I never was one of those ‘crunchy moms’. I doubt I’d still be considered one. All of my babies have had (at one time or the other) formula pass their lips.
I went into parenthood with the best intentions. I would breastfeed. It was simple as that. I would breastfeed.
My son was born the day after I turned 18 years old. I was in shock (and a bit of grief). My little daughter, my Rachel Abigail, had been born with a penis (good thing now, because he’d be one ugly girl!). The scans had been wrong and I was in shock. But still, I would try to breast feed. The nurses tried to put the baby to breast in the delivery room. They said for me not to worry when it didn’t work out. So, I tried again. And again. And in the middle of the night, in tears, I called down to the nursery while my baby screamed and I sobbed.
Formula passed his lips.
The lactation consultant tried to help, but my nipples… well… they were retarded. They were inverted and tied. Like a belly button on each breast. No matter how I tried, shields and devices, the nipples just wouldn’t point in the right direction. A nurse came in, carrying heads of cabbage and said to me- Honey, it might just be better for you bottle feed.
At home, I tried. Formula on hand, but I tried. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mom while she tried to manually pump my breasts to pull out the nipple, tried to get the baby to latch. This was huge, as not but a month before she was kicking me out for being pregnant and keeping the baby. She told me to give up.
So I gave up.
When my second son came around, I decided to just bottle feed in the hospital. I don’t think he even got a drop of expressed breast milk. He got really sick around 8 weeks old (Pertussis and Failure to Thrive) and was in the hospital for a week. I often wondered if I had breast fed, would he have gotten so sick. We nearly lost him. Even to this day, he’s very small.
My third son, I went into determined to get as MUCH as breast milk as possible into the little guy. I pumped. I pumped and I pumped and I pumped. I was able to give him 2 weeks of on and off breast milk. It was a little victory. I was a little wiser, a little older, and I was happy to have given him what I could.
Then there was my daughter.
I was a pumping machine. Other than the first days of life when she was in the NICU, I was able to pump enough to exclusively feed her for the first 4 months of life. I was selfish, though, and quit when I went back to work. Still, I was proud that she got SO much milk. She didn’t need formula until I went back, and I was SO proud.
Years passed and I read. I read and read and read. I was trying to have my fifth and final baby. I was at peace. I was totally at peace with pumping exclusively for my future fifth baby. But secretly… I wanted to breast feed. I was envious of those women who were able to put their babies to their breasts and do it so naturally.
I had learned from my first that it really wasn’t that easy. Breast feeding wasn’t always easy. It sometimes hurt. It sometime wasn’t fun.
I got pregnant (after six rounds of fertility treatments). I continued to read. I talked with lactation consultants and mothers who had been successful. And all the time, I told myself that I would be okay if all I could do was pump. I would do it.
I knew that there was no way (NO WAY) I would formula feed. It wasn’t because I thought that formula was bad, or poison. It was something else completely. See, I had my baby in a foreign country. I worried about water purity (we’re advised not to drink anything but bottled water). I worried about natural disasters (in just the last year we have had Typhoon, Monsoons, Earthquakes, Snow Storms, Flooding. etc…). I worried about war (we’re in an ‘at-war’). I worried about recalls (we have access to only three types of formula, and two types were recalled). I worried about supply (our demand out weighs the supply).
So, I would pump.
Then my baby was born (five silent pushes because I joking challenged everyone that I would). I laid on that delivery table, legs in the stirrups with oxygen mask on my face, bleeding to death.
I was bleeding to death… blood rushing and pooling on the floor, my little Asian doctor covered head to toe in my blood. The oxygen was all-on full. My own husband (a combat medic) was squeezing the Pitocin bag with all his might to stop the bleeding.
My baby. I watched him dazed as they worried over him. He was big. Huge. And they worried about him having diabetes. They needed to test him. They needed to feed him and test him, so I told the nurse to just feed him a bottle of formula. And they did.
They fed him formula. Those itty bitty plastic 2oz bottles of thick beige formula. And my supply dwindled in those hours after he was born. When I was looking at the bottles thinking that I would pump when I got home and all would be well. I would take the Reglan and increase my supply, and he would get the best.
I called to the nurses to get some more of the little bottles of formula. She said she would bring them, so I waited. I waited, and waited. I called for them, and I waited. And the baby woke hungry in his few hours old self.
So, I put him to my breast and he latched like a pro. I sat in awe and pride. I thought it was a fluke, but I put him to the breast and put him to the breast, and every time he fed like it was meant to be. I was in awe.
The first few weeks were hard. I alternated between feeding him from the breast and bottle feeding him breast milk. I stored about 200oz in the freezer, and eventually moved away from bottle feeding him any breast milk.
He will be 9 months old in a few days. He’s huge (22lbs, 29in). He’s had Pertussis and bacterial pneumonia (shortly after six months old). He stayed in the ICU (and I stayed with him). One of the nurses came in and commented that he breathed better, and all of his stats were better when he was on the breast (or at least at them). I truly believe breastfeeding saved him. Yes, he was very sick but he could have been sicker.
I breast fed him through my own case of Pneumonia.
I was content with only being able to pump and feed him, and the gift I have been given is so much more. I tell everyone… I wish I had known. I wish I had been more successful with the other kids.
Formula was easy until I actually breastfed. I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night, stumble around in the dark to make a bottle or warm a bottle. I don’t have to do anything. When my son wakes in the middle of the night, I don’t do anything. He helps himself. Neither of us wake up fully. I don’t have to wash bottles. I don’t have to carry a cooler of bottles, or make sure that I keep formula. I truly can walk out the door with just a diaper and a few wipes in a bag.
I sit in awe when I look at my son thinking that my body worked to grow him from sperm and egg to birth, then delivered him, pushed him from me. My breast fed him and feed him. My breasts provides everything he needs from 8lbs 8.8oz to the delightful little boy he is now of 22lbs, as he edges closer to 9 months old. My breasts feed him so that he has the energy to stand and cruise along my furniture and get into everything within reach. My milk has helped his brain grow to already learn three words (mama, dada, and nigh-nigh… which is his word for nursing).
I’ve had formula babies, and breast milk babies.
If I had to do it again, should there ever be a baby number six in my life, I am confident that I could breast feed my baby.
I am still in awe.
I did this.