Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding.

07 September 2011

Breastfeeding and formula feeding.  We do both at our house.

If you’ve spent much time around So Wonderful, So Marvelous, you know that Tate didn’t come easily.  And Neither did Finn.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that not only did my polycystic ovary issues make getting pregnant nearly impossible, but also wreaked havoc on breastfeeding once I finally had my sweet Finnegan.

With Finn, I had no clue why there was a breastfeeding problem.  Everybody makes milk.  It’s natural.  It’s supposed to be easy!  The lactation consultants were perplexed.  He was latching perfectly, sucking furiously, and still losing weight.  In the hospital, we began supplementing after the on staff pediatrician made me feel like I was purposefully starving my baby.  Yes, the baby that we had struggled so hard to have, the baby that we both wanted more than anything in the entire world.  Did I mention that my nipples were cracked and bleeding from all of the pumping and feeding to try anything to get my milk to come in?  {And yes, I made it known to the hospital that the way the doctor handled the situation was unacceptable.} 

When we got home from the hospital, I told Dave I was giving up.  I cried to him.  I felt like a failure. 

Instead of listening to me the hormones, Dave went and rented a hospital grade pump.  He came home, told me that it was mine for a month to either use or not, but he was giving me the option because he knew how much I wanted to breastfeed.

So, I pumped and continued to breastfeed and supplemented with formula.  Sometimes it was a lot of formula, but he always got some milk from me too.  One thing that helped my {totally irrational} guilt was hearing our pediatrician tell us that even if he was only getting a tablespoon a day, he was getting the benefits of breast milk. 

There were these nagging moments that would creep in, of feeling like I had somehow let him down.  Once, an acquaintance asked me if I was nursing.  Finally feeling at peace with our situation, I explained that I was breast feeding and supplementing with formula.  She told me right there on the street, three month old infant in my arms, that I was given the wrong information.  Our bodies are meant to feed our babies, stop supplementing and your body will catch up, she said.  It crushed me to smile and nod, pretend to listen and try not to cry.

Other moms gave me the sidelong glance when I pulled out a bottle of formula.  

Most of all, it was me… I wanted nothing more than to be that mom who could just pull out a boob and feed my baby.  I wanted that for Finn.  I wanted it for myself.  I didn’t want to cart around bottles and formula.  I didn’t want to do twice the work, breastfeeding him then pulling out a bottle, mixing up formula, and feeding him again.  I was hardest on myself. 

It wasn’t even the formula.  I don’t subscribe to the camp that likens formula to poison.  Formula nourishes babies every single day, all over the world.  It makes it possible for babies to grow and thrive, whether by choice or by necessity.  For me, it just hurt so much to know that after all the struggles to get pregnant, here was yet another obstacle, another thing, screwing it up. 

I found my rhythm and made the best with the hand we were dealt.  We lasted 15 months breastfeeding, Finn and I.  It is one of the things I am most proud of in my life.  It certainly wasn’t easy, but it sure was worth it.

When I got pregnant with Tate, I knew that I wanted to be proactive about breastfeeding.  I did a lot of reading and talking with my lovely, wonderful, amazing friend who also had supply issues.  It helps tremendously to have someone you can talk to, to call crying, who realizes the struggle you’re going through. 

I wanted so badly for breastfeeding to work with Tate.  I wanted nothing more than the feeling of my baby curled up next to me, satisfied and asleep with a milk drunk smile on her face.

I decided to start with herbal supplements.  A couple months before I had Tate, I started taking Alfalfa and Goat’s Rue in addition to my pre-natal vitamin.  I also started taking Shatavari and Red Clover after having her. 

I figured out that because of my PCOS, I probably have a very mild form of IGT, insufficient glandular tissue.  This basically means that thanks to whacky hormones going through puberty, my body didn’t make enough of the milk production glands.  When you’re a D-cup, you never really figure that you might have less boobs than you need, but it turns out that IGT doesn’t discriminate based on breast size.  I am one of the lucky ones, if ever there is a ‘lucky’ here, there are some women who never produce a drop of breast milk.

We did a lot of non-medicinal things as well like having skin to skin contact as much as possible the first month, feeding on demand, and pumping to let my body know there was a need for more milk.  About a month after she was born, I started taking Domperidone which is a drug not readily available in the US that has been shown to increase supply.  The results differ for everyone, but I have had some success with it.  There are some times when we don’t even need to supplement.

As an aside: I personally did not want to take Reglan which is the ‘go to’ supply increasing drug here in the US.  I have close family members with histories of depression and after reading the side effects and success rates decided that it was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. 

