Jeez, folks, it’s just Formula!

Is it me, or are there a lot of women out there much more defensive and ‘intense’ about breastfeeding than I am?  I was checking out all the links in this post from Mother Knows Breast, and thought, yet again, *man* these folks are WAY serious about this.

When I was trying to get pregnant, I considered the idea of breastfeeding rather idly.  I admit to a Scarlett O’Hara take on major decisions (“Ah’ll think ahbout thaht tahmarrah.”) and as far as I was concerned, I didn’t need to learn about breastfeeding until I was actually pregnant. My take was – if I never got pregnant, then I wouldn’t have wasted my time preparing for something that would never happen.  I was leaning towards it ‘tho – what little I had read seemed to indicate that it was best for the baby.

Then I got pregnant, and I realized I would have to make a decision.  So I did what I always do – I researched it on the web, read a couple books, talked to a few folks, and based on what I read, I decided to *try* to breastfeed.  The reasons that convinced me were:

  • It had significant health benefits for the baby
  • It had significant “bonding” benefits for the baby (and mom)
  • It was cheaper (oh yea, I *am* a serious penny pincher)
  • and – hey cool, there are benefits for me too.

I noted, however, that lots of folks, my own mother included, reported issues, problems, unhappiness with breastfeeding. So my PLAN was to give breastfeeding a *serious* try.  Goal #1 was *at all.*  Goal #2 was at least 3 months (the time I expected to be out of work/half/time). Goal #3 was 6 months and then we’ll re-evaluate and go from there.

To prepare I read more books and web pages, and looked up the #s for the La Leche groups in town. I took a class (with Daddy-O) in my 8th month. I researched breast pumps. I spoke to my Obstetrician, GP, and WCB’s pediatrician.  And I researched formulas. 

Yep – I committed a cardinal sin according to most of the “breastfeeding mom” blogs. I *planned* to use formula as a backup in case I gave up/it didn’t work.  I even asked for samples from the hospital before I left (they didn’t offer).  Over and over all the ‘pro-breastfeeding’ materials I read seemed to imply that having formula in the house would somehow taint the baby, or make me a bad mommy.*

Luckily, the other more general books I read presented a more moderate approach.  They counseled that either method was fine – baby would grow and develop and be healthy either way – but they did encourage moms to at least *try,* pointing out all the research-based benefits.  As I am an ‘overplanner,’ I wanted to have an option on hand if it just didn’t seem to be working.  The last thing I wanted to do was hold a screaming hungry child while dad went to the store and tried to choose formula.

And my child had formula on her 3rd day.  And she didn’t explode. 

She was a large child – 9 1/2 lbs, and, likely due to my cesarean, my milk was late in coming in.  By the middle of the 3rd day she was screaming, “I want *food* dang it – colostrum simply isn’t cutting it, mom!”  As this was at like 2am, and she had been latching on and then letting go screaming over and over for more than almost an hour, I was frantic.  Feeling like a failure, I tried some of the sample formula.  And she ate it, and was satisfied.  Feeling relieved but guilty, I was able to get through the night, and breastfeeding went OK in the am.  The next day, her pediatrician flatly instructed me to do what I was already doing – supplement with formula. WCB’s weight had dropped alarmingly (almost a pound and a half in 4 days). On day 5 my milk came in, and I stopped giving her formula on day 6.  On day 7 she was back up to 9 pounds and I cheered. Overall, she drank no more than 2 oz per day for 3 days in her first week. 

There was, as far as I could tell, no effect on her ability to breastfeed (which had many challenges – believe me). In fact, within a couple of weeks, she flatly refused to take breast milk, much less formula, from a bottle.  On top of this, I was really struggling to produce much at all with the pump.  As I wanted to return to work, this did pose problems.  We struggled with it for most of month 2 and 3, with WCB finally resigning herself, unwillingly, to bottled breast milk just in time to go to daycare.  As I continued to pump just barely enough for the next day’s daycare feedings, I tried formula off and on over the next few months. Roughly no more than 4 oz per month were accepted (she *knew* what she wanted, and it was NOT this).

I must admit, if she had been at ALL willing to accept a bottle of formula, I might have given up at the end of month #1 when my (admittedly mild) post-partum depression hit.  In fact, much of the depression thinking revolved around “I can’t pump much, and she won’t take a bottle, and she won’t eat formula, what am I going to do, how am I going to go back to work?!” (She also wouldn’t sleep, but that’s a whole other post.)  And I felt guilty about *wanting* to feed her formula – in part because of the *intensity* of the pro-breastfeeding materials I read.  Surely these folks don’t want moms to be breastfeeding out of guilt! Eventually, in month 6, she begain drinking formula without much complaint.  This was a great relief to me, as I was ready to start weaning.

Anyway, if you want to breastfeed – do so.  If it scares or weirds the bejesus out of you, or there is a medical reason, or if it simply does not fit your lifestyle, then don’t.  I’d advise everyone who is considering it, to TRY it.  Seriously give it a really good try – with your eyes wide open and knowing that it is HARDER than formula. More painful, more inconvenient, more emotionally taxing, and more responsibility piled all on you than feeding with formula. It is significantly more work and challenge if you plan to return to your job while still breastfeeding.

Some ladies really like it.  In truth, the only reasons I keep doing it are because it is cheaper,  good for her, and, well, now a habit.  Ok, and a little bit of guilt – I don’t want to ‘deprive’ her of what she is used to all at once.  We are progressing pretty well at weaning, and I hope to have her entirely on formula by the end of her 9th month.  The concept of breastfeeding for a year or more – NOT for me.

But formula is definitely more expensive.  WOW – like $100 or more a month.  I can’t wait until her birthday when we will celebrate with a sample of cows milk. 
[NO, I am NOT a bad mother – shut up! Shut up! – MAN, the cricket in my head just never stops!]

* Which, by the way is why I never called the La Leche folks – they just seemed to intense for me. I really didn’t want any more guilt than I had already created for myself, and didn’t want to take the chance that they would heap on more by being shocked and appalled that I considered and fed my child formula.