As a new mother, in 2013, the "Breast Is Best" campaign was in full swing. I was constantly being asked, in a not so subtle way, if I planned on breastfeeding. Of course I wanted to, that was what was BEST for my baby right? And it was a natural, maternal thing that was sure to come easy to me, right? Wrong...
If you read Nathan's birth story, then you know that he was taken my helicopter to a different hospital with a NICU just 3 hours after he was born. While we were separated, I tried to pump and the nurses (over)fed him formula... I am sure that does not happen to every NICU baby, but they fed Nathan a full 2 ounces! Now reminder, I am at a different hospital, Jeremy is there and is trusting the professionals, and they just told him wow he as hungry. A newborn baby has the stomach the size of a cherry... so I am not exaggerating when I say they over-fed him.
By the time my sweet baby was back in my arms and we took him home, he really was hungry. He was drinking a full 2-3oz at each feeding. I was still pumping, but barely getting anything and my milk didn't come in until about 2 weeks after I delivered - and yes I saw a lactation consultant. She was lovely, had lots of good tips, but I just felt so overwhelmed. She encouraged me to breastfeed as much as I could and not feed to much from the bottle. I needed Nathan to nurse so my body would produce. I was willing to do anything to give him what I thought was best.
After my lactation appointment, very little sleep and lots of frustration this is what the scene looked like... I was topless, Nathan was in his diaper (so we could so skin-to-skin) I was trying to get him to latch and we were both in tears. It was insane. I felt like throwing up or passing out- probably both. My mom gently took Nathan away from me, fed him a bottle, and I went in the shower and cried some more. This was NOT how it was supposed to be.
From that moment on, I exclusively pumped... for 4 months I hooked myself up the that dreaded machine like clockwork and waited and waited. I would barley get one ounce - from both breasts! By this point you can imagine how much my very hungry little boy was eating. There was no way that I could keep up. And then there was the day that I knocked over my one precious ounce of breast milk- and you better believe I cried over it. I felt like such a failure in so many ways. Eventually, I gave up pumping and it was such a relief. Even though breastfeeding with Nathan was such a nightmare, I thought surely the reason was our circumstances from the beginning of our feeding journey. I knew that when I had Luke, I was sure to be a breastfeeding success... again I was very wrong.
I ordered a fantastic breast pump (thank you insurance!) I was confident and I was ready to be a breastfeeding superstar. Luke was born (you can also go read his birth story) and it was like a dream. Everything was going really well at the hospital. He was latching, truly latching which Nathan never did. It felt so weird, but I knew that is was the first step to my gold medal - duh! We confidently checked out and headed home, not a drop of formula in sight. That first night home ... nightmare. I was in so much pain from my c-section, both boys needed me and I was exhausted. Luke refused to latch, he screamed and cried most of the night. Nathan insisted on being close to me, so I was standing, bouncing Luke (not recommend after a c-sectoin oooowwww) and holding Nathan's hand at the same time while he laid on the couch. I told my mom this is what people needed to see a picture of, because it didn't get more real life than that.
The next morning we took Luke to his check-up and learned that he had lost over a pound. I felt my stomach drop. He was still crying, so fussy and I could not get him to latch. Our doctor gave him a tiny, instant formula bottle right there in the office. She said he was literally starving. She also said it was not my fault, but that is not how it felt. Again I felt like throwing up, but I just sat there and cried and I watched my sweet, innocent baby guzzle down that bottle. I was literally the worst mom in the world. How could I let that happen? We left the doctor office with lots of the free sample cans of formula. I still tried to breastfeed for a couple of weeks, unsuccessfully. I pumped, again, like clockwork and still barely got any results. After discussing it, Jeremy and I decided that it would be best for me to just stop. I hated, absolutely hated, everything to do with pumping/breastfeeding. I felt sticky and miserable all the time. I was also not able to actually feed my baby, so it was not worth the misery, frustration, anxiety and guilt I was putting myself through.
If God ever blesses us with more children, I will not be breastfeeding. That baby will go right to formula, and I will not feel even an ounce of guilt. I know that my body can not feed my babies. I am so incredibly thankful we live in a time where there are lots of smart people making the best formulas possible to feed babies. Breast is not best .... FED is best. I will never let my choices for my children be dictated by what everyone else seems to push. Living with chronic migraine I have become very aware of what my body can handle, but I realized through this situation that I need to transfer that awareness of myself to other aspects of my life and my body. I will honor my boundaries and I will not make myself feel less-than for doing so. Thankfully we are seeing a shift that supports the feeding choices of each mother as an individual. Breast, bottle, formula, pump, combination - whatever you do, know that you are a good mom and I support you.