I will never forget the sinking feeling I got when I exhaustedly yelled at my husband to give the boys formula. After five long months of breastfeeding my boys on demand I had enough. Sleeping for no more than three hour intervals had taken its toll and every inch of my being was screaming to be done; to give up breastfeeding for good. After calling for reinforcements and getting a full 6 hours sleep I was able to stick it out and continued breastfeeding my boys until they were 14 months old.
Sounds like a picture perfect breastfeeding story right? Well yes and no.
My breastfeeding story was less than perfect. The boys were born weighing just over 5 pounds each. Having a cesarean section delayed my milk production for 5 days, which left me no choice but to use various methods of supplemental nursing systems (SNS) to ensure my boys were getting enough calories to put on weight.
Pumping at the hospital was frivolous. After 20 minutes of pumping I managed to suck out a few minuscule drops; it was devastating. My dream of breastfeeding my boys was vanishing before my eyes. The lactation consultant who frequented my room assured me I’d be filling the bottle before I left the hospital. I scoffed, but desperately clung to the possibility that my milk would come in.
And boy did my milk ever come in!!! I went to sleep on the 4th night with plums and woke up the next morning with cantaloupes!! Baywatch here I come!!!
After the boys came home we continued on our breastfeeding journey. Vivid memories of red-eyed little monsters latching and unlatching; screaming at the top of their little lungs at 3 am all while trying to control my raging hormones and not cry myself for fear of delaying my let-down reflex. Tandem breastfeeding was a juggling act to say the least and a feat of pure perseverance, but as I mentioned my mind was set on breastfeeding my boys.
The pressure to add formula
Constantly being hounded by my family doctor and public health nurse to add formula to my routine, took a toll on me as a breastfeeding mother. The notion of adding formula was completely absurd to me; I had more than enough milk for my boys. The twins were both meeting all the developmental milestones, they just happened to be born small and were still small in comparison to other kids.
At the five month mark I gave in. A small part of my pride as a breastfeeding mother died that day. I felt like I wasn’t enough, that my milk couldn’t sustain my boys; it was heartbreaking.
After I cried and cried, I finally added a bottle of formula to our routine in place of one of my breastfeeding sessions. Even though it was a very hard pill to swallow, it was probably the best decision I could have made. With the extra calories my boys were getting from the formula they began sleeping 8 hours each night, and they started to put on a little more weight each month. It was a blessing in disguise. So why was I so distraught? Why was I so against formula?
Breast is best right? Well, in my case a combination of breastmilk and formula were best for us.
A case for what is best for mom
Breast is best right? Well, yes and no. The benefits of breastmilk are well documented (Adapted from Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Nutrients and protection – custom made for your babies unique needs complete with the right amount of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals; and provides antibodies to assist with immunity
- Convenient and portable – safe, fresh, and always ready to use.
- Budget friendly – free!! Other than if you want to pump your breastmilk
- Benefits for the mother – reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer and may assist with weight loss
- …. and the list goes on!
What we don’t talk about is what’s best for the mother. Time to consider the impact of breastfeeding on a mother’s well being. Her sanity, sleep or lack their of. Or consider the women who simply cannot or choose not to breastfeed. Why are we so quick to judge?
The better question is, why is it our place to judge another mother for her decisions on how she chooses to feed her baby?
If mother and baby are both thriving then we should be supportive and encouraging, PERIOD.
The fact that I beat myself up for giving my children one bottle of formula a day after exclusively breastfeeding them for five months is reflective of my stubborn personality and from the messages we receive from the media and other mothers. Regardless of all the positive benefits of breastmilk, a mother should not feel ashamed for choosing formula or any combination of breastmilk and formula.
We need to support our mothers not place fine constraints around them outlining what it means to be a good mother or a bad mother.
Love, support, encourage, repeat.
Being a mom is tough enough, so let go of all your expectations and the expectations others have of you and just do you. Do what is best for you and baby, after all you know what’s best for your family.
We’d love to hear your stories. Did you end up feeding your baby the way you planned when you were pregnant? What worked for you and baby?