Getting Some Stuff Off My Chest

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t really written a lot about breastfeeding since having Miss C. This is odd, of course, because it’s basically all I do. With all the TIME hoopla, though, I think now is the time for me to go on the record with some quick notes and thoughts, “quick” being the key word because I’m sure you’re just as tired of hearing about it as I am.

Breastfeeding is hard. Well, having a newborn is hard in general, especially for me who basically has no idea what I’m doing. No, really. NO IDEA. But breastfeeding and all the related issues surrounding it are a big part of what makes it hard. This is especially true when everyone has an opinion about it, moralizes it beyond recognition, and judges you for not doing things the same way they did things. Heck, even if you do things exactly the same way as someone else but don’t do it for their reasons, you’re gonna get judged.

We’ve had our difficulties. Everyone has. My milk didn’t come in fully for weeks, and Miss C wasn’t back up to her birth weight until she was three weeks old. When she finally had regained that weight, I cried at the pediatrician’s office. Then she had a growth spurt and I was literally nursing her on the hour, every hour. And she still wasn’t gaining. It was massively frustrating.

One day a month in, it occurred to me that I hadn’t left the house for more than twenty minutes without Miss C since she was born. I just wanted to go to the grocery store, for Pete’s sake. I had pumped about two ounces for Miss C (that was all I could get considering she was nursing around the clock and I was still struggling to keep up with her), but I just bit the bullet and made her a bottle of formula for B to give her while I was gone. We had TONS of formula laying around the house because you’re bombarded with free samples of it when you’re pregnant.

And guess what? She took the formula and didn’t die! AND we are still bonded! AND it nourished her! AND she’s gaining weight!

And we’re not bad parents. I’m still primarily breastfeeding her/feeding her expressed milk, but you better believe she gets formula too. Giving her a bottle gives me comfort that her little belly is full.

So the other day I was reading this book called The Essential First Year because, y’know, I need all the help I can get. And here’s what this tome of wisdom said about bottle-feeding:

You may hear that bottle-feeding is better for modern families because the father can share the joy of feeding his baby and the mother can sleep while he does some night feeds. Oh please! Every parent knows that feeding is the baby’s basic need and has to come before father’s joy or even mother’s sleep. Anyway once a mother and baby have had a month or so to learn breast-feeding, father can give as many bottles as he likes  – of expressed milk.

Yeah, well “every parent” also (hopefully) knows that they should create a feeding routine that works best for their family. If that includes exclusive breastfeeding, that’s great, but they’re not going to hell and their baby is not going to die if it gets *gasp* a bottle filled with *double gasp!* formula. I promptly shut the book and returned it to the library with a note to the next reader to stay away from this judgey-pants book. (It sucked for several other reasons too but this is the one that finally made me shut it.) This book was meant to be a general instruction book of a baby’s first year, so its in-you-face message of damnation if a bottle and formula ever comes into the picture really, really turned me off. I’d agree that it’s important to establish breastfeeding in the first month if that’s what you want to do, but there are about a bajillion babies out there that were never breastfed and only ever knew a bottle and formula, and guess what? They turned out fine. Actually, not just fine. Exceedingly well.

First off, if the baby has a father like B and Ande over at & Squatch Makes Three who cares enough about his newborn child to want to share in its feeding, I am ALL ABOUT including him. Dads are parents, too, people. If the child is blessed enough to have a father who doesn’t just see it as a lump of salami during those first weeks but as his baby, then you better believe I am going to indulge him the pleasure of spending some time with her in his arms, giving her nourishment.

Also, a mother’s sleep is not just a luxury; it is a major, major necessity. In the first months, rest is what can separate a new mom from a crazy-pants lunatic. The only reason I’m remotely cohesive and sane right now, 7 1/2 weeks in, is because I go to bed at 9:30 and B gives Miss C a bottle in the interim period before I get up and nurse her at 3AM and then again around 7AM. I am human and would resent the heck out of my new role as parent to Miss C if I lacked the clarity rest gives me. Rest makes me not want to cry when she cries. Rest gives me tons of patience. Rest helps me access my compassion. Rest makes me better for her.

And those are my remarks on breastfeeding.

The End.

