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why I chose to bottle-feed

Bottlefeeding2
So here it is: an explanation.  Not because I need to justify myself.  But for the comfort of moms out there who have been to hell and back with breastfeeding and feel the need to bury their head in shame when whipping out a bottle of (gasp!) formula for Baby.  Me, I'm pretty unashamed at this point, but I have my moments – the ones where I wish my bottle had I TRIED – HONEST! stamped on it.

It started with my oldest.  I just assumed that all I needed was the patience and fortitude to withstand those first couple of weeks of breastfeeding.  My milk didn't come in, and woman at the Le Leche League was little comfort – insisting that I NOT under any circumstance, feed my newborn a bottle.  What the Le Leche League could not know (that my motherly instincts were telling me) was that my poor little girl was starving.  By late the second day with no milk, I decided to supplement.  No one had given me "permission" but I was worried.  By the time we got to her pediatrician she was jaundiced and near hospitalization.  The nurse practicioner gave me some great breastfeeding help, as well as strict instructions to continue supplementing with a fast nipple to get her weight up.  Between breastfeeding, supplementing, and pumping, I got zero to no sleep and effectively lacerated my chest in pursuit of this ideal.  The nurse who followed up with me some weeks later could see I was desperate and needed someone's validation.  Mercifully, she gave me a gift: permission to stop.  She assured me I'd done everything any sane mother could have and that it was time to give it up.  She insisted that I would still bond, that my child would not come to hate me just because she was bottle-fed, and that everything would indeed be okay.  Besides, I planned to have a second child.  I could try again then.

I'll make that story more brief.  Same problem.  No milk, sleepless nights, lots of counting ounces and worrying about production, getting prescriptions, drinking tea, etc, etc, etc.  I basically missed truly enjoying those first weeks of my Ashlyn's life in pursuit of this breastfeeding thing.  But by the time I gave it up it was too late…Ashlyn was used to waking every two hours, I was starting to become sleep-deprived, and unwittingly on my way to a downward spiral.  At some point, between those sleepless first few weeks, and the sleepless weeks where Ashlyn started to "wake up," coupled with my insane idea that I should take ALL the nighttime feedings – I broke down altogether. To be fair, it wasn't just a lack of sleep.  It turns out there were other things going on.  But the sleep deprivation probably sent me over the edge.

Bottlefeeding 

This time around, I decided far in advance: my milk supply could feed a small country and I would still choose the bottle.  At this point I know bonding isn't dependent on breastfeeding (although I certainly see why mothers feel closer through such a nurturing experience).  If anything, I am more able to bond with and enjoy my Little Man because I don't have ounces and production and supply and "every two hours" hanging over my head.  I'm able to simply enjoy him. 

I'm the odd one out in my demographic, I know.  And I am entirely supportive of my breastfeeding friends who brave some really tough stuff in order to give that gift to their child.  But the gift I desperately wanted to give my children this time around was a sane, healthy mom.  I resented the idea that everyone who chooses to bottlefeed is somehow making a lazy, uneducated choice.  I stand steadfast in my decision, having looked at all of my options and weighing the possible risks (including another expensive outpatient stint in intensive therapy), and I choose sleep.  I choose the ability to run errands, to enlist the help of my husband in feeding, and a certain freedom to just stare at my guy during feeding and breathe him in without wincing in pain, checking his latch, and crossing my fingers that he got enough. 

I love the idea of breastfeeding…I know there are some things I'm missing out on.  But we've considered it all, and quickly concluded bottlefeeding was our healthiest option.  Because, as we all know, "if momma isn't happy…"

Adrienne - Girl. I hear ya. same.thing.here. My first little fella never latched on. My second – I went straight to the bottle and I enjoyed his infancy soooo much more. I harbored so much guilt and sorrow from not BF my first (mostly self imposed) that if it weren’t for my supportive hubbie I would have cracked. Ok – enought of that – blessings to you and your clan. May you enjoy a few sleep filled nights and TONS of sweet baby smiles. Thanks for always being so candid.

