My Breastfeeding Nightmare: Why We Chose Formula
*This post is in NO way saying that what I chose for my family is what is right. It was just the best choice for MY family, and this is a platform to share my experience with any other mommies or daddies who might be struggling with the same thing I didn't *
If you know anything about me, whether is personally or you’ve visited my blog before, you know I am a control freak. I am all about plans, making and executing them. During my pregnancy, I decided that I wanted to breastfeed. Even before I got pregnant, I have always heard “Breast is best”. Now I knew that wasn’t true. I knew that FED was best, but that saying was always in the back of my mind. But I also read about all the immunities your baby can get from your breastmilk, all the healing powers of breastmilk, and not to mention the bond you create while you breastfeed. Oh, and, there's the whole "formula is poison" thing. It’s hard to feel like breast isn’t best when you hear all of that. I had read that for some women, breastfeeding came really natural to them, and for others it took a little work. This is something that stressed be out massively. I used to actually have nightmares of not being able to breastfeed. Looking back at it now, it was such a waste of energy. But at the time it would eat me alive.
Now, I am sure you can guess by the title of this post, my breastfeeding experience was a nightmare. If you read my labor and delivery story, you know how off course my plan went that day. If you haven’t read it yet, (you should check it out) but long story short, my daughter was rushed straight to the NICU when she was first born. I didn’t get to see or hold her for nearly 12 hours after she was born. By the time I had the chance to try and breastfeed her, she had already had a few bottles and wanted absolute nothing to do with my boob. If you didn’t know, bottles are so much easier for babies. They don’t have to work at it like they do with breastfeeding. And Paisley had ZERO desire to work at it with me.
When we brought her home, every feeding was a battle. She wouldn’t latch, and if she did I couldnt tell if we were doing it right. It didn’t help that my milk took ten days to come in. Her and I would both sit there crying for up to an hour trying to get her to eat. Tyler was always awake when I was, holding my hand and trying telling me I was doing a great job. After the hour long battle, we would give her a bottle. Sometimes it was formula and sometimes it was pumped breastmilk. But when she was a month old, we discovered she had a severe allergy to formula. After a whole night of intense vomiting, a doctor’s visit, and an ultrasound, Tyler and I made the decision to only feed Paisley breast milk, which meant a lot of pumping since she wouldn't breastfeed.
Guys, we tried everything you could think of. Every position and every tip I got from other mom’s. I even took her to a pediatric chiropractor because I had read that infants with traumatic births can have neck and back problems that can lead to breastfeeding issues. Sometimes I could get her to eat from my breast but only in a certain position and only with a nipple shield (this little clear nipple that would go over your real nipple, it's a pain in the ass). I hired two different lactation consultants and had a family friend come and help me on multiple occasions, who were all three wonderful and very supportive, but we still couldn’t get Paisley and I on the same page. I had clogged duct after clogged duct and a nasty case of mastitis. I was in so much pain, physically and emotionally. The picture below was taken while the lactation consultant was there. What you can't see is the nipple shield I was wearing, or the tears streaming down my cheeks. You can't see how mentally drained Tyler, Paisley, and myself were. Tyler took that photo so we could try and remember exactly what position Paisley was in so we could recreate it.
This fight went on for six weeks. I couldn't accept that I wasn't able to breastfeed my baby. It made me feel like I was lacking as a mother. Like I couldn't take care of her. The rational side of me told myself that it didn't make me less of a mother. That if any woman came to me with the same problem I would tell them how it was more than okay for them to pump or use formula. But the emotional side of me wouldn't hear any of that. The emotional side of me said that I wasn't a good mom. That I would never have the bond with paisley that breastfeeding mothers have with their babies. I cried constantly, and my anxiety and depression were out of control. I dreaded every time I had to feed Paisley, and panic flood through my body.
Finally, after six weeks, I stopped trying to breastfeeding. I would pump and feed that to her. It was what was best for me and Paisley. I was less stressed, feeding times weren't hard anymore, and my baby was getting fed. Plus she was still getting my breastmilk. It was really hard at first because I felt like I was quitting. I would hang out with other moms who could just pull their boob out and feed their babies when they got fussy. I was jealous. It made me feel guilty. But with time, it got easier.
