It took me a long time to decide to write this for fear of criticism, which when you think about it is really, really, sad. I shouldn’t feel like I can’t speak about something on my own blog because it’s considered “taboo”. I have always had the policy here on THLS that if something in my personal experience can help someone else, I should share it. If I am being honest with myself, I KNOW my story will help others, even if it brings criticism, so here goes nothing.
I always knew I would breastfeed, there was no question or doubt in my mind. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s free, it burns extra calories, and above all else is the healthiest choice for my baby. I had heard stories about it being hard, but just like most things in life, you never think it will be hard for YOU or that YOU would have a problem outside of your control.
I was prepared before baby came. I read two breastfeeding books, bought a pump, pillow, and all the gear and accessories. I was ready. Or so I thought. I had the “knowledge” so I wouldn’t fall prey to some of the common first time mom issues. Ha.
After Emma Kate was born, I told the nurses I wanted to try and feed her before they took her back to have a bath etc. That first experience was less than stellar. Being stitched up while dry heaving into a bucket while the nurses hold your baby onto you so she can eat is not exactly how I envisioned things. They took her away after and brought her back a couple of hours later. The nurse helped me, and told me it would hurt. She showed me how to position and latch her correctly, and she ate, and it was painful. Two hours later, a different nurse came in giving me HER tips, which were completely different from the first nurse. I was half asleep, on pain medicine, and really fuzzy and sleep deprived. Each new nurse that came in gave me new instructions and tips, and I was so confused and overwhelmed.
Seriously don’t even remember this picture being taken.
When Emma Kate was born, she weighed eight pounds seven ounces. When we left the hospital, she weighed eight pounds even and the doctor didn’t think anything of it. We were to come back in two days for a weight check and no one was concerned. Meanwhile, I fed her on demand which was every two hours and she would eat for nearly an hour. I thought surely with her eating for SO long she is gaining a ton of weight.
At her first weight check
Now, let’s talk about the damage. In the meantime, I apparently was dealing with a very bad latcher. I first was really sore, then started bleeding (the baby was spitting up my blood, it was pretty gross). We went to her weight check up, and she had lost weight and was down to seven pounds thirteen ounces. I was devastated, how was this possible? My milk had come in that morning, so the nurse chalked it up to that and told me to come back in two more days. Baby EK was jaundiced though and had to have a heel stick. I felt so guilty. If I had fed her enough, she wouldn’t be having to have the heel stick and wouldn’t be screaming in pain.
I thought now for sure things would be fine because my milk had come in. I fed her even MORE often, determined to have that scale move. I was still in a lot of pain, and every time she would cry to eat, I would cry and panic because I knew I was about to be in even more pain. I soldiered through and we made it to the next weigh in. I was NOT confident in my positioning and latch, but I WAS confident that Emma had gained weight. I mean, why wouldn’t she? Eating for an hour at a time, every two hours, why should I NOT be confident? I was sick to my stomach as she was put on the scale. I would NOT make her have another heel stick. She would gain weight….
She was down to seven pounds ten ounces. I wanted to throw up. I immediately burst into tears. I had basically been nursing around the clock for 48 hours, was exhausted, and she was LOSING weight? The lactation consultant who was there was an absolute ANGEL. She was so sweet and encouraging and said we would figure it out. She brought me to another room and helped me get her latched…and gave me some pointers. As soon as she saw the “damage” she said “oh my goodness I have no idea how you are still doing this! Most people would have stopped several days ago!” She was sssoooo wonderful and helpful. We discussed my diet, water intake, and everything seemed fine, but for some reason I just didn’t seem to be producing enough. EK refused the nipple shield so that was no help.
They wanted to see her again in two days, and suggested I start pumping and supplementing to get her weight up. I of course felt so guilty my baby was practically starving, so I started supplementing right away at night. I started pumping, and would pump for 25 minutes and only get 1.5 ounces total, an ounce from one side and half an ounce from the other. That is when I figured out something was wrong with my supply. Up until that point I was only going by time EK spend eating, but apparently she wasn’t getting much of anything. I kept feeding on demand and supplementing at night, and pumping 3-4 times a day after feedings…and my output was not getting any better, and I was losing my mind. I went back to the hospital for a weight check, and she HAD gained weight, back up to seven pounds thirteen ounces, but since we were supplementing I knew the truth, she probably would have lost more if she was exclusively breastfeeding.
I talked to the consultant again and told her I had surgery on my right side back in college and we think some of my milk ducts got cut which was not helping the situation on that side. I was told to try some home remedies, and keep pumping, but that there was no shame in supplementing or switching to formula. I can’t even tell you how many tears I cried those next couple of weeks, they are some of the worst of my life which…is sad because I had a new baby and should have been able to enjoy it. I got anxiety attacks when it was time for her to eat because I was still hurting so badly. I then got a clogged duct to add to the fun, and pumping was still not going well. Emma still had not gained back to birth weight at her two week appointment, and the doctor was getting concerned. Home remedies didn’t work, pumping output was not increasing, and it was so time consuming to get so little.
You can see how yellow/orange she was here.
Sadly, if it wasn’t for the stigma around formula (let’s face it, some blogs and readers/commenters make you feel like crap for giving formula) then I probably could have saved a lot of tears and frustrations. I battled mentally for two weeks trying to decide what to do. I read blogs and websites, and talked to friends and family. They all reminded me I was formula fed and turned out just fine, and I have zero allergies or medical issues. They pointed out formula saves babies lives every day, and at least I cared enough to try as hard as I did and worry so much about it. I knew they were right, but I still felt like a failure. This was something I was supposed to be able to do. I had failed my baby, and was not able to provide her the best food. I made myself so sick about it, and the guilt kept me up at night.
I finally decided I couldn’t handle the frustration and emotional roller coaster, or have my baby not thrive because of me. I had open wounds on my nipples that were not healing, my baby was constantly hungry, and nothing was getting better. So, after just over a month, I quit breastfeeding. You guys, I cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt, it was like a HUGE burden was lifted off of me and I was able to be myself again. It took over another month for me to heal physically, and the emotional side, the guilt still rises up sometimes. The doctor wanted to see Emma Kate at 3.5 weeks, and she had gained an ounce a day, so we knew the formula was working and there wasn’t something else wrong.
I can honestly say Emma Kate has not missed a beat. At her two month appointment she had jumped from the 50th weight percentile to 68th percentile, so homegirl definitely is not starving anymore! She loves to eat, and it’s so nice that others can feed her and I don’t have to worry about how long we are out, or when I need to pump, etc.
If anything, I want to apologize to you, my readers for waiting so long to discuss this. It’s such a shame that I felt like as a healthy living blogger I was “bad” or “wrong” for giving my baby formula. Do I believe breast is best? From a completely nutritional standpoint, of course. But if your baby is starving, then no, I do not believe it is best. I gave it my best shot, and got her over a month of breast milk. I am proud of that fact, and I am proud of my beautiful, healthy baby girl that is formula fed.
I don’t care if you breastfeed or formula feed, no mom should be made to feel bad or guilty for how they give nutrition to their baby (as long as is breast milk or formula of course!) Breastfeeding mamas go through it too, whether it’s nursing in public or the duration they choose to breastfeed. Let’s STOP the madness and support each other. Being a mom is hard enough work, so why make someone else feel like a lesser mom? I KNOW there are other moms out there feeling guilty or like a failure like I did. I hope you know you are not alone, and you are NOT doing anything wrong. You love and care for your child and want what is best for them, what is best for your family, and what will give them the nutrition that they need. Keep on keeping on girlfriend!
QOTD: Have you ever felt bad or guilty for the way you fed/feed your baby?