Sunday, February 4, 2007


My thought for the day as I was knitting in my bedroom during Cole's nap: breastfeeding in the parenting world is such a sensitive issue, like abortion in politics; there is usually such an extreme left or right view, with very little attention to an individual circumstance that might land middle ground. (Actually, not only very little attention, but often immediate judgement for not breastfeeding.)

I understand and fully agree that breast milk, with the ability to.. meet a baby's changing nutritional needs, provide antibodies to protect from common respiratory and intestinal diseases, and aid the mother's health, to name just a few benefits.. proves the best option for the baby. I am definitely pro breastfeeding, but Cole was only breastfed until he was five months old, all along being supplemented with formula since day one. I definitely didn't go without criticism (verbalized or not) for pulling out a bottle. To put it out there, here's my story:

Cole was born a HUNGRY baby. He still is.. always starving. When he was a newborn, he was immediately a "good" breast feeder. He would latch on correctly, had a very strong suck, and would empty both breasts completely, usually in as much as 30 minutes. I never had the problem of the newborn falling asleep at the breast. (Well, maybe the first 2 days.) This wasn't an option for Cole; he was too focused on filling his tummy quickly. His eating habits were nice for me. I very rarely felt engorged or had a problem with leaking. I always wore breast pads to play it safe, but only remember it every proving beneficial maybe twice in the entire 5 months of breastfeeding. But I very often fed Cole for a good 30 minutes to finish with a baby who was still hungry. His doctor encouraged me to supplement with formula. (Usually after just a couple of feedings a day.) And that helped!

Because of his ever-present hunger (that his original doctor attributed to being a big baby and a probable inheritance of my blood sugar issues), breastfeeding created a bit of anxiety for both of us. Even one second of the nipple being out of his mouth initiated a screaming, angry Cole. This is obviously unavoidable when I was switching sides, so I just got crazy good at being very quick. Our second and most pressing issue was Cole's refusal to feed under a blanket or cover without a fight. So feeding in public? Impossible..unless I didn't mind doing it with a kicking, crying baby, or, at it's best- an anxious baby that couldn't relax during feeding time.

So, for five months I would breastfeed Cole the appropriate number of times a day, sometimes follow with a couple of ounces of formula, and usually choose to be a calm mother with a calm baby on Sundays- our day with an inevitable public feeding session- and bottle feed him ONCE during church. Cole took to a bottle easily, and his bottle feeding never imposed on his breastfeeding. He would do both easily. This worked for us. And this allowed me to get out every once in a while, leaving Brad with a bottle and good instructions, without worrying about having to be back in two hours. (Or more often than leaving Cole with Brad, taking Cole with me and packing a bottle.) My anxiety was drastically toned down and Cole was calm and content. This made me a better mother.

Then a cross country move happened immediately after I was hospitalized for a rare tropical disease I picked up in Hawaii. Both events depleted me of fluids or caused major stress, lowering my milk supply. By the time we got to Utah, when Cole was just over 3 months, breastfeeding became a physical struggle between the two of us. I was so determined to keep feeding Cole the "best," but Cole's frustration with getting so little milk during breastfeeding turned him off completely. I tried holding his head to my chest to encourage him so suck. I tried only feeding him in a quiet room with just the two of us. I tried singing and stroking his head. Nothing would convince him to breastfeed. I researched my options. I cried. I had a serious inner struggle about my decision to bottle feed.

Come five months, Cole was easily weaned from the breast and took a bottle for all of his feedings. Arguments from the breastfeeding-is -the-ONLY-way community:
health risk from lack of antibodies: I hope I didn't jeopardize Cole's health! This was the major issue that caused inner conflict with my "to bottle feed or not to bottle feed" decision. He's had 3 ear infections and his most recent cough/cold. Maybe that is from the lack of antibodies from breast milk; maybe not.
contamination of bottles and nipples: I don't think I could get any cleaner/ conscious of what I give to my child. Not an issue.
lack of bonding between mother and baby: Luckily, this was NEVER an issue for us. Actually, it was quite the opposite: Cole is so much calmer with a bottle that he ever was with the breast. I would never compromise the time I have with Cole when I'm feeding him, breast or no breast.
ability for mother to loose pregnancy weight quicker: I'm 15 pounds lower than before I got pregnant. I need to figure out how to stop loosing weight.

