Formula feeding? No way. No thanks.
My son was born four days past his due date and was latched on a short few seconds after coming out. The nurses were still wiping him down as he started inching his way up to the boob…. It was pretty creepy the way he squirmed right for the boob, to be honest! He nursed a handful of times in the hospital during the 24 hours we were there. All the nurses said he was a great little eater and he knew how to latch.
I was elated to know I could nurse and that this would work out for us. But I hadn’t realized that I was getting my hopes up for what would be a struggle in the future.
Around 8 weeks, I ended up with terrible pain while nursing. It ended up being thrush. The good side? Dean didn’t get it in his mouth, like many children do. I was given an ointment to use and sent on my way.
At 4 months my doctor noticed that Dean wasn’t gaining as much weight as he should have been. Jason was a scrawny kid so we just figured Dean was following in his footsteps. She suggested starting him on solids that day, when he was 3 months and 3 weeks old. Thinking back, I wish I was more stubborn with my “no solids until 6 months” idea. But I went on my way, assuming doctor knows best.
At 4.5 months, I went back in. How much am I supposed to feed my child? He wasn’t nursing as much since we introduced solids. I was told to feed him solids three times a day, until he didn’t want anymore. “Babies won’t eat more than they need. He will tell you when he’s done,” said my doctor. I beg to differ. He would eat 16oz of food… each meal. He was barely nursing anymore as the food was filling him up and keeping him full, so my milk started slowing down. He still wasn’t gaining. And that claim of babies not overeating? Total lie. He would eat until he threw up, and then want to eat more sometimes.
Sure enough, within a month, Dean had his first little roll (it didn’t last long because he was far too active!) and he went from >10 percentile to the 15th. And he was happier. It was life changing. And I had a small feeling in the pit of my chest… I couldn’t provide for him the way a mother was supposed to. I couldn’t meet his needs of breast milk.
It was hard to cope with. It sounds so silly now… But at the time, it was heartbreaking. Pre-formula, I would openly nurse him (with a cover and double layered shirts so no skin showed, because I’m a bit overly modest) on a busy mall bench or heck, even a skytrain once when we were stuck for twenty minutes and it was that or have him scream. But when I started with formula, I would time our trips to the parents room so that I could prepare his bottle out of sight. Or I would block the views of onlookers with the stroller while I prepared his powdered formula on the same mall benches. I was ashamed at times. I felt that I was being judged for not being able to provide what my son needed.
And then, close to two months after starting formula, I got over it. A light switch was flipped and I realized that I *WAS* provided what he needed. I *WAS* doing what was best for my child. I was putting his needs for formula far above my own of fulfilling my desire to breast feed. I was still struggling to get my supply back with the assistance of a pump, domperidone and trying to nurse a few times a day. I was fighting tooth and nail to get my supply back and to be Super-Mom, the mother who does everything possible to give their child the best start they can. But until I stopped supplementing, I came to accept that formula is what was best for my child. Not filling him up on food to cover my lack of milk. But instead, using formula.
At 8 months, Dean was back on the boob. I was still unable to pump (it just never really worked for me) but I could hand express 16oz in no time, if I tried – which considering how painful hand expressing can be on the tissues, I didn’t aside from twice to see how my supply was doing.
We didn’t make it to 18 months of nursing… But we made it to 14.5 months. And after overcoming the issues we had, I don’t care for a second that we didn’t make it to a magic number that I pulled out of the air one day when I was nine months pregnant and thinking to the future.
Dean is still on the lighter side – 46th percentile, which isn’t too bad – but eats like a linebacker. He will eat two big bowls of pasta salad, two pickles, a banana and five strawberries for lunch. And then ask for a snack an hour later. I don’t know where he puts it. It turns out that he does have the same body type as his dad, as Dean is still scrawny. He’s getting a little bit of the “toddler gut” but the rest doesn’t have too much meat on him.
Somedays there’s still the wonder if nursing him exclusively to 6 months would have helped with his weight gain or if he was just destined to be skinny.
With our second child on the way, I am hoping to have more success with breastfeeding. I know more about prevention of supply dropping and about intervention if it does happen. I know about what options are out there for me. And about lactation consultants and natural boosters for milk supply… All things I wish I had known before, or even during, nursing Dean.
This time, things will be different. If I need to formula feed, I won’t do it hiding in a parents room. I will proudly do it on that bench in the mall – because I am feeding my child. I am providing them what they need. And I am doing it without putting my desires of only breastfeeding first. Because that is what a Super-Mom does.