I wrote this as a comment on someone elses blog…but I wanted to share my thoughts here as well…
I tried to breastfeed, but there were issues.
1-My daughter was born with low blood sugar and was in the NICU for 36 hours. We had to give her some formula to spring her from the NICU
2-My daughter came down with a life threatening infection at a week of age. She spent a week on a ventilator, then a week on a g-tube. After that, she REQUIRED extra calories (formula added to my breastmilk to raise caloric content) because she was barely at her birth weight when she was released from the hospital at a month of age. She needed this for several months
3-Once she was off supplemental calories, she had trouble with latching. We were working on it, but….
4-She started losing weight, and needed the extra calories again.
5-She was diagnosed with food allergies at 5 months. I was capable of cutting out dairy, but I couldn’t do the full elimination diet.
So I pumped exclusively for 5 months. When I went dairy free I felt like crap, and I reached my wall. I weaned myself off pumping, and donated the 40 oz that my daughter couldn’t drink (because while I had been dairy free I hadn’t been doing the full elmination diet when I had pumped it) to a mom who was adopting a boy from African and was trying to relactate but had low supply issues.
I felt like a failure. Because we couldn’t get the latching thing. Because I hadn’t picked up on the first signs of the infection (she had some mottling which we were told was normal in newborns, her temp was low-but we’d only been warned about fevers) and she almost died. Because I struggled with supply issues. Because no matter what I did I couldn’t boost my supply past 16 oz a day, and there were always women who told me I just wasn’t trying hard enough (I took fenugreek, I took domperidone, I took reglan, I pumped every two hours, I pumped for long periods of time, I drank enough water to sink a battleship, etc). My most vivid memories of my daughter’s first month of life are sitting in her room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, crying and pumping.
I felt angry. I felt like if I hadn’t been diabetic, we wouldn’t have needed to give her formula and maybe the breastfeeding would have worked out. I felt angry because she got sick, and that interfered with our creating a breastfeeding relationship.
I felt guilty. Maybe I could have prevented my body from becoming diabetic? Was I selfish for wanting to breastfeed when she did okay with the bottle?
Now that I’ve got some distance from the whole breastfeeding/pumping/formula supplement/don’t supplement etc arguments, I’ve made my peace.
I don’t think I could have done anything differently to make it “better.”
I’m proud of myself for pumping even under horrible circumstances…as in I was sitting in the PICU, next to my child on a ventilator, talking to a neurologist about her stroke while pumping away. When she was a month old (3 days before she was released from the hospital) I had gastroenteritis…I was in the emergency room with diarhhea and vomiting…and I was hooked up to a pump that I would pause so I could go to the bathroom, or I’d lean over and puke as I pumped and was rehydrated via IV.
I wish it weren’t an all or nothing argument. None of the formula I gave my daughter to supplement the caloric intake so she could gain weight. That formula helped her gain crucial weight. The prescense of the formula didn’t negate the benefits of the milk I gave her.
I wish I hadn’t bought into the idea that I couldn’t bond as well if I didn’t breastfeed. There were literally 7 days where I was able to hold her for a grand total of 15 minutes while they changed her bed to one that would be easier to transport her to and from MRI/CT/etc scans with the oxygen tank because she was on a ventilator. When all I could do was stroke the one hand that didn’t have tubes coming into it. Even though that was her second week of life…we bonded. My love for my daughter is fierce beyond words, and she reserves her biggest smiles for me…her face lights up when I come into the room. We are strongly bonded, and our “failure” at breastfeeding did not affect that bond.
I wasted so many hours of her early life in guilt, in anger, in beating myself up…and it was a waste.
For a time I vasilated between hating women who didn’t try because they never even tried something I was trying SO DAMN HARD to succeed at and failing at…and being really sensitive and strident about how formula was SO NOT TEH DEVIL.
In the end, I wasn’t fighting with the pro-breastfeeding movement…I was fighting my own demons.
I wish that breastfeeding wasn’t presented as an all or nothing choice. I wish that pumping were more acknowledged as the difficult journey it is…you have all the struggle of bottle feeding PLUS the joys of being a cow milked every two hours. I wish that people had some perspective on formula.
And I wish that no one, even myself, ever made me feel guilty for doing what was right for Elanor and for me.