Thursday, October 8, 2015

Guest Post: A Breast and Bottle Experience


It's BFBN Guest Post Day and today Shea from The Moses Home is sharing about both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. It's a lengthy post, so grab a cup of something warm and cozy up for a good read. I've read her story below several times now and each time a different emotion resonates with me. Full confession: I am not a fan of breastfeeding. I do it because I can and therefor think that I should. I don't get all the warm fuzzies from it and I used to feel guilty about that. This time around I'm learning to be more upfront with that because I think there are more women in my shoes than I ever realized. I feel badly for the women who can't breastfeed but wanted to; I then also feel badly that I do it but don't love it like all the women I see on my Instagram feed (#normalizeit). Enough feeling badly already, amiright?!

And PS: today I'm sharing over at Shea's blog about connecting weekly with your husband.


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How you choose to feed your baby can be/is one of the most “talked about” topics among moms. There is so much emotion tied to lots of decisions that moms make for their children, but the way in which we feed them almost ends up putting us on a team. You know the teams. Team Breast or Team Bottle. I am almost convinced that no other choice we make in early parenthood can cause the shame or the pride that this one will bring. I have played for both teams, so I would like to share my perspective today.

I unexpectedly became pregnant 6 months into marriage. I was not prepared for anything that had to do with parenting, but it was time to do my research. After doing some digging online, it was easy for me to decide that breastfeeding my baby would be the best fit for my soon-to-be family of 3. I decided that, among many other things throughout my pregnancy, and believed that things would magically fall into place as I had planned for them too. Fast forward to walking out of my 36 week pre-natal check up and heading straight to the hospital to have my first baby. Due to some minor complications (intrauterine growth restriction), it was better safe than sorry to go ahead and deliver. This was not part of my plan. At 9 am the next morning, a c-section ensued. That also was not in my plan. We didn’t even have a changing table yet. She was beautiful, and tiny. 4 lbs 11 oz, born at 36 weeks 3 days. She was healthy, Praise be to the Lord.

Oh but was she sleepy. She was still supposed to be inside of me, she wanted a few more weeks to grow. I was saddened that my body could not provide her with the environment to do be able to do so. She did not have the energy to feed for very long. Thankfully, my milk flowed like honey - and the only reason I worried that she might not get enough to eat was because her tiny body could not muster up the energy to eat for more than 5-6 minutes. Her little frame needed to gain weight, and she had not the energy to get the nutrients to do that. At the tender age of 8 weeks, I decided that again, my body had failed her and that I was destined for a motherhood experience that would never go according to my plan. After a long recovery of mastitis, I hung my head in shame and stuffed my sports bra with cabbage leaves. We spent roughly half a million dollars in baby formula for the next 10 months. It was a happy 10 months though. Our family functioned well, and everyone was incredibly happy. My baby was as healthy as the next, and we proudly moved along - and didn’t struggle much with having to defend our decision.

When that baby was 3 days shy of celebrating her 2nd birthday, we surprised her with a baby sister. Little sister came to us at 38 weeks 2 days and I was elated that we pulled through for that long! At my 38 week appointment, there was essentially no amniotic fluid left, and so baby needed to come (so glad my body held out 2 weeks longer before doing this a second time!). I had asked for a VBAC (I live in a small community, so this was not an option due to resources) and was told of course that would not happen. When they brought my SCREAMING 6lb 8oz baby, I thought I had just birthed a baby cow. She was plump, swollen, and pink. She came to me latched herself, and nursed to her heart’s content. An answer to prayers! I didn’t even have to put in one lick of effort. She ate any time I offered, and screamed at all other moments of the day. We learned what colic was with this sweet girl, and breastfeeding her was the only thing I had to connect me to her. Nursing her saved me during that time. It kept me necessary for her, when all her screaming told me I could do nothing to comfort her. So I did, and it felt great. It felt so good knowing that I was enough for her, and that I could give her exactly what she needed. I was even a little thrilled when she was offended by having to take a bottle at 7 months old when I had to have a medical procedure done that required some prep ahead of time that would not be optimal to pass along to her through my milk. My mom and husband had to syringe feed that child. Syringe feed her 7 oz of pumped milk. My heart swelled with pride, and I felt so sorry for what my husband and my mom went through that day with her. We continued on and weaned shortly after my first cycle from having had her creeped back into my world (11 months). The next month I learned we would have another baby!

