When my son was born I definitely intended on breastfeeding. I breastfed my daughter up until she was about 2 months old but this time I had my mind set on breastfeeding my son for at least one year. When I had my daughter I was young and didn’t really think about the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula feeding.
Reason #1. It’s dirt cheap…. better yet, it’s FREE! I mean, who doesn’t love free stuff? That sounded much better than buying a $30 can of formula to only last a few days.
Reason #2. It’s more convenient. I mean who really wants to get up in the middle of the night, walk across the cold kitchen floor to make a bottle and warm it up all while your baby is screaming bloody murder?? Because we all know babies are never just hungry, they’re STARVING! It makes so much more sense to just roll over, plop your boob in his mouth and then go right back to sleep.
Reason #3. It’s healthier for not only my baby but me too. Who doesn’t want to be able to satisfy those post-pregnancy cravings (nobody tells you about those), burn calories AND give their baby the proper nutrients they need?
Reason #4. (Perhaps the most shallow reason of them all) My boobs will stay big and full. If you’re a member of the itty bitty titty committee like me, you know much you loved your tits after you had a baby.
But if you’re a mom, then you know (all too well) that things don’t always go as planned. Actually most of the time, they NEVER go as planned. After my son was born they gave him to me to nurse. The short time we were in the hospital we both did really well. He latched perfectly. I didn’t experience any pain. I even shooed away the nurses when they tried to give me advice on how to nurse. I thought I had everything under control.
Boy was I wrong.
When we got home, things stopped being so easy. First he stopped latching so effortlessly. I remember one specific night; I spent 45 minutes just trying to get him to latch properly! He was frustrated and hungry; and I was frustrated and exhausted. I feared becoming a victim of post-partum depression because I was about to seriously lose my shit. To keep my sanity, I decided to use my stash of pumped milk and feed him that way. He latched perfectly with the bottle and now I didn’t want to pull all my hair out. There! Problem solved, right? Not right. All the sudden, it was like I wasn’t producing enough milk to keep up with my little man’s appetite. By the time my son was 2 months old he was eating at least 4-5oz and most of the time I was only able to pump 2-3oz. And now I was practically out of my stash! What was I going to do? Of course, I reverted to my BFF Mr. Google.
“How to increase my breast milk supply…. FAST!”
Thankfully, this seemed to be a problem a lot of other mothers encounter. Now I didn’t feel like the only mom who was incompetent of naturally feeding her child. Through my research, I found a couple of things that many other moms said worked for them. Drink more water, eat oatmeal, drink organic Mother’s Milk tea, and pump every 3 hours just to name a few. That same day, I rushed to the store and bought two 24 packs of water bottles, 2 boxes of oatmeal and that miracle tea that so many online moms had raved about. For two whole weeks, I focused on getting my supply back up for my son. I was determined. Water, tea, water, oatmeal, pump, water, tea, water, oatmeal, pump, water, tea, water, oatmeal, pump. That was my life for the next two weeks! My nipples were sore; I was pissing water and shitting oatmeal. But even after all this; I maybe (if I was lucky) was only able to pump 1 extra ounce of milk. Ugh.
I was stressed, (beyond stressed)… not to mention miserable. Plus, I could tell my son wasn’t satisfied. He would eat and then be hungry again an hour later. I couldn’t think of anything else to do but (I hated to even think it)… purchase formula. I felt like I had failed as a mother. My first goal, to exclusively breastfeed, I couldn’t even do it. How was I going to accomplish the rest of my goals as a mother to him when I couldn’t even do something my body was naturally supposed to be able to do? One of my friends breastfed her daughter for 18 months and I can barely make it 2 months without my body giving up on me. I remember sitting in my room trying to hand express hoping just an extra drop would come out – but I got nothing.
So I did what I felt made the most sense. I purchased some damn formula.
I felt guilty, I did. I almost cried. As the cashier scanned my can of formula, her eyes screamed, “YOU TERRIBLE MOTHER. DON’T YOU KNOW BREAST IS BEST?” When I got back home, my son was sleeping. Thank God, I thought. Maybe I have enough time to try and pump some more milk. So I tried again and this time got 2 oz. Geeze. Is this a joke?
Once he woke up, I gave him some of the formula and afterward he seemed so much more content. To my surprise, he took it very well, even better than mama did.
The next day my son had a pediatrician appointment. The doctor checked his ears, his eyes, his reflexes, his height and his weight as usual. When she put him on the scale we saw that he hadn’t gained any weight since his last visit a month ago. As a matter of fact, he lost an ounce and he should have at minimum gained 1 pound! I was mortified. Had I really been starving my son? The doctor asked me if he was still breastfeeding. I explained the situation and that yesterday was the first time I had given him formula. She commended me for making the switch and explained this is not uncommon. She recommended that if I am still producing even just a little that I could mix the two (formula and breast milk) if that made me feel better.
I felt relieved.
He was getting enough to eat and I instantly felt happier. I no longer had to wonder if I was going to be able to satisfy him. I no longer had to dread feeding time. I no longer had to pray that he would latch correctly. I didn’t want to feel that way. Feedings shouldn’t be giving me anxiety.
So I started giving my son half breast milk and half formula and things got so much better from that point on. Feedings became a time of bonding and big sister was even able to participate. I noticed so many changes in my son’s appearance and behavior once I began supplementing. He became such a happy baby – no more fussing and LOTS of coos and smiles (especially after feedings). He was so much more relaxed – he unclenched his fists and stopped curling his toes. He slept longer through the night – no more getting up every 1-2 hours. He got his smooth baby skin back (before I made the switch his skin was always dry and rough). He gained weight – I finally had chunky cheeks to kiss and nibble on.
Since then, I have completely stopped breastfeeding and am strictly feeding my son formula. The price tag of the formula doesn’t matter. Getting up in the middle of the night to make a bottle on the cold kitchen floor doesn’t matter. My shrinking boobs don’t matter (okay that kind of matters ha). And get this …. MY SON IS STILL HEALTHY, IF NOT MORE HEALTHY, THAN BEFORE. Formula wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I do still feel guilty and a little jealous every now and then when I see other moms who are able to exclusively breastfeed their babies a lot longer than I was able to and I can’t help but wonder “What if I could have done something differently? What if I just tried for a little bit longer? What if I ate one more bowl of oatmeal?” But then I have to realize that I did what was best for not only my son but for me too. Everyone is different and I don’t need to compare myself to what other moms were and are able to do. I gave it my best shot and I know that I am doing what is best for my boy.
If you exclusively breastfeed, that’s great! If you decide to do a little bit of both, that’s great! And if you decide to formula feed, that’s great too! Our main concern as mothers is to make sure that our babies are fed and cared for and as long as that’s done, it doesn’t matter where the meal comes from.
Feed on mamas! You’re doing great!