Just Talkin’ Tuesday 05.04.10: Did your Postpartum influence your decision about Breast or Bottle?

A lot of bloggers have been talking about mom guilt lately. I even threw my hat in the ring.

Anyone who has talked with me for any amount of time knows full well I am fully supportive of moms no matter what decisions they have made in their own lives. As mothers, it is part of our job to make the best decisions we are capable of making for our family. And we should absolutely not be judged for these decisions. It’s a shame that we have to put a disclaimer before discussing any aspect of motherhood for fear of offending a mother who may have made a different choice.

Growing up, I remember my mom nursing my brothers. Breastfeeding is how I was raised. I knew no different. For me, breastfeeding was akin to breathing. It was just something you did when you had a baby. When I got pregnant, I would breastfeed my daughter too. Failure never occurred to me as a possibility. The first full day after birth, she wouldn’t latch. We went home without having gotten it right. I gave formula the first night. I was failing. Scared, failing, what the hell? My mom had made everything look so easy. It was supposed to be easy! Why was I having such a hard time??? The next morning we got up and I was determined to get her to latch. She did and off we went into the breastfeeding sunset. 16 whole months of nursing with self-weaning two weeks before discovery of our second pregnancy. I had done it right! It had been one of the few things I had felt I had managed to get right about Motherhood.

Fast forward to 36 and a half weeks pregnant later. After a long labor, our second daughter was born. She too, would not latch. I thought her mouth didn’t look right but I was tired. Blamed it on the exhaustion. This time around I asked for an IBCLC. She immediately swept baby’s mouth with a gloved finger and diagnosed a cleft palate. My world turned upside down. I met a hospital grade pump that night. Barely got anything. Wondered why I was bothering to pump. But I kept with it, pumping at home, at the hospital, stashing breastmilk in the freezer, the fridge, feeding it to my daughter through her Kangaroo pump. Managed to keep it up for seven whole months before it came down to my daughter receiving breastmilk or my family and my mental health. I bought formula and cried the whole way home from the store. But that decision saved me, saved my relationship with my family. I was grateful formula existed.

A little over a year later would find me surprised and pregnant once again. I was scared. But I now knew formula was ok. I still tried to breastfeed. Our son latched on like a champ right after delivery. Nursed wonderfully, even through three bouts of thrush. But at 6 months, he was diagnosed as failure to thrive. He was born at 8lbs 15oz and had barely gained 3 lbs in the first six months of life. Our well-meaning pediatrician suggested I pump. I wanted to laugh. I was SO not going back down that road! After a day of contemplation, off I went to buy formula. He switched rather easily and was completely on formula by the end of the week, gaining weight, happy, not fussy, and we were all much healthier mentally as well.

There are women out there who will tell you that breastfeeding protects against depression because of the production of Oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone. Then there are those who will tell you formula feeding will help you get more rest. So will pumping and having enough in the fridge/freezer for a bottle in the middle of the night. But then you risk not nursing at that time and killing your supply. But I say if you can do it and not risk your supply – go for it.

Bottom line here?

YOU have to do what is best for you. And if that means a balance of breastmilk and formula or only one or the other then SO be it. If someone giving baby a bottle of formula at night helps you sleep and recover, then go for it. If breastfeeding makes you smile and helps you feel like more of a mother, then so be it. No apologies, no looking back. Be bold, make the decision, and go with it. It is possible to continue to nurse with anti-depressants. If you choose to do so, make sure your prescribing doctor knows you are nursing and let your pediatrician know as well so both doctors can minimize any potential side effects. Ask questions. Get answers. Make an educated decision.

Now that I’ve stepped off my soap box, it’s your turn. Did your Postpartum Mood Disorder change your plans for feeding your infant? Did you give formula instead of nurse? Choose to nurse instead of formula to help ward off Postpartum Depression? Why? Would you do things any differently knowing what you know now? Why? Why not?Do you regret your decision?

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday.

0 thoughts on “Just Talkin’ Tuesday 05.04.10: Did your Postpartum influence your decision about Breast or Bottle?

  1. Lisa

    I’m 10+ mo in to breastfeeding my son and am almost 100% sure I will not breastfeed my next child, at least not for long. It has been hell. I am positive it interfered with our bond – when one or both of us ended up in tears for the first 2 months how could it not? I finally gave myself permission to supplement after 8 months when I sought help for PPD. Breastfeeding has been nothing like I imagined. After much consideration I plan to stick it out to a year because I need to make that goal for myself, but next time things will be much different.

    1. Lauren

      I ended up in tears with my son, our third child. Thrush would just not relent and it got to the point where I would dread going to get him to nurse. It was absolutely painful and I would wail and curl my toes as he latched on. But I kept telling myself it would be ok once we got past the latch. Just one nursing session at a time. I had done this before, I could do this again. By 6 months we were doing great. But then we got the whole “He’s not gaining” dx and I decided throwing in the towel was best.

