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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

Real Talk: The Hardships I Faced Trying To Feed My Baby

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Before having Harper, when asked by others if I would breastfeed, I always said "if I can". I knew that it was difficult for some, and didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. However, as I have come to learn the hard way, even when we "hope for the best and prepare for the worst" we feel the pain of the "worst" just the same. When I had to give Harper formula for the first time, I felt like the worst mom in the entire world. I wasn't able to do the one "natural" thing that every other woman has been able to, and thought that everyone would judge me. I judged myself.

We were still in week one. While breastfeeding went great at the hospital, it quickly changed course once my milk came in. Harper wasn't gaining her weight back fast enough, and I wasn't creating enough milk for her to do so. She started refusing feeds because the milk wasn't coming quickly enough for her, and her refusing feeds wasn't helping my milk supply. Hormones were at their peak, my baby wasn't eating, and I felt like it was All. My. Fault. Formula was seen as poison in my eyes, and I was angry at my midwife for encouraging me to supplement with it. I was a MESS. Matt had to feed her those first feeds of formula (done through a tube so we wouldn't risk "nipple confusion") because I couldn't bring myself to do so. I felt like a failure, and was determined to get my milk supply up so this could be as short lived as possible. I heard from others that while they too struggled in the beginning, they were able to exclusively breastfeed their baby after x amount of time. That didn't happen for me.

For the next four months, I pumped around the clock every 2-3 hours, for almost half an hour each time. I would give myself a 4 hour stretch through the night so I could get some sleep, but the rest of my day was spent pumping or feeding Harper. Every home video taken during those four months has the sound of that goddamn pump going in the background. If you've pumped, you know the sound. That sound might be worse than the pumping itself.

Between vitamins (fenugreek, blessed thistle, iron) and Domperidone (a drug to help boost milk supply) I was taking up to 23 pills a day. I had a lactation consultant, I used heat pads, I ate oatmeal, I drank gallons of water, I timed the cookies, I "power pumped", I took warm baths, I did hours upon hours of skin to skin. I did *all* of the things that others swore by, and none of it helped my body create enough milk for Harper. At most, I was able to pump half of what my baby needed for the day.

Looking back, I just want to hug myself really tight. I tried SO hard to give my baby what I thought was best for her, and I just couldn't. It was devastating. I had people say "have you tried ___" which made me feel like they thought I wasn't trying at all, or friends give me permission to stop which at the time felt like pressure to "give up". I was so hard on myself, and it didn't help when I had family members and articles reminding me just how important breast milk is for a baby's growth and development. I knew the benefits, but my body could only do what it could do.

I stayed home for almost four months because I was a) nervous to feed her in public, and b) watching the clock to pump again. I hated the clock. I went to one "mom meet up" and hoped the entire time that Harper wouldn't get hungry because it seemed like everyone else in the room was breastfeeding and I didn't want to be judged when I pulled the bottle out of my bag. There is so much pressure in those first few months of having a baby that just doesn't seem to exist later on (or maybe you just get more confident in your decisions later on). I was incredibly aware of the fact that I would be criticized for how I fed my baby, and always felt like I needed to explain myself to anyone who witnessed her drinking from a bottle (even this post is a giant explanation). Eventually, I came to terms with the formula. I had to. My mental health needed me to forgive myself and make a change. Formula kept my baby happy, healthy, fed, and *alive*. What was there to be ashamed of? Absolutely Nothing.

So, when Harper was four months old, I made the decision to begin weaning myself from pumping. There was such little information on how to do this, and I felt ashamed to reach out for advice. The guilt crept in even more. "Am I doing the right thing?", "half of her bottles are better than none...", "am I just being lazy?". I decided I would spread out the amount of time in between pumping, and would pace myself to see what I was comfortable with. I thought maybe if I just got myself to twice a day, she would still benefit and I would have more time to enjoy my baby. Instead, the second I cut back, my supply basically went to nothing. I felt horrible, but also relieved.

Fast forward. Harper is a healthy baby who is meeting all of her milestones, sleeps through the night, and is happy. She eats whatever food we give her (articles like to say that babies who are formula fed prefer bland foods), she has had one cold (and that is when she was still getting both breast milk & formula), and her mom is happy. Not being able to breastfeed is linked to postpartum depression, and I think this post might help explain why. I was getting myself into a dark hole of anxiety and expectations, and I am just so happy I was able to get myself out. The only way for me to do that was to accept the formula for what it was: a way to keep my baby alive.

If you know of a friend going through the same hard experience, treat them with kindness. Be supportive, and remind them that they are a good mom. That's what they need to hear the most. And if you are in the same position reading this: please be easy on yourself. You're a good mom. That babe loves you the most and will grow to be a healthy toddler as long as they are fed.

Just in case you are reading this and need product recommendations for bottle feeding, the following helped make our lives a little easier. I am not an expert, but I'm a mama and that's basically the same thing, right?

Medella Freestyle breast pump: I used this around the clock for four months. We had a love/hate relationship with each other, but it did it's job while I multi tasked in the way that only moms can.

OXO space saving drying rack: we like that it's vertical and takes up minimal counter space.

Dr. Braun's formula pitcher: it mixes up the formula without shaking or stirring and doesn't leave any bubbles. We make a batch at night, keep it in our fridge, and fill bottles as needed throughout the day.

Avent bottles: I've heard of babies not liking certain bottles and it being a massive trial & error finding one that works. We just happened to have one of these from a sample bag I received while I was pregnant, and Harper didn't have a problem taking it so we bought more. I like them because no matter the size, all of the parts are interchangeable.


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