I’ve honestly been trying to write this post for a least 2 months now. I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time getting this written out. So – here we go.
Alright y’all… I’m about to get a little personal and talk about breastfeeding so if that’s not your cup of tea… feel free to skip this post.
When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding. I read a ton about breastfeeding – what to expect, what to eat, what not to eat, the norms, etc. It all seemed great. It’s the best nutrition for your baby, perfect blend of nutrients, fat & carbohydrates, how it changes to meet the needs of your baby as they grow, etc, etc. When we took our prenatal classes and learned even more about the benefits of breastfeeding I was even more convinced to try it & stick with it. A lactation nurse (IBCLC) taught our breastfeeding class and not only gave us great info & tips on breastfeeding but also told us all the horrible things that are associated with formula. i.e. the higher incidence of obesity and diabetes, lower IQ, increased cancer risk, how formula causes gut leakage, so babies get sick easier, etc.
After that class I was terrified of formula! However at the same time, I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, that he wouldn’t latch, or my milk wouldn’t come in. I tend to overanalyze. A lot. I read and read and read, researched, read blogs, and got so much information that it completely overwhelmed me. For hells sake, I was formula fed as a baby and I turned out just fine! I’m not diabetic or obese and while I may not be a rocket scientist but I’m far from being the village idiot.
When Ford was born he latched right away. I did have to take him into the doctor when he was 3 days old because he wasn’t having bowel movements like he should (he did have plenty of wet diapers). His NP had to probe his little bottom and he finally went. I felt so bad. Because he was so backed up his NP was concerned he’d lost too much weight (since he had such a large bowel movement) and suggested I give him some formula. I was appalled. My milk had just come in that morning and he was still nursing every 2-3 hours. I did NOT want to give him formula. Everything I had read told me that if I fed him formula it would affect my supply, I’d lose my milk, ergo, the world would end. (Let’s not forget about all the warnings about nipple confusion and babies preferring bottle over breast and refusing to nurse.) When I took him back in for a weight check 2 days later he had gained weight, and the NP was happy with his progress.
I began pumping after feedings when he was 2 weeks old. It would take me 3-5 pumping sessions to get 2 oz!! Which, after a panicked call to the Lactation Clinic, was assured is normal. I started taking Fenugreek and eating oatmeal every morning in hopes of increasing my supply, and therefore pump output. By the time Ford was 6 weeks old I only had about 40oz stored in the freezer. I thought I’d have a TON of milk. I was worried about going back to work and what it’d do to my supply. The first day back to work I sent 4 bottles with 3 oz each, following the 1-1.25oz/per hour from the lactation specialist. When I called to check on him at lunch, he had already had 3 bottles! I was horrified, especially because I was hardly pumping anything at work. I’m talking .5 to 1.5oz per session. By the end of that first week my frozen stash was gone! I was devastated.
I tried everything to get my pump output up. Continued taking fenugreek, also adding in blessed thistle and brewers yeast (thanks to Swanson’s Vitamins who so kindly offered me a $25 gift card to their site so I could get these!) Ate oatmeal. Brought clothes and blankets that Ford had used to hold and smell while I pumped. I looked at pictures and videos of Ford while I pumped. As soon as I got home from work I’d nurse Ford, and if I had time, I’d pump after that as well. After breaking down in tears, being so frustrated with the whole thing and talking with some friends & my Mom, I decided to rent a hospital grade pump. And that did help. I was able to increase my output by at least .5 – 1.5oz per session. I’ve been using the Egnell Lact-e which looks like a dinosaur, but it’s actually quieter than my Ameda Purely Yours. I just leave it at work (the biotch is heavy) and bring my pump parts home daily to wash. I still use my Purely Yours at home if I need it and it seems to work fine. I sometimes think it was the stress of my first week back at work and worrying about Ford being at day care. But… I still call monthly to continue the rental. I will probably take it back next month… I think. Maybe. I dunno.
I can’t say for sure if the supplements have helped or not. I was taking a ton of fenugreek at first, up to 15 capsules a day. Then I added in 2 capsules/tablets of the blessed thistle and brewers yeast three times a day. That’s a lot of damn pills! I ended up switching to Motherlove More Milk Plus. It’s the same 3 ingredients plus Nettle Herb, just all in one capsule. I take 2 pills three times a day. It’s a little more expensive, but I like it for the convenience factor of taking 6 pills a day versus 20. I’ve read that the effect of the supplements should take place rather quickly, but I never noticed a significant increase. But since I’ve started the Motherlove supplement I’ve noticed a small, gradual increase in my output. Like maybe 1- 2 oz per day. However, I feel like it could also be attributed to me finally getting used to being back at work, and getting used to Ford getting supplemented bottles of formula. I even tried pumping every 2 hours while I was at work (I was told by friends that I’d “turn into a dairy cow”), but that didn’t help either. Whether I pumped 3 or 4 times a day, my output was the same. On average I pump 10-12 oz a day.
Like I mentioned above my frozen stash ran out after a week back at work. And he was taking bigger bottles than I could pump to keep up with. After his first week he was taking 3.5oz bottles, and then 4 oz. Whatever I couldn’t pump, he got in formula. He’s now getting 6oz (occasionally one 7 oz) bottles. He seems to be napping better with the bigger bottles at daycare. It shocked me at first when they were giving him that much, but I talked to our pediatrician and she wasn’t concerned. So I’ve come to terms with it.
After 3.5 months of being back to work and Ford being supplemented with formula… I’m finally OK with it. The guilt that I have over supplementing is awful. I realize some of you may roll your eyes at me and think “who cares?! You’re feeding your child and that’s all that matters.” And while I agree with that 100%, I STILL feel guilty. I know that breastfeeding is the best option. I know that it’s the optimal nutrition for Ford. I feel guilty that I can’t provide my son with the best nutrition.
The funny thing is, after talking to other mommas, my scenario is not that uncommon. A lot of us have to supplement, not because we don’t want to breastfeed, but because after trying every trick in the book, it’s still not working. And you cant pass judgment on someone for FEEDING their child. It’s a common response that as long as you “tried” to breastfeed, switching to formula (or supplementing) was then OK. But in all reality, if someone chooses formula from day 1, that’s perfectly fine, too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your baby.
I wish I hadn’t been so against formula feeding/supplementing in the beginning. It could have saved me many tears, anxiety and stress. I wish I hadn’t been so close minded and stubborn about the whole thing because it came back to bite me in the ass. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie since bringing Mr. Ford home from the hospital. I’ve learned to never say never, i.e. “I’ll never give Ford formula.” or “OMG, I can’t imagine giving Ford a 6 oz bottle! That’s way too much food!” Ugh. Bitter ass humble pie.
Look at that face! He’s certainly not missing a meal. He’s content with the boob or bottle. As long as he gets it when he wants it. When he’s hungry, he just wants to eat NOW.
What about you? Did your breastfeeding journey have some ups & (lots of) downs?