      If you’ve made the 1yr mark a goal for yourself, then more power to you. But sometimes we have to sit back and really think about what’s most important – baby getting breastmilk or our sanity. For me, if it comes down to it, it’s my sanity every time.

      Take it one session at a time. Don’t focus on the long term goal – baby steps are such an important part of recovery!

      Thank you for stopping by!


      1. Lisa

        At this point, I know I can make it to a year and achieving that goal is very important to me. You’re right though – a sane mommy is so much more important to baby’s well being than breastmilk ever could be. It was those early months that got me, but I kept trucking because I wasn’t clear headed enough to realize that. Next time it will be different – if there’s a silver lining to PPD it’s that on the other side my perspective will be improved (hopefully).

        1. Lauren

          “If there’s a silver lining to PPD it’s that on the other side my perspective will be improved.”

          You hit the nail on the head with that one. Postpartum taught me SO many lessons and thankfully, I was willing to learn and listen to those lessons. I wish the same for you – not the PPD – wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy – but the learning and the growth. Powerful stuff, those learned lessons!

  2. makemommygosomethingsomething

    I bf’ed my son for 2 or so weeks. We were a good team, however…HOWEVER…I hated it. I felt like I was a slave to a 7 pound dictator around the clock and to top it off, I had suffered a severe allergic reaction to the epidural. I had a rash that covered about 90% of my body and it oozed in areas and it was so uncomfortable and I couldn’t take anything for it because I was bfing. I might have had a different veiw of bfing if I didn’t have the rash…

    Anyways, when my son was born, I felt no connection or bond with him and the only thing that I felt that gave me that was bfing. It gave me a purpose to him and without it I felt that I would never love my son. When the rash became too severe (eyelids swelling) I was put on prednisone for a month and I had to give up bfing. I felt like such a failure. I felt that I had not purpose. I felt that I was weak for giving up. I felt like an awful mother.

    It took me a very very VERY VERY long time to get over this guilt. I now realize that it doesn’t matter how your baby is fed. What matters is that they are growing, thriving and are loved. The decisions that you make as a parent are 100% correct because it is YOUR decision. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let the shame guilt etc swallow you whole because you don’t want to bf or you can’t bf. Bfing is not for everyone and it is ok…..we as mothers should not judge anyone for their decisions.

    Such an important topic Lauren!!

  3. Joan

    I think this decision was like the first dominoe being put in place that led me to where I am now (trying desperately to recover from horrible postpartum anxiety and depression). I desperately wanted to nurse – we tried and tried and my son would not latch. Finally, after many tears on my part and a crying, hungry baby, I decided to go ahead and give him formula. I was bound and determined though that he would get the “good stuff”, and so I began pumping and bottle feeding. For all of the mothers that do that, I think they will sympathize with how exhausting it can be. Newborns eat a lot, and when you double the feeding time (the actual feeding and the pumping to make the food for the feeding) it leads to exhasution. The next dominoe that stacked against us was our good friend colic. By then I was pumping and bottle feeding a baby that screamed unconsolably for 6-7 hours every single day. All types of questions arose – Was I eating something that made him cry? Was my milk not agreeing with him? So on and so forth…with many tears and feelings of failure. After a month of anguish, I made the decision to switch to formula after much soul searching about how much I could handle. Formula was no magic solution – the colic continued despite switching types and brands – and the anxiety continued. Another dominoe stacked in line just waiting to topple, and eventually they did. I am now in the place of trying to line those dominoes back up and am doing it one at a time. In thinking back over the past 6 months, I really think that it was a series of events such as this decision that led me to where I am, rather than one concrete reason or ocurence. The good thing though is that I know that with time I will stand all of those dominoes back up and be the best mommy I can.

    1. Lauren

      Pumping and bottle feeding is hard! Exhaustion doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was quite zombified by the entire process. I didn’t realize how much I needed to rest until I had a chance to do so when I was hospitalized. I had worn myself to the bone.

      Joan, know that even while you are working on getting all of your dominoes back up YOU ARE AN AWESOME MOMMY! Why? Because you’re working hard at getting them back up. All of us have a few fallen dominoes in our lives. And it’s ok for us to have them.. life is so imperfect and is always a work in progress. As long as you’re focused on moving forward, you’ll be fine. :-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Look forward to more comments from you.


  4. Samantha

    I feel that giving up nursing helped pull me out of PPD. I was terrified of being everything for my baby. I had thought I’d have some help with her from family, friends, midwife, doula, husband, anyone really but it was just me and the baby all alone night and day. I just couldn’t do it; something had to give and that was the easiest choice since I couldn’t realistically stop doing anything else (although I entertained multiple fantasies about leaving her on doorsteps or park benches as I took off to Mexico–still do some days even though she’s now three!). Of course I had to deal with the guilt of giving that up, especially since we had few problems with nursing, but I just couldn’t do it. I feel bad about it but I desperately needed a break in some way and since no one else was willing to do it I had to do it for myself. After I gave myself permission to fail at this I actually started to like the baby and enjoy being around her a bit. As everyone keeps saying my sanity is much more important to baby than breastmilk.

