So, if you don’t already know, we are house full of babies. My oldest is 2.5 years old, followed by a 1.5 year old and a 4 month old. I will start off by saying yes they were planned, yes we know how babies happen and yes we are fairly busy! I have been pregnant for what feels like a solid 3 years and we have also always had a baby in the house! It means a lot of spit up, crying, giggling, diapers, you get the idea. It has also meant a lot of chapped and sore nipples, nursing bras, breast pumps, bottles, formula, and all things that go with feeding babies.
I was super excited about breast feeding my first, I did all the research, read all the books and websites, talked to as many people as I could and just was totally on board. I knew how hard it could be but also felt breast feeding had so many positives for the baby and it was winter so what else was I going to do but sit and happily feed my baby. Boy was I wrong; I ended up having a C-section which meant my milk didn’t come in right away. And that was just the beginning of my struggle with breast feeding, I also did not like having a cover on but was super uncomfortable and still am feeding in public or in front of anyone else.
Rowen, my oldest, was pretty good at latching on and I was feeling pretty confident except for the fact that the poor baby was virtually starving the first few days. Now maybe this is normal but as we are preparing to get discharged a nurse walks past our door and hears this baby screeching and screaming at the top of his lungs. His throat sounded raw from having screamed so much and so she comes in to see what is going on. She watches me breast feed (at this point I do not care, seems all part of the feeding that you show everyone under the sun how your baby latches and they are happy to grab and grope you to get into a better position). She then has me try to pump out some milk. Bone dry, not a drop of milk comes out. I was so thankful for this nurse and her expertise at this moment because she says a baby should not be this upset and that we need to get him some formula. His lips were dry and he was starting to show signs of dehydration. As a new mom, who is nervous, tired and unsure of what to do I was so happy I was open to following the advice of that nurse and not so “breast is best” stubborn that I insisted on waiting it out. We fed our 3 day old son the formula (we are talking about maybe 2oz) and it was as if instantly he was a different baby. He finally stopped crying, relaxed in our arms and fell fast asleep. She also sent us home with a bit of formula to use until the milk came in. Now I gave a bit of formula and waited for the milk, which didn’t take too long and was overflowing when it came! The moral of my first born story was that giving the formula didn’t mean disappointing or harming my baby, it meant finally allowing both of us a little time to sleep and regroup. A happy mom is the best thing you could give a new baby, and that 2oz did exactly that.
Now I am not sure why but it became apparent to me that breast feeding wasn’t all that I thought it would be. My son like a lot of men enjoyed the boob and loved to suck which meant he always wanted to be on me. This was a very overwhelming feeling to me; it left me feeling very trapped. This baby that was already so helpless and relied on us for everything now needed me to always be within sucking distance for not only his food but his comfort. It was too much. Plus beyond the anxiety that it gave me, it was also physically extremely painful. This led to us, at a very early age, alternating breast feeding with bottle feeding pumped milk and eventually because of convenience also bottle feeding formula. I was happy with my choice and it also gave me a lot of flexibility. I could leave my baby for a couple hours without worrying about him was probably the biggest one. And for me, sometimes those couple of hours was what I needed to come back refreshed and ready to handle another day or night. It also meant I could get a lot more help with the baby, essentially anyone could feed him. I was pregnant again when my first was just 3 months old so some days I was dealing with my sweet new baby and dealing with the exhaustion and crappy feelings that go along with being pregnant. My son never had nipple confusion or a preference for breast milk over formula, he was so flexible.
My next two babies were each unique in my experiences. The first thing that was different was my attitude and views on breast feeding. This time I was realistic about what we needed for my peace of mind and sanity as well as what we could handle as a family who would now have two (and eventually three) babies at home. Grace my middle child was immediately fed bottle and boob, formula and breast milk. I went in knowing I wanted this and the nurses were not super supportive but I am made sure to insist on what I wanted. With Eleanor, my youngest, the strangest thing happened; I started to enjoy breast feeding. She is efficient and feeds with long breaks in between (while still gaining so much weight). I keep saying third time’s a charm but the lesson I have learnt when it comes to breast feeding is that it is different for each child. No two kids are the same and that applies to more than just feeding! And therefore. no two kids need the same thing; this also applies to more than just feeding! If someone had told me that I would one day enjoy breast feeding and even be comfortable enough to do it outside of my homes four walls I would have laughed in their face.
Never feel that you are doing the wrong thing or that you are stuck doing it one way. If I have learnt anything from this parenting thing is things aren’t ever what I expect and rarely do I do it the way I thought I would.
I wrote about my experiences with breast feeding not because I think exclusively breast feeding is bad (in fact I think it is fabulous and have huge admiration for those who can do it), but I want to let people know there are other options to feeding your baby and that sometimes a moms mental well being means more than the babies health benefits that come with breast feeding. And also to empower moms to feel confident in their decisions with their kids, you know what is right for you, your children and your family. Remember what is right for one child or family might not work for another child or family!