Cara - I’m not sure I’ve ever been more grateful to anyone than when my best-friend’s dear friend, a La Leche League member, told her “you and your child are the ones for whom formula was invented; use it and enjoy your baby.” She would really have liked to breast feed, but with that affirmation she really had done everything she was able to let go. I’m pregnant with my first and fully plan to breast feed. But, if its not in the cards, I’m not going to make myself crazy over it either.

melanie - thanks for the lovely post, I am one of the odd few who didn’t even try breastfeeding, I know I know the SHAME of it all, the thing is that people don’t take into account the Mom. I have suffered on and off most of my adult life with anxiety issues (GAD) and I knew from experiences before children that lack of sleep exasperated the anxiety…knowing already that lack of sleep comes along with having a baby, I just didn’t know how my already anxiety prone head was going to deal with not knowing how much my baby was getting and I knew I was going to have to rely on my husband to take care of some of the feedings for me (to get much needed rest)… I really felt like many people (starting with the nurses in the hospital) judged me, I knew they thought I was a lessor mother for being unwilling to try, but its not like I was going to walk around with a sign around my neck saying I SUFFER FROM ANXIETY–leave me alone! Anyway my pediatricians were always fine with my decisions and since both of my kids had pretty significant jaundice, the formula made it easier to manage. I wish we as a society would realize that most of us Mom’s really are trying to do the best we can.
Beautiful boy by the way!!!

Karen - This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. This week I weaned my little boy and the guilt is consuming me. I have been supplementing for some time but he is now 100% bottle fed. I just couldn’t do it anymore, especially with Clay gone. I gave it my best shot and surpassed my initial goal but I can’t help but feel like a little bit of a failure. Thank you for the wonderful written post
You look beautiful bottle feeding your son.

amanda - YOU GO GIRL!!! I so appreciate your story, and I hope that other women who need validation will find it here. My story with my first daughter is similar to yours. My second daughter and I have succeeded in breastfeeding, and I love it, but I am glad to have had the experience I did with Thing 1 – if for no other reason than that I sincerely understand both sides of the fence. And I still give my 2nd daughter 1 bottle of formula every night (ever since like day 3 of her life), before bed, to give my boobs a break. One day I was buying formula (generic brand) at Wal Mart and there was a couple standing in the formula aisle with their little tiny baby, clearly stumped as to what they should choose. The dad stopped me and asked, “Do you like that kind?” And I was like, “Well sure…” and proceeded to tell him that his child would not be stupider for having had Wal Mart formula vs. Similac. Same thing with breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding. I seriously doubt that Thing 2 will be smarter than Thing 1 for having breastfed. Anyways, long comment. Tally ho!

monique - AMEN! Your story reads like mine (but I stopped at 2 kids).
My mom and my hubby were there to support and make sure I made the right desision (and STOP)
YOU GO GIRL!

Amber - This post is so great Crystal! And he is so, so precious….aww..makes me want another one :-)

Andrea - You are such a wonderful, wise mother. You know what you know and you’re sticking with it. I really appreciate and love that about you.
Cam is loved, cherished, cared for in the best way possible. I was formula fed (breastfed for just a bit in the beginning) and seriously, I’ve never thought about it. It’s NOT A BIG DEAL. The only person it’s ever an issue for (in my opinion) is the mother. I’ve got a high immune system (always have) my mom and I are great friends (bonded nicely)… the whole judgment of formula vs. breast is completely out of hand.
I’m proud of you for choosing the best way for you and your baby!
-Andrea

Angie - The way women are pressured into thinking that natural childbirth and breastfeeding are the only option a caring mother should consider are ridiculous. For some women these are great experiences. For others, they need c-sections, drugs, or a darn bottle. I get so irritated(angry even) at women who push these methods so much that it almost seems like their religion. I’m amazed that you tried for so long with your first two. I was the only one of my mother’s 3 children bottle fed. I love my mom :)

Amanda - Good for you.
I nursed my first for 2 years.
My second– wow. Boy did she knock me of my high horse called Breast it Best and the Only Way.
Month of screaming, turning away, not pooping. Overproduction galore. I could pump 10 oz in 5 minutes. We tried it all. Finally let it go and tried formula, after pumping and bottle feeding breastmilk even made her scream.
Sometimes you have to go through it to get it. I’m glad some people get it, and I like that there are others out there that don’t get it, but also don’t judge.

Lucy - Yep. There comes a point where sanity and being able to cherish time with your little one is just more important. I’m glad you’re able to be confident in that decision!

