I plan on formula feeding Joshua from the start. I have nothing against breast feeding. I absolutely agree that breast is best for baby. However, based on my past history with breastfeeding, it is not the best choice for me and my baby.
I think it’s very important to look at the entire picture when determining what is “best” for baby. This is where blanket statements such as “breast milk is always best for baby” are not accurate. If the mom is making herself sick trying to breastfeed her baby and her mental and/or physical health is suffering as a result, this is not best. Depending on the situation, it may indeed be better to formula feed. If mom can formula feed and she can be a happy, healthy mom to the baby, isn’t that better than a sick, miserable, depressed breastfeeding mom?
A little of my history:
When Nathan was born, I had a really rough labor & delivery. I lost a ton of blood and nearly ended up with a hysterectomy. I was very sick. I was physically unable to breastfeed for the first week and the hospital fed my son formula. When I had recovered enough to go home, I was determined to try breastfeeding. My milk slowly came in. But after a week or so of trying, I developed mastitis on top of everything else. It knocked me flat on my back. Those events are somewhat foggy in my memory, but I do remember that some 2 weeks into nursing, I stopped and switched my son to formula. I had to for my health.
And Nathan thrived on formula. He was a very happy, healthy good baby. All those “facts” that say that breast fed babies are healthier? You hear so many arguments that if you formula feed, your baby/child is more likely to get sick more frequently, develop allergies, immune system issues, asthma, etc. than if you breastfed. My son never had a single ear infection or needed antibiotics until last year, when at the age of 5, he developed his first ear ache and strep throat and needed meds. Only once. When he does get sick, which isn’t very often, he bounces back very quickly. He’s a very healthy boy. I say this not because I feel I need to justify my decision to formula feed him. But because he is very healthy and he was formula fed.
With Emily, I was determined to give breastfeeding a try. I had a much easier time with my scheduled c-section and began nursing her right away. She lost a lot of weight – almost 10% of her body weight – those first couple of days and developed jaundice, but we pushed through. The hospital was wonderful and very supportive and did not pressure me to supplement.
Over the next month, I dealt with sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples (despite the LC’s confirmation that Emily had a great latch and we were doing it properly.) Then I developed mastitis. My fever spiked at 105 and I felt like a truck had run over me. It was simply awful. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t take care of my children. I remember laying in bed wanting to die so I could be put out of my misery. Thankfully antibiotics cleared it up fairly quickly, but it was terrible. Then a couple weeks later, we started having thrush problems. Got that cleared up and then I dealt with painful clogged ducts. I went to the LC many times. They kept reassuring me that I was doing everything right and sometimes “these things” just happen.
At some point, I switched to pumping versus just nursing. It took a lot of time, but it was less time than nursing Emily, who would literally nurse for 1-1.5 hours at a time only to want to nurse again 30-60 minutes later. I did have another child to take care of and couldn’t spend 90% of my day nursing. So pumping worked better for me. Plus it was fun to see how many ounces I could get. I froze the extra and built up a nice stash.
We continued this for a few months. When Emily was about 5 months old, I realized that I was in a rut. I was exhausted all the time, even though she was sleeping through the night. I was depressed. I couldn’t lose those last few pounds no matter how much I exercised or watched what I ate (I wasn’t “dieting” – I know you can’t do that when breastfeeding.) I was just one of those women who hold onto extra weight while nursing. But aside from the whole weight-issue, I felt myself spiraling downward. I had battled nasty postpartum depression after I had Nathan and I felt it coming on again.
I decided it was time to give up nursing and switch Emily to formula. I had enough expressed breast milk in the freezer that I was able to continue feeding her my breast milk for another month after I officially stopped nursing. It was the right decision for me and I was happy about it. It let me get back to “normal” and I felt great again. And I was very proud of myself for nursing/pumping for 6 months!
So you might ask why I don’t plan to at least try to breastfeed Joshua when I did in fact successfully nurse Emily.
The reason? I hated nursing/pumping. It was extremely difficult and painful for me. Even pumping was painful. They say the first few weeks are hard and painful, but it gets better. It may have gotten a little better, but it was still very painful for me the entire six months I nursed/pumped. Add in getting very sick with mastitis and battling thrush and it was not a nice experience.
But aside from the whole “not-nice-experience” – because let’s face it, a lot of mothering is not “nice” or fun – mentally, breastfeeding does a number on me. I’m at risk for post partum depression again. I was depressed and resentful practically the whole time I nursed Emily. I never felt that “magical” bond to my baby. In fact I felt less bonded to Emily when nursing because I resented the pain it caused me. When I breastfeed, my body stays in that “pregnant” mode where I’m tired all the time and not myself. Call me selfish, whatever. The reality is that breastfeeding is very difficult and it’s just too much for me, especially since I will have three children to care for this time. Again, I have to look at the big picture. What is best for my whole family, not just Joshua. And yes, I am thinking about what is best for Joshua. I think that me being happy & healthy & getting my energy back will be better for him than if I nursed him and stayed exhausted, depressed, and miserable.
Have I struggled with this decision? HECK, yes! I have struggled a LOT. I have dealt with a lot of guilt and feelings of wondering if I am just being selfish. I have prayed long and hard about this decision. And after a LOT of struggle, I now feel very confident and happy with my decision to formula feed. With our decision. Because my husband fully supports me in this. In fact, I am excited about the fact that I will only have to contend with my c-section recovery and not raw, bleeding nipples on top of everything else. I am looking forward to getting back to normal and regaining my energy, while adjusting to being a mother to three. And I know I will be able to be a better mom to not just Joshua, but to Nathan and Emily as well because I am choosing formula.
So that’s me. A formula feeding mom.
I’d just like to say that once again I am not pro formula. I am pro do-what’s-best-for-your family. And this is what’s best for mine.