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53 comments

  1. THANK.YOU. Breastfeeding was horrific for us. I lasted 2 weeks, and Zach and I both cried tears of joy the first time we gave Sonia a bottle because, for the first time in her life, we were SURE that she was full. I had issues with my milk coming in, too, and she lost a bunch of weight and started getting dehydrated, and people just kept pushing me to keep trying and avoid formula like it was poison or something. It was so stupid, I lost so much sleep over it, and I definitely started resenting my time feeding her because it was so excruciatingly painful, I was EXHAUSTED, and I felt like a failure. Looking back now, that was SO not worth it. Miss C is healthy and loved, and making sure that you’re healthy and rested is the best way to keep her that way. Books be damned!

    1. That first moment when we gave her a bottle and KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was full, was priceless. Amazingly, she also fell asleep right away. We were like, imagine that, actually being satiated makes her happy. And yes about the books. From here on out I am ONLY reading things that were expressly recommended to me by people I trust.

  2. Good for you! Just wanted to lend my support. I get tired of the judgey-pants, too. Obviously everything went swimmingly for them. The reality is that it does not go swimmingly for everyone. Good for you on the rest too. You are right, you will have much more patience if you are able to get some quality sleep. Continued good wishes for you!

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! Right now we’re just relishing that delicious sleep because pretty soon she’ll go thru a growth spurt and we’ll be burning the midnight (and 1AM, and 2AM, and 3AM…oh, you get it) oil again :)

  3. Okay, I would have said exactly what you’ve discovered but it’s become very touchy to say anything, nowadays. With the first baby you know nothing and try to do things by the book or the “right” way only to discover there is no right way!!! As it turns out, the right way is whatever helps you to stay sane and healthy! Good to know! I suffered with Lily and then with my son I was like, hell no! We’re doing both formula and breast! Yay! And I got sleep! I told them in the hospital, if I’m awake I’ll breast feed and if I’m sleeping, give him formula. Duh… It makes so much more sense especially considering how useless you feel when your sleep deprived.
    I’m happy for you that you figured this out so quickly and didn’t continue to torture yourself. :)

    1. It IS so touchy! It’s so funny to me that all this breastfeeding talk is going on right now as I’m in the midst of it. I guess I’m just really tuned in to it right now. I am also really glad that all the mom blogs I follow and people like yourself are sane about this whole issue; they really give me that extra boost of confidence that we’re doing OK when I get down on myself for giving C formula.

  4. Breastfeeding is so hard. I made myself CRAZY for 6 months buying into to the formula is evil mentality. K lost weight, I never made enough milk, I was pumping and feeding on demand all the time, and from 4-6 months, we thought she was in a perpetual state of teething because she was so fussy. Guess what? She was hungry. If I ever have it do over again, I will supplement without a second thought, and give it up when I want to, not at some arbitrary marker. The day I went in to the peditrician’s office and announced I was weaning her, he said that babies get exactly the same amount of benefit from one bottle of breast milk a day. That is not in the judgy-pants books.

    1. I know! After the first bottle, when she was actually full and wasn’t yelling all the time because she was still hungry, was the best moment ever. We finally knew why she was so fussy all the time! It was such a relief. Plus, we could FINALLY sleep. For us, it’s just a no-brainer. Sometimes I still feel guilty about giving her formula but I just have to remind myself that she’s progressing wonderfully and B and I are NOT crazypants for giving it to her. What would be insane is if we weren’t feeding her at all.

  5. I love reading your posts. You always make me chuckle and you always stir up my own baby memories. Even though I raised six kids, I honestly don’t have any advice beyond this–DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO SURVIVE. After experiencing every kind of lactation success and failure know to womankind, I still do not consider myself an expert. Every child presented me with new challenges. I breastfed some longer than others–one in particular had a weird throat flap thing that made him emit such horrific honking noises every time he nursed I weaned him to shut him up. (Bottle feeding didn’t evoke the same sound.) My daughter has struggled with the breastfeeding issue, as well. After seven months, she finally put my granddaughter on goat’s milk and everybody is happier now and sleeping better. Of course, little Miss R now smells like an pungent Tibetan yak all the time, but she’s thriving. Sorry this is so long, but I really want to give you a thumbs-up. It sounds like you’re doing exactly what you need to do. Continue to trust your instincts more than the books, and someday, if Miss C happens to come home with the hugest, ugliest tattoo you’ve ever laid eyes on, you can lecture her about all the worry you put into protecting her perfect little body when she was a baby…