Kelly - So glad to read this today. today I went for an appointment and explained that I had such a terrible experience trying to nurse with my oldest that this one (my 4th) would be bottle fed also. I’ve heard it all and have made myself feel horrible enough about not trying it again, but I was honest and explained that I really don’t want to stress myself or my family out. My husband could be deploying shortly after the baby arrives and the last thing I want to deal with is a new, stressful situation. I’ve been bombarded with info and I really wish that I had the patience and support that I felt I could make it happen. Each time there were other circumstances that held me back from trying again, besides the ultimate horrible experience I had with the first. Now, again, I’m being made to feel like pond scum (for lack of a better term lol) for not nursing. I’m tired of it…I berate myself enough about it, I want someone to support me and understand my decision and where I’m coming from.
Good for you though on sticking to what you know works for you & your family. It is so much easier to sit back and enjoy the baby at such a tender age rather than worry if you are feeding them enough or if the next feeding will produce better results than the last.

Jessica - I totally admire and respect your decision and your post. I gave up with my oldest after just 8 weeks. My second held on for 5 months, but we began supplementing early.
I only wish I knew as much about formula then as I do now. Please, please please research all of the different brands of formulas out there. I had no idea (until about two months ago) that nearly all commercial formula has High Fructose Corn Syrup in it! WTH?!?!?
Anyway, great post. You’re an amazing mom & I’m absolutely certain your kids know that!

Yvonne - Yes!!! The freedom to choose health… A new baby needs a healthy mom – more than it needs breastfeeding.

celia - I am sure many, many women reading this post will feel exactly the same as you. I did! For my second baby I went to the hospital with a printed cardstock saying “No way I will give my bad milk to my sweet babby girl!” Hopefully I didn’t need to use it because the first time I told the nurse I needed bottled milk for my baby because I didn’t want to breastfeed my baby as I didn’t have good milk, she just said, “ok then”. Maybe my Ihaven’tsleeptformorethan24hoursandiamsotired face told her I wasn’t kidding!!! lol…
Thanks for the post anyway!

Christine - I just found your blog and I love that you have shared your journey! I have just started giving my 8 month old one bottle of formula at night cause she was going to bed hungry… far out did I get attacked by friends when they found out! I was even told I was feeding her poison! I can’t believe the hurtful things people can say that make you feel like a bad mother… you have obviously done what you feel is best for you and your family! Well done for realizing that things were not working! Thank you so much for sharing!

Keri - Amen Crystal!!!!!! I too had issues nursing my 2nd and felt like I needed the validation you write of… My pediatrician gave it to me when I sat in his office in tears after we had to take my girl in for an emergency weight check when she was a few days old. He sat me down and explained I wasnt failing, etc. Sometimes I still (she is 4 now) feel like i owe the world an explanation as to why I didnt bfeed, but you know I have a great bond w/her and my husband was able to participate more.
Great post!!!!!!!!!! Hope you are doing well.

Kristi @ Creative Kristi - Good for you! I breastfed my 1st for 2 years and he was 9lbs at birth…I never made enough milk to pump any for ‘extra’ which meant the whole 1st year I didn’t ‘go away’ (leave him with a babysitter) anywhere without looking at the clock knowing we’d have to be back to feed him in 2 hours. It was stressful. I also had painful latch-ons for the first 6 weeks. But I’m due with my 2nd baby June 4th & I’m hoping this time around is easier or at least the same. I know what I’m doing now and I’ll try but it’s not ‘do or die’ for me I choose happy mommy AND baby. My favorite quote is: “A baby FAR prefers a bottle given in love then a breast given begrudgingly”

brooke - let it be known that you are probably not in a small demographic of women who have the exact same problem! i was completely gung-ho breastfeeding lady…before i breastfed. i was able to feed my two daughters for 3-4 months each and then just couldn’t take it anymore. constant breast infections (like once every 2 weeks), low production, depression cause they spit it all up afterwards anyway. my sister-in-law really gave me serious guilt trips about it, cause she could breastfeed and walk around her house cleaning at the same time. how nice for her….ugh. i finally was able to see that it is completely circumstantial, and i truly believe that, in the end…i did was best for both me and my babies. so all that said…glad you shared what you did. women need to read that. especially new moms.

