When Breast Isn't Best
I'm not a doctor. I'm not a lactation consultant or a doula and I haven't finished reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
I'm just a mom.
A mom who has struggled twice with breastfeed.
A mom who has stayed up into the wee hours of the morning searching kellymom and lalecheleague websites for hours.
A mom trying to figure how I could increase my milk supply to more than two ounces (combined) at a time.
A mom wondering what on earth I was doing wrong.
And like every other, a mom, who wants what is best for her babies.
In this scenario what I've been told is best is the breast. The breast is best.
After Ethan was born, I took all the supplements, power pumped, drank ALL THE WATER, tried, tried, tried again. Nothing. I cried a lot. The lactation consultant told me that low supply was not common. I cried some more.
What was I doing wrong? Was my body failing me or was I failing my body? He cluster fed all day and there was a permanent imprint of my butt in the glider. Every time he started rooting, I started crying. I felt like a sliver of myself. I had given up so much just to nurse.
And finally, I gave in.
We introduced formula and he became happier. He was fed. I could put him down for a minute and breathe.
Yet, every time I saw a picture of another woman easily nursing her babe, it was like a punch in the gut. She can, why can't I? This was supposed to be natural and easy. And yet, there was nothing natural or easy about it.
I believed the antidotes and agenda set forth by the nursing community; breast is best, formula is evil, and early cessation often stems from a lack of support or education.
I was neither. I was married, 35 years old, close to my family and had a Master's Degree. I should have been able to breast feed my child. I felt like a failure. The ONE thing I was supposed to be able to do and I couldn't.
It took me a while to get over the mom guilt and the repetitive anxiety that my babe wouldn't be as smart, happy, well adjusted or healthy as other babies.
So when I got pregnant again I started planning; I took to Pinterest and pinned lactation recipes, power foods to increase supply, lactation smoothie recipes and herb cheat sheets.
I made 20+ freezer meals, lactation bites, had my pump supplies washed and ready, and made a nice tranquil space for feeding and pumping.
And at five days postpartum when I struggled to even pump
colostrum and my heart sank. The same question began to swirl through my head during the wee small hours of the morning; what was I doing wrong?
This time I knew the answer.
I was eating well, drinking copious amounts of water, sleeping as much as possible, taking ALL the supplements- fenugreek, brewers yeast, moringa powder, extra protein and yet, there we were, opening our "just in case" stash of formula.
The lactation consultant made it clear that I was indeed dealing with low supply and that indeed, I would have to work for it. We're talking nursing, formula and pumping. Every. Damn. Session. EVERY THREE HOURS.
I mean, I have a toddler, and a business. To what extent am I willing to go to give my kid breast milk?
Therein lay my choice. I could either put massive pressure on myself, suffer incessant mom guilt, and agonize over nursing or, I could pop open the formula and try as best I could.
So this time, I chose me. My mental health, my happiness, time with my older kid, time with my husband, time to make meals, take walks, plan yoga classes, and live my life.
As mamas, we have to make decisions constantly to do what is best. And as we should we often choose what's best for the children. But sometimes, we need to work ourselves into the equation and do what's best for us, too. In this case, breast was not best.
And guess what? We are all still alive.
Yep, even the supplemented baby.