Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why I Broke Up with Breastfeeding (and Why it's Okay)

HUGE GINORMOUS DISCLAIMER: Please read this before you read anything else. This post wouldn't even exist if I didn't wholeheartedly believe that breast is best. So, this is not a formula vs. breastfeeding debate. Nor is it a discussion on which is better, easier, more natural, whatever. It is simply my personal manifestation on why I chose to breakup with breastfeeding. I chose the wording on this very carefully. I chose "breaking up" because, for me, breastfeeding was all about the emotions. All the feels. My self expectations on what it meant to be the best mother I could. The visions I had of lovingly nursing my little cherub(s) and knowing that their weight gain, their thriving, their BEING was all a result of ME and MY super milk. I don't think that formula is bad or else I would never give it to my children. So, here goes my story.....



With my first daughter, I was bound and determined to nurse her. I had my pump rip roaring and ready to go at, like, 30 weeks pregnant. Upon her delivery, she was on the boob for 45-60 minutes as soon as she was born. She nursed a lot (as newbies do) the first couple of days. But by day 4 or 5, my milk hadn't come in. I was frantically texting my lactation consultant. My daughter had lost more than 10% of her body weight. This is not how I wanted breastfeeding to go. This was supposed to be easy, natural. What my body was made to do. WHERE THE F%^& WAS MY MILK SUPPLY? So it started. Nursing a frustrated, hungry baby who tore up my nipples, supplementing with formula, pumping to "still place the order" to my body that my baby needed additional nutrition, REPEAT. I drank gallons of water, ate lactation cookies (my cousin provided the recipe here), took Fenugreek both pills AND the nasty concentrated liquid. I drank teas. I did boob massage. I let my little nursling hang out on the boob as long as she wanted. My sweet lactation consultant would drop off the scale after she was done seeing her patients for the week so I could weigh her all weekend pre and post feedings so I knew exactly how much she was getting. I. was. dedicated.

What happened: 3 months of stress, heartbreak, feelings of intense guilt and mommy guilt. (Read more about mommy guilt and how to turn it into something positive here) I was obsessed with this notion of how things were supposed to be. I had strangers on support sites egging me on: "You can do this!" "Your baby won't starve!" "Supplementing is where you went wrong!" But slowly, their support turned slightly judgmental. The kind of judgment that isn't purposeful. The kind of judgment when someone says "I'm not a homophobe/racist/whatever, I have X number of gay/Mexican/African-American friends." Guess what... if you are counting the number of friends you have in that category, you aren't as judgment free as you would think. BUT I DIGRESS. The comments like "Anyone know what to do with these FORMULA samples I got in the mail??!?!!?! I EBF (exclusively breastfeed, for those who don't know the lingo). I wish they would just STOP sending me stuff." How about you stop being so self righteous and start being thankful for a change? And while you are at it, donate it to a women's shelter. There are plenty of women there that would be hugely thankful for free formula (aka FOOD for their baby) much less an ADDRESS where a company could mail it to. After 3 months of really giving it all I could, I decided to throw in the towel. Y'all... the mommy guilt was big. But it just wasn't happening for us. I was heartbroken. I felt like I had failed my daughter and my family.

Fast forward to my second daughter. I was READY albeit slightly terrified. Prepared to tackle everything that took us down breastfeeding-wise the first time around. I was well-versed on proper latching, kept on top of my daughter's weight loss those first few days, had a brand new pump on order and my lactation consultant on speed dial. I took full advantage of the nursing staff while I was in the hospital post-delivery, using their expertise with each and every latch my daughter had. Making sure everything was going right. The typical stuff all happened. She slept pretty well the first night, and after that it was cluster feeding around the clock. My nipples turned into bloody hamburger meat. (Sorry y'all for that visual) I happily let her do all of that because she was placing an order for a ton of milk, and I was hoping (praying) for it to come in in ABUNDANCE. We left the hospital; and I thought that we GOT this. And then there was the first night at home. Sleep deprivation on top of sleep deprivation on top of a HUNGRY RAVENOUS SCREAMING newbie. Sleep? There will be none of this. She wouldn't even tolerate being out of someone's arms and preferred to be in the one's arms supplying the goods.

"This is typical" I told myself. "This is the way it will be." Night turned to day. Anyone in my position will tell you the RELIEF that the waking hours brings to a situation such as this. At least everyone else will be awake with you during the day. Nothing worse than trying to nurse a hungry baby in the dark while everyone else sleeps. Second night - not much different. In a moment of desperateness to soothe my sweet brand new baby, I made one single ounce of formula..... It was a moment that reminded me of the scene in "Interview with a Vampire" where Louie (Brad Pitt) is turned into a vampire by Lestat (Tom Cruise).... a whole bunch of crazy and then this eerie calm moment of complete serenity. Crazy comparison, but y'all... that's how it was. It was then that I decided to maybe supplement at night if I needed to until my milk came in. But the next day, my milk came in. More milk than I EVER had with my first. I was relieved! But my baby's behavior was still the same. Maybe she had tasted the formula goodness and preferred that. I don't know. But it was then that I started thinking about the break up.....

Here is the reason why I'm writing this. Not to say formula is better, nor to say give up on breastfeeding because it's not worth it. It absolutely is. But I know I'm not alone in our experience with breastfeeding. It is the most natural thing in the world. It's supposed to be easy. A built-in, perfect nutrition for our most cherished possessions, our children. But when it doesn't come naturally, when it's hard or near impossible, it is absolutely one of the most stressful and gut-wrenching experiences as a new mother that you could imagine. And that is the truth. Period. End of sentence.

