I am struggling with something and writing is always so theraputic for me. Also I really feel like I am not the only one with this struggle and want to write this and publish is because I want to let other mama's know 'I see you, Im with you, I thought I had this all down with my third child but Im in this new baby whirlwind with you'
First thing I want to say and just get it out there now, and this is really hard to even admit or say is 'my baby drinks formula, JUST formula now' I dont know where along the way I starting judging myself or feeling horrible about this but it has happened and thats where this post is coming from. But lets go back, Lets start from the beginning....
I had my 3rd baby in January, I seriously thought to myself 'my girls had so many issues in their baby years, I have seen it all, nothing can surprise me' WELL....I guess my new and only son heard that and took it as a challenge! He was born a little guy, and started nursing right away. His first weeks were pretty fussy (I only learned why later) Then he wasnt gaining weight. They recommended I started to supplement a bit at night, and pump after feeds so I started to do that. A few weeks of weekly appointments went on, still was not really gaining the way they wanted. I had 2 trips books prior to him being born, so we set out on our first one to the West-into the Rocky Mountains where we used to live and where my other 2 other kiddos were born. When we got there, my dad kept asking me to take him to the dr because he just felt like there was something we were missing. Finally I did because he was SCREAMING when he nursed and I could hardly get him to eat at all. The dr told me that he was not tongue tied and to keep supplementing because we needed to get himsome calories. So that was our job for 4 days, we packed back the calories with nursing, pumped milk and formula, I even had to use a syringe because he was so weak and couldnt suck on anything by the end of the day.
I even got a supplementary nursing system where I would put milk in a container with a little tube into his mouth and tried to get him to nurse better. We went back and he had lost weight! It was then they diagnosed him with 'Failure to Thrive' which basically means what it sounds like, but is not an exact reason as to WHY its happening. Now I knew something was being missed. He recommended I take him to the Alberta Childrens hospital to see a pediatrician there. The next day I took him there, and had an awful experience with them completely dismissing me, telling me he was just small. By this point he was 6.5 weeks and 7.1lbs. I left discouraged and upset and was telling the lactation consultant who was working with us about it all, and she at the last minute of the day before I headed back got me into see a dr who was a lactation specialist as well. Right away she told me he DID have a tongue tie (please note, I had 2-TWO- dr's tell me he didnt) and because he was so much older he was compensating how he nursed so he didn't know how to suck or transfer milk AT ALL and all his mouth muscles were not even formed or developed because of all this. She said he was trying so hard to eat but couldnt actually suck the milk out, all he was getting was milk that was dripping down his throat. I felt awful, then we agreed to release the tongue tie and she wanted to see me back the next week. So we did that and he started to gain a little bit of weight, but wasnt making any monumentalstrides to catch up yet. I came home from that trip thinking we were on the path to success, until I went to see a pediatrician at the hospital here who was now going to follow us. He had gained about 3 oz's since I left for my 2.5 week trip so something still wasnt right.
That is the story and timeline of what we went through. What I really want to write about in this post is what has happened from there and how we got to where we are now. Through all of this I lost a lot of my milk supply, and something I learned was that it is really hard to increase your milk supply with only pumping, especially because I have 2 other kids who are busy and have tons of extracurriculars that take me out of the house, so finding the time to pump and then also feed the baby was becoming increasingly harder. After he was diagnosed 'thriving' from 'failure to thrive' my husband encouraged me to try nursing again, now that I was finally allowed to nurse for more than 5 minutes. Here is the problem: our 'recipe' that we found is working includes a VERY easy and fast way to get milk, now all of a sudden Im asking him to work for it again and it does not come out the same way....he was less than impressed. We got back to screaming when he nursed and both of us feeling super discouraged after each session we tried. I went back to pumping and formula, and sometimes trying to nurse.
