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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Giving Up on Breastfeeding and Its Okay

Before Emily was born everyone asked me if I was going to breastfeed.  I happily said "Yes!" and had the lofty goal of continuing for at least 6 months.  Being a nurse I am well versed on the benefits of breastfeeding and the recommendations for it.  Besides, it was what women are built for, right? 

Maybe not. 


When Emily was born the nurses clamored about how wonderfully Emily nursed right from the get go.  It filled me with pride to hear such compliments.  They asked if I wanted to see a lactation consultant, which I did, and told me one would be in the next day.  One never came and in the blur of adrenaline and new motherhood I forgot all about it until we were home.  I was annoyed, but figured that since I was apparently doing such a great job according to the nurses that everything would be fine. 

In reality everything wasn't fine.  Besides Emily's ever troubling GERD that went undiagnosed for three weeks I dealt with the very common new nursing mom problems.  I endured soreness and pain in order to 'toughen up' to Emily's ferocious latch.  Eventually I became accustomed to the firm grasp of her jaw and my toes didn't curl up or I wince in pain when she latched on every hour or two.  But thing weren't completely peachy...

Emily, and her ferocious latch were causing quite the frustration for both her and I.  She would latch and unlatch continually which led to a pissed off baby and longer feedings.   I spent hours on the internet researching how to improve nursing.  I read several excerpts in books about it.  I talked to other moms and sought out advice.  All of it led to me sitting up late at night with a screaming baby begging to eat and then fighting my breast seconds later over and over again for hours.  It led me to realize one very important thing...

I hate nursing.

I completely hate it.  

In the entire month I attempted solely breastfeeding my child there were no magical moments where I felt an extreme special connection with her when I nursed. She was constantly unhappy and hungry.  I could never fill her up.  Everything I tried to increase my flow didn't work.  Pumping, diet, more frequent feedings... in the end she sucked until there was nothing left and was still hungry.  

That was when I reached for the bottle.  I had bought some formula 'just in case' when Emily was born and in the middle of the night, sleep deprived and bleary, I filled a bottle with it and gave it to Emily.  She sucked the entire thing down, burped, and blissfully fell asleep in my arms with a full belly.  It was amazing. 

Right then and there, as she snuggled in my arms - more content than I had ever seen her- I made the decision to wean my baby from breast to bottle.  But that decision was what has caused me great disappointment... not in the decision itself, but in the stigma of making such a decision.  

Every piece of literature I researched about transitioning to formula talked about how great breast feeding was and demanded that a woman try every single option before switching.  Everything touted the attitude that if you didn't breast feed you were either selfish or doing something wrong.  How could I deny my child such sustenance?  What would I have done hundreds of years ago before the ages of formula?  

When you say you are exclusively breast feeding you're praised to the ends of the Earth.  "Oh, that's great!" everyone says.  But if a mom admits she's bottle feeding, much less 'giving up' on breastfeeding she's met with disappointment and shame.  Why?  Reading and hearing all the opinions towards transitioning or bottle feeding at first made me feel guilty, but then I realized something.

Why should I feel guilty? 

...I shouldn't.

No mom should for making a decision like this for her own child. 

An odd thing happened when I began bottle feeding Emily.  I loved it.  She loved it.  We snuggled close.  She at to her hearts content and didn't have to fight her enthusiasm to get a full meal.  As she gazes up at me from the other end of a bottle during each feeding I feel such an intense happiness, love and contentment.  I imagine that is what I was suppose to feel when I breastfed, but never did.  Starting the transition to formula has been the best decision I've ever made since she's been born.  

I'll admit it.  I gave up on breastfeeding and I couldn't be happier. 

Actually, we couldn't be happier. 

33 comments:

R. Roushey said...

So glad that you made the decision that is best for YOU and EMILY! A happy baby makes a happy mom! And a happy mom makes a happy baby (and probably a happy husband too). Glad things continue to go uphill for you!

Anonymous said...

That's too bad you gave up so soon.

kittyhere said...

