The Formula Fed Baby
When I was pregnant with my first breastfeeding was a given to me. It just seemed like the normal thing to do and I never considered anything else. I was under the impression that it’s simple – latch baby – end of story. I set up no support system, I didn’t do any research.
At the hospital I was made to feel like I couldn’t do it until the nurse was there to “help” latch baby, both because I was incapable and because they made me feel like she wasn’t quite mine and I needed permission to touch her even. They didn’t really give me much confidence in my ability to nurse (strike one). We were not given skin to skin immediately (strike two) and when her body temperature got a little low 2 hours after birth they took her out of our room and into the nursery to use the incubator (strike three). An hour later they came in and told me she was hungry and they could bring her to me but that would drop her temperature and make them start all over with the incubator, or they could give her a bottle of formula. I let them do the latter (strike four). They left us with 2 ready-made formula bottles in our room (strike five). Since it was there anyway, and she had already had one bottle, I asked my husband to feed her in the middle of the night so I could sleep.
We got home, I got comfy in bed and started nursing. I was only shown one hold (football) which was difficult for me and didn’t really work well but I didn’t know any other way to do it so I went with it. I had some pain, likely because I couldn’t get a good latch with that hold. I called the labour and delivery nurses looking for some advice and support. Instead, I was told pain meant breastfeeding wasn’t possible and to just go buy formula. I was sad but so unprepared that I followed their instructions and, at three days old, that was the last time my daughter nursed. There’s always a small sense of loss there, of what could have been had I had prepared and had proper support.
Around 6 months of age we discovered donor milk and after research we decided to start looking for some. It was also when I got my hands on a hospital grade pump and tried re-lactating. I even visited the lactation consultants and got some advice on re-latching her. Unfortunately, we had some deaths in the family around that time and with hospital and hospice visits and funerals it became too much to keep up with. So we used a mix of donor milk and formula.
I am proud of how we fed her. Formula was not the worst thing that could have happened to her, even if it wasn’t what we wanted or planned for.
The Breastfed Baby
When I became pregnant the second time I was far more educated on breastfeeding, I set up a support system (in person and online). I knew who to call and what to ask for if problems arose…and they did. My supply was low. My son was not gaining weight. Our midwives gave me all the advice they could, a friend lent me a pump, my postpartum doula came by to try and help. I started taking Domperidone daily. Nothing was really working. Finally, I reached out to Dr. Jack Newman. I am very fortunate to live close enough to visit his clinic. He found a tongue tie, his amazing LCs got his latch fixed, they upped my Domperidone dose, got me on Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle (max doses of everything). Most importantly, the biggest savior to our nursing relationship, they gave me a supplemental nursing aid. Now I could supplement him at the breast.
Unfortunately, I seem to have some reason that I will just never have a full supply. We were supplementing about 3 oz of donor milk per feed. The rest was me and I am proud of that. We ran out of donor milk when he was about 14 months old. I decided to stop looking for more and he’d be fine with what I could supply. Somewhere around the 18 month mark I’m pretty sure I dried up but we just dry nursed from there. My plan was to allow him to self wean.
Again, the universe laughed at my plans. I was pregnant – with twins!! I tried to continue nursing through the pregnancy but one day, when my son was about 22 months, we went upstairs to nurse for nap time and the pain was just so excruciating I unlatched him and, sadly, I never latched him again. Thinking of that moment still makes me cry. It was so abrupt and unplanned. Neither of us saw it coming. Luckily, he handled it pretty well. A couple of times he tried to lift my shirt and when I said “no” he walked away, no problem.
The Consciously Bottle Fed Babies
At that point we had to figure out a plan for the twins. There were so many questions:
I could not supply one baby, could I really sustain two?
Should we stock up on formula or fill the freezer with donor milk?
Do I try, and go through the struggles we did last time?
Is it worth it to lose that early bonding because of stress to try and make nursing work?
Can I handle nursing two babies with the nursing aids?
We decided to go with the flow (pun intended). I’d latch them, I’d see how it went, I wouldn’t stress over it but I wouldn’t write it off either. Knowing we’d need to at least supplement them we reached out for donor milk before they were born.
When they came earth side, I got them latched but it felt slightly off. I watched their mouths and there wasn’t as much swallowing as there should be. When they unlatched I checked – both had bad tongue and lip ties. At this point we decided the process of getting those released and working on my supply was not worth the bonding we miss out on because of that stress. I have some amazing friends that have all started pumping just to donate to my boys. I am extremely grateful for their support and generosity. We made this decision realizing we would probably need to use formula in the future. And that’s okay!
I have been there – on almost all sides of the “issue” of breastfeeding. I have been tricked into giving up and switching to formula. I have struggled and become aware I was in that small minority of women who aren’t capable of breastfeeding and I found a way to work through that and still nurse to almost 2 years. I have made the conscious, informed choice to forego breastfeeding and bottle feed my children. And I am equally proud of each and every way my children have been fed.