World Breastfeeding Week :: My Journey

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I was all set. I had my pump. I had my creams and special bras and reusable pads. I’d been to the class, read blogs, and joined Facebook groups.

With Brighten, we’d had no choice but to formula feed. Adoption doesn’t leave a ton of room for options when it comes to feeding, so we didn’t think twice about stocking up on bottles, brushes, formula, and purified water. We became pros at it. We had sweet moments in the middle of the night with the Baby Brezza and Brighten that we’ll cherish forever.

But even so, I’d resolved to breastfeed our surprise bio babe, Grady. Since it took us several years to get pregnant, I figured it could potentially be the only chance I had to do that. PLUS, I delivered at an extremely pro-breastfeeding hospital and I was nervous to tell my doctor that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to breastfeed because formula was my comfort zone. AND, even though Brighten was adopted and we didn’t really have a choice but to formula feed her, I had multiple people say things to be about formula being less than ideal whenever I would shake up a bottle in public. When I explained that she was adopted (why did I have to defend myself?), I had several people go a step further and tell me that I could induce lactation if I wanted to. As if I didn’t have enough hormonal imbalances, these strangers decided that they knew what was best for my baby and me. So, breastfeeding it was for baby number two.

After 44 hours of labor and then a c-section, Grady actually fed right away. I was drowsy and it’s kind of a blur, but I do remember the nurse saying that he latched. I thought to my (very out of it) self, “Easy peasy, let’s do this thing!”

But that was the first and last time he’d ever breastfeed.

What happened over the next few days can only be described as my infant child stepping into his personality of quiet rebellion (which is how I describe our Grady-man even seven months later).

A little before 1:00 a.m. the night Grady was born. He’d be alive all of six hours.

A little before 1:00 a.m. the night Grady was born. He’d be alive all of six hours.

The day after Grady was born, he had a lot of trouble staying awake to feed. He would kind of open his mouth, but then just fall asleep. Apparently that’s pretty common, but he wasn’t able to latch to breastfeed. The lactation specialist AND the pediatrician talked and worried that he wasn’t able to latch or suck AT ALL, but we didn’t know that was their concern. Meanwhile, the nurses helped me pump and feed with a tiny syringe. By the end of the day, I was tired, sore from surgery, and very frustrated.

When my nurse came in to wake me up in the middle of the night to feed Grady, she said that the pediatrician said we needed to supplement so that Grady would get enough to eat if he still wasn’t breastfeeding. She asked if I wanted to use a syringe or a bottle. I opted for a bottle because I was tired and the bottle brought a familiar comfort. Grady took it right away and sucked it down. I sat up and pumped, went back to sleep, and wished he would just be more “normal.” Not an ideal feeling your first night with your new baby.

When I woke up the next morning, we started over again. Trying, failing, pumping. The pediatrician was relieved that he was eating from a bottle, and she asked me if I wanted to just focus on bottle feeding. I wanted to scream, “YES!” but I didn’t because I had resolved to breastfeed! What would everyone say? Would I be a quitter if I just gave up now? This time I didn’t have the “excuse” of adoption, so what would I say when people commented on my formula feeding? All of these questions plus the pain of surgery, plus the anxiety of trying to make it home to my sweet Brighten-girl before Christmas left me in a cycle of trying, failing, and ultimately in tears.

Finally, the pediatrician and lactation consultant came in to talk to me. My options were given: I could continue trying to breastfeed and pumping to keep my supply. I could bottle feed him breastmilk once my milk came in, and hope that he figured out how to breastfeed as he got a little older. That meant pumping at least eight times per day, plus feeding him formula/breastmilk. Or, I could decide to formula feed exclusively.

My response: I don’t want to quit just because it’s hard.

Jason feeding Grady with a syringe.

Jason feeding Grady with a syringe.

Thinking back on that now, I was to just kick myself. The lactation consultant (who was nice, but had been pretty pushy about the whole thing) told me that she knew how strong I was. She reminded me that I’d just opted for Tylenol over a prescription pain medication less than 48 hours after having a c-section. She reminded me of my laps around the unit floor to try to get a jump start on healing, my resolve to care for my son, and my concern for how my daughter was doing at home. She said this showed how strong of a mom I was. She assured me that whatever decision I made, I was not failing or taking the easy way out. Taking home a newborn baby, no matter the circumstances, was not easy.

I looked at Jason, then at Grady, who was fed, happy, and sleeping after his bottle full of Enfamil. I looked at the pediatrician, my nurse, and the lactation specialist. Then, I made a decision — it was time to call it quits on breastfeeding and dive back into the world I knew all too well of formula and bottles.

I immediately went into mom-mode, something I’d been searching for inside myself since Grady was born. I texted my mom to tell her what I’d decided and asked her to go get Brighten’s bottles down from the attic and boil them. I told her where the Baby Brezza was and asked her to buy the type of formula we liked. I was getting into my grove, and it felt so good. I finally felt a semblance of control (hello enneagram eight).

The lactation specialist came to visit a few hours later. It was December 23rd and she was letting me know that they wouldn’t be there for the next few days so she wanted to answer any questions I had. She actually asked me if my dates were off because she said she’d never seen a full-term baby so uninterested in breastfeeding. That’s my boy. Quiet rebel. At least he was the best at not breastfeeding!

Once we got home and started getting into our new normal, Grady ended up really struggling with acid reflux. After two weeks, we had to switch him to a non-dairy, super gentle formula. We’d been to our pediatrician for Grady’s first follow-up appointment and she’d confirmed that he was a “weak sucker” and that it would have been close to impossible for me to breastfeed. When we called her about the reflux, she assured me that it was yet more confirmation that I’d made the right decision for my baby and me. I’m so thankful for the people who rallied around me to help me make the decision, and then continually assured me that I’d done what was best for us.

So, why am I sharing this story?

Truthfully, I think it’s really hard for moms who decide to formula feed. There’s a lot of judgement and a movement saying that “breast is best” and it makes it really hard for those of us who, for whatever reason, chose not to breastfeed.

I’m here to say that both of my children were/are formula fed and they are thriving. I wanted to breastfeed. I did think it would be best. But every child and mother is different. Sometimes children come into our homes through adoption or foster care and breastfeeding isn’t an option. Sometimes moms of adopted children may decide to induce lactation and to that I say, “Go you!” Sometimes moms decide that they don’t want to attempt to breastfeed, and they start out with formula, and to that I say, “Good job feeding your baby!” Sometimes there are moms like me who try to breastfeed, whether it be for three days or three months, and it just doesn’t ever work. To you all I say, “It’s okay! You’re doing great!”

From my perspective, children need love, food, safety, and a roof over their heads. If you’re doing those things, you’re killing it as a mom! Just providing those things to our kids is H-A-R-D! So, let’s get behind each other and support one another.

Let’s be for one another and encourage each other in our decisions.

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