I hope that I don't put Cole at risk for a lower IQ or myself at risk of Ovarian or Breast Cancer for breastfeeding 7 months shorter than the recommended amount of time. I have been conscious of not adding to plastic waste in the environment. I have tried to make a decision based on what was best for me and what was best for my son. It was a hard one but one that I have yet to regret.

Where does this leave me? It doesn't change my ideas about breastfeeding being the best option. I will definitely start new with my second child. But it puts me in a position where I have realized that life can't always be so two-valued: black or white; left or right; breast or bottle.


  1. I was thinking of posting about this today too...I've supplemented with formula for Isobel since day 3, I think. Also, a very hungry baby and not the best breastfeeder in the beginning. I felt guilty in the beginning, because of the outside pressure and how every time I went to the doctor's I was told it was best to ONLY breastfeed my child...I have lots to say, but am going to bed - so I will comment lots more tomorrow.

  2. I'm back. Anyway, when Iz was first born, I thought I would count breastfeeding a success if we lasted one month. She literally would not eat from one side and scream when ever I tried on that side. I never imagined it would be so difficult to breastfeed my baby.

    So she would eat from one side and
    be very hungry and then I would pump the other side quickly and give her that. Mid-wives would come by my flat (they visit you after you have a baby here) and try to help me. She would latch on for 30 seconds and they would leave saying it was a success. I was frustrated. I was feeling stressed - crying-stressed.

    My mom bought some formula, I reluctantly gave it to her and I tried to suppress feelings of guilt.

    So, she was a extra hungry baby that wouldn't feed from one side. I did it all: breastfed, pumped and gave her formula. For a little while I felt a sense of failure that I couldn't breastfeed her completely. BUT - she was full and that made her happy, which in turn made me happy.

    I kept trying to feed Isobel on the side she hated and a month later she latched on and all has been good since. She also went from being an extremely SLOW eater (seriously, I thought my life would be spent on a couch breastfeeding all day)to a normal speed. I kept giving her formula though, mostly because it was convenient.

    I obviously stopped beating myself up for it or letting myself think other moms were judging me (probably all in my head). I know it might sound drastic, but a woman dealing with those crazy post-labour hormones can be a little drastic...anyway, Iz is almost 9 months and I breastfeed her twice a day. I never thought we would make it that far. She still gets formula and has since the beginning. I found that even when she did take to both sides (she was still hungry sometimes) her taking a bottle just suited our lifestyle (on the tube, the bus).

    I think breastfeeding is such a personal decision. It's obviously no doubt the best thing for a baby, but I will be supplementing with my next baby too. Ideally, the majority of feeding would be from the breast, but bottle/formula sometimes too.

    I am debating when to stop breastfeeding...maybe next month? I don't know. I love her little hands wrapped around my side.

    Also, breastfeeding definitely helped me lose weight. I think I weigh less then I did before I got pregnant. If only I would exercise more...I weigh less, but am in serious need of toning!

    Wow. So long.

  3. I think city life really challenges breastfeeding! I had the same conflict in Boston.
    Did you ever find out why Isobel wouldn't eat from one side?

    I do miss the skin to skin contact. That's special. How is it when they are so much older than 5 months? Are teeth an issue?

  4. No. She was just being a picky girl and for some reason wouldn't latch on. Weird. I'm glad she solved it though, because we really wouldn't have made it very long. I hated pumping (hand pump, not automatic).

    Teeth have just become an issue. She has bit me a couple times. Not nice. I can't help but react with a loud yelp. Then she is done for that feed.

