Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When Breast Isn't Best

I have had two completely different breastfeeding experiences, and I really appreciate when other moms are open and honest about their breastfeeding experiences. Those are the two things have lead me to writing this post.

Love Bean 9/20/11
 While pregnant with Love Bean, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. In my head, I had built up how wonderful and natural it would be. After all, that's all I had heard. When she arrived, we did everything "the way you're suppose to" we had skin to skin immediately and tried nursing. Love Bean wasn't having any of it. The nurses knew I wanted to breastfeed, and were very helpful in trying to get her to latch and waiting as long as possible before suggesting we try a bottle so that she'd get something to eat. So Tim fed her, her first bottle at the hospital. I already felt like a failure. But I didn't give up that easily. We kept trying and eventually she got the hang of it.

Nursing went well, until it didn't. A few weeks in she suddenly wouldn't latch properly on the left side. No matter what I tried, it was painful and I had to wear a shield with every feeding. For whatever reason, I couldn't get in touch with the lactation consultant at the hospital, and I cried through many nursing session. Not exactly how I was imaging it would go. I stuck it out for 6 or so weeks, before we decided breast was not best for us. Switching to formula was the biggest relief. I didn't feel guilty, I knew I was making the right decision for my mental health, and therefor my baby.

Fast forward to July 2013

Angry Bean 7/1/13
 Not letting my previous experience deter me from trying again with Angry Bean, I resolved to try again—chalking up my bad experience to being an inexperienced new mom.

Right from the start things we completely different. I swear to you Angry Bean was born rooting. She found her way to by breast and started nursing almost immediately with very little help from me or the nurse. And aside from once in the middle of the night, she never had trouble getting a proper latch once. All I could think was, "Now this is exactly what I had imagined the first go round."

Things continued to go well after we were home. In fact at her first check-up she had almost gained a pound, when most newborns weigh in at close to birth weight, if not under it. 2 months went by and still things were great. She was gaining weight, happy and nursing on somewhat of a schedule. I was exclusively nursing, she hadn't even come near a bottle and I hadn't pumped at all. It was all going like I had imagined.

At about 3 months, she started nursing more often. At first I chalked it up to a growth spurt, but then she started seeming really small to me, and she didn't fill our her clothes as much. I remember my mom even commenting on how little she looked compared to another baby born around the same time as her. But, I wasn't overly concerned. Looking back, this is when she must have started losing weight. The week before her 4 month well child check-up she started wanting to nurse every two hours again. She hadn't done that since about a month old, plus she was much fussier than she had ever been. The day before her appointment she nursed every hour, and still didn't seem satisfied. I knew it was something I needed to bring up at her appointment.

Like usual, she was weighed at the beginning of her appointment. I knew something was definitely not right when the nurse weighed her again with a very confused look on her face. Rosalie weighed exactly the same, at 4 months as she had a 2 months. She had practically fallen off of the growth chart. Not good. It is so important for babies to have their nutritional needs met. Aside from helping the grow physically, it helps stimulate and make new connections in the brain. Her doctor made it clear that I needed to at least start supplementing with formula, if not make the switch completely. I needed to be able to come back in two weeks and say with certainty that she is eating X ounces every Y hours. Up to that point, I had no idea how much she was eating because she was almost exclusively nursing.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I cried at the doctor's office. But she was so understanding, and reassured me that it wasn't my fault. That just for whatever reason, sometimes moms just aren't able to keep up with the needs of their baby.

I tried pumping for a few days, but it would take me three or four sessions to just get enough for one bottle. And that combined with Love Bean getting into trouble or needing me every time I got the pump out, was enough for me to make the switch. After one day, you could see the change in Angry Bean. After we went exclusively to formula, she was back to being happy and content, no longer screamed through tummy time, she started staying awake for longer periods of time, and she developed more of a nap schedule. At her 2 week weight check she had gained a little over a pound. That solidified what I already knew, switching to formula was again best for my babe.

Angry Bean had her 6 month well child check-up today. She weighed in at 14lbs 12oz, and is now in back on the growth chart and in the 21st percentile. There are a few developmental things she seems to be a bit behind in, but nothing to be concerned about.

Tim and I will definitely be having more kids, and I will definitely try breastfeeding again. But I think it's important for moms—especially those of us who have tried, and for whatever reason switched to formula—to be open and honest about our experiences. Breastfeeding is a tough job, being a mom is a tough job. We shouldn't add to the guilt many moms already feel by, bashing moms who choose to use formula. We don't always know their stories, and contrary to some articles I've read, baby formula is not poison. We should count ourselves as lucky that if our babies don't seem to be thriving, we have access to it.


  1. I had the same experience with Max in the Hospital that you had with Stella. He wouldn't latch and we had to supplement. I distinctly remember Opie giving him a bottle and me thinking I was the biggest failure in the world. Come to find out that Max had a slight tongue-tie and it was preventing him from latching properly. I felt less guilty once we got home and luckily I could tough it out for a year, but we still needed to supplement a bottle or two a day.

    I am hoping very much that I can nurse the next one without supplementing, but I know that it might not be a possibility or nursing could be worse. I will try every time though!

    I was a completely formula fed baby and I am very healthy and I feel like I am smart enough. :)

  2. I can 100% relate to this. Thanks for writing it :)


Thanks for reading, we love feedback!