F is for Formula

Harry a couple days after starting formula

I was breastfed. My siblings were breastfed so when my older sister had her daughter and couldn’t breastfeed I assumed it was an isolated incident and not something I’d ever have to worry about. I was so wrong. Try as I might, my journey in breast feeding ended after a short 6 weeks.
Most of the 2 days we spent in the hospital was spent learning to latch. I spent hours in the middle of the night with nurses teaching me their tricks and offering formula for my quickly dehydrating little dude. I wasn’t going to have it. I was determined to feed my baby from my breast and he wasn’t going to touch that horrible “fake milk”!
When I got home my milk started to come in and we were finally able to get some stuff flowing into that little belly. We were still having issues latching but everything seemed to be working out ok and we were gonna get the hang of this.
After about 3 weeks I was having to feed so often that I was stuck to the couch. I couldn’t go anywhere without my starving baby screaming at the top of his lungs. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t keep up with his demand and forget even trying to find time to pump. On top of this Harry always had horrible gas. I felt like the worst mom in the world! But I was determined to make this breastfeeding thing work. I wasn’t going to have my baby “suffer cause I gave up”.
At our 6 week check up our pediatrician was concerned with Harry’s lack of weight gain. He was a pound less than they would have liked to be at that age. That coupled with the constant gas the doctor suggested trying to supplement with formula. Again, I wasn’t having that. “If my body can make a baby, it can sure the heck sustain that baby!” He mentioned that he was concerned that Harry may be allergic to something in my milk and put me on a special diet to see if we could pinpoint the issue. This diet entailed me eating pretty much nothing but bread and water.
I was so determined to breastfeed that I would have gone along with that, as impossible as it seemed. When I got home I looked at my little boy, as he uncomfortably slept next to me suckling the air and scowling. I realized for the first time how thin he really was, he didn’t look healthy and he didn’t seem healthy. I talked to my mom and sister and (one who would never formula feed and one who didn’t have much choice). All I could do was weep at the idea that I failed my baby. I couldn’t do something that should have come so naturally. I was devastated at the thought of not breast feeding. My sister bought me a can of formula and encouraged me to try it and see how it went.
So we went home, I made a bottle and swallowed my pride. Harry immediately latched and finished the 4oz bottle in just under 5 minutes. He looked like a puppy who hadn’t eaten in 3 days. I wept. I felt like such a failure. I was starving my baby and didn’t even know it. The next day I fed him again and wept again. (I wept every feeding for the next 2 days) By the end of day 2 I noticed less gas, less frequent feedings. I could leave the couch! Most of all I noticed that my baby was happy! It tore me apart to know that it wasn’t me making my baby happy but I didn’t even care at that point. My baby was happy and healthy too! He was even sleeping better. That’s all that mattered to me. How could I be a failure if I had a happy baby? After a week of formula, harry was quickly catching up with his weight percentile and looking like a happy healthy baby.

If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Seek help but don’t be ashamed to give up if you need to.

For breastfeeding support and information check out La Leche League International

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