Oh boy – this is an emotional one from the get.
When my daughter Ava was born, I knew I was 100% going to breastfeed. I never even entertained the idea of formula because it felt taboo and unnatural. How could I feed my daughter something store-bought and still feel ok with myself?? Wasn’t that my soul purpose; to provide for my perfect baby?? (Bare with me)
When Ava was born, we thrived for 11 (mostly) wonderful months. But it wasn’t always so. The first month was toe-curling painful. God, the nipple pain. No one told me how awful that was going to be. Not to mention how engorged my boobs would get if I didn’t nurse for a couple of hours. And the first time she slept through the night? You’d think it would have been a celebration of how much uninterrupted sleep I got. Nope! I just stared at her until she began to wake up then IMMEDIATELY nursed her because dear LORD I just needed some reprieve from the boob pain. Yes, yes, yes I know, I could have expressed in the shower or over the sink, yadda yadda. But, I was so obsessed with her getting everything she needed that I didn’t dare waste any, even for my own comfort and sanity.
After my supply regulated, things got easier. We got into a pattern. I knew when she’d be hungry, and I’d always have the goods ready at her demand. Breastfeeding Ava was truly a wonderful experience (despite my previous rant!) Once I went back to work, I continued to pump during the day, and nurse at night and on the weekends. We were a well-oiled machine. When she eventually started eating more solids and drinking less milk, my supply lessened. It did so until our last nursing session as I lay rocking my 11-month-old to sleep. I knew it was our last. I think she knew it too. And that was it.
Just over a year later, I got pregnant with my daughter Carley.
No doubt about it, I’d definitely breastfeed Carley just as I did Ava. It would be a (mostly) wonderful journey yet again! I ordered a new pump & supplies, set up my nursing station in her bedroom and awaited her arrival.
Moments after Carley was born, she lay on my chest and we began our lives together. Pretty soon after, the nurses urged us to nurse. Well, of course! That’s the plan! Toss me a shield for my flat nips (yes, it’s a thing and yes, the shield 10000% helps) and let’s get this show on the road!
All was going as planned…until it wasn’t. My supply began to drop. I was getting stressed out. Carley was clearly still hungry even after emptying both boobs. I didn’t know what to do. I certainly didn’t want to introduce formula so early into our lives together; I mean she was just 3 weeks old! But, it came to a point where I knew I had to give my daughter whatever she needed in order to thrive, formula. With tears in my eyes, I asked my husband to run to Walgreens and pick up the absolute best formula he could find. Spare no expense.
And just like that, that was it. I had finally succumbed to being a mom who fed their baby formula. A mom I never imagined I’d be. A mom I had secretly and unfairly judged until this moment.
Coming to the realization that nursing Carley just wasn’t in the cards for us took a major toll on my mental health. I felt like a failure. Like I wasn’t a good mom. Like my body was telling me it was giving up, and there was nothing I could do to salvage it. And I was so angry. Why was it so easy with Ava? Why couldn’t I do the same with Carley? Yes, they’re different babies, but they’re MY babies, from MY body. The same body that so amply provided for one but refused to provide for the other. I cried for days at every failed attempt to fill my baby’s belly before succumbing to yet another bottle of formula, inevitably emptied every time.
I still attempted to pump, here and there and then eventually stopped. I still nurse once or twice a day. But damn, nothing satiates her like a full bottle of formula straight from our BabyBrezza (seriously, the best invention EVER). And you know what? It’s so nice to be able to hand her to someone and say, “I’m takin’ a nap! If she gets hungry go ahead and give her a bottle!”
It’s been 5 weeks of formula, and Carley is at the top percentiles of every growth chart. I’ll take it.