Well Fed

This is a post a wrote a year ago. I had received many e-mails and messages from moms who found this post and it helped them. It is World Breastfeeding awareness week/month and I know it can be a difficult time for moms who were unable, or who chose not to breastfeed, so  I wanted to share it again. Please know that I am 100% supportive of breastfeeding, and think it is wonderful, but I also think that there needs to be support for all mothers, including those who formula feed.

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Something has been bothering me since Avery was born.

It’s one more aspect of the “Mommy Wars”

Breastfeeding Vs Formula Feeding.

Maybe I’m naive, but, I think the most important thing is that you are feeding your child. They are being nourished. They are alive. They are loved.

baby formula fed

I’ve told my story before, but I’ll tell it again.

When Avery was born we both had a lot of trouble getting the hang of things when it came to breastfeeding. I had been led to believe that it was “easy” and “natural” and that “every woman can do it, some just choose not to” Those statements could not be further from the truth.

In my two days at the hospital I had 7 different nurses showing me 7 different ways to get Avery to latch. She couldn’t. One nurse even grabbed Avery from me, in annoyance, and literally shoved her around on my chest as if I was a complete moron who just wasn’t doing it right. Avery was crying, I was crying, Dave was upset. The nurse left saying she’d get someone else to help me. She never came back. Apparently I was “too much” for her to deal with.

It wasn’t until I had been discharged, after crying to the pediatrician (who also, kindly, tried to help me) that I was finally able to see the lactation consultant. She was wonderful. She could see how upset I was. Avery was losing weight. She hadn’t eaten in two days, and I was visibly distraught. She sat on the bed, held my hand and said “I can see how important this is to you, we’ll figure this out together. It isn’t easy for you or Avery, you’re both learning something new” She helped me, calmly, without judgement, and I was so grateful to her. Avery latched.

But then we had to go home.

At home, I again, couldn’t get Avery to latch. I was upset, and we gave her formula, because no mother, in her right mind, would allow her baby to starve. The next day I got a phone call from a visiting nurse program. Did I want a nurse to come? At first I said “no” but then I asked “Can they help me with breastfeeding?” and the woman told me they’d send the nurse lactation consultant to see me the next day. When she arrived she asked me a few questions, had me show her what we were doing, and said “Hmmm I think I may know whats wrong” She put on gloves, asked if she could see Avery for a minute, and stuck her finger in Avery’s mouth. “Yup…there’s the issue…Did she have her hand in her mouth a lot when she was in the womb? Did you see that in sonograms?” I had. Almost every sono showed Avery with one hand in her mouth. Turns out this had caused her upper palette to grow a bit “funny” and THAT was the reason she couldn’t latch. She wasn’t physically able to. Apparently it is not uncommon, and using a shield solved the issue immediately. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE ELSE CHECK FOR THIS?!

So I thought we were good to go! Avery could latch!! Breastfeeding was going to work out!! Hooray! But she would nurse for HOURS on each side, and scream and cry when I’d take her off. She wasn’t getting any milk.

So we started with eating oatmeal and drinking mothers milk tea (friends said “just drink more water” but according to the lactation consultant, it really wont do much to increase supply unless you start off really dehydrated) that didn’t work, so we started pure fenugreek pills. I smelled like maple syrup, but no increase. We tried pumping every hour for 48 hours. I was trapped in the house, with a newborn who had her own schedule, trying to pump on a totally different schedule, for two full days (including at night) Nothing. My supply was even lower. When I started I’d get an ounce. By the end of that week I’d get less than a quarter of an ounce.

Then we tried Reglan. A DRUG with scary and horrific side effects like Depression, seizures, swelling, oh and uncontrollable head/neck/facial twitching that can often be permanent.  I took the risk. I felt desperate and it was supposed to bring in milk for everyone. EVERYONE.  Except me.  It didn’t work on me. Nothing.

