Breastfeeding nearly cost me my sanity. And I am now a formula feeding mom. (Phew! Said it outloud and I'm still alive.)
I went in to breastfeeding feeling very flexible and informed. I took a class through a local lactation support organization. I had many friends share their experiences with me. I read a bit online. I thought I knew what parts of breastfeeding would be difficult and I thought I had given myself the permission to try it for a few weeks and stop if I was having issues.
And then I actually had to breastfeed. The things I was worried about (poor latching, pain, complications like mastitis) did not happen. Instead, my milk took almost a week to come in and I spent many days and nights trying to feed a hungry baby who screamed for 30-40 minutes each feeding because he was frustrated. He then started losing weight so we were encouraged to supplement with formula (actually told this was a must before they would discharge him). The neonatologist recommended a bottle but the lactation folks at the hospital recommended syringe feeding. So we syringe fed. And I pumped after every feeding, trying to encourage my body to get caught up. And each feeding seemed to take about 90 minutes, with half of that spend with a crying baby and eventually a crying a mom. By the time one feeding would be done, there was a little down time and then it would be time to start again.
It was exhausting. In the hospital, it wasn't so bad because the nurses were able to help with feedings and while I didn't often take advantage of having others feed him, if I wanted to, I could utilize the nurses to do a whole feeding for me.
Then we came home and I had two days of real life with 3 other kids plus a newborn. It became apparent that I was having some major anxiety that was affecting my body, probably just due to stress, a semi traumatic birth experience, and lack of sleep. After 5 days in the hospital and a day at home, I finally started asking myself why breastfeeding seemed so important to me and if the stress it was creating in my life was worth the benefits I felt it had.
That's when I started realizing how breastfeeding was making me crazy. Not just in the sense that it was stressful but also because it was causing me to doubt myself. I am normally a pretty "take it or leave it" person. Who I am is who I am and I don't spend a lot of time second guessing that or wondering what others might think. But saying "I am not going to breastfeed" created a crisis in me. How could I say I was done after such a short time? So many of my friends breastfed and while none of them were pressuring me to continue or would have looked down on me for using formula, I still felt like I was comparing myself to them and failing. I also felt this sense of societal peer pressure, that breastfeeding is best and that good moms breastfeed. Those are not feelings I am used to having regarding motherhood or my self worth.
But in the end, I made the choice to formula feed. My other kids needed me to be a mom too and breastfeeding, especially given the time commitments it was requiring, was creating a situation where I could not attend to them well. I was dreading Kai waking up because I knew it would mean him screaming and instead of enjoying my time with him, I was just hoping he would stay asleep so I wouldn't have to worry about feeding him. In my head, I had no judgement for other moms who chose to formula feed and while I thought breastfeeding was a great example of how God designed women's bodies to care for children, I also believed formula to be one of God's creations too. But it definitely took some time to get my heart to line up with those thoughts and to be okay with who I was going to be as a mom in this area. I was going to be a formula feeding mom.
So, I am a formula feeding mom. A sane mom. A mom who is finding her new normal with a newborn and 3 other kids. A mom who is now calmer at feeding time, who is able to smile instead of cry. A mom who is okay with who she is, even if it's not exactly who she thought she would be.