I had planned to breastfeed Paisley for at least the first year of her life, but since I wasn't able to do that i was going to pump for her instead. But that didn't happen either. I heard someone say once that they were a prisoner to the pump. And that was the most real thing I had ever heard. I had to pump every three hours for 20 minutes a session. I couldn't be out and about for more than three hours and if I was I had to bring my pump with me. If I was out for longer and didn't have my pump, I would get engorged. My breasts would get so big and hard they were like rocks. And then there was the leaking. I would leak all over myself and go through nipple pads like nobody’s business. It was truly a commitment and I was absolutely miserable. On top of that, I struggled with something called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. Something that I had never heard of until my OB told me about it. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes. In simpler terms, everytime my milk let down, every three hours before I would pump, I would have this flood of negative emotions. Sadness, anxiety, depression, and anger would all flood through me. It would only last a few minutes, but in those few minutes I was experiencing hell. I kept going back and forth on whether we should try formula, her doctor gave us hypoallergenic formula and said that she shouldn’t have a problem with it but I was scared to try it. I felt selfish because Paisley was getting perfectly good breastmilk, and I wanted to risk her getting sick just because I was tired of pumping? I felt like a horrible mom, and I suffered at the hands of the pump in silence for months.
When Paisley was almost 7 months old, I decided to quit the pump. I had to do it slowly, and it was emotionally rough. I hated that pump, but at the same time I felt like I had a relationship with it. I mean, we spent every three hours together for seven months. It felt like I was in the middle breaking up with a toxic relationship.
Paisley is now 9 months old and solely drinking her hypoallergenic formula. She is the happiest and healthiest baby I have ever met. We had no problem bonding since I wasn’t breastfeeding, we got the same bond just from me holding her and feeding her formula. And since she was using a bottle, her daddy got the experience that bond too. A study done in 2008 claimed “there is no convincing support for a connection between breastfeeding and the quality of the mother-infant relationship.” Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby, but it is by no means the only way.
One of my closest friends has a baby who is a year older than Paisley. Her daughter is the sweetest little girl I have ever met, and she was formula fed since she was two months old because her mom just simply couldn't produce enough milk, despite all her efforts. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been able to emotionally make it through my pump quitting journey honestly.
Unfortunately, my friend’s story is very similar to so many other women. Others share my story, where they make more than enough milk, but their babies just won’t latch. Over 15% of moms can’t breastfeed, not to mention the parents who foster or adopt. No matter what your story is, the choice to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is never an easy one. There is no “one size fits all” guide to babies. No matter what you chose to do, in every aspect of parenting, someone is going to think that you are doing it wrong.
I want to talk about the stigma surrounding formula real quick. Because when it comes down to it, formula SAVES LIVES. For people like me, one of my best friends, and hundreds of thousands of women around the world who can't breastfeed, formula literally saved our babies lives. Formula was first developed in 1865, but it didn’t start getting real hate until the 1970’s. Around that time, a baby formula company called Nestle was aggressively marketing their product to poor countries around the world, where women didn't have access to clean water. The women in these countries were over diluting their formula to make it last as long as possible because it was expensive. Because of this, babies around the world were essentially starving. Many became malnourished and died. This led to a spike in infant mortality which created the impression that the formula was dangerous. Today, countless studies have been done on the difference between breastmilk and formula. The truth is, the two might not be as different as we originally thought. The evidence that breastfeeding makes a difference is just inconclusive.
Formula being labeled as “toxic” and “poison” causes so much shame to the mothers who choose to use it when there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It is a safe and nutritionally equal alternative to breastfeeding. If you want or need to feed your baby with formula, do it with confidence and know I support you. If you want to breastfeed your baby, do it with confidence and know that I celebrate you. How ever you chose to feed your little one, do it with confidence, because fed is best.
I would love to hear your breastfeeding stories! You never know how your story could help another parent. Email your stories if you want to share!!