    I also have to breastfeed somewhere quiet or else she is loses concentration and gets interested in the noises. Lately I only breastfeed her first thing in the morning and once before bed, so it's not as big of a problem.

    City life definitely challenges breastfeeding, like you said. I think city life in general is just not as convenient with a baby. but that's okay. Did you experience that in Boston?

    Oh, I read a report awhile back that your child's IQ is more likely related to the IQ of his/her mother rather then breastfeeding. I think that makes sense. I'm sure those studies have some merit, but it kind of bothers me how absolute they can be.

    Like you said, it can't always be black and white with some of these mom and baby things.

  5. I don't doubt that city life can change the dynamics of the breast v. bottle debate. That would be hard. It's not like you go to get groceries, baby gets hungry and you can pull over in the car and feed him/her (even if it takes an hour).

    I wanted to breastfeed from the beginning. And Avery latched on perfectly from the start. She loved to eat. Still does. She was great at it too, but like Isobel, took FOREVER. Literally, one hour to feed her. And then some play time, maybe some sleep and she would be up again to eat (for another hour). All day long. It started to wear on me. And the hormones you talked about Lindsey? They're real. And with the post-labor healing along with the sometimes inconsolable crying...

    The beginning days were hard. Looking back, I wonder how we got through them. But, through it all I really wanted to breastfeed. I liked the idea of my body making something that she could thrive off. I got tons of clogged milk ducts though and thought "I'm just going until six months." And then my sister Kellie told me to take Lecithin. And it worked. Never had a problem since and she eventually got faster and now we were two months away from weaning. I'm going 'til a year.

    I can't say that taking a year out of my life to breastfeed was easy. Combine that with 9 months pregnant and it's been a while since I've been "myself." I'm excited to get back to a small bra and running more frequently. But, it's something I wanted to do. And we'll see about future children.

    It was only through my experience that I realized how personal the decision is. And since then, I would never wonder why someone isn't giving the breast. It can be hard. And emotional and your hormones are suppressed with breastfeeding too. I'm embarrassed to say that before I became a mom I wondered why people would give a bottle instead of breastfeed. I had no idea. Now, I try to think before that I think about what a person may be going through before wondering about their decision. You just never know.

    I breastfeed 4 times a day now. Teeth haven't been an issue. She only has her two bottom one's and hasn't bitten me...yet.

  6. It was nice to read that some people had good experiences with breastfeeding. It makes me think that I might just try it with my next child.

    I tried with Laney. She latched on well. It seemed to be working aside from the initial pain I was in from it. On day 9 though, my mom went home, my baby blues kicked in, and mastitis took over my body. All I could do was cry. When Laney to be waking when I knew meant feeding time, I just cried. I truly thought I would die.

    I made the decision that it was better for my child to have a somewhat stable mother and formula than a crazy mother and breastmilk. (I think that decision was made a little bit easier for me as I was not breastfed and I think I turned out pretty well.)

    Luckily, my OB and pediatrician have never said anything about that decision. They have supported me fully in that personal choice. The pediatrician even commented that my baby could sense my stress and emotions about it and that the baby reacts better to the less stress.

    And luckily, my child has never had more than a little cold so I don't fill guilty about that.

    I am glad it works well for some people. And I really do think I will try it out next time. But I do think my sanity is as important
    as the breastmilk.

    Hopefully you all don't mind my opinion on the matter.

  7. I agree with you Mandy. I think it's definitely true that you have to do what's best for both of you...and a happy mother might prove a better option for Laney than breastmilk. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with it. It's amazing how everyone has such a different experience.

  8. Mandy, I think you did the right thing. I'm sure our babies can sense when we are stressed too. A mother's sanity and happiness are more essential for a baby then what type of milk they get. I realized the same thing when I decided to give Isobel a bottle in the early days.

  9. I agree with them too Mandy. It sounds like Laney is one healthy little girl now and you are probably much more healthy because of it also.


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