I think it’s been well established that breastfeeding is the healthiest thing for your child. Even the formula people will tell you this. Everyone and their mother (pun intended) will tell you this. I was on board with this train, I still am but the thing is…this is a ride that I couldn’t get on.
Okay, so I’m sure the great boob debate has been written about over and over. I’m not breaking new ground here. I’m just here to offer my perspective and more importantly implore us to stop judging formula moms, or each other in general. People ask all the time are you breastfeeding? The answer is No, and I’m tired of having to feel so defensive, explaining my whole spiel about why I couldn’t. I wanted to breast feed, I just couldn’t and believe me I tried.
The last few months of my pregnancy were extremely difficult. (You can read about that here: T-Minus 9 Months Part – 2 & T-Minus 9 Months Part – 3) I was induced two weeks early. It wasn’t my choice either, I advocated to try to wait it out but my doctor ruled it out. Induction it was. My labour was long and difficult. I was induced May 10th at 10am. My water broke 6:30pm. I didn’t deliver until May 11th @3:58pm. After delivery, I was bleeding out. They were starting to get concerned, they kicked everyone out of the room, started giving me drugs to stem the bleeding. (Stop Here if you’re squeamish: They had another doctor come in and with his hand, reach into me and start scooping out blood clots. By this time the epidural was wearing off and this hurt.) I ended up losing 40 percent of my blood, and this left me anaemic months after James was born.
In the hospital, I attempting to breast feed. But it was not going well. James wasn’t latching properly. Everytime I think back to this time, I get so mad. I had nurses trying to help me left, right and center, but only to breast feed. Each one of them had different advice and at times it was contradicting. It was a confusing time. I had them commenting on the size and shape of my breasts and nipples. I had them actually hand extracting colostrum for me. We had to remain the hospital because James kept testing borderline for Jaundice. The thing about Jaundice is that only way to get over it or not fully develop it is to eat. So eventually they gave us formula to supplement. I would get an empty syringe, fill it with 10 ml of formula, stick a small hollow tube in it, tape the syringe to my chest and tape the tube to my nipple. I had to buy a nipple shield from the hospital in attempt to get him latch. It did help to get him to latch. But still we remained in the hospital because he was still testing borderline. Eventually, they let us go home with the caveat to return to get tested a few days later.
Once at home, James was still not latching and I had no idea if I was actually making any milk. My baby needed to eat to get better and he needed to eat in general. So we gave him formula at home. We went out and bought a double electric breast pump and I started pumping. A couple of days later we went back to the hospital and he was testing better, not in the clear. I was pumping and he was getting formula. I wasn’t producing very much milk. All the while this was going on I was still very weak and sick. I had developed a fever. I was in and out of the emergency room for next couple of weeks. I was still heavily bleeding. While I still trying to get better, I was trying to boost my milk supply. I went out and bought fenugreek and blessed thistle to take. I was taking my placenta pills. (Post here: Yes, I ate my Placenta ) With every meal I was taking 10 pills in order to boost my supply. The blessed thistle wrecked havoc on my stomach, couple that with all my other ailments. Yet, through all this I continued to pump, producing very little. He would get maybe 10ml of breast milk per bottle.
Things eventually came to a head, on one of my visits to the hospital. My liver tested off. Apparently I had symptoms of HELLP syndrome postpartum. (It’s a complication of preeclampsia and it can destroy your liver as well it’s life threatening) In addition to this, I was still heavily bleeding. I was bleeding, had a fever and was very weak. At this point they became very concerned that I had possibly retained a piece of my placenta. So I was scheduled for an emergency ultrasound. The morning before said ultrasound I passed a massive clot. (Squeamish Alert: It was the size of my fist, and at the time I didn’t know if was a clot or that piece of my placenta, so I had to take it to the hospital with me) After I had passed this clot, I had my ultrasound, they said they didn’t see anything except for a couple more clots that will need to pass. The doctor said that it in fact a blood clot and not placenta. I think the worst part about this was, I had to be away from James because there was no way I was taking to the emergency room with me.
Once that clot passed, things started to get better, bleeding wise. I was still weak and extremely fatigued. James was getting formula and whatever little breast milk I was able to pump. I hated pumping, I hated it so much. James wouldn’t latch anymore, he’d discovered the bottle was way less work and probably more food. I kept trying, researching different methods. I tried giving him some of his bottle and then offering my breast. I tried in the bathtub. I tried whenever I thought he might be hungry. No dice. So I resigned myself to taking the herbs that were making me sick and pumping. As I kept pumping I started making less and less milk. By the end of month two, my husband and I made the call to stop pumping. It was too stressful for me, I was still sick and realistically James wasn’t getting much milk to begin with. It just took such a toll on me, my frustration at seemingly not being able to do something that should be so natural. The guilt that I wasn’t giving my baby the best, sometimes it still eats at me.
That’s my story. This is why I am an advocate for fed is best. At the end of the day, my child is thriving. He’s doing extremely well. I did what I had to do in order to ensure he was healthy. I wished I could have breastfed but honestly some good things came out of not being able to. My husband got to feed James on a regular basis, he got to build a relationship from the earliest of days. Yet, despite all this, I still find myself shamed.
Most parents groups, breast feeding is the only way. You either are a bad parent, lazy or didn’t try hard enough and honestly sometimes I wonder if I didn’t. Except, that I know I did. I used to drive myself crazy about this. I would get so jealous when Moms would post pictures of their breast milk stashes. My doctor was the one who said, do not beat yourself up over this. The problem is that while I wholeheartedly agree that breastfeeding should be the first option, it’s not the only option. Science does back up breast milk as the better option. A whole new job has been created for the breast feeding push. (Lactation Consultant) They say that first world Moms, aren’t trying hard enough and not being able to breast feed is a result of lack of latching and being provided proper techniques. While this may be true, there are those who are legitimately unable to breast feed. The amount of guilt and shame that comes from this is massive. It is subliminally ingrained in us that anything less than breast milk is a failure.
The point is, that we need to encourage and teach Moms, to feed their children in whatever way we can. I was completely unprepared on how to deal with formula, because it was never considered as an option. As Mothers, we have so much to deal with, so many emotions especially right after birth. I am unsure as to why a fed is best approach can’t be adopted. One that emphasizes breastfeeding and everything should be done to make that happen. But in the event for whatever reason you are unable to do this, here is a completely viable option. It’s important that we work to reduce a mother’s stress and not add to it. More over, we need to stop making assumptions and judgements about whether or not a mother is breastfeeding and why or why not. We should support each other in raising healthy and happy children. If you are breastfeeding, be proud and enjoy. I just want the same opportunity as a formula mom.