Andrea - Yay! Thanks for being so bold to share your story. I have friends who are breastfeeding super fans, so to speak. And it is hard to not feel guilty. I could not breastfeed my first and only was able to breastfeed my second for 1 month. I also have dealt with guilt but have been able to work through it as well. I say we should trust our mommy instincts and do what is best for our babies and our families. There are definitely benefits to breastfeeding and I plan to try again if we have another child. However, there are also benefits to formula feeding: like daddy being able to help and have a 2 month old who sleeps through the night! Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

Hannah (Mama Butterfly) - Your blog caught my eye and I love the way you write – honesty is such a beautiful thing. Good on you for writing about this – I was the same with my baby girl. Limited milk supply resulting into a very unhappy baby and then the guilty/sad feelings. No one can prepare you for these feelings – no one can explain them. Not one doctor or nurse discovered my lack of supply and would just tell me that it was because she was such a small baby with a small mouth. It wasn’t until I finally went to the doctor when she was 7 days old begging that I start on formula as she was never satisfied that they realised that there wsa a problem. The lactation consultant said I had near to nothing milk supply (only a few drops each feed) and that I should still breastfeed and top up with formula, meanwhile expressing while she sleeps – frankly, have my boobs out all day. In the end my husband begged that I start her on a bottle so that he could have his happy girls back as we were in tears all day everyday. He was in tears seeing us so upset. We have never looked back – Moo is the most beautiful happy child ever and I know we made the right decision. Thanks for sharing this with us.

CFB in NC - I’m adding my sincere appreciation to the 20 or so comments you already have. I have an eleven month old son and went through all the same kinds of things you described. All the anxiety. All the guilt. All the embarrassment of pulling out a bottle somewhere public. I was fortunate to have a pediatrician who’d had similar experience, so while she encouraged me to keep it up (and I did for several months), she also encouraged me to understand that my child wasn’t destined for juvenile delinquency because I was giving him formula. So, thanks for your post. The rest of us appreciate hearing it from those who’ve been there too.

Jenny Gardner - You’re completely right…”if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” I’m so glad you were able to make the decision ahead of time and save yourself the torture of indecision and trial and error. I breastfed both of mine but always secretly envied those that bottlefed b/c it seemed so much more better for the mom. I always had trouble with resenting the fact that I was always the only one that could feed and I was always tied to the baby. I continued out of guilt. I also struggled with latching on, milk production, jaundice, not knowing if she got enough, etc. etc. Those problems are torture and are even harder to deal with when you have 1 or 2 other children to also care for. If we have a third, I may seriously consider doing things differently. Keep us informed of how this experience goes compared to your previous experiences. I’m interested to hear how the newborn stage with bottles compares to the newborn stage with difficult nursing. I’m also interested to hear about your experience of having a 3rd child period. The third child is very scary to me!!!

christina taylor - BRAVO, I hope every mom who struggles with breast feeding reads your post and takes permission to stop to heart. I was able to nurse all three of mine with very little difficulty (i did supplement w/ formula too), but have a few friends that it was so hard for them. Every baby is different, and every set of boobs/milk ducts are different.
The first few months are such a struggle, no one should suffer through something that should be a bonding experience. YOu can bond with your baby while feeding them a bottle as well, or when you sing a lullaby, or when you look in their so sweet sleepy eyes and smile.
Every mama should love their baby the way they feel called to do so, enjoy that so sweet little guy!

Mom - Peer pressure is an ugly ugly thing, regardless of what the topic of discussion, and when raising our kiddos, it can be downright cruel.
In our generation, breastfeeding was rare, and so when I chose to breastfeed your sister, I went through much of the same guilt trip stuff in reverse, from the nurses, from friends — since my breasts were so small, how could I possibly think I wasn’t starving her?! It comes down to this: follow your mother’s heart. Period. And don’t chase down the road more travelled simply out of peer pressure to do so. Proud of you, little girl (hugs)

Chris - It is all about doing what is best for you and your baby — and it sounds like you are doing that! :) He’s beautiful.

Wendy - My comment can be short – why would you have to defend yourself about not breastfeeding? I haven’t breastfed my two children – because of a surgery in the past it’s not possible. And they’re both healthy, happy children.
It’s very important to feel comfortable with your decisions and it seems bottle feeding is the solution for you.
Sorry if this may sound slightly insensitive – English isn’t my first language.

