Thursday, August 4, 2011

Breastfeeding vs. Formulafeeding

This post is not intended to start a debate between breastfeeders vs formula feeding. It is merely to express my emotional journey between the two. I have no problems with formula feeding (for other people), though I will admit that I side eye people who HAVE milk and CAN breastfeed but choose to formula feed for no medically necessary reason (boob jobs, medicines etc.) as well as those who give up because it hurts or is hard. Those opinions also are closely tied to my own journey though and I realize this.

Breastfeeding (especially in the first weeks-err months) is one of the hardest things I've done. There was a weekend that I resorted to exclusively pumping because of how painful it was, but I went back to it and gritted my teeth through the pain. I'm 4 months in and my nipples are still tender and sore but not to an unbearable degree. I can still enjoy the act of breastfeeding at this point and appreciate the bonding experience.

I have fought, cried, and emotionally abused myself to breastfeed. Thanks to PCOS, my body does not produce enough to meet my sons needs. In four months my supply has not increased at all. Period. When my milk came in, I could pump 2 ounces. Which was fine for a 3 day old. Not so much for a 3 month old. I have worked with Dr's, lactation consultants, gadgets, pumping regimens, natural remedies, foods and prescription drugs. To this day, I can still only get 2 ounces every few hours. Which means he gets 2-4 ounces of formula every few hours (except at night).

the first time I gave him formula he was 5 or 6 days old and I cried the entire time. I think I cried the whole first week while giving him a bottle. I felt like a failure as a mom and to this day, those emotions and that memory of that moment haunt me.

(Here's where formula feeding moms will really gnash their teeth.) I'm EMBARRASSED to BUY FORMULA. I won't look the cashier in the eye. It's like being a teenage girl buying a pregnancy test or condoms. I'm embarrassed to give my baby a bottle in public because people can see me mix the powder and water and know its formula. (On the other hand I won't breastfeed in public either. I will whip them out around female family members or in a public retail women's lounge or mother's room, or even in my car parked at the edge of a prking lot away from everyone but won't find me on a bench int he mall with my boob out flapping in the breeze for the world to see.) (So there I have offended both types of moms with my prudishness equally!).

I have a negative image of formula feeding (that I never had before) due to my own struggle and desire to breastfeed. I'm projecting my own fears, experiences etc. into this one act of parenting becaue of my own dissappointment. The studies and articles about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula swim through my subconcious brain to give me nightmares.

I KNOW its okay. The Dr's tell me his fine and healthy and I'm doing a good job. Everyone comments on how alert and strong he is; How good his disposition and behavior are; how clear his skin; how beautiful of a baby he is. He is getting the immunities and benefits of breastmilk and the intimate bonding of nursing two ounces at a time.

I can go on like this as long as my body produces. If I can make it to 6 months he will still have recieved a lot of benefit from my meager supply. I, however, need to reconcile with myself this negativity. I tell myself that my body sin't a failure. It gave me the most amazing little boy after years of struggle, but this is one more black mark against it. Maybe thats part of the scars of being a bitter infertile. We never quite learn how to love ourselves again (and forgive our bodies) and automatically self loathe when our bodies don't perform the way we want.

I will always struggle with breastfeeding, the way my birth went, and with my body but just as I haven't given up with breastfeeding, I won't give up on trying to forgive me, even while I die of shame when purchasing formula.


  1. *hugs*

    You're doing what you have to do to feed your baby. I know that ache in your heart that wants nothing more than for your body to just work the way its supposed to, though.

    You're a good mom because you feed your son. You give him the nutrition he needs, you bathe him, hug and kiss him, love him and cherish him. If anyone judges you for buying formula they can rot in hell.

  2. ((hugs))

    You're not alone. We're almost 10 months in to supplementing with formula, and I still feel ashamed buying it. My confession: I always try to turn it around and hide it behind other items in my cart.

    My motto has always been, "My body wouldn't conceive him without medical intervention. My body didn't want to carry him without medical intervention. It only makes sense that my body cannot feed him without medical help." Sometimes that makes me feel OK, sometimes I still feel like a failure. But we are doing whatever it takes to feed our children, and that's what matters.

    Don't give up, sweetie. I know you won't, but sometimes I need to hear it, too. Just keep giving him all the mommy milk goodness you can for as long as you can. You're doing an incredible job!

  3. Oh honey, I don't think any breastfeeding mama would ever look down at you. You have tried your hardest and you are 100% right Matthew IS getting the antibodies!! You are doing great and don't be ashamed you are a mother and each mom has to make their own decisions based on each family's situation.

    Much love to you and little Matthew!!