions, instead of deployed.) After all, we’d never given him a bottle before and wasn’t that a thing? That breastfed babies wouldn’t take bottles? That they could tell the difference?

Except he took it, sucking the formula down like he was starving. Quickly enough that the doctor offered 2oz more, which he ate just as fast. Now I felt worse- which made me a more terrible mother, that I’d apparently been starving my child or that I was allowing him formula? I’d have to check the internet and find out. Once home, I doubled my efforts, nursing every three hours at longest, pumping instead of sleeping in between. I made lactation recipes, drank special tea. Forced myself to drink more water and eat certain foods whether I was hungry or not, losing even more sleep in the process. After four months, I still wasn’t producing, the formula was still flowing, and I was dreaming of a way put the baby on a plane overseas to meet his Daddy if only so I could take a 1/2 hour nap, pump-free.

If you think that formula feeding is taking the easy way out… you have never washed and re-assembled Dr. Brown's bottles.

If you think that formula feeding is taking the easy way out… you have never washed and re-assembled Dr. Brown’s bottles.

So I quit. Because I wanted to do the right thing for the baby. Which, it turns out, is to give him a happy, healthy life with a warm, safe bed and parents who love him. No matter how they fill his belly. #fedisbest

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7 Responses to Give Breast A Rest

  1. Mary Aug 7, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    Thanks so much for posting this. When I was going through almost the exact same thing I felt like such a failure because all I read about breastfeeding was how easy it was. So not my situation. We quit 4 months in due to lack of supply and our lives got tremendously better. No more pumping 5x a day at 40 minutes each time and still not producing enough!

  2. Norma Aug 7, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    I had a similar experience (sans the deployed husband). I cried hysterically when my baby took the bottle. I felt like a complete failure, until I remembered how I hadn’t lost any weight and my first born is riddled with allergies despite have been breastfed for nearly 2 years. More power to the bottle I say!

  3. Jeremy Aug 7, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    NO JOKE about those Dr. Brown’s bottles!

  4. Melissa Aug 7, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    I had a very similar situation to yours in the beginning. There were lots of painful tears, cuss words and punching the sofa. We struggled. When my milk came in at a week shit hit the fan. I had short nipples, there was nothing for him to latch on to. Let’s just say tommee tippee isn’t close to my nature. It was rough. I pretty much had to straight pump, then one morning I bled into my pumped milk and I thought I was done. I really can’t tell you why we’re still breastfeeding, it’s been almost 6 months. That was my goal, but now I feel like I want to do it till he’s 5 because it took so long for us to get it. Don’t get me wrong. Crazy things still happen. It’s hard. I really don’t honestly care how anyone feeds their child and I actually believe the majority of people don’t care either. I know there’s so much emotion attached to it. I feel like why can’t we celebrate world breastfeeding week? I celebrate the moms who did it for 30 minutes. This shit is tough. If there was a world formula week I’d celebrate that too, because formula is wonderful!

  5. Noelle Aug 7, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    Great post! I intended on breastfeeding, but baby would not latch and/or wanted to sleep instead. On day three of the hospital she was losing weight, and we were told if she lost more than 10% of her birth weight, she would not be released. My husband thankfully stepped in and requested a bottle of formula. After much resistance from the nurses, our baby ate and was able to maintain her weight and get released from the hospital. I continued to try and pump, but it was never enough. We mixed breast milk and formula for the first month or so of her life, but then went to formula exclusively. I think it is ridiculous how vilified Moms are that formula feed their babies. Our baby is fine developmentally, she is very smart, and she has always been at a good weight. Best of all, she was able to sleep through the night at an early age (since she had a full belly) which was wonderful for our whole family. I think that formula is a perfectly fine option, and no one should be made to feel guilty for choosing that route (for whatever reason).

  6. Lauren Aug 8, 2015 at 7:48 am #

    I can so relate to everything you wrote! I only lasted two weeks until I fully went to the bottle. Trying to breastfeed was one of the hardest experiences I’ve had and I felt everything you did, but having a newborn was so much more enjoyable once we went to the bottle. Right now I’m counting down the days till no more bottles…it’s the only thing I’m rushing as my daughter ages!

  7. Leah Aug 11, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    Amen sista ?? #fedisbest

    PS-I dread the time when it comes to washing and reassembling the 23,000 components that make up a Dr Browns bottle!

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