Dayna - Bless your heart, Crystal! I’m glad that you were able to figure out in advance what works for your precious family and get on to the important business of loving that little guy! That photo is wonderful! You’re beautiful, and of course, so is he. The Lord bless you all!

Jessica - Wow – soooo thankful I stumbled across this post. I’m 4 months pregnant (first time) and I have never felt the desire to nurse. I could list all the reasons, but that undermines my conviction that it doesn’t matter what my reasons are because they’re mine. I’m not advocating anything for anyone else, I am well-read on all sides of both BF and FF and I know what I can handle in life. I’m not making any permanent decisions until the bridge is in front of me, but regardless of what I decide, I won’t let myself feel beat up for choosing not to BF, even if that means not trying at all. Bottom line, it’s really nobody’s business what I choose. I support choice for everyone and it’s not my business or burden what choice they make. I’ve bookmarked this and have a feeling I’ll be referencing it whenever I feel like I’m in the minority. The ‘evil’ minority. 😉

yvonne - Months ago I emailed you about baby food tips and you were so helpful! The last email I sent your way was about BF and I never got a reply. I wondered why it was so difficult for you, but I figured you had too much going on with your pregnancy to explain. I’m sorry to hear how hard it was for you. You gave it your best, mama! I’m very happy that you’re getting to enjoy your son without the pressure, pain and guilt. He is so precious… looks like your oldest daughter :)

sara - i’m not sure how i stumbled across our blog, but i love it! i wrote a very similar post just this week. happy mama = good mama!

katyb - I could have written this myself but never had the courage to stand up for this choice I made! THIS IS ME! my third has been a breeze since the moment he got here. Thanks for posting this!! It needs to be up with every pro breastfeeding article ever written!

Laura - I love this post!! I can relate to a lot of your post. Thanks as you can see many of us have been down your road, we are just afaird to talk about it.

manuela - oooh i went trough the same situation!!! almost the same, and i know… i know the guilt, the bad feelings, the nonsleeping, the sadness, and the comments… those are the worst…

Dana - Thank you for posting this. I missed a lot of the first three weeks of my little one’s life because I was stressing over not making milk. We are expecting another one at the end of March/beginning of April and I have been back and forth as to whether or not I want to go through this again. Since the older one will only be 10 ish months old I am not sure I am willing to go through the ordeal again. And I really don’t understand all the people who judged me even though it was a lactation nurse who told me to quit for the sake of myself and my baby’s health. People say that there is no such thing as a low milk supply but obviously there is. I wish people would be less judgmental.

Stephanie Goldsmith - Thank you so much for this! Your struggle was far more noble than mine, I just hated breast feeding and then felt terribly guilty for hating it and my next daughter is due in 6 weeks and I’m just not going to do it again. And you’re right, a sane mom is the best gift and allows for more stress-free bonding, at least for me. I know my baby felt my stress and I CHOOSE to simply enjoy this next newborn experience! Thank you again for speaking out so bravely! :)

sara - wow, this was great! I think that the mama group is harder on one another than ANY OTHER group of people in the history of our world. seriously! competitive, fierce and sometimes just downright mean! i can’t understand … we’re all in this together. we all know firsthand how difficult (and rewarding) it can be to be a mama, why get caught up with the little things, like how your kid gets his/her nutrients!? it’s sad that so many women suffer depression because of this (i truly believe that) since our society berates you for NOT doing it. if i were to have another (uh, no thanks!) i’d not try to breast feed again, unless my littles were no longer littles. it’s too difficult for me, and someone ends up getting the short end of the stick. i just wish that i could be more confident in myself and my decisions as you seem to be. it’s beautiful and must be freeing! that’s my goal, now, though: to make choices and then stand behind them confidently. it’s a beautiful sight to see:) thanks for sharing your life via your blog. i just found it today and it’s beautiful. sweet little family! :)

nix74 - My babies are now 8 and 11…reading this article brought tears to my eyes. I had almost the exact same expierence with trying to breastfeed my oldest. When my youngest daughter was born I decided during pregnancy that I would not try to breastfeed. I just couldn’t risk going down that road…for her health and mine. Thank you for sharing your story!