    1. Thanks, Willow :) You are so right; sometimes the best advice is just to figure it out on your own. It’s kind of funny to me that I read all these infant books while I was still pregnant thinking they could prepare me, or at least give me some ideas, for how I’d handle C once she arrived. HA. You totally have to be in the thick of it to come up with a plan of action.

      BTW, that tattoo comment was EPIC. I completely get now why my parents reacted so much when I was a kid and wanted to get a tattoo; they knew me when I was spotless. I think I’d cry if C ever came home with anything marring her body!

  6. Karli wants to breastfeed Squatch. Her deal is that she takes care of the head end and I get the butt end. Not sure I like this deal.

    1. NIIIIIICE. I’m kind of a freak in that I don’t mind the diapers so much. I’ve heard it really gets bad, though, when you start them on solids. Right now it’s just mildly icky.

      1. I’ve heard that, too. Send back a report when you hit the promised land.

  7. I’m about to become whatever the formula feeding equivalent of a lactivist is because I am SO OVER being judged for what I’m not doing with my boobs. Even my formula can says “experts agree that breast is best” on it. Which, when I noticed it, made me want to cry. I was all: HEY FORMULA CAN, YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE! I can’t breast feed because my body is trying to recover from life-threatening cardiac complications and needs all the resources it can get. But not everyone should need a freaking doctor’s note to have permission not to exclusively breast feed. Sure, it’s something I had really hoped to do (because like everyone knows already, I was aware that “breast is best”), and I was sad not to get to do it. Grieved in fact. But other women may not do it because they want to leave their homes, or because they work and hate pumping, or because they just. don’t. want. to. And just not wanting to? That’s fine too. I’m a big fan of women making their own choices with their bodies.

    1. I completely remember that slogan. I first heard it years and years ago, and it literally rattled around in my brain every single time I made a bottle for her during the first few weeks of our supplementing regimen. I eventually was like LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I kind of don’t understand why the formula can would say that. On one hand, it’s a good thing I suppose for the 1% of the population that has not been exposed to the message that breastmilk is manna from heaven that will literally make your baby sprout wings and get into Harvard at age 12. But seriously, formula is not cigarettes and therefore does not need to come with a warning on the side of the can.

  8. Good! Good! Good! All I can say is “good!” because it’s absolutely true that no matter WHAT you do, there will be haters. I haven’t had a baby for more than 15 years and I STILLLLLLLL feel bitter and angry over how people treated me because I didn’t breastfeed exclusively. Even my sister! I couldn’t do it. Really. There are people who, physically, can’t. Hang in there. Sounds like you’re doing great!

    1. Just one more thing…formula was invented–a long time ago–to feed orphans, not children living in their birth families. Formula had a significant impact in decreasing infant mortality and, in essence, made adoption possible. One of those factoids I had to research in grad school.

    2. It’s most painful when your family doesn’t even approve and are vocal about it. They should be the ones who are most supportive of whatever you end up doing (short of feeding the baby tequila).

  9. We breastfed our kids for 8 months. I did give them bottles every now and then when my wife collapsed from exhaustion.

    I do have to say though, I was kind of grossed out watching milk spew out of boobs.

    1. P.S. I just posted a new guest post I received from a mommy that deals with breast feeding..suitable for The Mainland of course:

      http://themainland.net/my-boobs-arent-hometown-buffet-baby/

      1. I am going to check it out! I have severely fallen behind in my following of other blogs lately but I’m really hoping to catch up this weekend.

    2. Yeah, it is fascinatingly gross. Once I tasted it just to see what it tasted like and B nearly vomited.

  10. Good for you. Don’t give in to the mommy wars. Do you!

    1. Those are the scariest wars of them all. Brings to mind the old adage, “hell hath no fury….”

  11. krugthethinker · · Reply

    You are the most level-headed person I have ever met. I am glad you are holding on to that in the midst of all this craziness. But not at all surprised. Because you are awesome. Love you!