This all went on for months. I was depressed. I had severe anxiety. I was an emotional mess and in that state, a terrible wife and mother so I decided to “give up”

This entire time Avery was on formula she was growing, and thriving. She was meeting and exceeding milestones, she was never sick. All the things that I had worried about, all the “evils” I had read about formula were not true, AT ALL.

I had to think about the fact that if we were animals, Avery wouldn’t have survived. I would have failed her because of my “lactation failure” (a medical term I really hate–nothing like a doctor calling you a failure!) But because we’re human, because of formula, she was able to eat, and survive and thrive.

I was “OK” with the decision to stop trying to breastfeed. I was “OK” with feeding Avery formula. I’m still “OK” with it, but I am not “OK ” with moms who feel the need to put down those of us who can not, or choose not to breastfeed.

baby drinking bottle formula

I’ve gotten dirty looks while mixing bottles. I’ve had people say “Oh! You don’t breast feed?” as if it is such a huge shock. I see friends post photos on Facebook that tell me that Formula, and in turn, my mothering is “Sub-par”…less than. Others claim that it’s so rare that a woman has no milk supply that it must have been my “fault” That I didn’t drink enough water, or eat enough oatmeal. I “must not have tried hard enough” I’ve had women tell me that what I SHOULD have done, was to get breast milk from another mother, rather than use formula. I’m sorry, that is not for me. I know other women do this, and they have breast milk banks, but personally, I can’t imagine having my child drinking something that came out of another woman. That is absolutely not an option for us.

Since I’ve told my story, I have heard from multiple other mothers who had similar experiences. They all felt like they weren’t good enough, like they couldn’t cut it. They were made to feel this way by other moms. They KNEW they were doing what was best for their child (feeding them!) but they were being told it was bad, and they believed it.

I wish that in the push to promote breastfeeding, moms and “lactivists” wouldn’t put down the formula feeding moms.

I know breast milk is “better” It’s natural. It even says on the formula container that “Experts agree that there are many benefits to breast milk” I fully understand that, that’s why I CHOSE to TRY to breast feed. But, despite the studies, I don’t think it makes much of difference in the long-term. My child won’t be stupid because she was formula fed, just like a breastfed kid wont be smart just because he was breastfed. Avery did not get sick once during her first year of life. Not once. She didn’t even catch the nasty stomach bug that landed Dave in the hospital. Some of her breastfed buddies have been sick once or twice (or more) a month. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think it is possible to truly evaluate the differences because each person, each situation is completely different. I truly believe that your environment has far more to do with your intelligence than what you eat the first year of your life. But, I’m not a doctor. I just know that I was always pretty darn smart, and as an adopted kid, I obviously was formula fed. Maybe, if I had been breastfed, I’d have gone to Harvard, rather than The College of Saint Rose, but I guess we’ll never know.

What I do know, is that you can’t tell the difference between a child who was breastfed and a child who was formula fed.

I fully support moms who breastfeed. I think it is an absolutely wonderful thing. I loved it. I was blessed that it never hurt. It was nice for Avery. When we realized there was no milk, she would still nurse as a way to calm down if she was having a total meltdown. She never had “nipple confusion” It was great. I just wish there was support for those of us who can’t (or who, for whatever PERSONAL reason, choose not to) Women are told that it is “easy” and they shouldn’t be having so much trouble with something that is so natural. I’ve heard women refer to formula as “poison” I’ve heard horror stories from women who have gone to La Leche League meetings to seek help, and been made to feel like utter failures. These are people who are supposed to be a support, they are not supposed to be bullies. Women need to know that it is OK to use formula, even if it may not be their ideal

While I am emotionally fine with Avery having formula, there are many moms who are not. I think it’s really sad that a woman should feel like she’s not a good enough mother because of what she’s feeding her child. I don’t think any woman should feel the way I did for those first couple months. We need to support each other. Being a new mom is hard enough, we put enough pressure on ourselves without the added pressure of judgement from other moms.

Moms, please feel free to share your stories. This is a safe place, and no one will judge you. Any negative comments will be deleted.

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