Foster - Crazy, isn’t it, how much pressure there is with this? I had a similar experience and started blogging as a result of it. Here’s that post. Babies need love and nutrition. It doesn’t matter how they get the second as long as they are getting the first.
http://fosterandboo.blogspot.com/2010/06/crunchy-mom.html

Terry - I, too stumbled across your blog while looking for a burp pad pattern, lol!! My babies are, 27, 26, 24 and 23 and I STILL feel guilty for having problems breastfeeding the first three; your story could be my story!! I, too, gave myself permission NOT to breastfeed my youngest when she had to be hospitalized for the first week of her life and we lived 30 miles from the hospital! “Friends”, (I don’t know if that is the right word for them) criticized me and told me that because I was an RN, that I must be a failure as both a nurse and as a mother because I couldn’t successfully nurse!! Kudos to you for freeing yourself of the guilt laid upon us by ignorant but “well meaning” people. Enjoy your children while they’re young, they grow up WAY to fast!

Bapprle - Thank you so much for posting this. I had my first child 2 years ago and I had similar issues. I had hardly any milk and so I breast fed and supplemented for 4 months until I figured out I was completely out of milk so I bottle fed from then on. I believe I was under too much stress from trying to deal with a newborn as well as be a caretaker to my grandma who died 5 weeks after my daughter was born. In my case, it was my dr. that made me feel like a jerk as he put it for ‘starving my child’ and he told me that she had to gain 8 ounces in a week or else. I had no clue what he meant by that so I was terrified that I would lose my child. I went home crying and depressed that I couldn’t make enough milk to feed my baby so I started supplementing. She gained her 8 ounces, barely but we will just say that I didn’t go back to that dr. I have long since got over the horrible things this dr. said to me but this caused me to make sure my daughter’s dr. was one I loved and who loved my daughter. I plan on trying to breast feed my next child but I will not mind if I can’t. I know best when it comes to my baby and I will not let someone, anyone make me feel that way again.

Keira - Love your honesty, well written. I have had the same experience and it is comforting to hear another’s story, after child number 2 I don’t care what people think, after all it’s between me and my kids, the MIL and anyone else can shove their opinion, the truth is breastfeeding is so much harder and exhausting than I could have ever imagined. Second time around, it is so much more enjoyable having the weight off my shoulders to just live and enjoy this special time with my most precious gift in the world.

Lyndsay - I had such difficulty with my daughter. I think I hired every lactation consultant in the county because I wanted to nurse so badly. When nothing worked and she was struggling to keep her weight up, I decided I would pump, then bottle feed her breast milk. I would feed her a bottle, pump, wash the equipment, feed her, pump, wash equipment etc. Even at night. She would wake so I would feed her the breast milk from the previous pumping session, put her to bed, pump, wash the tubing and containers, then get maybe 30 mins of sleep before she would wake again. My husband would help as much as he could with night time feedings, but he would have PT at 5:30 so he could really only help with one so that he could still get enough sleep to function at work the next day. At 6 weeks my husband came home to me in tears yet again and told me it was time to stop–that having a happy, sane mom and being bottle fed was a million times better for her than a crazy, teary, resentful mom and getting breast milk. Next time around I am going to remember your words and think about what is really important for my daughter. Thanks for this post!

J. Mott - Your story is important, thank you so much for sharing. There are more of us out there than people realize. My baby E, who is now 15 months, almost dehydrated her first week home. When I saw this happening I immediately sent my husband for formula. Regardless of what I was being told I wasn’t going to sit and watch my baby starve. I kept trying with the pump so that I could feed her both breast milk and formula, but had no luck. When I quit I started to feel like a failure, then quickly realized that if I always listen to my instincts I will never fail her.

Jenny - I know that this post is over a year old, but I just came across it today while searching your blog for a burp cloth tutorial. I just want to say thank you for being so honest and unashamed about your choice to bottle feed.
I have 4 children and tried unsuccessfully to breastfeed each of them. With my first child I had PPD and couldn’t breastfeed. With my second I got mastitis and stopped at 6 months. With my third I was determined to breastfeed, but got mastitis again and the pain was so bad that I started to resent my sweet baby every time he was hungry. With my 4th I vowed to try again, but she was underweight at birth and the nurse told me she might have to stay at the hospital if she lost any more weight. That’s when I decided to bottle feed her. With amazing women all around me who breastfed (my own mother, my mil, all my sahm friends) I felt this intense pressure, as if I was letting my children down by not giving them the nutrients they deserved from breast milk. I believe it contributed to my ppd. I worked with many, many lactation consultants who told me that I was doing a wonderful job, only to have sores and fussy babies. Like you, a kind nurse took sympathy on me and offered to give me a bottle to feed my daughter one night in the hospital. I called my husband crying, feeling like a terrible mother. But here I am with 4 healthy children; 9,7,5 and 18 months, and I know that I did what was best for them and for me. And the bond I have with all 4 of them is wonderful! :)

