Tag Archives: formula

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE

Yesterday afternoon, the tweet you see to your left was sent out by a friend of mine. Of course I clicked. Then I waited for my phone to fully load the page. Once it loaded, I scrolled through the article. With each new point, my rage increased. Not until the end of the article did the author even begin to show a shred of compassion for mothers who rely upon formula in medically necessary situations. Even then her compassion was thin and failed to mention mothers struggling with postpartum depression. A few back and forths about the article then Karen Kleiman posted a rebuttal. So did Ivy Shih Leung over at Ivy’s PPD Blog.

And now? I give you mine.

My mother nursed my brothers and I for 18 months each. Or that’s what I’ve been told. I’m sticking to it. I grew up thinking breastfeeding was normal. I grew up used to seeing my mother nurse my brothers. It was how they were fed. It wasn’t weird. Or strange. I wasn’t scarred by the experience. I was six years old when my youngest brother stopped nursing. Closer to seven, actually.

When pregnant with my first child, I knew I would nurse. Because breastfeeding is how babies eat. She, however, had other plans that first day. Not interested in the boob. Didn’t eat at all in the hospital. We were sent home with barely any instruction but by god, they sent a bag with free formula samples. Which I used when she was screaming at 10pm that night and I couldn’t get her to latch. We used three of those samples the first night. I woke up the following morning determined to make breastfeeding work. For us, it did. She latched and we didn’t look back for 16 months when she finally weaned. Breastfeeding was the ONLY thing I did right with her in those early days. I failed at everything else. I couldn’t handle her screaming. She nursed for an hour every two hours so I stayed on the couch. No outside support. I was modest, didn’t want to nurse in public, etc. Quick trips in between nursings became the norm for us. At three months postpartum, my doctor asked me how important breastfeeding was to me as my daughter screamed in her carseat next to me. Seriously? I left his office even more defeated than when I walked in. I left with no help. Clearly I had to do this on my own. She thrived, I broke down.

My breakdown continued into my second pregnancy, leading to an early delivery. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate. Once again, I expected to give birth, nurse, and go home. I had higher hopes for starting nursing this time. Instead, later that evening, I was trained in how to use a Medela Symphony and clutched cold hard horns to my poor not yet full breasts. No one explained colostrum’s small production to me and the nurse even laughed at what I got that first try. Again, I was defeated. My biggest moment of defeat? When the nurse asked me what kind of formula I wanted our daughter to have.

“But, but.. I’m going to nurse her. She’s getting breastmilk.” I stammered.

“Honey, until your milk comes in completely, she needs to eat. What kind of formula? We have Enfamil or Similac.” the nurse stated.

“Enfamil.” I sighed and cried when she left.

And that was just the first day.

Let’s visit the day I was in the pumping room at the NICU and my daughter’s nurse started a feed with FORMULA just minutes before I exited with well over 8 ounces of fresh Mama milk. I made her stop the feed, dump the formula, and start a new one with my milk. Oh hell yes I did. Or what about the day of her G-tube and ear tube surgery when the nurses spilled 5 oz of her milk as they tried to get the Kangaroo pump to work? I was not nice.

At the same time though, I had to be okay with my daughter getting formula in those early days. Yes, I thought formula was evil. But when I couldn’t be there or have enough stored breastmilk at the NICU, if my daughter didn’t receive formula, she would have DIED. We had a toddler at home. The NICU was over an hour away. I couldn’t be there 24/7. So formula had to be okay. It wasn’t evil. It wasn’t non-nutritious. It was saving my daughter’s life. I needed to not feel guilty about what my daughter received. I needed to not think about how it was changing her gut flora. I needed to not be judged because damn it, I was trying as hard as I could but the pump only removes so much milk. I pumped around the clock – every three hours except for a luxurious 5 hour stretch in the wee hours of the morning when I let myself SLEEP. Sure, I could have stayed awake around the clock and made more to avoid the evil formula but again, I had a toddler. One needs sleep when attempting to care for a toddler. Or they win. Everything. And that, people, can get ugly fast.

I pumped exclusively for our second daughter for seven long months. During those seven months, I was hospitalized in an Acute Flight risk Mixed-Gender ward. I pumped every three hours there too. Pumping fed into my OCD. Clean, sanitize, run the kangaroo pump, pump, repeat. Every three hours. On top of caring for a toddler. On top of a husband working 70+ hours in the restaurant industry. On top of two dogs who ALWAYS waited to need to go outside until right after my let down whilst pumping and usually had an accident in the house. I made peace with a lot of things – lowered my standards for a lot of stuff. Because my daughter needed my breastmilk. I threw myself down the rabbit hole and wallowed there. I resented her. I hated her for what I had to do.

