Breastfeeding and Formula: My experience with both

29 04 2013

I have many friends who are having babies in the next couple months.  Still a new mother myself, I want to continue this blog to share my experience and hope to encourage my friends (and other readers) who have similar experiences and know they are not alone in this.

I haven’t typically talked about my breastfeeding experience with most people because it was a struggle for me.  From the start, I found out I had what’s called “inverted nipples”, which basically means that it’s very hard for a baby to latch on.  Thankfully, the hospital provided me with a “nursing shield” which basically let me still breastfeed whereas without it, it would be basically impossible.

Already, within the first hours of motherhood, my breastfeeding experience came unexpected.  But, after my time in the hospital, I felt more confident in nursing and my son was growing well.  However, come his 2 week check-up, I ran into another breastfeeding snag.  We found out he was at the danger zone for weight, and basically my milk production had tanked.  The lactation specialists didn’t have a clear answer as to why, but one conjecture was that the nipple shield I was provided in the hospital was too large for my son’s small mouth.  Whatever the cause, I had to get my milk production up, which could take up to a week.  This meant that I would likely have to supplement with formula until/if my milk got back up.  So, that day, we bought a breast pump and I was required to pump after each feeding.  This left me exhausted: especially recovering from a C-Section birth (also unexpected, blog post on that later), and also just dealing with being a new mom feeling horrific pangs of guilt that I could not provide enough milk for my baby.

In the coming weeks, my son started to gain more weight, but it was clear that we would always need to supplement, unless I wanted to pump after each feeding for the rest of my nursing.  Pumping for me was very uncomfortable, and I barely would get an oz out even at higher settings.  Thankfully, I had support, as both my sister in law and mother had done nursing/supplementing with formula before and had great experiences with it.

Fast forward to 5 months, and my son starting sleeping 7-8 hours stretches.  Since I did more breastfeeding at night, this meant my milk production tanked even more, though I was still nursing the allotted amount that is required to keep milk production up.  For whatever reason, whether it was genetic or just how my hormones worked, I had issues with milk production.  At this point, I had a decision to make: stop nursing and stick to formula or start up pumping again and hope that my milk would’t dry up.  This is something that I prayerfully considered, and after much discussion with my husband, we decided to wean.  The weaning process took 3 days.  It was much easier than expected, and my son didn’t ever look back.  In fact, we felt closer together like never before.  “This isn’t suppose to happen” I said to myself.  Weaning was supposed to be a month long process with many emotional letdowns and tears.  But nothing.  My son acted as if nothing had changed, and in fact, he was happier, gaining more weight, and I felt more at rest myself.

Since I have weaned my son, my personal life has changed drastically.  I could go running again (it was extremely painful to run with my large chest), I could hug my husband without my chest hurting, and I felt much closer emotionally and physically to my son, because I didn’t feel like all I was good for was his food.  I was much more than that.

My breastfeeding experience was hard.  I expected it to be a piece of cake, but it wasn’t.  Between production issues and inverted nipples, it was a struggle the whole time.  Yes, I loved the bonding times with my son, and I knew breastfeeding was the best thing for him, but I also feel like our decision to wean was the right one at the right time.

My encouragement to my friends who are new moms or about to be new moms is that do what’s best for your child, you, and your family.  For some people, they are able to breastfeed for 2 years and that’s so great.  For others, maybe they have issues like I did and have to supplement.  And like my mother had to do for me, she had to switch to straight formula because of her high blood pressure medicine.  Whatever you decide, don’t let others guilt you into doing one thing or another.  I have friends who straight formula feed and they are constantly judged.  For some people, it just doesn’t work well.  The formula these days is so good!  And I was formula fed back in the 80s, yet I turned out to be able to play any sport I wanted, got my bachelor’s degree in math, and I have no major disease or sickliness or allergies.  The fact is, our culture right now swung to the extreme that only breastfeeding is good and formula is bad.  Back when my mom was nursing my siblings, it was the opposite.  Nearly everyone formula fed, and those that nursed were judged.  Please, friends of mine, and families of those friends, don’t try to convince or judge or attempt to undermine decisions that only the mother and father should make.  Every families situation is different, and every family needs to decide for themselves whether to breastfeed, supplement, or formula. And whatever you decide, it will be right for you and your family.

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