Good for you doing what is best for you & your baby. I never had a child, so never faced the breast feeding dilemma but the whole being "praised to the ends of the Earth" if you do so reminds me of how society also preaches we must all be skinny,exercise mad,& avoid anything but plant based foods. And that doesn't work for all of us any more than breast feeding works for every mom & baby.

newmexicomtngirl.com said...

good for you and for her. It's been many, many moons since any of mine breastfed and I didn't do it for too long either. Like you I never really 'felt' whatever bliss and whatever else I was 'suppose' to feel. It felt like one more chore to do and that's not how I wanted it to be. Jacob my first nursed 6 months until he bit me, Rachael Leigh really never dug the closeness and ended it herself at 4 months and I think Benjamin and I enjoyed it the most, but that still only lasted about 5 months.
You are already happier and that is all that matters. Great first lesson to learn as a brand new mother, to listen to your instinct, after all, who knows better than you and her dad, what is better for the three of you?????
peace n abundance,
CheyAnne

Jacki said...

Good for you and Emily! You have to do what's best for you and your child. And anyone who gives you grief for it anonymously is ridiculous.

AmyBean said...

Jen, you've probably guessed that I'm a big breastfeeding advocate. BUT, I am happiest when mama and baby are happy and healthy, no matter how that happens. You'll get no guilt from me, and you shouldn't have to put up with it from others. The way I feel about it is that none of us ends up making every perfect decision and turning out a perfect child. We make choices along the way, and we all have our reasons for making those choices. And no matter what we choose, we agonize over it. You didn't make the decision lightly, and I know you're looking out for the best interests of sweet Emily. You get nothing but hugs and love from me for that. :) Formula is a valid choice, and millions of babies end up wonderfully healthy on it. You have nothing to feel guilty over.

Stacy said...

I don't think you should feel guilty. You did try for a month and found that your baby was most filled and content when she was given formula. I think that you are a great mom for deciding to do what gives her enough food to be content and makes her happy. There is no shame in that.

She is beautiful by the way.

ladylisabear69 said...

You tried. That is what counts. If it is not right for you, then you stop. You have to do what is best for you and the little one, not what is best for anyone else. Every piece of advice, including this one, needs to be taken with a grain of salt and a bit of Mommy intuition for her own child. Enjoy your cuddle times with your much happier baby.

MarieElizabeth said...

I'm glad you found what works for you both. You will enjoy each other so much more and she'll be eating well. That is what makes you a good parent.

Wyatt's Momma said...

Congrats on your bottle decision! I feel like this is never uttered to people who bottle feed and there is such a stigma attached to it. As someone who never breastfed, by choice, I congratulate you on making your decision. I wish women would stop giving that fake smile or frowning when they hear that someone is bottle feeding. They don't realize that there's a reason for someone to bottle feed just like there's a reason for someone to breastfeed. Congrats again and I hope the reflux starts getting better! :)

Erin in Kona said...

Hey! I'm late to this party, but congrats on Emily! She's a doll! I'm sorry you spent a month so frustrated and glad formula is working out well for you. The most important thing is that Emily eats and grows. That's it.

Stace said...

I tried breast feeding 2 of my 4...the first one...she had an appetite of a lumberjack and a horrible latch...she was miserable and I was 19...I stopped and she was happy and so was I. My second, I was 26 and thought I had the patience to try again...egads what a mess! Turns out my nipples just didn't want to cooperate (yeah ,I know TMI! ) and I ended up having more attachments than my vacuum cleaner...it hurt, I was miserable, he was miserable and I stopped. I didn't even attempt with the other two. I got some colorful feedback, but in the end, I had to do what worked for us...breastfeeding isn't always warm and fuzzy...and for some people it just doesn't work. Don't feel guilty, you did what was right for you and Emily and that is what is important.

A New England Life said...

I can't believe women would chastise other women over their decision not to breast feed. If there's one thing I can't stand about being a new mother it's the criticism some women have for each other. Like Anonymous up above. Seriously, who do they think they are?

Good for you Jen! Take a look around at all the people you know. I can guarantee most of them were NOT breast fed, and they are just fine!
My girlfriend always felt like a failure, and her friends gave her a hard time, just because she had 3 necessary c-sections. Who cares! As long as the baby is loved and healthy that's all that matters. Enjoy Emily because in 10 years no one is going to ask whether or not you breast fed her!

((hugs))

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

You go girl. Whatever makes you and your baby happy is the right thing to do. Guilt is over rated anyway. Besides, now you can get pregnant again - hehheeehe!

Fire Wife Katie said...

You did the right thing. I had to say over and over to myself when I quit early - formula is not rat poison! Mommy guilt is powerful stuff. And those who don't have to battle every.single.feeding can't understand the frustration and anger at the situation made more complicated by the post-postum hormones. Associating negative feelings with the baby over and over again, day and night, is not what's best. I truly believe you did the right thing!!