This time, I was more relaxed.  I also had the benefit of having breastfed before and knew what to expect.  Often {not always} with subsequent babies, women naturally have an increased supply of breast milk.  I knew going in that I might need to supplement and so I did my research and chose a formula I was comfortable with {Earth’s Best Organic if you’re wondering} and had some on hand rather than getting stuck with whatever samples we were given.  We rented a hospital grade pump again {the Medela Symphony} and I’ve been having much more success pumping.  

Most importantly, I’m less hard on myself.  She is healthy and happy and that is what matters.

There is so much controversy about breast versus formula feeding.  I’m here to tell you that sometimes, a middle ground does exist… not by choice, but by necessity.  And maybe, just maybe, we should give all moms the benefit of the doubt no matter what their feeding choices might be.

For us, we’ve found our balance Miss Tate and I.  The view from here… it’s full.

tmp_share (6)

Here are a list of resources that I found helpful:

The best was this book.  The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk: Foreword by Martha Sears, RN

15 comments:

seriouslysassymama.com said...

I loved reading this. As a nurse, it makes me so angry when doctors, nurses, and other woman in general make mothers feel less of mothers if they cannot breastfeed, or choose not to. Not one persons body works like the next. We are all different. I had to supplement with my first child because she was premature. My second child was a breastfeeding crazy person, and my youngest would not latch on at all. Three different children, same mommy, all different experiences. All three girls are healthy and happy, not to mention full of Drama. That is probably from the breast milk they did get from me!

Two Normal Moms said...

I applaud you for talking about this. So many women feel guilt related to their feeding choices. And really, it comes down to what's best for you and your baby. People are quick to judge the formula feeder. My SIL had to formula feed so she could go back on her MS medication as soon as she had her baby. She faced all kinds of judgmental comments, when she would have given anything to breastfeed, but it wasn't what was best for her health. I had a baby that didn't want anything to do with the breast once he got the bottle that I had hoped to just supplement with while I went back to work. It was a struggle I finally gave up and made peace with. Unfortunately, no one had suggested the hospital grade pump back then, and I couldn't pump enough with my little electric to supply him, so we did formula. I did what I had to do.

That said, those tiny letters yo inserted up there? I feel like I've been hit over the head. I just spent 10 minutes reading about Reglan. The same medication they gave me for nausea during my pregnancy - it was a serious situation, as I was losing weight and couldn't keep anything down for over four months. But funny, no one could explain my irrational depression during month five and into six. I think I may have just found an explanation. Thank you!

Meredith said...

I formula fed all of mine after about six weeks of breastfeeding. I went back to work, and I just flat out didn't want to be leaking milk or pumping during the day. Some may find that selfish. I myself, found it a bit selfish.

I cried and cried with my middle child (because he just wasn't latching on - so we didn't even make it six weeks), until one day my mom sat me down and said, "Look, I formula fed all of you for the same reason. I had to work, I didn't like doing it, you kids liked a bottle. Do you think I'm a bad mom?" NO! I have the best mom in the whole world! It was eye opening to hear it from her.

It's every woman's decision as to how they will feed their child. You have to do what's best for your family.

Jessica @ TheCrazyChaoticHouse said...

Such a great post....Thank you for sharing.
I am so tired of reading posts about how bad of a mom you are if you formula feed. Everyone has their different reasons. Both my boys were breastfed for a short period and when I say short I mean short. The first only about 6 weeks but we started supplementing after 3 weeks and my second only like a month and we started supplementing after just a week. Both my boys were very healthy babies and are very healthy toddlers today.
Sometimes I would love to tell off those people who make you feel like shit because your not breastfeeding.

Jessica @ TheCrazyChaoticHouse said...

Oh and so awesome you were able to BF Finn for 15 months! That's great!!! Your SUPERWOMAN!

Tricia said...

Michelle: I totally admire you for taking serious steps to find success with something that is so important to you. That is really admirable! Now forgive me for a minute while I rant: I love to talk to other moms and hear about how they do things (or did things) with their children. I've learned a lot. Sometimes I try things that have worked for my friends and they are great. Sometimes they just don't work for me, my kid, and/or our family. What I have never understood is why some people feel like you HAVE to do things (breastfeed, toilet train, discipline) their way or you might as well not even bother. I wonder, sometimes, what it must be like to feel like you have all of the answers, to have such overwhelming confidence as a mother.

I guess I set the parenting bar pretty low because I feel like if my son makes it through the day knowing that he is loved, fed mostly healthy foods, and absent of any major head trauma--we're doing okay.

But it probably doesn't matter what I think because I only have one child and, as I've been told recently, "you can't really know what it's like to be a mother until you have at least two." Talk about stupid, hurtful opinions!

