First of all, let me go ahead and preface this with: FED is always, ALWAYS best. It is no question that evidence and science proves that breastmilk is the most amazing and the most natural choice for a baby’s nutrition.
But guess what. Not all babies can breastfeed. Not all moms can make milk. Not all moms WANT to breastfeed, and not all babies can even tolerate breastmilk. And y’all, that’s more than okay! Whether by choice or by necessity, formula can be LIFE SAVING and SANITY SAVING. Ultimately a mother’s first and most important job is to feed, love, and protect her baby however she can. A baby who is fed and growing is a happy one, no matter what that looks like. So with that being said, here’s what our feeding journey with Owen has looked like.
I always wanted to breastfeed my babies. I knew I could choose how to feed Owen, and I just really wanted breastfeeding to work for us this time. It got off to a rocky start since he was in the NICU those first 8 days. They gave him bottles of my breastmilk when I couldn’t be with him which was obviously fine and necessary, but it definitely put us at a disadvantage because he got used to that type of sucking and that type of nipple. I went in to be with him as much as I could (obviously couldn’t be there 24/7 with a toddler and with living 30 minutes away). But I went and nursed him as much as possible. We got a lot of practice and attention from the consultants and nurses there.
Looking back I’m really thankful for those few days of nursing when it actually felt beautiful and precious. I’ll always cherish those moments with him. In the hospital it seemed to go well, and I just assumed nursing would continue to go well once we got home.
So wrong. We got home with Owen and nursing him got harder and harder. His stomach became super sensitive and he became crazy fussy all the time. He would latch and drink for a quick minute but then would pull off screaming. He would cry and cry, try to latch, then get too mad to even eat. It was like my boob was physically hurting him, that’s how hard he would fight nursing. I don’t know why it went this way, but it broke my heart to feel like I was doing something wrong or that I was falling short. It was awful. Every nursing session would end with me bawling crying and Owen screaming mad. We tried EVERYTHING. Nipple shields, different positions, you name it. We went into see lactation consultants, we got on the phone with lactation support…it just continued to be hell.
Sidenote: MOMS. It is not your fault. You are not less-than. You are not weak. Breastfeeding is not the only way to be an excellent mother. It is not everything. Moms…please understand this. You are enough.
His tummy was also in dissaray. Constant reflux and sooo much painful gas that made him uncomfortable and upset all. day. long. Even at night! During his “sleep” he would grunt. push. cry. whimper….for hours. I tried cutting out dairy, caffeine, and eating less foods that would be gas inducing….to no avail. And honestly, overhauling my diet any more than that wasn’t going to happen. I’m already struggling mentally and emotionally, have another child as well, and it would be tooooo much.
So for about 4 weeks we kept trying and if he refused to latch, we’d give him breastmilk in a bottle. Because DUH the child needs to eat and I’m not going to starve him just because I want to nurse him directly. So I thought maybe bottles would be the solution for him and that he would do way better with those. I thought, “pumping won’t be so bad, we will make it work.”
So wrong. Pumping was HARD to do around the clock while juggling a 3 year old who is feeling the ramifications of all the chaos, and an angry baby.
Y’all, I will write more about this when I’ve had time to process it and to overcome it, but I’ve really dealt with Postpartum Depression during these 8 weeks. I’m sad to even say it and type it. It has been very scary and shocking to me. But that’s another post. Just know that while all these issues were happening, my sanity was also slowly slipping away (not kidding).
We visited the pediatrician 2 different times with our concerns for him. They kept telling me his stomach was fine, to just put him on stronger and stronger reflux meds every time. Well yes, he does have reflux, but I knew that couldn’t be all of it because no matter what reflux med we gave him, he was still in pain and still unable to eat. I asked for a referral to a GI specialist and they said no. They said give it a few more weeks….ugh.
By week 7, we had reached the end of our rope. Owen was constantly miserable. Couldn’t sleep very long, wasn’t soothed by food or being held, and his body and stomach were always stiff. I texted my cousin to ask her what kind of formula her son used because he had a sensitive tummy as a baby. She came right over with some for me to try out, because at this point we needed to find what could work.
We gave him formula for all of his evening and nighttime feedings that night. When we turned the light on at 7am for his first morning meal, I could NOT believe how he looked. He was completely broken out in hives all over his little face and chest and stomach. His eyes were all swollen shut. It SUCKED. I was so sad, and had a freaking breakdown. What would we feed this poor baby and what is he allergic to?!? Breastmilk wasn’t working. This formula wasn’t working. HELP.
Back to the doctor. We finally got the GI referral I asked the first doctor for, and we got sent home with a special broken down kind of formula that is hypoallergenic and for babies who have these issues.
It’s been 4 days on this formula now and he is a completely different baby. He is eating and not screaming with every feeding. He’s MUCH more comfortable, not in pain, and he’s able to have regular bowels. His skin is completely cleared up. He is smiling and cooing and sleeping WAY better. He’s finally not drinking poison to his body! I’m so relieved.
We still need to figure out what exactly caused his allergic reaction and what it is his body cannot tolerate. But right now….finally at 8 weeks old, he’s getting the nutrition and food that HE needs, that’s best for HIS body.
And this is why “breast is best” is just not a statement I can say. Because it really isn’t best for everyone or for every baby. My son is thriving finally. And it looks different than I thought it would (heck, my 3 year old thrives with her tube and that’s even MORE different!)
However your kids are fed, be proud, and be grateful for it!!
I’d love to hear your story. Share it all. Breastfeeding triumphs or struggles, allergy stories, and any advice for this mama, bring it my way.
Katya and more of her beautiful work can be found at www.katyavilchyk.com