At seven months, I stopped. For my sanity, for my relationship with my family, for my daughter. We weren’t bonding. I was going crazy. When it’s a question of my sanity vs. breastmilk? My sanity will ALWAYS win. I cried when I bought formula. Expected to be judged and would have had a serious conversation with the person judging me. Possibly would have offered to invite them to my home to see just what it was I dealt with on a daily basis.

As I stated in Don’t Judge me, the manner in which baby is fed doesn’t matter. As long as everyone is thriving, that’s all that matters. Yes, we should be educated. But education does not have to come in a harsh form as it does in the “Pushing Formula is EVIL” article. State the facts. Be honest. Forthright. Respectful. Don’t make me feel guilty for my choices. If you have to preface an article with the following:

NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I’m not a therapist but a researcher in child development.”

Chances are you shouldn’t be writing it. I preface things with “vulnerable” here. But never with guilty or overstressed. And based on the article, it’s clear the author isn’t a therapist. If she were a therapist, she would have been far more compassionate and understanding. If she had read recent research stating “Postpartum Depression and difficulty Breastfeeding often go hand in hand” she may have been more compassionate.

Depressed moms may use formula more often than other moms. Breastfeeding is tough for us. We struggle with touch. We struggle with throwing ourselves under the bus because quite frankly, we already feel run over by the damn bus.

Motherhood is about making the right choice for our family. Not making the right choice for someone else’s family. Not about judging others for their decisions. Not about filling people’s heads with unresearched facts in a demeaning manner.

For the record? My daughter is extremely bright. She tested almost off the charts in verbal comprehension at four. So did her sister.

When their brother was born, he nursed like a champ. But then I had emotional crisis at 3 months. My medication combined with my stress killed my supply. He was diagnosed as failure to thrive at six months having gained only four pounds since birth. The pediatrician suggested I pump. I knew where that road led. I closed the milk factory and he switched to formula in just two days. He gained weight, I was less stressed, and we thrived.

Formula worked for my family. It wasn’t evil. No one pushed it on us. I made educated decisions to use it. It saved my second daughter’s life. It saved my son’s life. It saved MY life. The author states that if one cannot breastfeed, a wet-nurse or milk from a milk bank is an acceptable substitute. I agree. But at the time, I couldn’t even get my insurance company to pay for what I felt was a “medically necessary” hospital grade pump. How on EARTH would I get coverage for milk-bank breastmilk?

Don’t ever tell me Formula is evil. It saves lives. The end.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE.

BOOM.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.11.09: Breastfeeding & PPD

Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

When I gave birth to my second daughter I saw my dreams of a normal postpartum smashed upon the rocks just 30 minutes after delivery. A delivery after 42 hours of labor, 36 weeks of pregnancy spent un-medicated but largely depressed and unaware of any potential issue facing us. We fully expected (as any parent) a healthy child, normal delivery. A large part of my smashed dreams tied into the hard reality that I would absolutely not be able to nurse her because she was born with a cleft palate so wide and large that it would be physically impossible for us to do so.

Later that day I was faced with a crucial decision. What kind of formula would I prefer for my daughter? I cried. She wasn’t SUPPOSED to get formula! That evening found me hooked up to a hospital grade pump praying for anything to happen. I barely squeezed out a drop. But I persisted and pumped for her faithfully until she was seven months old. I even researched everything I could in order to try to get her to nurse – books, cleft organizations, the La Leche League, the local Lactation consultants and even going to a training to become a trained Certified Lactation Counselor (which I completed one month AFTER we stopped nursing!) I left no stone unturned! Charlotte and I used SNS, nursing shields, and sheer determination. She eventually nursed for almost five minutes! Those five minutes were so amazing words cannot even begin to describe. In fact, it was tears falling from my face which interrupted the glorious event.(You can read more about our journey here: Breastfeeding Charlotte)

But at seven months, I faced a decision. My desire to continue to give breastmilk to my daughter or my mental health which had deteriorated so much it was adversely affecting my relationship with my husband and other daughter. With a heavy heart, I drove to Wal-mart to purchase formula. I cried the whole way home. Eventually I made peace with the decision. “Hanging up the Horns” or HUTH as it’s called in the world of exclusive pumpers, was a difficult decision. But one I was glad to make as it allowed me to bond with my entire family. I had come to resent Charlotte for all the extra work she required. But now, all I had to do was pour, heat, and I was done. I made strides towards better mental health and so did the rest of the family.

