Is Breast Really Best? My Adventures with Breastfeeding

breastfeeding vrs bottle feeding

breastfeeding vrs bottle feeding

In today’s society, we all hear that breast is best when it comes to feeding our babies, but, in reality, is breast best when it comes to moms?

When I gave birth to my son Marshall, I was exhausted from my labor and also from my blood loss. Late that afternoon, the nurses suggested taking Marshall for half an hour so I could try to get some sleep. Before they took him, I tried feeding, but things just did not work. He would scream so bad to point where the poor little guy would turn purple and would not breast-feed at all. This went on for hours well into the next few days.

The nurses suggested that I give some him some formula so I could rest and he could eat, so I did.(I decided when I was pregnant that I wanted to be prepared. I wasn’t sure if breast-feeding was going to be the thing for me or if I would even be able to, so I bought a can of formula just in case. I was scared that if I couldn’t breast-feed that basically my baby would starve and in my opinion it’s better to be prepared for any situation.)

I saw the lactation consultant shortly after and things seemed to be pretty good. We spent five days in the hospital and during that time I did breast-feed. It wasn’t all that successful though. I always offered breast-feeding first but 95% of the time Marshall would get so upset and so frustrated to the point where nothing would calm him down. Nothing would work… so I gave him a little bit of formula… plus my milk hadn’t fully come in yet …so it was extremely challenging. When I got home I was told to drink a beer to help my milk come in, something about the yeast in the beer apparently helps, so I did, and the next morning it felt like boom my milk had arrived! But… by that point I was really sick and sore, I literally had to crawl up my stairs because I couldn’t stand upright from pain. I went back to the hospital and found out that I had infection from my episiotomy. After some antibiotics and IV’s, I was back home and was on the mend, but I was in a lot of pain.

I continued to try and try and try to breast-feed and I felt like I was under extreme amounts of pressure to do so. Everyone was telling me breast-feeding was best and I shouldn’t have to do formula! “my mom never gave us formula…” You know everyone’s 2 cents. I heard all the time that it’s better for the baby … the baby … the baby .. well what about me? To be honest, I was exhausted, I just gave birth to a 9 pounder two weeks early! Not to mention, he had his days mixed. Marshall slept great right off the bat 6-7 hours during the day and he was up every 20 minutes during the night. This kid was a powerhouse! He literally screamed every 15 to 20 minutes at night for food. I was stressing myself out, after 20 min of trying to breastfeed and basically fighting with him to do so, he still wasn’t getting enough to eat. It wasn’t possible for me to physically produce enough milk to feed him, my body was more concerned with replenishing my blood supply, I guess, then more concerned with producing milk. So, I continued to breast-feed and pump and breast-feed and pump. Every time I pumped I would get nothing! And, literall,y I mean nothing! After about an hour or two hours of pumping, I was lucky if I could get 20 mL. THIS DROVE ME NUTS. I continued this way for three months.

During that time my son was seen at Cheo for a club foot. We were pretty lucky, Marshall was born with a club foot but really it was almost like his ankle was turned inward. His foot was not deformed, but his foot was literally pointed in the wrong direction, and he could not flex his foot at all. The doctors told us that Marshall would have to go through a series of castings to straighten out his foot, so literally every single week we went in and Marshall got a new cast. Each week the cast was stretched in to a different position to slowly straighten out his foot. Now imagine trying to breast-feed a baby with a giant cast on his leg! Doesn’t quite work…

marshall stage one cast ,fixing his clubbed foot.

Marshall stage one cast, fixing his clubbed foot.

After three months of basically suffering through it and feeling like complete failure as a mom, I finally went to the breast-feeding clinic. Now I know I should have probably done this earlier, but I just did not have the energy to really do anything, and I was too ashamed. I felt like I was the only one in the world who couldn’t breast feed, and if I didn’t my son would suffer because of it.

During my time at the clinic, I was shown how to position Marshall with his cast, and I was put on a medication to help me produce more milk. I was told to pump ever hour on top of breastfeeding to increase my milk, and a week later I could successfully feed him with little to no issues, though for me feeding him was still a challenge in public. I was not comfortable feeding him when we were out and about. I felt like I stood out enough, and that I would look like a sideshow attraction, never mind that he’d constantly try to pull the cover away. Again, I got lots of opinions and comments, ‘oh I never cared’ ‘I’m fine with it, it doesn’t bug me’ well you know what you’re not me, you’re not his mother and you don’t live in my shoes. I was so sick of being judged and told what I should have done and should do. It made me so depressed to hear all the time that I was basically a failure. Most of the time I felt alone, like people forgot what I had to deal with on a daily basis and I got very depressed… but hid it inside, though my husband saw right through it. He supported me and constantly reassured me that I was doing a great job, and Marshall was clearly not suffering.