Sorry for the rant! I'm done now! :)

Bunny @ 86n It said...

:)

Holly Lefevre said...

I could have written most of this. I was determined with my first to breastfeed only -attended classes, read books, studied up...after he was born saw lactation consultants and looked for answers everywhere. I cried uncontrollably for one week as he screamed every night (and day)...finally I was ready to accept defeat and called the pediatrician again...she was amazing...hospital grade pump and away we went. It still was not easy or ideal. My milk supply was dismal (I cursed those ginormous breasts I lived with my whole life - knowing size meant nothing to production anyway, but still). He never latched on...I pumped for one year (or so)...and beat myself up over it. I feel like I missed his first few months because it was feed-pump-clean-feed-pump-clean.

When I had my daughter I approached it differently. I was going to try, but there would be formula in the house just in case. I was not going to spend all my time sad and missing out on a sweet baby.

We also lived someplace new - where anything other than breastfeeding was pretty much frowned upon publicly - I was even chastised in a baby class for having a bottle....it was a bottle of breast milk! I call formula the f-word up here.

Both of my kids had formula and breastmilk...

The second time around brings a certain sense of peace...you are a little more relaxed and it helps.

If only women could all find a way to support...no one knows what someone else is trying to do or not do and what other problems they may have.

Wonderfully written...enjoy your sweet kiddos.

I could go on and on...I get fired up over this.

~*Jess*~ said...

It makes me so upset when people think that one way or another is the perfect answer for someone else. As long as you're baby is growing, you rock on!

Such a great post.

Chelsea said...

Thanks for this.

Stacy Kaye said...

Another good one, Michelle. I am not someone that has issues, in fact I produce too much and we have issues because of that, but I would GLADLY share with you if I could, and have given the extra to many friends who have needed it. That being said, I get SOOOO irritated when women make other women feel bad for using formula. It is each woman's choice of what she wants to/can do in regards to feeding her baby. That goes along with how irritated I get with any sort of "snap" judgement that is made in regards to children and our parenting of them. When you see a person for a split second how on Earth can you possibly judge that person and his/her parenting if you do not KNOW them or know the circumstances? ARGH! Thanks for posting this and putting your story out there. You rock and Tate looks adorable!

Karen said...

Michelle, you've taken words and turned them into a gigantic hug for all of us out here who have (out of tearful necessity) given our children breastmilk and *gasp*...formula.
Much easier to look back and smile, but when you're living it, gosh it is horrid.
Keep up the good work as an awesome mother and friend. I'm going to forward this to every expecting mom I know... :O)
Love ya!

Mommy Lisa said...

I cannot imagine the pressure from others and yourself and am so PROUD of you for not letting it stop you from being the rocking mama you are. And Congrats and giving yourself the room to be you.

Jen said...

It is so difficult to be unable to provide what your baby needs.

After a rough pregnancy, my daughter was born 6 weeks premature. I started pumping while she was in the NICU but she never was able to latch. After 9 weeks, I threw in the towel because I was still sick from the pregnancy.

I know that this was the right decision at the time, but I still regret not being able to nurse. And even though she is a happy and healthy 2 1/2 year old, I wish things had gone differently.

And I have to admit, when I hear about moms bottle-feeding because "it's just too hard" or they don't want to, I get a little mad. Because I wanted to breastfeed so badly and couldn't.

But I'm so glad to hear that things are going well with Tate. Mazel Tov!

Lisa, An American Mom said...

Michelle, thanks for sharing this. The photo you share is so beautiful. I have some pics of my boys nursing and they are some of my most treasured. I breastfed both of my boys for 12-ish months. I feel so fortunate that overall it went easily for me. One thing that was difficult was that while I could seem to keep them happy, their weight would drop (percentile wise) during the first 6 months until they started on solids. My SIL just had her first baby and their baby is HUGE (like 97% percentile for weight). Her doctor explained that some women produce "cream" and some produce "skim milk". I don't know if this is an accurate way to look at it, but it sort of makes sense to me. My boys got what they needed, but I was always pushing to make sure they nursed enough because their weight was in the low percentiles (like under 20%). I also always had problems with pumping, so maybe this goes hand in hand. For me to pump even 4 ounces would take a couple 20 minutes sessions (on both breasts). I know some women can pump 4 oz in like 5 minutes. Not me. So anyway, I struggled with certain aspects of nursing too... not being able to pump well really limited my activity. And no, I see nothing wrong with formula either. I look at it like we do the best we can and move on. Our babies will be fine.

Sorry for the novel here but clearly you touched a nerve. Good for you for sticking with it and also lucky you for having such a supportive husband. :)

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