For me, the decision centered around the stress providing breastmilk created. I was also on medication which can be another tremendous issue for new moms. Many mothers don’t want anything crossing over to their infant through their breastmilk. Dr. Thomas Hale, author of Medications & Mother’s Milk, is a wonderful authority on the topic as are the researchers at Motherisk in Canada. When nursing while on any medication, it is important for the infant’s pediatrician to be aware of the medication and dosage amount so baby can be monitored for any adverse reaction. The decision to take medication is a personal one and should be made carefully with the help of professionals. Ask questions. Make sure the prescribing physician KNOWS you are nursing. And do not let them force you into quitting nursing if it is the one thing in which you find comfort. If you are currently struggling with this decision, please read this wonderful essay by Karen Kleiman: Is Breast Really Best?

So let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday already!

Did your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder affect your nursing decision? Did you decide to formula feed to help improve your mental health? Do you regret your decision? Made peace with it? Did stopping help? Did your desire to nurse increase your desire to seek natural treatment? Speak up! Share!

(Absolutely no bashing for deciding to formula feed will be tolerated here. We respect the decision of all mothers to choose the course of treatment/feeding they feel is right for their families. Any posts discrediting or attacking a mother for her decision to formula feed will not be approved.)

Continuation of the Cameron Saga

I have good news and even better news but first we have to take a detour through bad news valley.

Last Thursday, the pediatrician phoned to let us know that the thyroid portion of the PKU newborn screen had come back abnormal. She wanted us in her office that afternoon to speak with us and get additional tests completed to rule out congenital hypothyroidism. The rush was because the longer Congenital hypythyroidism goes untreated, the higher the risk of mental developmental delays and other delays.

We went in and she explained to us the tests and we also checked his weight. In a little under two weeks, he went from 12lbs 7oz all the way up to 14lbs 1oz!! The lab was next door and he had his blood drawn. Then we waited.

Three of the five tests came back with normal results by the next morning. I cried.

This past Tuesday I took him for his original weight check appointment (he gained another 8oz by the way!) and the ped had the other two results. They too were normal. The endocrinologist does not need to see him and we go back in three weeks to follow up.

We are no longer breastfeeding and he is completely on formula. After everything i went through with Charlotte and my PPD, I know my limits and pumping or troubleshooting why nursing wasn’t working is beyond my scope this time around. He did nurse yesterday morning and I will continue to let him nurse as I need him to or as he wants to until my supply has ceased. Even when I’m giving him a bottle we are cuddly and have eye contact. It doesn’t matter what goes into his stomach or how it gets there. All that matters is that we’re thriving, happy, and healthy.

We are all of those and so much more!

Rainy Days

Today was one of those dreary rainy days complete with darkened gray skies, thunder, and lightning.

We arose with the intention of going to church but alas, we did not make it. Charlotte had a minor issue with diarrhea and ended up having to pop in the shower twice this morning prior to us even getting them ready. We had also run out of formula for Cameron and did not have enough to give him his morning bottle. By this time it was 9a and we would have to be out the door to go to church by 945. This would have included getting dressed, getting Cameron some formula, and Chris getting a shower. Just wasn’t going to happen. So we stayed home and listened to our pastor on the radio through the screams and squeals of toddlers and the babbles of Cameron. (Translation: We didn’t hear much!)

The rest of the day was pretty much a wash – neither Chris nor myself could keep our eyes open long enough for it to count for anything and of course, the thunderstorm started right as we would have been putting the girls down for nap. Chris and the girls curled up in the recliner in the living room as I gave Cameron a bottle. Once he was done, I put him down for a nap of his own in his crib, returning to the living room for one of my own. I curled up on the couch and quickly fell asleep only to be roused awake by Alli shouting MOMMY! at me a short while later.

It’s nearly 1030p here and I am exhausted. I also seem to have caught a nasty case of the blahs. Perhaps some serious rest will cure me. Off to bed with me….tomorrow is a new day and I intend to make it a good one.

When is too much really TOO MUCH?

I have often wondered at times, heck, even marveled at women who seem to take on the world and appear to excel in all they do. How do they do it? How on EARTH do they keep up with everything and appear so calm and suave? Even with all that I now do and have been through, I have no idea.

There are days that go just right. No one screams or fusses, no one has an potty accident, don’t have to clean up after the girls (or the dogs), and the day just flows.

