When we announced our pregnancy, we had a friend mention to us that they were able to get some free formula if we needed or wanted it for the baby. I replied with a “oh, no thank you. I’m going to breastfeed.” That was and always had been our plan. And why wouldn’t it be? It was going to be good for my baby. It was going to be free. And it was going to be easy. At least that’s what I thought. And I had no reason to think otherwise. My sister had just had my niece weeks earlier and she was breastfeeding like a champ – no problems or hiccups. (Mind you, my sister is also a beast at all things “mom” so I should have known better).
Fast forward to the birth of my son. Just hours after birth he latched and supposedly fed no problem. I say supposedly because how are you supposed to know if they are actually getting anything? They can’t tell you. And as a first time mom, I didn’t know what it was supposed to look or feel like. But, the nurse said he did so I believed her. Funny, looking back she also actually said “Look at you. You were born to breastfeed.” Hahahahahah. Oh, if she only knew.
During our stay at the hospital, I kept trying to find the right position for my son and I. I would get him to latch for a few minutes then he would come off. The nurses would come in and help me to get him latched, then leave once he was latched, assuming he was good to go, but, yet again, he would come off minutes later. They told me he was “just lazy” and that it would just take some getting used to. I agreed, thinking this was my first time so of course it was going to take some adjustment.
We head home and the entire first night home I am up all night “feeding” him. He didn’t sleep more than 40 minutes at a time. I just knew something was wrong. I guess that was my first taste of motherly instincts. So at about 6 am I woke up my husband and told him we needed to call the doctor, something wasn’t right. We did and the advice nurse on the phone asked me if my son was drooly, like if his mouth was wet. I said no, in fact, his lips looked chapped. She instructed me to stick my finger in his mouth to see if his tongue felt wet. I did and it was like sand paper. It was so dry it stuck to my finger. He was pretty severely dehydrated. She scheduled us to see the doctor. Because I had just had a baby, I had forgotten…it was Thanksgiving. So, we had to wait about an hour before we could get in. Longest hour of my life. I was so worried.
We got there. They weighed him (my son was never a small baby 8 lbs 7 ounces at birth). He had already lost almost a pound. The doctor suggested we get a small bottle of formula to see if he would drink that. That 2 oz of formula was gone in less than 5 seconds. My poor baby was starving. I started crying right there in the doctor’s office. Two days in and I was already failing as a mother.
She sent us home with a few of the small formula bottles and we were back on our own. We stopped at Babies R Us on the way home to pick up some more formula bottles just in case, but I already had it in my head that we wouldn’t need them. If he wasn’t going to latch to me I would just pump incessantly and he could drink breast milk from a bottle. So, that’s what I did. Every two hours on the dot, I pumped. But, I would only get a couple ounces each time, if I was lucky. So, I ate oatmeal and flax seed and chia seeds and chugged water and took pills. I power pumped. I looked at my baby while I pumped. I did anything I could to increase my supply.
This went on for about a month. We had to supplement with formula because I just couldn’t keep up. At first, I was disappointed in myself. My body couldn’t do the one thing it was naturally supposed to do for my child. Finally, one day I pumped about 5 times during the day and from all those pumps combined I only got about 1.5 ounces. That’s the day I decided to call it quits. From then on, he was a formula fed baby. By that time, I was ok with it. Pumping, and the stress that came with it, was absolutely draining me. It took time away from my son and husband and it was making me miserable every time I was reminded my boobs wren’t meant for this whole breastfeeding thing.
My baby is now 8 months old and healthy as can be. He’s 23 pounds, clearly not lacking any nutrition, and a great eater. Most of all, he’s such a happy little boy and I am a very happy momma. I understand that some people believe “breast is best,” but in my opinion, after everything we have experienced, fed is best. Once you’ve seen your kid literally starving, you realize it doesn’t matter how he’s getting nutrients as long as he’s getting them. I was formula fed, my husband was formula fed, a lot of my friends were formula fed…we are all fine. We made it. My son will too.
There are times when I have been feeding my son a bottle of formula and my sister is next to me breastfeeding my niece and I want to take a snapshot of that moment. And show people that one is not better than the other. We each did what works for us and neither of us judges the other for that. It’s a beautiful thing to have a supportive family. We are very lucky.