9 months later I was faced with newborn love and snuggles again and I was confident that breastfeeding was something I was fully capable of doing successfully! I looked forward to it so much during my pregnancy, and prayed that Lord would bless me with a healthy nursing relationship like he had done with my precious daughter. She was a little thing, 5 lbs 12 oz, and did not latch well during the first feed after delivery. She fussed, seemed confused and ultimately uninterested. I stayed relaxed and calm, and knew that in the first few days feedings can be a challenge, but knew that it would work out in the end and I was prepared to continue working with her. We took her home, and had some good feeds, some really rough feeds and it was an up and down rollercoaster. After working with a lactation consultant we were able to conculde that I had a hyper-ejection milk reflex and a forceful letdown. It caused her to swallow a lot of gas during let down. I tried all sorts of tricks, only short of nursing while doing a headstand, and it became such a stress for me that by the 4th month, her and I had both had enough. I was a ball of stress, she hated feeding time, and all of a sudden I remembered that I also had the responsibility of feeding the two other sisters that lived under my care! After a lot of talking with my husband and countless visits with an LC, we decided that formula would keep her healthy and thriving, and allow for some peace among the rest of the household. I was sad, but knew from experience that feeding both ways resulted in the same thing: healthy, happy kids.

On October 1, 2014 - I really got the shock of a lifetime when I learned I was expecting a 4th blessing. You may laugh, but my first thought - pregnancy test freshly positive and still in hand- was I was going to get to nurse a baby again! I was going to redeem myself from my most recent experience. I mean, there HAS to be a connection between my odd numbered babies (formula fed) and so surely my even numbered babies would be my little breast girls. Turns out that logic does not work.

Her birth was a little traumatic for us both. Her birth story includes 2 extra days in the hospital, being hooked up to an IV and unavailable to hold for almost 48 hours after birth, her not being able to regulate her blood sugar, and me having to have 4 units of blood to survive her arrival. The pediatrician told me that because her blood sugar levels were so low, and my milk had not come in yet to help in regulating it, she had to have formula in the hospital. None of my other babies had formula that soon, and I was so sad. I was sad, but I wanted her to have what she needed to get those levels under control. With each feed, I would nurse/(pump during the time I was unable to hold her to feed her) and then give .5 ounce of formula. This leveled her out nicely, and once my milk came in the formula was not necessary anymore.

However, she loved the bottle. So I had to work extra hard to get her to nurse without fussing. That really hardly ever happened. I again, was on the phone with a Lactation Consultant who told me that I had hyper ejection milk reflex and oversupply. Let down was painful for her, and it eventually lead to her having a nursing aversion. When I was just as much cradle her in my arms to place her in position to feed, her back would arch and she was scream. It was nearly impossible just to calm her down enough to feed.

There is something so hard about this happening 8 -12 times a day. Maddening, really. I would finally get her to latch, and the whole time I would just pray, please take a full feed. Sometimes she would! Sometimes she wouldn’t. We had a few good days and a LOT of bad days where I was in tears 8-12 times a day. I knew this was my lost shot. My last chance. If I was done, I was done for good. Choosing formula this time was FAR FROM the easy way out. It was the hardest choice I felt like I have had to make this far into parenting.

See, I was the mom who mostly formula fed her babies, but wanted to be breastfeeding them. That is a lonely camp to be in. Mostly because it is a silent camp. I feel like I don’t hear from those mom’s very often, but I know they are out there. You know the ones who are struggling to make it work because of what society says. What science says. What their friends, even, say. I feel like a lot of these moms are suffering quietly. When I would see nursing moms, just nursing like it was as easy as getting dressed in the morning I would cringe with what I call “happy jealousy”. I would be so glad that nursing was working out so well for them, and I would be mournful at the same time that it was not at all an easy thing for me overall. I am thankful for formula, and how it saved my family and grew my babies 3 times over. I am more than grateful to God that I had an opportunity to nurse a baby with success one time over. I am thankful that I know that bond and that I have that experience. I am also glad that breastfeeding won’t bring my babies to salvation, and that formula isn’t going to send them to hell. I am confident that those who know me, know that I love each of my babies down to the very fiber of who I am - and only want what is the very best for them. You can’t argue that there is anything nutritionally better for a baby than its mother’s milk. You also can’t argue that bottle feeding is nutritionally damaging to a child, either. It is a healthy alternative and it is ok. It is ok.

But I know that in the moment of trying to make that decision you are not sure what in the world is “ok”. Unfortunately, this is one of the first things you are faced with when being ushered into motherhood, no experience required style. Emotions become gravely attached with decisions like these, but you must not be ashamed of not choosing formula if you need too. Breastfeeding moms need not to puff up in pride that they were able to make that work - even if was difficult for a time.

I have learned that there are things under the umbrella of motherhood that you can excel in, and things that you can struggle with. I can get D- in nursing, but I may get an A+ in potty training, and that is ok. We each have our unique talents and natural abilities and those can be noted in motherhood just as they could be in school or in the workplace. So I have decided to really cultivate my areas of talent and spend most of my time there, while still giving some time to pushing through the things in parentings that don’t come as easily to me.

And soon enough, aren’t we all eating 3 meals a day at a table together anyway? How you feed your infant will not be noticeable to others much after toddlerhood, so take heart! Just feed your baby how you see fit, and trust yourself.

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