As the entire uncivilized world, and now most of the civilized world, knows, breast feeding and breast milk are some of the best things for your baby. It provides health benefits for both mom and baby, financial benefits (it’s free, people!), and incomparable bonding. However, what do you do when the milk runs dry or you’re not producing enough? If your baby won’t latch? Or you have to go back to work and pumping just isn’t an option?
First, take a deep breath, understand that you’re not a failure or less of a woman or mother, and forgive yourself. It’s okay – this is more common than you probably realize, mostly because women don’t usually go around talking about their breastfeeding journeys (at least, I never heard one until AFTER I was having issues).
In fact, you may be surprised to learn that you, a sibling, or a friend wasn’t breast-fed! At all! What?! For shame!! No, it just wasn’t popular, “normal,” or as highly recommended years ago as it is now. I was SHOCKED to learn that my mom only breast fed my sister and I for a short while, and my mother-in-law had 3 entirely different journeys with each of her children (including breastfeeding for 1 month with one child, 9 months with another, and not at all with another!), and they’re all perfectly healthy, intelligent, and highly functioning members of society! WHAT?! So, no, feeding your baby formula won’t scar your child for life… at least, I haven’t seen any research on that.
Second, you may feel bombarded by the breastfeeding Nazis of the world – it gets pushed from every angle. All the books, the hospitals, the videos, the support groups, and everything else! I’m not bashing these people as research clearly shows that breast milk is amazing for your baby. But, you know what is even more amazing for your baby? Eating. Growing. Or, otherwise surviving, and if it takes formula to get her there, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and NOTHING to be ashamed of. So, STOP IT non-boob shamers. Sometimes moms just have to make the hard decisions, so do what YOU think is best for YOUR baby.
Here is my journey:
To start, I was worried that I wouldn’t even be able to breast feed due to a breast augmentation surgery that I had when I was 18… in South America. Yeah, decision making wasn’t my strong suite then, but I had almost zero breast tissue before and I wasn’t 100% sure how the surgery was even performed so… it was kind of a crap shoot on whether breast feeding would be a possibility for me.
So, I went in with an open mind and open heart about what would happen, and every day that I was able to breast feed, I was grateful. I even took the proper steps and had a breast feeding consultant come in literally minutes after my son was born to make sure I was doing everything to the best of my ability. I had follow up appointments to ensure everything was going well for weeks after, too.
But, it only took about 3 days to realize that I just wasn’t producing enough for my son. Despite my “whatever happens is fine” attitude before the baby arrived, once I realized I couldn’t give him what he needed, I was devastated. We ended up calling the hospital because my son just wouldn’t stop crying, and though the pediatrician had given me some formula, just in case, I was almost ashamed or afraid to give it to him. The nurse, however, assured us that formula was better than starving to death (good point) and to give it a try… he was immediately pacified and slept for 3 hours straight (which for a newborn, you know if you have one, is a LOT! Especially at night)!
The next day we had an appointment with the breastfeeding consultant and I was terrified to tell her what I had done. Again, I had fallen victim to the breastfeeding shamers – I felt like I HAD to exclusively breast feed or I was purposely putting my son in danger or something. Luckily, our consultant was amazing and reassured me that my son was getting all of the essentials from the breast milk I was providing (no matter how little) and formula is just to get him the fluids and calories he needed. *Sigh,* thank goodness! I felt so much better. She hooked me up with a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) and I was able to breast feed my son, only using the bottle occasionally.
I had plans to keep going for at least 6 months, but my son was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie… a what-a-what-now? Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first heard it too. It’s not life threatening, but it can cause some issues so we decided to have it corrected, which involved laser surgery on the underneath side of his tongue. Long story short, he wasn’t too keen on sucking hard from my breast any more and decided the lazier bottle option was preferred (how could I blame him?). Thus, my breastfeeding journey ended after a little over 2 months. Sadness.
It was definitely heartbreaking that my baby wouldn’t be getting all of the great benefits of breast milk any more, but luckily I had a great support system and I knew that I was doing what was best for my particular situation. Plus, I’m happy to report: my son is now 6 months old, he’s growing like crazy and is already in 9-12 month clothes, he has been hitting all of his milestones with no problems, has been sleeping through the night for months, and he’s about he happiest baby you’d ever meet!
Bottom line, don’t be ashamed of your journey, whatever it is. You have to do what is best for you and your baby and everyone’s situation is different. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, make you feel ashamed, afraid, or like less of a woman or mom. It’s a tough job, and there are LOTS of hard decisions ahead, but you’re doing great, momma! Keep up the good work!
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**The articles and information on this website are based on personal experiences only and are not intended to be medical advise. Contact your doctor for the most accurate information and advise for you and your baby**