    1. I think I may print that off and tape it to my bathroom mirror :) You are so sweet. Love you!

  12. dkingneece · · Reply

    That quote is fucking bullshit. I’m hoping to breastfeed, but I sure as hell won’t be sacrificing my family’s (mental AND physical) health for it. That just defeats the purpose.

    1. Amen to that! You have a lot more clarity about the whole thing than I did at first!

  13. OMG, there are so many dumbass baby books out there. We finally banned them from the house–all of them. The final straw for us was Harvey Karp (“talk to your toddler like a cave person”), but it could have been any of them.

    As for breastfeeding, I was the bear who often sat on the couch nearby seeing Things I Would Rather Not Have Seen. It’s not pretty and it only sometimes gets the job done. The judging comes from both sides of the BF “issue,” not to mention defensiveness from any older female relatives who didn’t BF themselves and feel judged when you try so hard at it–like it’s all about them and not your baby. You really can’t win.

    The domperadone was flying around here; it truly does make BFing mothers fart, and yeah, the kids were probably hungry lots of the time (not teething!) because that “breast is best” message made my mum so determined to feed them that way.

    I remember reading that even if your kid gets ONE tablespoon of breast milk a day she gets all the beneficial antibodies/enzymes it confers. Those militant BF-or-nothing freaks can suck the hind teat!

    1. I have been reading through Harvey Karp the last week or so. A lot of what he says is quite lulu but I like his heavy usage of exclamation points. They make me feel like I’m at a pep rally, so I keep reading. It’s a lot better than drinking coffee at 11PM.

      I have wondered how much breastmilk a baby really needs to get to get all the antibiotic benefits. I will have to look that up! Thanks, LB :) (BTW thanks for accepting my FB friend request…I have a very real need to stalk you on all sorts of social media.)

  14. Bf for my first child was short lived, but the other two did great. In retrospect, I would have still done that, but I would have found a way to get more rest as well. Sleep deprived people are not nice people!

    1. Boy is that right! I didn’t get any rest last night and I’ve been a bit of a nightmare all day!

  15. To my surprise I cannot tell you the number of women I have spoken to with who have had challenges with breastfeeding. That has surprised me becaust it always seems that we here the rose colored view points of bfding. It also saddens me how many women feel guilty when bfding does not work for them. Our society certainly puts so much pressure on moms to parent a certain way but at the same time there are so many opinions about what is right.
    With parenting I think going with your gut and if you are coming from a place of love and nurturing than you are doing what you know to be best. Everyone can reserve their opinions.

    1. I have been surprised too by how many people have had difficulties. I think it’s because when you’re preggo, everyone describes BFing like it’s all sunshine and lollipops and great in every way. Few people and healthcare providers adequately prepare new moms for what theyre about to face when they start breastfeeding.

  16. We had a hard time with breastfeeding at the beginning too! Keelin would not latch and I was pumping and spoon feeding her {dripping it into her mouth} at only a few days old. I was so distraught and even went to a LaLeche League meeting when she was 6 days old to try and get some help. Thankfully we both got the hang of it and I’m still exclusively nursing her every 3 hours. I pump every now and then to have some saved milk for daddy to use when I’m out of the house at rehearsal or what not. I totally understand the worry that you’re not doing what’s best for your child if you’re not breastfeeding. I was worried about having to switch to formula when breastfeeding started being natural to us. Formula was created to be as close to mother’s milk as possible and not every mother can fill her baby’s tummy at every feeding. You’re a wonderful mother and by loving and worrying about your little one you ARE doing what’s best for her. Keep it up mama!

    1. Thanks! I am so impressed that you went to a LLL meeting when she was only six days old! I think I was still completely comatose at that point.

  17. F-yes lady! I did exactly the same thing you are doing. (I even mixed formulas from week to week because my kid didn’t really care what was in the bottle as long as it was wet and yummy). And PS, pumping and breast feeding is like feeding twins…at least for me it was.. pump, feed, pump feed, sleep, point a boob at the baby, eat, and drink unti you’re blue in the face. Formula helped my boobs so much…like in the skin-healing department.
    You are doing an awesome job retaining your sanity and ability to make your own parenting decisions in the face of a million “experts” raging, crazy opinions. Keep it up. Miss C is lucky to have such a smart, capable mom.

