food for thought
one woman's honest look at her struggle with breastfeeding
BY EMILY, MOTHER OF 8-MONTH-OLD SON
As I was leaving music class the other day with my 6-month-old securely resting on my hip, I chatted with my newest mom friend. In a rush, she shared that she had to run home to “pump” for the next feed for her precious 9-month-old. I hadn’t heard that word in a while, and I felt like I had just been punched in the gut. A multitude of emotions poured over me like a dark cloud: guilt, failure, exhaustion. Sadly, I also was judging my new friend too, in the way you would judge the newly crowned high school prom queen who also stole your boyfriend. “She still breast feeds?!?” I thought. “Ugh.”
Of course, my judgmental thoughts were simply the expression of my own jealousy. She was living MY dream! The guilt that I hadn’t felt in months was all of a sudden suffocating me. In fact, I’m sure my sweet friend saw the fire in my eyes. “Snap out of it!” I said to myself.
I gained my composure back as I clung tightly to my happy and, most importantly, very healthy baby boy. I kissed his forehead and was at peace again. Everything was okay. He was okay. In fact, he’s amazing. We parted ways. She went home to pump. And I went home to shake up my organic formula.
When I found out I was pregnant, like most moms-to-be I assume, I would daydream about what type of mother I wanted to be. Simply put, I wanted to be “the best version of me.” I would be open minded, fun loving, not too uptight, not too relaxed, and give everything a shot. If it didn’t work, than I would move on. This was also how I approached breastfeeding. With a lactation consultant of thirty years on call and an abundance of text books in hand, I couldn’t wait to have my body fuel my child’s life for the next 12 months.
And then reality set in. No textbook prepared me for what was to happen when my milk didn’t come in enough to satisfy my hungry ten-pound newborn. And that aspiring attitude of “I’ll try it and if it doesn’t work, I will move on” was yesterday’s news. In fact, I don’t recall ever thinking that way, even for a moment. I wanted the best for my baby, and I believed breastfeeding was the only option for us.
So what to do? Definitely not what I did: freak out. I was so distraught about having no milk to give my crying baby who I refused to give formula to, that I literally had a full-on meltdown when I unexpectedly ran into none other than my husband’s best friend in the middle of the street in a New York City blizzard. Hysterically crying, I shared every last detail of my lactation issues while wiping the snot and sleet from my face. I was fully out of control.
It felt like my body was failing me, like I was failing my baby, and I don’t take failure so easily. At a loss, I consulted my doctor and pediatrician immediately. It was me against my milk supply and I was going to win. I took every vitamin available—including goat’s rue. I boiled down chicken bones to drink the broth (it works). And I single-handedly bought out Manhattan of herbal lactation tea. And it all actually helped.
But after about eight exhausting weeks of desperately trying to keep my supply up, the simple truth was that I just didn’t have enough for my child to be fulfilled by breast milk alone. After this realization, I took a long walk to try to come to terms with the fact that formula was my only option. My child needed to eat.
So, I did research into the wee hours of the morning. I read up on every formula and made a pros and cons list of the top offerings. After consulting with my doctor, I slowly introduced an organic formula to my baby that he has now been on since he was eight weeks old. He’s well fed and rested and therefore growing and beyond happy. And what I have come to realize is that with every developmental milestone there is a new challenge. Maybe my dreams of breastfeeding didn’t come true, but I now know every day is a new day with a baby. Flexibility and an open mind go a long way.
Thankfully, my thoughts of my child blaming all of his future life failures on the fact that he was a formula-raised baby have subsided. He will be just fine in life because formula is only a small piece of the pie. I have decided—and experience is proving— that pure love and compassion truly do go the extra mile. So, as I sit here and watch my baby learn to crawl, I am beyond content that wherever his little legs may take him, it won’t be formula or breast milk that holds him up along the way.