Becoming a new mother - whether for the very first time or the fourth time - is such an exciting, confusing, and tumultuous time. You're overjoyed, sore, tired, maybe even in shock. And suddenly, you're faced with making a lot of different and sometimes difficult decisions. How you feed your baby is one of the first monumental decisions you have to make and over the years I've had a variety of different experiences:
Baby #1: I'm an only child and although I had babysat extensively as a teen, I had very little experience with newborns/infants and was relatively young when I had my first child. I was very interested in breastfeeding. I'd heard all the benefits and it seemed like it was the right thing to do. My doctor never said a word about it other than to ask, "Are you planning to breast or bottle feed?" I decided to take a class on breastfeeding at a local WIC office and after it, I naively thought I was an "expert." (Ha!) I even remember thinking, "This is going to be so easy!" I didn't know many people who had breastfed and didn't know the things I should and shouldn't be doing. Baby was given a bottle first thing in the hospital and the lactation support at that time was very...well...lacking. "Just do it" was the phrase I heard most often while in the hospital. I had no clue what I was doing. The baby wouldn't latch on and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Regardless, the hospital sent me home. I continued trying to nurse, mostly unsuccessfully. The first night home, I had developed a rock hard Dolly Parton-esque chest from my milk coming in and not being able to latch correctly and empty my breasts. I was in so much pain from engorgement and couldn't stop crying. I felt like a giant failure. I ended up quitting and switching to formula. Unfortunately, I had no idea that immediately stopping would not take away the pain! I stood in the hot shower bawling, trying to get relief. I finally was able to get a hold of someone who knew something about breastfeeding and she advised me on how to relieve the pressure. After that experience the only thoughts I had on breastfeeding were incredibly negative.
Baby #2: My doctor moved and I began going to a wonderful midwife practice that encouraged me to learn about breastfeeding. I kindly but firmly refused. I did not want to go through the trials and tribulations I had had before. They were kind and didn't pressure me. We fed formula from the get-go and after the nightmare of trying to feed my first, it was like a walk in the park. I had no regrets. This tiny little babe was a little more high-strung than my last, though and I experienced a good deal of postpartum depression/anxiety...something I knew very little about at that time, unfortunately. Someone asked me once if I thought breastfeeding would have helped that - it's possible. However, all these different experiences have taught me new things and even helped me to be able to educate others.
Baby #3: The midwife practice I went to was closed by the time I had my next baby so I sought out a new midwife. She was also very encouraging about breastfeeding. I was initially hesitant and debated for awhile before deciding to "try" breastfeeding. The first few days were difficult - I was sore and feeding was painful because of incorrect latching. Once we got that corrected and after a little bit of time, it became second nature. I remember being so, so nervous about nursing in public. I'd heard so many "horror stories" of people getting called out, told to go elsewhere, and otherwise harassed simply for feeding their child. The first time I did it I had trouble getting myself adjusted & covered, then started sweating and felt frantic because baby was picking up on my nervousness and fussing. Luckily though, one of my biggest supporters happened to be there and was able to reassure me and let me know I was doing ok. I had a wonderful support system this time around that listened to my questions and worries and provided guidance. (We survived the dreaded mastitis as well! For those who don't know - mastitis = flu-like symptoms + giant lump in boob!) Baby #3 nursed for 14 months before self-weaning on his own.
Baby #4: After my first successful breastfeeding experience, I decided why not do it again? I had also begun training to be a doula so I had been doing lots of research and reading on breastfeeding and birth. Nursing was again a little bit of a challenge at first but was quicker to get the hang of, now that I had more experience. However after about 4 months I became pregnant. We did okay until my milk supply started dipping. One way to combat that problem is to take supplements like Honest Company's Lactation Plus, but despite my efforts doing that, keeping hydrated, and a multitude of other things, my body just wasn't having it. So at 10 months, we made the decision to slowly wean and switch to formula. I felt terrible - like my body had somehow stopped working right and wasn't doing its job! However, after a little bit of time I realized that any bit of breast milk for baby is wonderful, I had successfully breastfed yet again, and that I didn't need to feel down because my baby was thriving and happy.
Baby #5: For my fifth pregnancy, I again decided to breastfeed from the start. I felt confident and secure in the knowledge I had gained over the past few years. It felt like a breeze now - at my six week check up, I balanced the baby at my breast while I filled out a paper for my midwife and she said, "Look at you! Look at how far you've come! Multitasking momma!" And it was true, it was becoming old hat now. Things are almost never simple though, and this baby presented the unique challenge of being a tiny little thing like my second baby. After multiple doctor appointments, I made the decision to start supplementing with formula around 7 months to try and help her gain weight. I am even more glad I made this decision after finding out we were expecting Baby #6 not too long after! We are still breastfeeding & supplementing and it's working wonderfully!
Having done all these different things has helped me to keep an open mind regarding feeding. Is breastfeeding best for babies? Of course. But formula is also very much needed and has saved my mental AND physical health at times. There are a lot of different options - like Honest Company's Organic Premium Infant Formula that's GMO free, made entirely of pure organic ingredients, and easy on baby's tummy, Every family and their needs are different but regardless of what way we choose to feed our babies, there needs to be much more education and encouragement on all the ins & outs so moms can make the best decision. Ultimately the goal is to have healthy, happy mommas and babies - that's all that matters!