When I was pregnant with my son, I never had a question about how I would feed him… I was going to breastfeed my son. I had it all figured out; feed on demand, pump to have a stash when I returned to work, co-sleeping to make night feeding easier. I didn’t even buy bottles! I received a couple of formula samples and a bottle in the mail, which I promptly threw into the giveaway bin.
We had a wonderful home birth and he latched for the first time like a champ. He nursed almost constantly those first few days but I was sure he was just making up for having a very sick Mommy while he was in the belly.
I eagerly awaited my milk coming in. The days passed but no milk came… no fullness, no leaking, no engorgement, nothing. What I did see was an increasingly unhappy little guy. He would latch, suck, and then scream his little head off before going back to trying to nurse.
On the 4th night, he was inconsolable. My normally peaceful little boy wouldn’t stop crying. This, of course, meant I couldn’t stop crying. I remember telling my husband, “I just don’t know what’s wrong”. He looked at me and said, “Maybe he’s hungry…” My husband took the baby from me, dug our sample bottle and formula from the box and fed our son. He drank it down greedily and fell asleep.
My heart shattered into a million little pieces. How could he be hungry if he was nursing so often? Was I not producing milk? What kind of mother can I be if I can’t even feed my child?
Lactation consultants offered me assistance with hand expression, pumping with breast pumps and feeding with supplemental feeder systems. If there was an herb known to increase milk supply, I tried it. My midwife suggested domperidone, so I ordered it from New Zealand since it isn’t sold in the US. My OB prescribed progesterone to try to jumpstart my milk, so I tried that too. I cried over my empty pump bottles and over containers of formula. I cried as I swallowed pill after pill, praying that they would work. Some wonderful women shared pumped milk with my babe and me so he could at least get the taste of breast milk. Multiple times per day, I hooked myself up to a breast pump as I imagined it repeating, “failure, failure, failure,” endlessly.
All the while, my baby was thriving on formula.
When my baby was 12 weeks old, I decided my fight to breastfeed my son was over. While I mourned what I perceived as a failure, I knew I had tried everything I could to do the best for my baby. I looked into his tiny face and cried. I told him how sorry I was that I had failed him. I told him how much I loved him. He looked at me and smiled. My baby loved me no matter if my breasts “worked” or not! He was healthy and happy and that was enough for me!
All said, I consulted 3 lactation consultants and my midwife, took countless herbs and 2 medications for lactation, pumped with 2 different breast pumps, fed formula and donated breast milk at my breast with a supplemental feeder. I never produced even one drop of milk. Instead, I lovingly fed my baby formula. He tops the charts for height and weight. He is bright and funny and has so much energy and personality. He looks at me with such love. I did my best and I hope he knows that.
To all the mamas out there who have struggled or are struggling to give their baby the best, I see you and I stand with you. Breast or bottle, formula or donor milk – fed and loved is best! Mama, you are doing a great job!
Priscilla is a 30-something first-time mom and Athletic Trainer, living in Miami with her husband Raul, son Marley, bonus-daughter Gaby and their dog, Cotton. She describes herself and a home birthing/cloth diapering/baby wearing/cosleeping wannabe crunchy mama. She loves all things chocolate and caramel, reading, writing, crafts and the ocean but these days when she is not chasing around a toddler, she can be found sound asleep.