    1. Thank you! My skin thanks formula too :) It was totally ravaged at the beginning but now it’s completely fine (albeit thanks to lanolin as well…that stuff is AMAZING.)

  18. You do what works for you, sister!! Really. And parenting books…. good lawd. I go one step further than your plan to only read books that are suggested to you by people you trust. I only read books that reinforce what I have already decided I think is right, So that I can say “oh, really, well I read it in a book, go fuck yourself.” Sometimes I just Google around for a book that supports my opinion and then toss around the title. :)

    You’re doing great. You’ve already decided that you know how to parent your kid better than anyone else. You’re 95% good from here on out.

    1. I really like your strategy of only reading books that reinforce what you already think! Although all those other books are good for a laugh every so often ;) And for harvesting craziness for one’s blog.

  19. Boy this topic really stirs the shit doesn’t it?! I don’t even have any kids yet and I’m reading this thinking AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN, GO EMILY! When I finally do have a baby of my own and someone tries to forces their ideas of perfect parenting on me it will take everything I have not to tell them to go straight to hell. I’m so proud of you! After meeting your little angel in person I KNOW that you are doing everything and considering everything that is right for you and Miss C. What is most important is that you are confident in your abilities and that Ben supports you, nothing else. You rock as a mom and you should never apologize for doing your best and “troubleshooting” when difficult and utterly unpredictable situations arise.

    1. LOL! Luckily, almost no one has actually told me to my face that I’m doing something wrong. If they did I would totally curl up into a ball and cry. At least with books, you can take your aggression out on the author by throwing it across the room :)

  20. I think you should burn that book – and I NEVER burn books. However, I strongly believes that a happy mommy makes for a happy baby, and a happy mommy NEEDS sleep.

    1. LOL! I would burn it if I didn’t have to pay the library fine to replace it and thus give the author more money!

  21. Good for you!!! Only you and B know what is best for your family.

  22. [...] the best advice is just to figure it out on your own. … Go here to see the original: Getting Some Stuff Off My Chest | The Waiting ← Breastfeeding & Allergies & Reflux. – [...]

  23. Well said. This reminds me of your freshly pressed post – so wise in going against conventional wisdom. I’ve seen so many parents wear the phrase “I’m (exclusively) breastfeeding” as a badge of honour. Its great, Sophia only really started falling sick after I weaned her but there are tonnes of good reasons for not doing so and its fine! I was formula fed and I like to think I turned out ok.

    I’m amazed you still sound so chirpy and funny in your posts when you must have had such a hard time in those initial weeks! I remember the first month was a dark, crazy time for me where I was only capable of whinging. You’re amazing!

    1. I think you turned out more than OK :) As did Miss Sophia!

      In the spaces between the times I sit down to blog, I am often kind of a mess with the baby and all. It’s only when I write that I can sort out all that’s going on in my life. It’s really cathartic for me and it helps me to see the bright side of the difficulties, and I usually walk away with a much more optimistic view of those dark and crazy moments.

      Thanks for your sweet words; they mean more to me than you would imagine!

  24. I didn’t feel prepared either and never imagined it would be so hard…I felt a lot of sadness and guilt when I gave my daughter her first bottle of formula but what a relief!
    Thank you for sharing…!

    1. No matter how many books I read or how much advice I got, I don’t think I was prepared either. What the books don’t tell you is that it’s not just an objective baby you’re breastfeeding; it’s a little human being who is as quirky and individual as a full-grown person! And just like your interactions with kids and adults, babies can be just as individual and difficult to figure out.

      Thanks for commenting!

  25. Samantha · · Reply

    I’m finally catching up on my blog reading. I love this post. Every baby I breastfed was a nightmare till we both learned what worked. I threw in the towel fairly quickly with the twins, 2 months of continuous pumping and feedings was awful. For the first time I felt like a dairy cow not a mother. The bottle became my best friend. Natural instinct my ass, it is something you learn. I try to steer clear of baby books and more recently mommy chat groups.

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