Someone asked me what breasts feeding felt like once. I told her that for me, and everyone's drastically different, it was similar to the sensation of someone taking pliers and ripping my fingernails out. :o

Melissa said...

I stumbled across your blog and I have to applaud you for what you said. I have two children and struggled so much with the stigma that comes with formula feeding. I breast fed both of my kids, but was nervous to switch to formula feeding, especially in front of other moms who exclusively breast fed their babies because I knew I would be judged. It's funny how critical women can be of other moms when it comes to this topic. I wish more women like you would speak up in the midst of their struggle. All that matters is that your baby is healthy, you are healthy and that the two of you are creating that unshakeable bond of mother and child.

Shari@Rain into Rainbows said...

You have to do what is best for the two of you. No one else can decide for you, and no one else should try to lay a guilt trip on you.

And Anonymous, if you wanted to dish the guilt trip, the least that you can do is do so without hiding behind an Anonymous login.

Just sayin'.

mominsanity said...

Good for you! So proud that you made the decision that was right for you and Emily. Withmy first, he would latch but was such a slow/lazy feeder that he would literally be attached to me 24/7 in order to get enough. And his latch SUCKED (Ha ha - I made a funny). With my second, I kept getting mastitis - I think I had it three times in three months - so I was done pretty quickly with that.

You're doing a wonderful job.

And anonyous - one line. Really? And sack up and tell us who you are.

T Lee said...

you have learned the most important rule of thumb on being a mommy......follow YOUR instincts to where they lead you and be fine with the backlash. breastfeeding was not easy for me, either. had two sister in laws who are the perfect breastfeeders. some women have it and some women don't. I did a month for my first two babies and made it for 3 months with my last one. i think all new mothers really should give breastfeeding a chance and then make an informed decision as to which route is going to work for you and baby and proceed with that choice, self assured that you did your research and trials to get to a sound decision. glad you two finally got it worked out! :)

Tarah said...

I 'gave up' as well about three weeks in. I pumped a few times to figure out about how much I was giving Dayne only to discover I had a total of 1 oz TOTAL! He wanted at least 2 per feeding and I was only producing half. No wonder he screamed at me all the time. Plus he refused to latch on one side. Mix that with the Baby Blues and I was a total mess.

I too felt guilty and cried and worried that my husband would hate me for "giving up". But he told me to do what I felt I needed to do. We switched him to formula and he's a healthy, strong, smart and perfect little boy.

Breast is best but that doesn't mean everything else is horrible.

Kristin said...

I was feeding my 6 week old a bottle when I read this. :-) I know the guilt can be pretty awful. I weaned each of my sons at a month because of latch and GERD problems. I could have struggled through, but I just plain didn't WANT to. Like you, I HATED nursing. And if the guilt we lay on ourselves isn't bad enough, sometimes people open their big mouths and cruelly speak out loud the biggest doubts we have about our decision. I had a woman walk up to me a year or so ago while I was giving my first born a bottle and tell me that if I wasn't going to breastfeed and give my son the best, I should have put him up for adoption. If I hadn't been stunned into silence and holding my son, I'd have tackled her.

I'm proud of you for trying to breastfeed. Not because I believe that breastfeeding is a holier pursuit or feeding method, but because you wanted to try it and you did. But I'm more proud of you for recognizing that your priority is Emily's happiness. And if feeding her a bottle makes her full and happy, that fantastic! The bonus is that if you didn't enjoy breastfeeding, then bottle feeding will make you a happier mama, too. That is what is most important for Emily. But we all need to hear that people are proud of us, ridiculous as it sounds coming from an internet stranger. :-) But I've followed your blog for a long time, and I'm definitley proud of you. Enjoy your full, happy baby!

Anja said...

If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. Glad you made a decision that is good for you and the baby and makes both of you happy

Solomon's Porch said...

I have three girls (ALL GROWN NOW) and I didn't breast feed any of them, and they turned out just fine...
I was a working Mom and had to do what I had to do...and thats what you need to do in any and every situation...do whats right for you and your family...to heck with what others have to say...now enjoy that precious baby girl...

Nolie said...

Loved reading this post. SO many opinions out there and people wanting to judge. All that matters is what is best for YOUR family. If that is bottle feeding then so be it. I failed at breast feeding my first time around. I will attempt to succeed this time around too but have no problems going to formula if that ends up being best for US.

Golden To Silver Val said...

