Breast or Bottle?

from northernhealth.ca

This is the magical image I had in my mind when my son was born. When pregnant, I imagined that I would pick him up, latch him on and breastfeeding would just happen.  We would bond as I lovingly fed my child and he would be healthy and full and we would both be happy.  

Shit. Was I wrong!

Even when other women told me it would be tough, when the nurse from the birthing course said it would be difficult – I really didn’t understand what that meant until I lived it.

I wish I would have read this Open Letter to the Breastfeeding New Mom by mlittlef on BlogHer when I was trying desperately to breastfeed my son.

It was the hardest, most difficult experience of my life. Engorged breasts, sore nipples and a child that would just not latch.  Even after seeing lactation consultants, breastfeeding nurses, and reading like a fiend – all I knew was that “breast is best” and I wasn’t able to breastfeed.  So I was not doing what was best for my child.  And, it broke my heart and spirit.

Three weeks of little to no sleep, of constantly having a baby fall asleep at my breast, of waking him up and latching him on only to have him fall asleep again within a minute.  I was lost.  Do I let him sleep and just feed him when he wakes up? NO! He’ll lose weight and everyone knows, the greater the demand the greater the supply.  He must be fed every 3 hours. Sometimes, one feeding cycle would lead right into the next.  It was physically and emotionally exhausting.

I tried to pump.  After an hour at the pump, I would produce less than an ounce of milk. It was so disheartening. I was riddled by guilt, self-deprecation, and anger.  Why wasn’t this working for me?  Why couldn’t I feed my son?  As someone who is accustomed to being in control this was a shock.  How was I not able to make this work?  Why was I not in control? I am positive now that my stress-level certainly didn’t help the situation.

I couldn’t do it any longer; I introduced formula.  *gasp* from lactation consultants everywhere.  But, my sanity at this point was more important.

from whattoexpect

Suddenly, everything fell into place.  I held him close to my chest, I stared into his beautiful eyes, I sang and connected to my little one in ways I couldn’t during breastfeeding because I was so stressed.

Regardless, with each bottle of formula, the statistics kept nagging me.  That my baby would be healthier and smarter with breast milk, whereas formula would make my child more prone to illness and childhood obesity etc etc etc.

I reminded myself that my son was thriving and looking much happier.  He needed a mommy that wasn’t frazzled and full of self-loathing.  He needed me to be well and relaxed so he could be happy and relaxed.

I can joyfully say that my 4 year old son is healthy, happy, eats very well, is very smart and clever and fun, and has a healthy weight and height.  Still…every so often…I wonder what would it have been like had I stuck it out, seen it through…I feel a little stab every time I see a new mom happily breastfeeding her baby.  Fortunately, my son’s sunny personality reminds me that I’ve done alright by him.

Baby number two is on her way (yes, I found out it’s a girl!  more about that in another post since I was so adamant about not finding out here). As we prepare her room, and I try to remain as healthy as I can for her arrival, I cannot help but think about the few weeks after she is born.

I will attempt to breastfeed my daughter as I did my son. Only this time I will do so with the knowledge that my best, my love, and my patience will get me through a most trying time.  I will ask for more help and support.  I will not torture myself. And, as with my little guy, I will do everything in my power to ensure she is healthy, happy and feels oh so loved.  That is all I can plan for – the rest will take care of itself.

What was your baby-feeding experience like?  Any helpful words of support for women who are trying to or intend to breastfeed (or not!)?  Share your thoughts below.

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10 thoughts on “Breast or Bottle?

  1. My first was a boy also, and I was too young to even understand any of it! I tried breastfeeding, but it NEVER worked, and I was so frustrated I felt insane. I had all the nagging in my head too – breast is best! I tried the pump – nothing. I eventually went to formula and then out of nowhere my milk came in and WOULD. NOT. STOP. Tried both again, and nothing -???? My doctors were stumped too. Tried a different type of pump and SHAZAM! … but it literally took months for me to dry out once I was done; painful months. My second was a girl as well, and it went much smoother. It started out fine but became so painful I literally had to grit my teeth and try not to scream … and she was a natural birth, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t take a little discomfort. I ended up back on the pump, but had to cut it short because I kept getting infections, so she was mostly a formula baby. At that point I knew I had tried everything in my power. I think with her being the second baby I had already gotten over the “I Musts” you have with the first one, and I just accepted it – It made life a lot easier for all of us. – Good luck to you and you’re little one. Each pregnancy and experience is completely different, and I wish you the best!
    Here from NaBlo

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    • Thanks so much! As it says in article I link to, I think it is so important to just talk and reveal our experiences. It lightens the load and helps us feel less alone. I am trying not to get too anxious about baby #2. Thanks for reading. Will check out your NaBlo post.

