Breast vs. Bottle: The struggle

4 years ago


I miss my poor blog, but my heads been in a fog this week. I'm sure y'all understand. You can't put a newborn on a schedule, but you can watch their cues, adjust slightly here and there, and adjust yourself to their schedule. That's a bit harder, obviously with a toddler in the home, but we're trying. 
From the moment it sunk in that I was pregnant again I said "I'm breastfeeding this time". I said it over and over again, asked my friends and family to push and support me, and read everything I could on the subject to set myself up for success. Besides knowing it's what's best for baby, it's also what's cheapest, and most convenient long term. That being said, I'm not a hardcore breastfeeding advocate, obviously. My three previous children only got about 2 weeks of breast milk before switching to formula, and they're very healthy. When Margo was born, we were allowed skin to skin within 45 minutes. (It took awhile to finish the surgery and sew me up). She latched immediately in the recovery room, and I thought YES! This is going to be a breeze!  We breastfed and pumped in the hospital, and my only complaint was sore nipples, which my sister-in-law and the lactation consultant assured me was normal, and that mine wasn't a serious case. I loved breastfeeding Margo. I felt like I finally understood the bonding and peace everyone talks about when baby latches, eats, and everyone is happy, despite sore nipples. I came home with two breast pumps, nursing bras, all of the little gadgets and novelty items the Sailor and I were told would help me succeed, and a lot of optimism. 
Once we were home it was a roller coaster. I had two other adults here, so I had plenty of help and was able to shut myself in the bedroom to breastfeed or pump as needed. At night I was breastfeeding, pumping to increase my supply, and sometimes bottle feeding by the Sailor so I could get some sleep. I called my sister-in-law often, asking questions and looking for encouragement, which she enthusiastically provided. I'd feel confident during the day when she was content with breast milk, and wanted to give up at night when she was very hungry and I was completely exhausted. I kept going back and forth on whether or not to continue. Because of her ability to latch, Margo was getting more breast milk than any of the previous girls, and I knew that if I stuck with it I could breast feed long term. This made my occasional desire to switch to bottle full time trigger guilt and a feeling of selfishness. I knew this feeling well from Anna's first week home. Feeding time wasn't peaceful and bonding anymore, it was stressful. I was worried about how I could keep up the pace when the Sailor left. I worried about not being able to hand Margo to one of the twins to feed while I made dinner, or tended to Anna. Realistically, how could I sit down and nurse her on demand and still do everything else around here? I told myself I'd find a way. Finally one day the Sailor left with Anna for awhile and the twins were at school. I felt well rested and happy, and sat down to nurse Margo in peace and quiet. As soon as I started though, I realized I wasn't happy breastfeeding. There was nothing stopping me or distracting me. I had all the time in the world in that moment, but when I brought her to my breast I didn't feel a connection or peace, I felt stress and frustration. I felt the date of the Sailor's departure looming, and anticipated the long nights and days ahead. I wasn't enjoying holding her close, I was worried about how much she was eating, and re-adjusting her latch, and this hurts, and... you get the idea.
There are very few instances where you can justify putting your own happiness above what's best for your child. Although everyone says breastfeeding has to work for Mom and Baby, I struggle to see it that way initially. And like I said, this is coming from a Mom with three perfectly healthy formula fed children. The following day I decided to try exclusively formula feeding. To eliminate the pressure altogether and see how I felt. Besides the constant reminder of my perceived failure every time my boobs leaked breast milk, I was at peace again. Her feedings were quiet and pleasant. I knew she was eating enough, and if Anna had a meltdown, or I needed to take a phone call, or jump in the shower, I could give her to another family member and they'd bond with her while I did what I needed to. It felt right, and I knew that although I'd have moments of weakness when I felt selfish and lazy, I knew those moments would pass sooner rather than later. More importantly, I was one step closer to finding the balance I would need to parent four children on my own for the next 6 months. It takes a strict schedule and cooperation for this house to run smoothly with only one parent around. Margo will benefit more from a peaceful home and happy mother and sisters than she would being breastfed in a more anxious, disorganized environment.

So, we're 0 for 4 with breastfeeding, but 4 for 4 with happy, healthy babies. I can handle that.

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