Before I start telling you the story of what happened with Little Dude last time and how I felt like a complete failure, let me begin by just saying it’s slightly crazy to me that I feel I owe an explanation to begin with and even crazier that many people feel they deserve an explanation why another mom has chosen not to breastfeed their child. And, now that I have that off my chest (and have wiped at least a few tears from my eyes), here we go… my story with Little Dude, the mental struggle I had, and the struggle it has been to defend my decision this time to family, to friends, to the medical staff and even to myself.
I understand this post may upset many of you and for all of you who are judging me before reading the rest I offer this: I am NOT against breastfeeding – I understand the scientifically proven health benefits – and most importantly I am NOT a bad mom for choosing to feed my baby with formula and a baby bottle.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we? When I had Little Dude a little more than 3 years ago I was not completely convinced that I wanted to breastfeed, but I wasn’t against it either. When he was born and it was time to feed the nurse asked me (without pressuring me!) “Are you going to breastfeed?” I surprised myself and knew that I made every support person I had in the room happy with me by saying “Yeah, I’ll give it a try”.
I knew there were many health benefits, I knew it was the “right thing to do” and I knew that many of my family members would be terribly disappointed if I didn’t at least try.
So, I did just that – I tried. Little Dude had a hard time latching so we used a plastic shield to help him out that the nurses gave us. It seemed to be working and I was diligently following their directions feeding him for 15 minutes or more on each side with burping breaks in between. We fed him every 3 hours (timed from when he began eating the first time), woke him through the night to keep everything exactly on schedule, monitored his pee / bowel movements by following charts provided to us at the hospital and the works. We did every single thing the nurses advised, but as first time parents didn’t clue in why he had such a hard time to settle after eating. After all we were told babies might have days and nights mixed up, they might have gas, and basically they may just cry for no reason. We did this for 5 days (Wednesday to Monday).
On Monday when we returned to the hospital for a check up we were shocked when they told us Little Dude had lost more than 25% of his body weight. They asked if my milk came in to which I responded “I think so?!” but upon further questioning realized it had not. They gave Little Dude an ounce of formula almost immediately and the poor little soul drank it in about 10 seconds flat. I immediately began crying. I felt like an idiot for not knowing my milk hadn’t come in – I felt horrible for starving my baby – I felt like a failure.
For the next 2.5 weeks we stuck to the exact same schedule and I kept trying while also supplementing with formula. I tried pumping, I ate foods and drank beverages with yeast as suggested by the nurses to help stimulate milk production, but my milk simply did not come in.
Mentally, that time wasn’t any better. I felt trapped in my bedroom, I resented people for wanting to help, I resented them for leaving me alone, I was absolutely DONE with other people constantly asking me about my breast milk or the lack there of and even though it is a hormonal time for all moms I have never felt so much unlike myself.
Sidebar: I didn’t have to be trapped in my bedroom. That was 100% my choice. I admire moms who breastfeed in public or in front of their other children, family and friends, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t comfortable and with visitors and other people around the house that meant I was in my bedroom for at least an hour every three hours, 24 hours a day, for 3 weeks.
After 3 weeks and my milk still not coming in it was suggested to me that I should go see a lactation consultant. This was good advice but was the opposite of what I wanted to hear. I remember lashing out at my mom (who is always the biggest help and as most people we love always the easiest target for these bursts of rage) and saying “There is no way I am going to breastfeeding therapy when I feel like I need mental therapy”. I announced to the Mr later that evening when he got home from work that I was stopping to try and breastfeed and that was the end.
That night I remember using exclusively formula, Little Dude being fed right away without having to work for 30-45 minutes for nothing before I fed him, and him being the happiest little guy. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, freedom to feed him outside of my bedroom and fulfilled that I was making him happy.
In the end, no matter what the health benefits, fed is best.
So, now you might be thinking “Jenna, I get it but you might get milk this time!” or “What about the colostrum?” or “What about the bonding / skin on skin?”, allow me to explain…
I don’t know what is going to happen this time. I might feel fine, but based on the anxiety I feel even thinking about breastfeeding I doubt that will be the case. As much as I portray an image of “me being me and not caring what others think” I care deeply. In fact, if I didn’t I would likely not even be writing this. I care because I value others input, I value their experience and I in no way think I am an expert equipped to make all decisions on my own without the valuable feedback others provide. In my work, in my life and as a mom I take pride in considering options and viewpoints from all angles before making a decision that I will then stick to, be able to defend and feel confident about.
This time around I do not have any intention to breastfeed.
I have a full intention to enjoy those first weeks, not hide in my bedroom, take more than two pictures with the new baby, not resent the little bundle of joy we are blessed to be given and to look after myself both physically and mentally.
I might hand express colostrum, I might not.
I will do skin to skin.
I have formula purchased and ready for baby’s arrival.
I will love and feed my baby.
I am a good mom.
You might be wondering why I am writing this post at all since I am clearly not against breastfeeding, in fact I applaud those that can do it and choose to… I am writing it for the women who cannot, who decide not to and who all feel like they might be doing something wrong. There is no amount of colostrum or breastmilk in the world that can replace your love, your snuggles or your attention.
A mother’s love is the most powerful force on earth.