After the responses from my post on supplementing with formula in our first days breastfeeding, I thought it would be nice to have perspective from another mom whose feeding experiences were different. So, I asked my friend Amanda (who blogs at Life Lessons From a Butterfly) to write about her own experiences as a formula feeding mom. When it comes down to it, breastfeeding may have advantages, but what’s actually best is what works for mama and baby!
[ Little lady enjoying a snack. Image copyright Amanda. ]
Every mother is different. Every woman is different. Every person is, yup, you guessed it… different.
So, why in the world do people seem to think that certain things should always be the same?
Parenting is not a “one size fits all” kind of world. Babies are very much their own little beings, and what works for one baby (and mother) in no way would be guaranteed to work for another.
The biggest place this becomes evident is in baby feeding. I have very strong opinions on this. But that is all that they are, opinions. I don’t have a degree, I’m not a doctor or a scientist, I am a person with thoughts and sometimes I like to share them.
I am also a mother. And I have a baby to feed.
When my daughter was born, it was after 46 hours of labour (Sonja and Paulo beating us by only one hour. 😉 ). It did not go as I expected it. It ended up with an emergency c-section. Emergency in the sense that our heart rates both crashed and generally speaking that is “Not A Good Thing.”
So, out she came, somehow tearing her umbilical cord in the process. While they worked on me, the mister went with her to the NICU to ensure everything was okay. He also ensured that they did what they had to in a very timely fashion, which resulted in her meeting me in the recovery room within an hour of her birth.
My intentions had been to breastfeed. It seemed like the logical thing to do. So, I attempted to latch her so we could get the party started, so to speak, and all seemed to go great. Little did I know.
At first, all was well. I thought I had a pretty decent idea of what the score was. I made assumptions. I assumed we’d just naturally know what to do. I assumed that “nature” would take it’s course and we would be harmonious and connected and it would be a beautiful relationship. What happened as it turned out was latch difficulties. It always appeared to look correct, but something inside her mouth (high palate maybe?) would make it so my nipple would flatten out. Then the cracks happened, and I was informed by more than one nurse that they were the worst case of cracked nipples they had ever seen. Then the oversupply happened, and she was chomping my nipple to keep from drowning basically, which made the cracks even worse.
So I stopped breastfeeding and started pumping in an attempt to heal the wounds. I generally would be a bottle or two ahead of her at any given time because I had a small electric hand pump and not a double pump, it took me a good 20 minutes plus to get a bottle. I also only pumped what I thought I needed and never emptied either breast, so I ended up causing a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. It was somewhat of a disaster.
In the end, I managed 2 weeks of breastfeeding in agony. 6 weeks of pumping exclusively, which hurt less, but caused much more stress. I would have much rather been holding her to feed her than attached to a machine. Add some PPD into the mix and it was quite an experience.
Finally we decided to feed her formula, and call it quits. Other than a few bottles at the beginning to supplement, we hadn’t really been feeding her formula. And boy was I glad for that supplementation. I had not been aware that after a c-section your milk can take longer to come in (for me 5 days.) And in that time, she was clearly not satisfied and she almost lost too much weight for us to leave the hospital.
That decision was good, and bad. I tried at least 3 or 4 more times during that first week of formula feeding to pump or attempt latching again, feeling amazingly bad for having to stop breastfeeding. I doubt it wouldn’t have been as bad if I hadn’t fell into the “Breast is Best” trap.
Breast may be best, but it isn’t best for everyone. That was a lesson I had to personally learn. I reached out, I found community, I learned to let go of my guilt. Had I known the options, and were more adequately informed, I may have not put myself through so much, nor felt so bad at the way it turned out having to be. After all was said and done it took a little over 2 weeks, completely latch and pump free to heal from all the damage.
I admire fully people who can breastfeed with great success. (Actually it’s a lot of admiration, with a bit of jealously.) But the thing that gets me the most is this – Ultimately everyone is different, and everyone needs support. Feeding my daughter is the bottom line, and for us it is with formula. And it’s nice because my mister can participate in that.
No one needs to be judged for something they can or can not do. I could not breastfeed, but that does not make me a bad mom. My daughter is happy, healthy and smart. She has yet to get sick, and I do not fear for her being obese in the future because I will teach her to eat healthy and take care of herself. There are all kinds of suggested benefits to breastfeeding, but if you do a little digging, you’ll see that it too is not a one size fits all solution.
What it all comes down to is this. Everyone is different, and everyone needs support no matter who they are, or what they feed their children.