Warning: This post contains personal information that you may find to be an “over share.” Feel free to avert your eyes, stop reading, and move on.
From the moment you pee on a stick and get a positive result, the lactivists come out of hiding. BREAST IS BEST – is a slogan that will be pummeled into your head. Books will be thrown your way, people will crawl out from behind bushes in the park to be sure you are planning to give your kid the boob. Now, I tried VERY hard during my pregnancy (and now as a mom) to set my judgement for most things aside, accept that everyone is going to do this whole parenting thing differently, and respect the decisions of others. However, to me, breastfeeding seemed like a no brainer. I mean, the facts are there in every book you read, article you skim… hell… even the formula companies are sending you literature on how breast milk is the best milk. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to breast feed. In fact, I didn’t understand why people didn’t breastfeed. As much as I hate to admit it… and as much as I tried not to judge… formula moms were the one group of people I just didn’t understand. Truthfully, I thought formula moms were lazy. I mean, there are so many benefits to breastfeeding… it’s healthier for you and for the baby… not to mention you bank account! Looking back, I get a sinking feeling in my gut when I thought about how I judged what I did not know.
So, I was going to breastfeed. No doubt in my mind. Roll into the hospital to have this baby, hand over my birth plan… breastfeeding. Nurses ask me how I’m going to feed my baby… breastfeeding. Baby pops out… latches right on. (I need to mention that my entire body was still numb from my c section… yup… I’m one of “those” moms too.) I was so excited to be breastfeeding. I felt like a total badass. I grew a human and now I’m feeding it?!?! Go me! This was so easy! I get to my postpartum room, drugs are wearing off… latch Alex on again… HOLY FLYING WITCHES ON BROOMSTICKS!!! OUCH!!!
Excuse me society. When, in the midst of shoving loads of information about breastfeeding being the very best, were you going to tell me that it was going to hurt worse than trying to push a human out of my lady bits? The nurses explained that the sensation of a million razor blades flying through my nipples was normal. Honestly? Every nurse that came in my room had a different opinion of how my baby should latch on, how I should be holding him, blah, blah, blah. The lactation consultants said I was doing well. By the second night, I knew something was wrong when blood started shooting out of my udders. I immediately hit my nurse call button. “Umm, I feel like someone has tied my boobs behind a truck and is dragging my nipples along a gravel road… oh yeah, and they are bleeding everywhere.”
The nurse entered my room and found me in tears. “I don’t know what to do! I need to know what my options are!” All I could think was, “OH SHIT! I’m going to have to give my baby formula and he’s going to end up being stupid and die!” (Might seem a bit overboard, but between the lactivists and my raging hormones, it seemed totally logical at the time.) The nurse sat down with me and said I could pump. Oh. Well… I mean. That makes sense. Not sure why I didn’t consider that option.
So, pump I did. I pumped the tiniest amount of colostrum in the whole wide world… a combined total of 10mL from both sides. The nurse told me that was enough for two feedings. I just sat there and cried. So proud of myself. I woke Patrick up, who had somehow managed to sleep through this entire ordeal, and told him the good news! The nurse took Alex to the nursery so we could get some sleep. She came in every so often to have me make some more boob juice.
After coming home, I continued pumping. I pumped every two hours… like clockwork. I would make a bottle, feed Alex, then pump. In total, that would take about an hour… so I would have an hour to rest… and then do it all over again. Ladies… this is NO WAY TO LIVE. I wasn’t resting, so I wasn’t recovering. I wasn’t sleeping, so I was getting sick. A sick mommy isn’t helpful to anyone. I adjusted my pumping schedule and was still producing plenty of milk. Everything was fine… until it wasn’t anymore. I didn’t anticipate how quickly babies require more food… and then even more food. Soon enough, supply couldn’t keep up with demand.
I was so beyond disappointed in myself, like I had failed. After talking to my doctor, family, and a few friends who I knew were formula moms, we decided to start supplementing. I was convinced the lactivists would come out of hiding and sacrifice me in a dark alley somewhere. Not the case. Not the case at all, actually. You know what happened? I started learning that more and more moms were using formula. I found out that lots of women have trouble breastfeeding. I learned that formula is perfectly fine for my baby. I learned that the world is NOT going to end, just because Alex is getting formula. In the days since our supplementing began, some other issues have crept into our lives. Three weeks in, we made the switch to 100% formula bottles. I feel good knowing that Alex got three weeks of boob juice, but I know that we are lucky I was able to even give him that.
Right here, I need to quickly insert a blurb about milk drying up. It is nothing short of hell. AND… since everyone is running around shouting about breast milk being the best option, the information that exists for moms who can’t, or choose not to, breastfeed is extremely limited. Just ask other formula moms what they did… because aside from shoving cabbage leaves in your bra until they wilt, even Google isn’t much help in searching for relief. (I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk without crying hysterically. I ended up pumping a little, to relieve some pressure, starting squeezing into my pre-pregnancy super tight sports bras, and avoided hot water as much as possible.)
I now understand that formula moms aren’t lazy. I feel embarrassed for ever judging them. The phrase “breast is best” should seriously be followed by, “but isn’t always possible… and that’s okay, too.” Formula Moms, we need to rally together and support one another. We need to let new moms know that it’s OKAY if breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards. Formula is completely fine. We aren’t failures (though overcoming that feeling of initial feeling of inadequacy is difficult) and it’s going to be okay! Truthfully, the only party who is going to suffer from formula feeding is going to be that bank account of yours.
So, there we have it folks. I’m a Formula Mom. This post is lengthy, and perhaps not they typical chuckle you have grown to love, but sometimes we need to address some issues. I’m hoping that someone, who is feeling as downtrodden as I was, will read this post and see a glimmer of hope. You haven’t failed… your path has just been diverted… and honey… YOU AREN’T ALONE!!! Most formula moms can be found on a picnic blanket in the park… you just have to look beyond the lactivists hiding in the bushes.