Then there are days like today where from the moment that I roll out of bed, it’s all downhill. Breakfast snack wasn’t the right thing, Alli got out of her room and got the ice pops out of the freezer, proceeded to yell and scream and throw fits the entire day to the point of being put in her room and left there so I could calm down before dealing with her zillionth tantrum in two hours. Cameron bit me twice today while nursing so he didn’t nurse much today at all, Charlotte needed to go potty every 5 seconds and of course it was gray, humid, and wet from yesterday’s storms so we couldn’t go outside to play, no TV show was the right one for us to watch, the girls wanted to play with what the OTHER one had – of course! Why would it be any different? Oh, and Maggie almost pooped on the couch right next to Charlotte as we all cuddled up to watch TV that we had actually agreed on! *sighs*

I know the whole nursing/supplementing thing is getting to me. It was so hard not to blame myself. After all, I have been Cameron’s ONLY source of food since birth. How do you not blame yourself? And now that we’re weaning (even though I’ve decided to keep nursing as long as he’s interested even with the formula), I know I’ve got a whole ‘nother issue with the prolactin and hormones coming ’round. To be honest, last Monday I was pissed. Pissed because I had finally been doing really well again – had been happy, confident, cheery – more than I had been in quite some time and then WHAM! the whole issue with Cameron and POP goes my happy bubble. I felt guilty about being pissed over my happy bubble being popped. I mean, c’mon – I should be concerned about my son – and I was, I am – but instead there I was, moping about my happy bubble. Everyone kept telling me that I couldn’t blame myself that there was a myriad of reasons that he wasn’t doing well – to which I replied – Yeap, got the flow chart in my head already, you’re not telling me anything new. I almost made the flow chart. Thinking that may have been a bit over the top.  I moved through my emotions on Monday pretty quickly, or so I had thought. I am so hoping this is PMS and not PPD that’s been lying in wait, ready to pounce at the first sign of honest vulnerability. I’ve got a lot going on elsewhere too and as crazy as it sounds have been so busy that I haven’t even had time to do a to-do list. It’s on my mental to-do list to do a to-do list (try saying THAT three times fast) but I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. i’ve got to otherwise this is just not going to get any better and I will become even more lost in the forest of tasks that seem to be springing up around me, especially if I keep having days like today.

I feel like a deflated clown punching bag after a state fair.

Just toss me in the corner and leave me to be covered in hay and dirt and Lord only knows what else.

I’m pissed. I’m apathetic. I’m just well – here. I don’t really want to be awake but not quite ready to go to sleep yet. I can’t think of a darn thing to cheer myself up besides coming here and just letting it all hang out in naked honesty. I need to pray. I need to go lay down and read the Bible and find my answer there.

Hey – Chris is listening to the radio on his computer and it’s my favourite uplifting song – Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. Starting to feel better already. :-)

Here’s to hoping tomorrow will be a better day. It has to be. Alli will be starting music camp so she’ll be gone from 9a – 12n every morning through Friday. I’m ready for another break.

Philippians 3:13

This morning we had a pediatrician visit for both Cameron and Allison. Cameron’s appointment was his six month check-up and Alli’s was related to her continued rash behaviour.

Alli is being referred to a child psychologist for further testing/evaluation and I am very relieved. Perhaps this will finally shed some light on the underlying cause of her behaviour and lack of discipline acceptance.

Cameron, on the other hand, is suspected of Failure to Thrive. The pediatrician suggested I pump exclusively for a couple of days, giving him my breastmilk via bottle. I have a few reservations regarding that plan of action. First, exclusively bottlefeed and pump for TWO WHOLE DAYS? Pumping is not a good indicator of supply, bottlefeeding may confuse him, and frankly, after exclusively pumping for Charlotte for seven long months, I’m not so sure that I’m up for a second time around that block. I am also scared to start EP’ing as I fear I may end up doing that until he’s a year old, continuing to struggle to pump as well as get his weight gain in order. And what if I start and then try to go back to the breast and he refuses to go back? I can’t handle that all over again.

And so it is with a heavy heart filled with experience, fact, and love, I have decided to switch over to formula. A gradual transition to be sure but a difficult decision nonetheless. I know I will miss our nursing relationship but his health and growth as well as my mental stability are vastly more important than any potential benefit of breastmilk at this point. I fully anticipate a mourning period and will be keeping an eye on my mood as the prolactin production decreases as we wean. Deep in my heart I know this is the right decision for our family in order for us all to be happy and healthy.

It is at this time I am reminded of a wonderful bible verse -

Forgetting things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, this is wisdom. Philippians 3:13

This verse has become a constant reminder not to over-analyze every minute detail of what could have been done differently or where the train began to run off the tracks. To do this would be assigning ourselves to a dark pit of despair and that is not where we need to be now. We need to be front and center, in the light with the Lord so that we continue to shine and guide our children toward His glory. We will accept (once again) our new normal and adjust our lives accordingly so we may move forward full of prayer, wisdom, love, and strength. For at this time, there is nothing more we can do beyond this but wait on the Lord and trust in His infinite power and wisdom.