We are on week two of our Feeding Your Kid Series. Last week I gave you tips on preparing to be a breastfeeding ninja. This week we are going to look at formula feeding because some moms can’t or choose not to breastfeed and that is ok too. Those moms still need support and encouragement and unfortunately society doesn’t always do a great job of giving it to them. So in this weeks guest post, my fellow Rookie Mom Blogger Olivia tells us about her journey that lead her to formula feeding.
When Heather asked me to guest write about my trials and tribulations with formula feeding, one image came to mind: me, on my bathroom floor, weeping. Why was I weeping on my cold, tiled bathroom floor?
Well, before we get into the logistics of formula (the which one-how much-why formula-conversation), I wanted to talk a little bit about why I chose formula (or, shall I say, why formula chose us!), and how hard that decision was. I discussed it a little in this Real Life: Feeding post on my blog, but I’ll re-hash here what happened in the 48 hours post birth with my son and feeding.
My whole pregnancy I was sort of “whatever” about breastfeeding. I kept telling people, if it worked, great, and if not, great. But, here’s my secret:
Deep down, I was totally not whatever about it…I wasn’t into the idea of it.
If Weston had wanted to, and it had been an easier experience, of course, of course I would have happily breastfed, but…I could just feel in my gut that it wasn’t the feeding technique for me. At that time, baby in-utero, I felt okay with my leaning towards formula; I didn’t feel guilty for feeling that way at all, I just wanted a healthy baby.
After he was born, he was sent to the nursery and given formula because he had low blood sugar, thanks to my gestational diabetes (hello, guilt trip). When the nurse came in and asked if it would be okay to give him formula, I happily said of course it would, and was surprised by how much I wanted him to just take the formula…and not even try to breastfeed. But, I didn’t voice that to anyone, and my husband reminded me that I did want to try, so if they could give him the formula, raise his blood sugar, and then bring him in to try to breastfeed, that would be great. So, they did, and we tried.
He was doing okay, but not great. It was hard for him to latch. My mother, who breastfed my sister (I was bottle-fed formula), tried to help…but when I reached out for a lactation consultant, I was told over and over to just attend the free breastfeeding class down the hall! Oh right, because that’s exactly what my bloody, swollen body wanted to do. Go attend a class with other new moms and babies in a public venue…uh, no.
I asked repeatedly for the lactation consultant to come to my room, as I was told they would, in my birthing class. My baby was hungry, and I felt like no one was helping me. Looking back, I wish I had been strong enough to say, “You know what? I’m really not into this breastfeeding thing, can we just formula feed?” But, what new mom would say that? I’d be a horrible, wicked mother if I did that, right?! Finally, a lactation consultant came around and her oh-so-helpful advice was “keep at it!” Uh, thanks?
We took him home, and I kept trying, and he kept not eating. His mouth was getting dry, he was screaming. I felt worse and worse. The next morning we took him to the pediatrician and he had lost 8 ounces of weight in 24 hours. The doctor took a look at him and said, “You’re not trying to breastfeed, are you? His tongue is tied!”
Apparently, if we didn’t get his frenum clipped immediately, he couldn’t breastfeed. But, we had to feed him. The doctor gave us Enfamil Premium, and told us to go home and feed him. Poor little boy, as soon as we gave him the bottle, sucked the entire thing down.
I still have immense, immense guilt about not giving him food for the first 24 hours of his life. We called the ear, nose, and throat doctors, but no one could see him for two weeks. The answer was sort of made for us, and I couldn’t have been happier. We chose to bottle feed formula, right then and there. My heart wasn’t into breastfeeding.
Now, did I show joy and happiness on this decision? No. I felt like the worst mother ever. Who wouldn’t work and fight and chose to give their child breast milk? I felt like I had the choice to give my child immunity, health, and a part of me, and I wasn’t doing it. I was choosing to not give my child “the best choice.”
How dare I?
I left my one day old with my husband and went to the bathroom, sat against the tub, and sobbed. Sobbed my eyes out. Legs splayed in front of me, hair still a mess from delivery, and I felt miserable. I went to the top of the stairs, and said to my husband and baby, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to breastfeed.” My husband looked at me, was probably horrified, and said, “It’s your decision, and if that is what you choose, then fine with me!”
It’s funny. Looking back, I don’t feel guilty about formula feeding, and since that melt-down moment, never felt guilty about not breastfeeding. What I feel guilty of is not speaking up sooner, not going with my gut, and leaving my baby hungry for the first hours of his life.
What I didn’t realize then, that I know now, is that, “I don’t want to,” is totally an acceptable answer. I know breastfeeding wouldn’t have made for a happy me, and I wanted my son to have a happy mama, first and foremost. I still, and always have, cuddled with my son while he drank his bottle…and so does his dad, and his grandparents, aunt, uncle…!
He gets lots of love while he drinks; and now that he can hold his own bottle, he’s independent and plays while he drinks, too. Do I feel like my son missed out by not breastfeeding? Not at all.
Do I feel like women get judged for making the decision for themselves to not breastfeed? 100%.
When a baby is born, the mama often gets thrown under the bus, as per her feelings, thoughts, and emotions. But, we’re people, too! I deserve to be happy, and have a thriving child, whether it’s through my body or not.
To finish off, I wanted to share an interesting story. After Weston got the formula, post-birth, his blood sugar was still low. So, the nurses brought him in for skin-to-skin contact. I didn’t attempt to feed, he just lay, in a diaper, on my bare chest.
You know what?
His blood sugar rose more than ever, and more than it even needed to, just by being near me.
It didn’t take formula, or breast milk, it took having his mom’s skin, heartbeat, and love. It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, what matters is that you feed them with a smile, with love, and with many kisses to the top of their sweet smelling head.
Hi, I’m Olivia! I live on the North Shore of Long Island with my husband and 7 month old son, Weston. I’m a middle school Latin and history teacher, as well as a blogger. I’ve been writing The Lovely Sisters, with my sister, for over 6 years, and also contribute to Rookie Moms. You can find me on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. Come say hi!