Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breastfeeding and the F-Word

Now I understand why the wealthy Europeans of yester-year had peasant women nurse their babies for them (hence, “wetnurse”). It’s soooo much work, stress, pressure and planning. And it’s so isolating, since no one else – not Dad, not Grandma, not babysitters, not anyone – can make the milk that we want to get into that little system.

And considering we’ve had about as EASY a time with breastfeeding as possible, I can’t imagine what I’d do if we faced any of the challenges so many other women confront and conquer. Latch problems, nipple shields, supplementary breastfeeding systems, acid reflux, allergies, nipple blisters, clogged ducts, mastitis, low milk production, exclusive pumping – you name the breastfeeding challenge, and I’ve talked to or heard from someone who’s experienced it, overcome it and remained dedicated to breastfeeding.

So knowing how “easy” we’ve had it (please, I use the term loosely), I can’t help but feel guilty that we discussed the “F-word” last night. Formula.

My production is impressive (I can feed Cayden plentifully and still freeze or store 12 – 16 ounces each day by pumping just three times), his latch is perfect (unless and until he’s voracious, when he starts growling and thrashing his head all around the boob) and his gas issues are no worse than normal. So how dare I – so blessed in the breastfeeding experience – consider giving up, giving in or taking the easy way out by introducing formula, even just once a day.

But that’s what Brian and I talked about last night.

Formula takes longer to digest, so the curds stay in baby’s stomach longer. Therefore, it’s possible that formula will keep him full, longer. But it’s also possible it won’t, and this growing baby will still wake me up three times a night to eat. Obviously the lactation consultant advises against using formula for a whole host of reasons (especially since we have about 30 four-ounce bags of milk in the freezer), and even the pediatrician’s nurse advised only mixing a fraction of formula into breastmilk, if we decide to accept failure.

Because that’s what it feels like to me. Everything is going as right as possible for us, and the trials and tribulations we’re experiencing are all NORMAL at this stage in the game. I have to keep reminding myself we’re only six weeks in. So today I’m back to my dedication to avoiding formula. Because we don’t need it, because it costs money, because it’s not quite as good as the natural stuff, because one bit of formula a day could start a slippery slope and because one dose – even just one little dose – would mean my baby would not have been fed exclusively by breastmilk.

And I don’t know why, but that’s important to me. Maybe it’s my competitive nature or my strong, sometimes extreme, desire to be the first, the best, the most perfect.

But that’s what stuck with me even yesterday and last night, when I was at my wit’s end – the fact that one bit of formula (tainted milk?) in my baby’s tummy means I didn’t sacrifice and do the best I possibly could for him.

Brian compared the milk situation to the epidural decision: I wanted to avoid the epidural if at all possible, but once I decided to have it, I enjoyed the experience of labor and delivery. Brian thinks here, too, if formula keeps Cayden asleep for longer periods at night, then maybe I’ll be able to get more sleep and stress less about feeding this little bugger.

But something feels fundamentally different about this decision to me. My body can do this for my baby, so it’s just a matter of getting my mind on board during the tough parts. Motherhood is all about sacrifice and selflessness, right? How about a big fat lesson in both in this experience.

So for now, we’re just going to try increasing the amount of breastmilk Cayden takes in his bottle at night, and Chicken Wing will stay exclusively breast-fed for the time-being.

But talk to me again in a month and a half. If we’re still confronting the same feeding schedule and pressures as I prepare to go back to work, we may revisit discussion of the F-word. Or maybe we will before that, who knows.

All I know for sure is that today he’s getting no formula. And I’m pretty sure he’ll have none tomorrow, either. One day at a time.

1 comment:

Lesli said...

Good for you in sticking it out. I sometimes wish I would have tried longer but it really was necessary for us to change in so many ways. Maybe I "gave up" like you said but I feel that I made the right decision. Formula feeding is not bad and it's a shame that society makes it out to be that way...WAY too much pressure on women about breast feeding. Formula has come such a long way. Mommy is happy and Keaton is happy so that is all that matters to me. Just know that whatever decision you make is best for you and your family. Don't let others make you feel bad. Good luck in whatever you decide.