Aside from ALL that narrative I just gave you, there were other reasons that are all acceptable that I decided that, for my family, formula was ok. Because of the guilt I felt and continue to feel on this, I have felt compelled to share with you a list.

- Baby's health (perceived or otherwise). Yes, breast is best. I'm going to stop saying that now, and I hope that it will continue to be implied throughout the duration of this blog post. However, my baby was jaundice and losing weight. Given my experience with my first daughter, I was horrified that the past would repeat itself, which certainly wouldn't help the weight loss situation or the jaundice situation. And despite what many, MANY people told me, there is a percent of the mom population who can't produce enough milk for their babies to be healthy. I don't even want to know what would have happened to my first daughter had I not had formula to supplement her nutrition.

- Baby's sanity. Y'all. She was (and still is) a ravenous mini-beast. She was crying and restless for the first 5 days of her life. She wasn't sleeping. She wasn't able to be put down. She was constantly seeking comfort and nourishment. I was doing my damnest to provide both and more. It was hard for me to see her like that and even harder for me to think I was partially responsible.

- Momma's sanity. As a mother, most of us decide "Who cares about me? I'll be fine; I just want my baby to be happy and healthy." And then we proceed to run ourselves into the ground. No sleep, emotional mess, stressed out to the max. That's how I felt during the emotional rollcoaster of trying to feed my sweet baby. In tears at my daughter's first check up (a couple of days after we discharged from the hospital), I told our nurse practitioner of our difficulties. And what she said is another ultimate truth: "You have to take care of yourself before you will be able to take care of anyone else."

- The rest of the family. I knew going into child #2's birth and plan to breastfeed her that it was going to be difficult, harder actually, from the standpoint of time. With my first daughter, I had all the time in the world to sit on the couch and (try to) nurse her day in and day out. But with my second daughter, aforementioned first daughter wasn't going to have all of that. She wants juice; she is hungry; a felt banana play food is annoyingly out of reach; she is terrorizing the dog; so on and so forth. Now. I know that a lot of mamas out there totally nurse consecutive children with 1, 2, 3 additional kids in tow. And that is awesome. But this is factor in my decision to break it off with breast feeding.

- Let the village help you. Everyone always says "it takes a village to raise a child." Yes. But can that village nurse your baby for you? Can the village take one of the nighttime feedings so you can get more than 2 hours of sleep? Sure - if breastfeeding has come easy for you, you might have a stash of back up milk pumped and stored, so maybe your husband can give a bottle while you sleep. But many mommas will tell you -- you need to pump whenever your baby eats to keep your supply up. Gotta keep placing those orders. So, for me personally, I was so relieved to be able to let my husband help me. He is wonderful. He usually takes the second night time feeding, which is around 4-5 am.  And my husband enjoys feeding the baby.

To some, these might sound like excuses. Some people might even think it sounds selfish or dramatic. But I'm hoping that reading my story will resonate with other moms out there, who decide, begrudgingly or otherwise, to break up with breastfeeding. Formula isn't an easy way out. I'm still waking up every 2-3 hours, and instead of whipping out a boob, I'm having to juggle bottles, formula, and making sure it is the appropriate temperature for the mini-beast, who doesn't like cold formula in her bottle. Only room temperature or warmer will do for her.

Regardless of how you feed your baby, whether you were blessed with the ability to nurse or blessed with the opportunity to give them formula, we as mothers, fathers, grandparents, feed our babies with LOVE. And that's really all that matters.

And please, remember, be kind with your words. I would LOVE your comments, but only if they are supportive and positive. This brand new (second-time) mommy is still sensitive and putting it all out there for this blog post while the feelings are fresh, emotions still very present.

8 comments:

  1. Well said. Bravo. This is everyone's individual situation and individual decision to make and what's decided is no one else's business. You address the guilt component here and I hope anyone struggling with her own decision is helped by this blog.

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  2. I hope so too !!! Thanks for reading ma <3

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  3. <3 U and your babies breast fed or not. So much big picture thinking on a very personal choice. You are a GREAT mommy!

    mtt!

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  4. I love this post! I have had/ am still having many struggles with breastfeeding and I hate all the judgmental and mean comments that people post on breastfeeding/baby sites and groups. I also love your term "ravenous mini beast" because my daughter is the same way. Thank you for writing this. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with breastfeeding and I'm not the only one with a "mini beast" to take care of. :)

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    1. Dianne - thank YOU for reading. I hope this post helped you in your journey <3

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  6. So I found this article 10 years too late but thank you for saying what needs to be said. I was unable to breastfeed my daughter because my milk supply never came in. As a result of listening to over eager lactation consultants, my daughter lost weight before we left the hospital. I kept breastfeeding despite my daughter's cries because everyone kept telling to push on. Eventually the soft spot on my daughter's head started to sink in and I had to make the hospital give me a small can of formula. They made me feel like a quitter. Fast forward to my second child and I knew my milk was not coming in. I tried exactly one time and asked for formula. When I did, I got lectured from the lactation consultant about giving up so easily. During those times I felt bullied by not only hospital staff but parents about not breastfeeding. Everyone makes their own choice and we should be able to make it without judgement on our parenting skills or who we are as women. Thanks again for writing this and this is definitely going to help another woman because it helped me 10 years later. God bless you!

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    1. THANK YOU for your comment. It validates my writing in incredible ways to hear that this blog post helped you. <3 Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

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