By the time he was 3 months old, he was 16 pounds, clearly well fed, and at that time he was only getting a bottle or two of formula depending if we went out or not. I was pretty proud of myself for roughing it out. My ideal goal the whole time was to breastfeed as much as I could anyways, and until Marshall got teeth. I thought back a lot on what I was told at the clinic, that even if you can only produce and give your baby a small amount of breast milk they are still receiving as much nutrient and antibodies as if they were being breastfed exclusively. I think that was what helped me through everything, knowing that at least I was giving him something, and to me something was better than nothing.

Now that I was finally able to feed him, I started to kind of feel better, but yet I was still comparing myself to others. I felt wrong because I couldn’t pump properly, or that I didn’t ever have to use nursing pads. I wouldn’t ever have to worry about leaking or anything and part of me felt like I had done something wrong. How come I wasn’t able to go through this like everyone else? Again, I would play the comments over and over again in my head, “well if you would have breast-fed right from the beginning” “you should have never given him formula”. It drove me mad, the only thing that I guess I experienced like a “normal” mom was engorgement. I went from my normal size of 38dd to a 42h…I didn’t even know there was such a size! God its hard enough finding bras in my normal size and now trying to fit these bad boys, good luck! After some searching I found the right stuff and all was pretty good, except for the pumping. IT SUCKED! Still, I couldn’t pump. Its was as if my body knew the pump wasn’t Marshall. I kept telling myself it must be mind over matter, but nothing worked. I could only breast feed, and I stopped hardcore pumping. Soon after finally figuring this all out, Marshall was finished with his casts. He was now on to THE BRACE. Now the brace was two little shoes attached together by a red bar. (He looked like  little snowboarder.) We were told by the doctors that he had to wear this brace 24 hours a day for 3 months… then 10 hours a nigh until he was 3… GREAT! I had just got feedings down pat, now what the heck was I to do! IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO CATCH A BREAK!

Marshall and his brace

Marshall and his brace

After all these struggles I thought I would be prepared for the day when I would stop breastfeeding, but boy was I not. Marshall was about 6 months old, maybe a little closer to 7 months, and it felt like all of a sudden I had to fight him to feed him. After everything we had been through, you’d think that I would be just happy to stop. I wasn’t, and it was like as if I felt that Marshall was now rejecting me, he didn’t want me, or love me anymore. How come he won’t feed anymore? What have I done? This is honestly how I felt. I was so sad. Every time he would refuse me, I would cry. I would work so hard to feed him and now he doesn’t want me anymore? I felt as if my world was caving in… Then he sprouted two teeth and bit me twice, and I snapped right out of it! Boy did that hurt! I was still sad, but after talking with my doctor, we decided that it was worse trying to force him to breast feed, then to just to give him a bottle of formula, and apparently babies know when their ready to stop. I do miss it to this day though, and I guess a part of me always will, that was something only I could do for him and it was special.

I guess the whole point of this post was to just show everyone and even myself that we shouldn’t judge ourselves and hold us up to unrealistic standards. We should let our babies be babies and we shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up with other people. It’s best to do what is best for us. Just because your friends or family never had problems, it doesn’t mean you should be judged or feel ashamed for your choices. They are not your baby’s mother, and they are not living your life. You do what is best for your child and you, and if that means breastfeeding or formula or both, you should never feel bad about what works for you. Society has unrealistic standards for women and mothers today, and we shouldn’t have to add extra pressure onto ourselves. Be confident on what works for your family and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Be confident in what works for you, and if I have learnt anything, it is to not sweat the small stuff anymore and to try not to care what others think, even though it can be really hard, they aren’t you.

Until next time,
Courtney

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Category: Babies & Toddlers, Moms, Moms Wellness

About the Author ()

A number of years ago I went blind, and as a result found out I had Multiple Sclerosis. After my diagnosis, I attended a new high school for the visually impaired. That is where I met the love of my life, my husband Dylan. Dylan helped me get through becoming blind and find joy in life again. Shortly after graduating, we moved to Ottawa together and in December of 2011, we were married. A year later we welcomed our beautiful son Marshall to the world. In 2015, after two miscarriages we welcomed our beautiful rainbow baby Charlotte into the world. It hasn't been easy adjusting to being blind and living with M.S on a daily basis , and being a mom of two on top of everything. Life has been... lets say challenging! But oh so worth it!

