For the record, I am completely supportive of both breastfeeding and formula feeding. I have friends that are on both sides of the debate, and I am happy to support all moms in their efforts to feed their children. I think all moms should choose what works for them without ridicule from others.
Without further Ado, my breastfeeding journey.
I was going to breastfeed indefinitely. The matter was not up for discussion. I returned all the bottles bought by the less informed guests at my baby shower and stocked up on nursing pads and nipple cream. I took classes, I read books, I researched, and I waited. Unfortunately, life had other plans.
My difficult pregnancy turned into a nightmare delivery when my son’s umbilical cord completely prolapsed. His umbilical cord was crushed between his head and my pelvic bone which resulted in a traumatic emergency cesarean. Hours later, I woke up alone in recovery. I had no idea if my baby survived and breastfeeding was far from my first concern. My son was about four hours old when I was first permitted to hold him, due to excessive blood loss, and several more hours passed before I was allowed to attempt breastfeeding. I was given no help with concern to breastfeeding, and quickly realized I was in over my head. My hungry baby could not latch or suck and was quickly carried off to be bottle fed in the nursery. I was given no explanation nor was I coherent enough to ask for one.
I experienced the worst pain of my entire life while breastfeeding. I screamed in sheer agony and cried for my own mother. I begged and pleaded with the lactation consultant to help me fix this, but she said I was just being dramatic. The nurses told me that post delivery hormones were to blame and upped my pain medication. I began to dread breastfeeding. I tensed up when they brought my already starving baby to me. The moment he tried to latch I would cry out and start shaking. Soon, I began sending the nurses away rather than suffer one more time. I began pumping with a little manual pump and cup feeding him. I was determined to give him breast milk despite all that was against me.
By the end of the week the lactation consultant told me I should give up and just pump because I was not cut out for breastfeeding. My nipples were black and bleed constantly. I was trying my hardest to get my son to latch all while attached to an IV pain drip. I cried. I bled. I gave up. I tried again. It was a vicious cycle. I was delirious most nights with pain and heavy narcotics. I began hallucinating and shaking in my sleep. I had never imagined things would end up like this. I had only been a mother for a little less than a week and already I was failing miserably.
I was released from the hospital nearly a week after I checked in. I left against medical advice because I could not stand one more day there. I wanted to sleep in my own bed without nursing coming in every half hour to wake me up. I came home with the mindset to give breastfeeding a fresh start. I pumped every two hours religiously and tried getting my son to latch every time. He always refused and screamed. I did my best to keep up with his demand, but I failed there too. He needed more milk than I could produce pumping, so we supplemented. I hated giving him formula, but I could not refuse a starving baby. And he was starving. My son began losing even more weight and starting to sleep through feedings. He became lethargic and difficult to wake. I pumped and pumped with no avail, but I did not want to give in to formula.
Our first pediatric appointment was four days after we left the hospital. I was hoping for some encouragement from our doctor and possibly some good advice on the breastfeeding front. I was nervous but excited to share my determination to breastfeed. My pediatrician told me that if I did not give him full bottles formula he would diagnose him with failure to thrive and admit him back into the hospital. He had lost so much weight that he could barely stay awake long enough to eat anything. He gobbled down his first full bottle of formula without even stopping for air. I knew then what I had to do. I continued pumping with little hope of success. Eventually my supply ran out. I was devastated and felt like an even bigger failure as a mother, but I also felt a new sense of freedom. I was no longer strapped to the pump every two to three hours. I could leave the house by myself and have others sit for my son. I felt like a human being again. It was wonderful for that first week of formula feeding. And then the guilt set in.
My failure to breastfeed coupled with the traumatic delivery sent me into a deep depression. My family was supportive, but my friends felt like I gave up too soon on breastfeeding. Though none of them experienced the problems I had. I felt ashamed of my bottles and often hid when feeding my son in public. The more I read up on breastfeeding, the more I felt like a failure. My LLL friends were no help with their anti-formula articles and blog posts. I looked everywhere for bottle feeding support, but I found none.
Those first six months were the worst of my life. I turned all my frustration inward and began obsessing over my failures. I kept telling myself that it would get better, but it never stayed that way for long. Finally, when my son was nearly eight months old I went to the doctor to talk about postpartum depression. I started on medicine the very same day and haven’t looked back since. I finally feel like I am the mother I was meant to be.
Now I look at formula as a blessing. It turned out to be the best option for my son. He is now a healthy ten-month-old with thighs so big you’d never guess he was ever starving. Now, I shake up my bottles with pride in public and always flash a smile at other moms doing the same.
If you are struggling with FF and want to read more stories like mine, head on over to FFF:http://fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com/