Here is where I fell apart. The exhaustion from trying to do all 3, my milk being so low I was hardly making a lot of breast milk, being sleep deprived AND having 2 other kids, a husband, dog and a house to keep up with was KILLING ME. I was on the verge of falling apart and something had to give. I was in this battle with wanting to nurse and give him breast milk and prioritizing my mental health. I seriously couldn't figure out which was more important. It is funny because if I was talking to another mom in this situation I would say 'GIVE UP ITS OKAY THERE IS NO JUDGEMENT TONS OF MOMS USE FORMULA' but because I was talking to myself, I was judging myself and couldn't get over it. As much as I agree formula is great in certain situations and I would NEVER judge another mom for using it, there was something deep down in myself that I couldn't quite come to terms with, it is a natural feeling to desire to nurse your baby. Especially because I nursed my 2 other girls for a long time with no real issues.
After a few weeks, and nearing a full on breakdown, I started talking to friends and my husband about the idea of calling it quits and exclusively using formula. Every single person I talked to was encouraging me to take this burden and struggle off my plate, and recognize that this might be the best for BOTH of us. He was being fed properly with no stress and I would not be killing myself to get him a few extra ounces of breast milk. My husband must have read an article on how to talk to your wife because we had one final and big conversation about it. He asked me 'why are you holding on to the breast milk when its tearing you apart' It made me really analyze why? I finally got really honest and realized I didnt want to make this decision because it would be giving up, and I am super stubborn and DO NOT LIKE GIVING UP. (usually a good quality but in this case, was costing me a lot more difficulty in my day to day life) I also felt like I am grieving the fact that I cant feed my child the way I feel I am 'supposed to' After this conversation I decided to stop, that I need to get over myself and the issue's I have and do what is the best for me and my baby AND the other people and things in my life.
It has been about less than a week since I stopped. It has been a roller coaster of a week, likely because this is making my hormones change again. I feel very defensive all of a sudden, like I cant just say 'oh I use formula' to someone without explaining the whole story above of why we are. I dont know why, our society is pretty open to formula use, I dont know why I get so worked up about it. I have contemplated twice already to give it another go and try and re-lactate and work on getting him back to nursing. I ran that idea past some friends who have tried to assure me that it might not be the best idea, the time and commitment that would need is far more than I could realistically give it with the busyness of my life, but there is something in me that is holding onto this. (Since originally writing this post, I have tried to go back seriously once, and it was a flipping disaster)
This post is just a brutally honest view into my journey and thoughts on this. I am hopeful that I will come to accept my decision, and trust that keeping my baby fed and my mental health a top priority is the best thing I can do for my entire family. As you can see above, I am still struggling and working through the process of accepting this.
The good thing is I can appreciate the positives our new situation offers. There is a certain freedom using a bottle gives. It is allowing my husband to be apart of the feeding process-which is such a huge part of a babies life at this point (I mean what else do they do?) I can go out for longer periods of time ALONE because I am not rushing back to nurse, also I am not stressing over pumping enough milk if I am going to be out longer. A lot of times because this poor little guy is a 3rd child, I can give him a bottle and use a bottle holder to hold it with him so I can go to the bathroom or feed my other children or the 100 other things to get done in a day. He is a MUCH happier, calmer and chill baby now that we have finally figured out how to get food into him, and he sleeps so much better-this alone should be enough! So I choose to focus on these positive things I have found with our situation, and make sure I find other ways to bond with my little guy, which happens so I really do not feel like I am loosing that with not nursing so that is a great thing too.
I know I am not the only mom struggling with these things. Diagnosis's that dont make sense, or misdiagnosis, feeding issues, tongue ties, not making enough milk, supplementing, giving up on nursing etc etc etc! I just want to shout out and hug you and let you know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We need to talk more openly about this to continue to remind ourselves this truth, because there is a huge lie circling around that allows us to judge and beat down on ourselves and that is what is going to rob you of the joy of this little blessing that is now in your life. I leave you with this poem or whatever you would call it, I have always loved it since I first saw it. The reminder and point is YOU ARE A GOOD MOM, NO MATTER HOW YOU DO IT!