Laura - I’m sorry you had such a difficult time with breastfeeding. I feel partly responsible, as a lactation professional, as a woman, and as a member of the human race. No one, I repeat, NO ONE has the right to stress you out about your supply, misinform you, or give you information that is not positive, uplifting, and encouraging.
Many women in America have never seen another woman nurse her child in person (pictures don’t count). As a result, we, as women, have lost that vital link that has passed on breastfeeding knowledge and skills from generation to generation – in the 70’s and 80’s so few women breastfed, we have a generation of women who know very little (collectively) about breastfeeding and have completely lost that knowledge/skill link in some families.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be difficult, stressful, or something one is guilted into doing. Unfortunately, women don’t have the support they need to have a safe, successful, and stress-less experience breastfeeding.
A few of the most common things I come across and discuss:
*Every baby and every lactation cycle (i.e. each time your full milk volume comes in/after each pregnancy or late-in-pregnancy loss) is different. You set your limit for each lactation cycle in the first 4-6 weeks after birth. That time is family time – mama/baby/daddy time. Be fierce in protecting it – it protects your supply. (see below about visitors).
*All babies loose weight in the first several days of life – if you had more than 1 bag if IV fluids or were retaining lots of water when you were pregnant, the magic number the doc talks about (weight loss of no more than 7-10%) is often lost very quickly, but if you go by the weight at 24 hours of age, you’ll see significantly less weight loss (the first 24 hours baby looses all that extra water weight that really wasn’t meant to be there in the first place)
*Your full milk volume doesn’t come in for 3-5 days. Why? Because baby’s stomach holds about one teaspoon at birth – I’m talking Thanksgiving dinner stuffed at 1 teaspoon. Baby is learning to latch, suck, swallow, and suck/swallow/breathe all at once. Having a lot to swallow just doesn’t help things. As baby becomes proficient at suck/swallow/breathe/etc., baby’s stomach size increases; once your full milk volume is in (between day 3 and 7 after birth), baby’s stomach is about the size of a golf ball. (Note – if your milk volume isn’t in by 5 days after birth, a lactation professional should be consulted and some sort of supplement should be considered – not required, but considered, based on baby’s condition.) The first milk you produce starting at about 20 weeks of pregnancy is enough – baby wants to eat often because human milk is easily and quickly digested by humans! Every 2 hours is normal, so is cluster-feeding (on for 10 minutes, off for 30, repeat several times), it’s not unheard of for a young baby to nurse 20 or more times in 24 hours!
*On that note, nursing 11 times or more in the first 24 hours decreases baby’s likelihood of developing jaundice (to less than 5% chance), improves your perception of your supply and how you feel breastfeeding is going (moms notoriously think things are going horribly, when really – they’re doing well), and babies have significantly more milk transfer in the first week (2x or more in some cases) than babies who nurse less than 11 times in the first 24 hours. (I struggle with this tidbit, because it encourages looking at a clock and not at the baby… but I think it gets the point across that newborns nurse a LOT.)
*All those weight checks and “you’re home from the hospital, but you need to come back ever X-hours” only add to your stress and delay your full milk volume (and make you feel like a horrid mother – which makes me want to do mean things to the people that stress new mamas out!).
*Visitors are over-rated (unless they are providing child care for siblings, bringing food, or doing laundry).
*The first week (or longer, depending on who you talk to!) should be mama-baby time, with occasional daddy-baby time. For breastfeeding success, it should look something like this: Mama in bed, lots of pillows, shirt optional, baby in a diaper, on mama’s chest, lying next to mama, or on dad’s bare chest, if needed, cover parent and baby with non-fluffy blanket(s), mom gets out of bed to use the toilet and stretch if desired, nursing happens when baby is hungry, when baby opens eyes, when baby might be dreaming about nursing, etc., there is NO CLOCK in this room, daddy and helpful-visitors bring food, change diapers, empty trash, keep steady supply of water to mom’s liking, if dad needs an alarm, he sleeps in the guest bedroom or on the couch. (If daddy is not a part of the picture, insert your favorite support person/partner/etc.)
