Got Milk? July 18, 2016

Every 2 hours. That’s how often I nurse my baby during the day. Thankfully, I get a little break throughout the night with longer stretches of sleep, but the feeding schedule throughout the day is incredibly demanding. My milk supply has never been abundant, and it becomes most apparent in the late afternoon when my little guy frustratingly tries to nurse every hour. At just over 17 pounds at his 4-month doctor’s appointment, I’m not super stressed about it because he is definitely getting enough, but it’s tough to watch his hungry struggle. His arms flail, his legs kick, and he latches and unlatches while making annoyed little grunts and whines because my milk isn’t flowing. Each of these episodes brings me back a couple years, to the new mom me who struggled to breastfeed her first-born child.

I had supply issues with my first, and was incredibly stressed and overwhelmed about it. The pediatrician wasn’t too concerned when he dropped from the 50th percentile to the 30th in weight, but I reached my breaking point after one too many unsatisfied nursing sessions. He cried, I cried, and I started feeling selfish for wanting to exclusively breastfeed when he clearly wasn’t getting everything he needed from me. I was determined to nurse for as long as I could, but I felt defeated. Despite all my best attempts at boosting my supply (fenugreek, oatmeal, lots of water, and all sorts of different recommended foods), nothing really worked for me. It was a tough, tearful decision, but we decided to start supplementing with formula when he was 3 months old. 

He quickly bounced up the charts, has been in the 80th-90th percentile ever since, and I have no regrets. Although I didn’t realize it initially, supplementing actually gave me something I hadn’t yet experienced – the ability to actually enjoy the bond of nursing. Up until that point, I was stressed. I was a new mom and everything felt so raw and foreign. I often joke that I’ve never googled more in my life than I did in the first year of being a parent! Breastfeeding wasn’t coming easy, and without a single close mom friend, I felt really alone. Formula took the stress off of me to exclusively provide his sustenance. It allowed my husband to take over a feeding every so often. Most importantly, it made my son happy and satisfied. Weaning was so gradual that I never really engorged when we stopped nursing. We slowly offered one more bottle a day, one less nursing session a day, and eventually we were down to one or two bonding sessions that stopped without any issues, discomfort, or separation woes.

Things have been going well with my second baby. He hasn’t been a stranger to formula, since I was advised to offer an ounce of formula after nursing shortly after he was born due to elevated Bilirubin and concerns of jaundice. I was still determined to nurse my son as much as possible, so when I found a fellow mama’s small herbal business on social media, I had to give it a shot. So far, the herbal blend she created has been working magic for us! We’ve been going strong, exclusively breastfeeding for the past two months. I even had a small freezer stash going for a bit! I forgot to re-order the herbal supplement, and all the blends went on back order. I was out for a few weeks, but thankfully we made it through. 

Tonight, I gave my son a 4 ounce bottle of formula. He is a little congested thanks to a summer cold that has been hopping around our house, so when he started flailing and kicking tonight, my gut instinct was to just keep him content in any way possible. He was still hungry, and I didn’t want him to get worked up with that stuffed up little button nose, so I quickly prepped a bottle and he gobbled it right up. 

My head likes to make a bigger deal of it than it actually is, but the reality of it is far less dramatic. I’m giving my son my all, physically and emotionally. A bottle of formula here and there makes me no less of a mother. Formula doesn’t take an ounce of my love and devotion away from him. I’m truly grateful that I’m even able to breastfeed at all, grateful for every last drop of the liquid gold he gets. Formula is constantly evolving to include all the best nutrients, offering a variety of options for even the most sensitive of tiny tummies. I’ve seen some emphatic pro-breast feeders refer to formula as “a corrupt industry”, but the truth of the matter is that it helps so many babies thrive. I myself was an exclusive formula-fed baby!

Parenting is hard as hell, and no single decision will make or break your child if you pour your heart out onto them. So do what you need to do, mamas. Keep your babies as happy and as healthy as you can, and pay no mind to the naysayers or that wary voice inside your head. Happy baby, happy mama, and that’s all that matters.