Back 45 years ago they didn't seem to make such a big deal out of breast feeding. My breasts are very tender and I didn't want to do it. My doctor had no problem with it. I've raised two children who now have children of their own. They have always been healthy so I don't feel that I short-changed anyone by my decision. Bottom line: it's nobody's business but yours. Both you and Emily are happy and that is so very important. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I must agree with "Life in New England." No one will ask you when your kids are older if you breast fed them or not. Enjoy Emily all you can. It is amazing how quickly they grow up into 16 year olds, and 18 year olds, and even 21 and 23 year olds. I must be getting old. =)

Deb W.

Mel said...

It's been said by everyone else, but I will say it again. You have to do what is right for you and Emily. I had a similar experience with my first. I was determined to Breastfeed. So I did. I fed him consistently every 2-3 hours and it took at least an hour each time. And after a couple days it hurt! Like you, I cringed at the thought of feeding him. I was so sore. I cracked, I bled, and I cried. But I was persistent. I tried all the creams and ointments with little to no luck. Long story short, after trying everything else I tried pumping to stimulate my milk supply, and there was nothing there. Not a single drop! My body does not make milk. I was basically a human pacifier who was starving my baby. Once I switched to the bottle he was happy, I was happy, I looked forward to feeding him and my mental health was much better. I know that breastfeeding is the best. And it is in most cases. It was so hard to go to the bottle because I felt like a failure. I felt like something had been taken away from me, a right of passage as a mother so to speak. Not to mention the bonding. In a perfect world I would be the only one who could feed my baby, and we would blissfully sit on the couch and snuggle and bond. But why couldn't I have that? So even though I could pass him to someone else, I didn't. For the first three months or so only I fed him. And I have done the same thing with my other three. The emotional bond is still there. And we have all been completely happy! It takes a wise mother to listen to all the advice and then make the decision to do what is best for you and your baby.

Randi said...

Just saw this post today and I'm glad you decided to switch! Yes, I'm sure breastfeeding is wonderful, but there's nothing wrong with bottle feeding if it makes mom and baby happier. My children have not been any more sick than any other (my son is hardly EVER sick! He has his father's immune system I think) nor have they been overweight. Those are all myths that should be completely ignored. Don't let the "breastfeeding nazi's" get to you - do what works for you and Emily! And best of all now your husband can take some of the night time feedings as well, giving you more sleep and making you a happier mom while helping him to bond more with Emily as well!

Anonymous said...

I've never understood why so many people believe it has to be one or the other. With my first I breastfed for 20 months, but I introduced formula at 8 months and whole milk at one year. At the height of breastfeeding I was pumping 5 times a day and nursing twice. It was exhausting. The best times feeding the baby anything were when I wasn't stressing over it.

My second child is 12 weeks old, and this time I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to pump enough to keep up with his appetite while I'm at work. Don't beat yourself up - it's nobody else's business what you feed your baby.

ain't for city gals said...

I am so glad to read this for another reason..I thought I had offended you after suggesting you switch to a bottle every other time when I read your last post. Like Joan Rivers said once..."Stick a bottle in a brassiere and go for it"!...hopefully the gerd will get better also...I had never heard of that before ...maybe that is what they used to call colic?..glad things are going better...enjoy..

Kerri said...

Look at all these comments! Good for you - I had a somewhat similar experience and a reprimand from a Breast-Nazi that left me in the state of "ugly cry" over the guilt and shame I felt for not nursing my first. It was a completely different experience with my son who I nursed without any issues. To nurse or not to nurse? What passion this question ignites.

Beth said...

I also gave up on breastfeeding my son. It was awful, painful, and I had mastitis and didn't know it. I went in to the doctor for my son's check up and he was the one who finally told me (while I was in tears) that I didn't *have* to breastfeed and that my baby would be just fine if I fed him formula. After the doctor gave me permission, so to speak, I felt so much better. The bottle was just what worked best for us then. But don't give up on breastfeeding completely. I ended up breastfeeding my daughter for 10 months because that's what worked for us at that time in our lives. Every situation is different and I'm glad that you figured out what works best to keep both mom and baby happy. Happy mom = happy baby.

Anonymous said...

Everyone kept pushing me to breast feed. I tried at the hospital and the nurses said i have nice boobs for breast feeding but Mya wasn't taking to them, Even with help. She was screaming. I tried formula and pumping was the best thing i did. She lost a pound from me trying to breast feed. We were both uncomfortable and getting upset. Soon as I started pumping she gained weight. I don't see what the big deal is, she is still getting my breast milk and we are both comfortable. She is now 3 weeks and doing great.

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