*If you REALLY think baby isn’t getting enough, count wet and poopy diapers (#poopy/wet diapers per day of life charts can be found just about anywhere you look on the internet – make sure it’s not a formula company that makes them… a bit too much of a conflict of interest there in my opinion). Look at poop (color – black for a few days, green for a few days, then seedy/dijon mustard-y). If you still think something is wrong, call a lactation professional and have baby weighed before nursing, nurse, and re-weigh baby – you’ll actually see the weight baby gained while nursing (OR, you’ll validate your gut – if there’s an issue with your supply or milk transfer [baby actually consuming your supply…]).
*If you do need to supplement: 1. Have someone else feed the supplement if you aren’t using a supplemental nursing system or similar (tube taped to your boob so baby gets a “straw” to supplement from while nursing) 2. Use a quality breast pump for 5-10 minutes MINIMUM for each supplement (to “trick” your body into thinking baby just nursed). If you aren’t getting milk at this point, and it DOESN’T hurt, that’s fine – it’s telling your boobs to make more milk. If the pump hurts (EVER) – STOP. 3. Don’t stress yourself out about breastfeeding, supplementing, or exclusivity. I know, easier said than done.
*CoSleep – if you’re not comfortable with that, use a “sidecar.” after baby figures out the whole “OH, this boobie is my food, and this is how I eat” thing, when baby is hungry, you lift your shirt (if you’re wearing one), pull baby close, and go back to sleep (I know, easier said than done)… and when the diaper needs changed, you fling your arm across the bed to daddy :) hehe.
*Ok, one last one, ’cause it’s not mentioned enough – if you’re beyond sore – and your boobs hurt, your nipples are blistered, cracked, bleeding, etc. – GET HELP YESTERDAY! Make sure someone who knows about breastfeeding checks your baby’s latch, looks in your baby’s mouth (looking for tonuge and lip ties – baby’s tongue, when lifted should NOT go down in the middle like a heart, and the sides of baby’s tongue should be free to make a “U” shape, baby’s bottom and top lip should be able to freely move up and out – the connection from lip to gum shouldn’t interfere with a nice, big pouty face – lip surfaces [where you put lipstick] should not be turning in toward the gums at all), if this seems to be an issue – discuss with someone experienced in dealing with tongue ties.
The bottom line in all of this: I’m sorry. I’m sorry this has to be your story – so full of stress, pain, and fear. I’m so sorry some breastfeeding helpers are boob nazis (for lack of a better term). I’m sorry you had such stressful, horrible experiences with your first two babies that you were so disheartened, you felt like trying was too much.
Congratulations on your beautiful little man, or beautiful toddler as he is today… And thank you for letting my little soap box rant go on and on. It’s mom’s like you, with stories like yours, that need to be heard, listened to, and learned from. If people like me (lactation professionals) really understood your challenges and history, we could make what was so stressful and difficult for you, a (hopefully) simple and happy experience for others.
For those of you who have left so many comments… I’m sorry my profession has failed you as well. I’m sorry modern medicine is so inhumane, and I’m sorry well-meaning folks have treated you so poorly. Do not be ashamed, DO tell your story; if only so others don’t have to travel such a difficult road.
My sincerest apologies,
Laura

Ingrid - I am so glad I found your blog! I had the hardest time breastfeeding my son and forced myself to keep at it. I had problems getting him to latch, had to use nipple shields to just get him to nurse and dribble formula on the shield to “entice” him into even latching, then after feeding I pumped to try and get my milk supply up. What I ended up with were multiple breast infections NO sleep, and ended with me with horrible post partum depression and anxiety about my baby. So instead of nursing being the most “wonderful, natural bonding and relaxing experience of motherhood” I was sad and tired and angry. I am pregnant now with our second child and will try to breastfeed. If it goes like it did last time, I am switching to the bottle because a happy mama equals a happy baby and hubby! Plus, then I can give up some of those night time feedings for some extra sleep!