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  2. I breast fed for 8 months. My story might help those who choose not to breast feed or do not succeed.
    I had my one and only child at the age of 39. I prepared with a lactation consultant and I attended when needed, not regularly a lactation group. My son latched with ease and I thought it was a shoe in for a magical easy year. 6 weeks he started to have the most horrific skin issues, the ugly word was ECZEMA, I stuck to a strict diet avoiding so many things I later learned I did not need to avoid and incorporating others that were hurting him (at the time unbeknownst to me). At 10weeks I got mastitis, it was painful and a BIG hurdle but I toughed it out, painfully pumped the bad breast, fed my child with the good Breast and threw away the bad milk. I had a ton of milk and felt guilty that I could not find the balance to freeze save and donate.
    At exactly 8 months I had to take my son to a pediatrician who rough and not my regular. My pediatrician was traveling with his family, it was around the Easter Holidays. This man was not from the USA and his words were tough . It was the last straw and I decided to stop right then and there and the ‘substitute pediatrician’ told me to make sure I used a hypoallergenic breast feeding formula.
    I called the lactation consultant and she told me to put whit cabbage leaves on my breasts to dry the milk and my son cried but in a few hours adapted to the formula. Within DAYS his skin was magically beautiful he had been allergic to my milk, suffered needlessly for 8 months.
    Today my son is 15,westillcarry an Epi Pen although his food allergies are thankfully getting better and today there are many conflicting reports. http://breastfeeding.about.com/od/babyhealthissues/a/allergies.htm but when my son was at his most vulnerable in Kindergarten, studies claimed that breastfeeding exacerbated his anaphylactic level food allergies … He is a muscular strong kid who did had his first ear infection at the age of four, but his cousin’s whose mom did not succeed at breast feeding are just as impressible intelligent
    In 2013 there are Amazing baby formulas and every baby and mom is different be true to your needs and your child’s needs. No use crying over spilled milk (no pun intended) the truth is, if you are doing your best and loving your child, then you are a good mom and your child will thrive!
    Great post very genuine and so generous of you to share your story

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    • Thank you so much for contributing to an important conversation. I never even thought of babies being allergic to breast milk, that adds a whole new dimension to the difficulty. You are right. When we make our decisions with great love and our children’s well being in mind, we ultimately do our best for them. I appreciate the comment.

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  3. Just stopping by from your link at BlogHer! I’m seven months into breastfeeding my little boy (first baby) and I’ve been very, very lucky so far with no major issues (except some recent biting). But even with that there are challenges: being tired since Dad can’t feed baby in the middle of the night, feeling tied down, listening to well-meaning family members suggest ‘six months is enough,’ feeling isolated if baby’s too easily distracted to feed well with others around….etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be breastfeeding and wouldn’t change it. I guess my point is that there are way too many difficult things about motherhood to beat yourself up about those you can’t control or are unsure about. At least that’s what I tell myself everyday so I don’t constantly second guess my decisions! Thanks for your post.

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    • Very true. Especially since the second guessing and doubting go on at every stage… Should I have given in? Am I being consistent? It’s good to show my child that I’m flexible, right? Am I giving him a sense of entitlement by giving him options? It really is endless. The sooner we quell that inside voice that doubts our decisions the happier and more confident we become as mother which translates into happy, secure children. Thanks for reading! Will stop by your NaBloPoMo later today.

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  4. Breastfeeding is such a personal body context specific situation. I breastfed for 16 months and loved it. but i readily encouraged my sister to stop when it was causing her immense pain. I begged my friend to stop when anxiety over breastfeeding was causing too much harm. No one should judge women for whether they breastfeed or using formula. The love for a baby includes taking care of ones health. 🙂

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    • I agree absolutely. I think we are always our own worse critics. We need to love ourselves enough to accept all feeding options for a newborn and to know that our love for them includes caring for ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Pingback: She’s Here! | Book Marks by Karen Mesa

  6. Pingback: Mommy Mondays: Bottle or Breast? This Time, Breast. | Book Marks by Karen Mesa

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