Comments (10)

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  1. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this! I struggled for 6weeks and my son and I couldn’t work it out, and man did we try!! But you’re right in pointing out that the mothers health also needs to be taken into consideration too, both mental and physical. Thank you thank you for bringing this up! Good luck and happy adventures to you and your family!

  2. Beanybopp says:

    Wonderful read and thank you so much for writing this! Our son did not latch in the hospital and had a pneumothorax, so we couldn’t make him get too upset (which the lactation consultant didn’t seem to care about or just didn’t read his chart like she was suppose to). The day after he was born, he just would not stop crying. He was sooo hungry and I was so upset that my milk hadn’t come in yet and that he wouldn’t latch. I was so stressed out that I paged the nurse to bring me a bottle and formula. As soon as he was done, he went to sleep. The next day, I was told that if I hadn’t started supplementing that I would have been made to because he had lost too much weight. I told the nurse that I was not going to allow my child to go hungry no matter what!
    When my milk did finally come in (3 days later when I went home), I pumped and continued to give a bottle (1/2 milk and 1/2 formula). He didn’t gain weight like I was expecting and we finally figured out that my breast milk (even being mixed with formula) was too light for his stomach and made his GERD a lot worse. So after 3 months of pumping, I stopped and gave him just formula. Within 1 month he had gained 2lbs and since than has been our chunky money. lol I don’t regret anything that I did and I will probably do the same for our second, whenever that maybe.

  3. Gina says:

    Thanks for sharing… my milk never came in either. I gave it a good go for 3 weeks with pumping and breastfeeding 8 times each/24 hours and every time required my husband’s help because I couldn’t even get out of bed easily from the c-section. Next baby I will only try a few days because I now believe my mental and physical health are just as important as my baby’s… the frustration we put her through for 3 weeks trying to force her to latch to a breast that offered no reward far outweighed any “damage” that formula could do.

  4. Vera says:

    I applaud your perseverance to try to breastfeed though I think today there is too much pressure on moms to do so. There is too much negativity towards formula and there shouldn’t be. We should all be free to choose and not be judged by our decisions. What is most important is the mother and child are happy and healthy.

  5. BeyondSeeingWithCourtney says:

    thank you for all your wonderful comments! I felt I needed to share this part of my life because too many of us feel bad or guilty for our choices ,because of others and society, and I feel we all need to support each other instead of judging one another.

  6. Nicole B says:

    It is great to read a story that really says what many of us feel. There is so much pressure out there and people are so quick to judge. I was lucky that my lactation consultant was great with my decision to use formula to help get through night feedings and once I stopped breast feeding she never judged and even gave us samples of our formula! I stand by my decision as it was for health reasons (I had mastitis and then my epilepsy started acting up so I had to go back on medication) but there are some that still give you that look when you take out formula.

  7. Lian says:

    You are a true champion. I agree with you, breast feeding is not for everyone. I chose not to breast feed any of my children because I didn’t feel as though it was right for me or my baby. I got the guilt trips from people, but what they have to understand is that it doesn’t magically happen for everyone, and it is a personal choice whether or not to do so. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you the support you needed during your tough times. What matters is what’s right for you and your baby, my friend!

  8. Sara says:

    I have found having a strong support system/network has been really helpful when I am having trouble with breastfeeding. In Ottawa, the Breastfeeding Café (offered at Milkface in Westboro) and the Ottawa Attachment Parenting Facebook group have been invaluable resources for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve realized that I am not alone in my experiences based on connecting with other mothers in these groups.

  9. You usually can rent electric pumps from a hospital or breast-feeding specialist. Renting a pump may be a cost-effective option if you only plan to pump temporarily (for example, if you are away from your baby for a few days).

  10. Laurie-Anne Muldoon says:

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for writing this article!! Wow! What a story! You should be so proud of yourself for all you did for Marshall. I had a very rough experience breastfeeding too, as I know many mothers do. I think that as mothers we are trying to do the very best that we can with the circumstances we are dealt. Pregnancy, labour and delivery, breastfeeding and motherhood are some of the most enriching yet daunting experiences we will ever go through. At the same time, I think we eventually learn that we need to (and have to) take care of ourselves during these difficult periods. After all, if we are not healthy and happy, how can our children benefit fully from our attention and our care? I think that this feeling of failure and shame is unfortunately so prevalent amongst mothers who struggle with breastfeeding difficulties. Fortunately, when women have the courage to share their stories like you have done, than shame cannot survive. Your story will undoubtedly help others who are struggling, so thank-you for sharing. Take care, and all the best! Marshall is beautiful!

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