    1. Lauren

      I like that you used the phrase “gave myself permission.” It is so important to be ok with making decisions for US.

      It’s not breastfeeding at which we fail, it’s not diapering at which we fail, it’s not making the right decisions at which we fail the most – no, it’s Mothering ourselves at which we fail at the most. As women and mothers, we are not only groomed but biologically driven to put all else ahead of ourselves. For me, the ONLY thing ahead of me is my relationship with God. Then, it’s my relationship with myself, my husband, and then my kids. Because guess what? If I am not involved in a happy and healthy relationship with myself, no one else will be involved in a happy and healthy relationship with me either. And sometimes, that healthy and happy relationship requires I make cuts elsewhere.

      As Kimberly so wisely said, “What matters is that they are growing, thriving, and are loved.” And that goes double for us Moms!

  5. Stacey

    I’m so glad you are talking about this, for me I bottle fed Colin.

    I went into delivery well my c-section but that’s a whole other thing moms are judged for….sorry tangent knowing I didn’t want to freak out about it either way. I tried and tried for about 24 hours. Finally we had a nurse check him out since he hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and his blood sugar was actually low so I asked for a bottle. Everyone was supportive until the next day when I nurse told me and I quote “well then you must be doing it wrong because everyone can breastfeed” SERIOUSLY!!! I cried and she never returned to my room at the less then subtle request of my husband. From then on out I was fine, I just wanted Colin to be healthy and safe and I think that’s something that gets lost in the breast/bottle debate.

    1. Lauren

      “Everyone can breastfeed” I can’t believe she said that to you! That phrase is a hot button one with me. Yes, breastfeeding is natural. But so is milking a damned goat and not everyone can do that, now can they? As a mother of a child who was born physically unable to breastfeed, nothing chaps my arse more than to hear someone say that there is absolutely no reason for a mom not to nurse. There are PLENTY of reasons. Many physical reasons and many other reasons as well. I guess your nurse skipped the day when they taught about inverted nipples or flat nipples or…well, you get the drift.

      I completely agree that wanting baby to be healthy and safe is something that gets lost in the breast/bottle debate. Just because I give formula doesn’t mean that I love my child any less than a mom who breastfeeds. And when I’m giving a bottle in public – do you REALLY want to approach me and ask what’s in there? So many assumptions are made based on the way food is delivered to an infant. When did moms get so judgmental? Why can’t we all just get along?

      I’m glad your husband kicked the nurse out of your room. Judgmental staff have no place around a new mom. They’re just setting her up for failure. Way to go in following through with what was RIGHT for YOU and for your family. You deserve major kudos for that!


  6. Jenny

    I had two preemies – my first was 31 weeks, and in the NICU for 5 weeks. I set an alarm to wake up every 3 hours to pump, just like they told me to, to make sure he’d have breastmilk. Every day I’d take my little cup into the NICU freezer and see the overflowing shelves of the other moms and be so depressed that I only had 2 or 3 cups for my boy, but I kept at it, and I breastfed him for a year. I never produced enough to be his sole source of nutrition, so I supplemented formula the entire time, but by golly, I was so proud of myself!

    My second was 29 weeks, and that 6 weeks in the NICU with a 2-year-old at home was torture. I tried to pump. I tried to establish BFing at the NICU, but we lived an hour from the NICU and I couldn’t be there every day like with the first. The real breakdown came when I scanned the nurse notes one day and found the notation, “mother not present enough to successfully establish BFing.” I broke down in tears.

    My supply was low. I wasn’t there enough. I had a 2-year-old at home. I was depressed. I was pumping. So I did what any rational new mom would do – I asked for a prescription to increase my milk supply. You know, the one that can worsen depression.

    I brought my second son home, still determined to BF him while supplementing formula. It was painful, unpleasant, and I still pumped. After meeting with a lactation consultant who showed me all the different ways I was doing things wrong, I just gave up and decided to exclusively pump.

    I pumped for four months with a double electric pump. Four agonizing, painful months. I didn’t enjoy it, I was still taking domperidone, and now I had a 3 yr old and a very small baby on oxygen to lug around with me. Finally one day I was on my way out the door and I had the terrible realization that I’d forgotten my morning pumping session.

    That was it. I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally decided the best choice I could make for my boys and for myself was to make the switch to full formula and stop spending my time stressing over boobs and milk. I spent a couple of weeks feeling horribly guilty, which didn’t help the PPD at all, but it was a necessary decision.

    Like you said – goals are great, but sanity is even better. I still had the PPD, but removing stressors that made it worse was a wise path to take.

Leave a Reply