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My Breastfeeding Journey To Formula Freedom

Formula feeding has had a bad rap ever since the ridiculous movement “Breast Is Best” started in 1999, claiming that breastfeeding is the best (and only) way to feed your baby. This slogan provided an utterly one-sided view on feeding a baby, but it was also a bunch of crap. There is no denying that breastmilk is an incredibly rich source of nutrition. It also has soothing abilities for rashes. Overall, breastmilk is a multitasker.

But you know what also helps with rashes? Over the counter ointments, taking off diapers and having “naked baby” time, and a whole list of at-home remedies. Why did I mention this? Because breastmilk isn’t the only option – for anything. Including feeding your baby. And, to be frank, it isn’t the easiest or most fun. But it is the most difficult and frustrating. That’s a guarantee.

To breastfeed, it takes a very patient individual – that isn’t me. I enjoyed my short spout with breastfeeding, but I enjoyed it ending more. Here was my journey to accepting formula freedom.

Breastfeeding In The Hospital: Week 1

During my pregnancy, I walked around confident that I would be breastfeeding for at least 6 months (and definitely not longer than a year). I didn’t have any preconceived notions of it being easy or difficult. It was what it was, and I had done my research. I knew, without any doubt, breastfeeding was going to happen! And then Vienna had a different plan.

I realized very quickly; I hadn’t researched the correct breastfeeding information. Luckily, I had women along the way, gently filling me in on milk production. So, it wasn’t too worrying when milk didn’t start pouring out of me like a lactating cow. The initial days of breastfeeding in the hospital went the exact opposite of what I had imagined.

My first attempt was a disappointment. Here was the beautiful new baby who already loved sleeping and had no interest in crying. But would she even look at my nipple? NO! I swear, I tried every gentle position, and she would turn her head in disgust – every…single…time… Thank God for my first nurse! She was so kind and laughed it off, reassuring me it happens to most new moms and that Vienna would try again in an hour or so. Nothing to worry about.

By the middle of the second day in the hospital, I knew my daughter was not interested in breastfeeding. I could see it in her body language, and maybe it was an unspoken understanding, but I didn’t like it either. We had managed to latch a few times, but neither of us enjoyed it. Why? Because it’s annoying, long, tiring, and a lot of work. Too much for me. I had just pushed out a baby, and now I’m supposed to hold a baby up, and teach her how to latch? At the same time, she’s learning how to use her tongue while I try to eat because I’ve had no time and somehow do all of this while on painkillers? Yeah right! Talk about putting pressure on new moms right from the get-go. No thanks.

Most of my nurses were supportive of my decision to focus on pumping – except one. She was clearly stuck in the early 2000s and needed a refresher on bedside manner. At one point, her desperation to try and “help” us breastfeed, went too far. After requesting I try multiple positions, tongue movements, etc., she forcefully pushed my new baby’s head into my boob. Hell no, lady!

It was clear my daughter just didn’t like it. And no, she didn’t have a tongue-tie. She JUST DIDN’T LIKE IT. For some reason, that concept is difficult for a lot of women to grasp. Listen, babies are tiny people. You and I don’t like everything, why should they? It’s called personality, and it’s noticeable even in the womb (if you pay attention). Why would I force her to do something she wasn’t interested in? What right do I have to do that? NONE.

By the last day, I had spoken with two lactation consultants, and I concluded – this wasn’t going to happen. I’d try, but I doubted it. But pumping, I was okay with that! So, yay! It was still breastmilk and Vienna got to use the bottle she loved. She started holding one right away. Maybe that seems crazy to some moms, but my little family knew the bottle was going to be our primary feeding technique. When I did breastfeed, I would use a nipple guard. If you’re struggling, but want to continue trying, I strongly suggest using them!

Breastfeeding At Home: Weeks 2 & 3

Once we got home, my enthusiasm for breastfeeding dwindled even more because I was tired, and bottle feeding gave me more freedom. It also helped Brad be more involved. Many men feel isolated during the first few months because they aren’t as needed as moms, primarily because they can’t breastfeed. The feeling of unimportance can add to the new baby tension and cause many issues down the road. So, whether you are or are not breastfeeding, make sure you’re including daddy!

I was blessed to have my mom with us for the first month. It was perfect for me to be bottle feeding because even she got to feed her first grandbaby! Even with all the help, I was trying to feed or pump every 2 hours to keep my milk supply up and growing. Initially, I was pumping 3-4oz in each breast, but that went down by half quickly. By the end of my 3rd week of breastfeeding frustration, I was hinting signs of depression.

During my early days of postpartum, I struggle with Baby Blues. I found myself missing my belly, being connected to my baby 24/7, and crying for absolutely no reason every time I showered. The feeling that I wasn’t producing enough milk, and realizing that I actually hated breastfeeding became overwhelming. But, I didn’t want to give up yet. So, I bought some lactation cookies, tried a few home remedies, and continued to feed on demand – looking for early signs of hunger.

So Long And Farewell To Breastfeeding: Weeks 4 – 6

By the end of week 4, I had begun supplementing feeding with Similac Pro Infant Formula and freezing any breastmilk I pumped out. I didn’t keep it a secret that I was struggling in the booby department. Even my boobs clocked out and deflated back to their tiny pre-pregnancy size (only now they were flabby). But, it was a growing sadness. Brad found me crying multiple times.

Social media shoves pictures of breastfeeding moms down every woman’s throat. There aren’t half as many pictures showing bottle feeding, let alone formula. The few that I saw were loaded with the same comments:

  • You should see a lactation specialist!
  • Have you tried this position?
  • Keep going, you’ll get there!
  • Don’t give up!
  • Breast is best!!!
  • Breastfeeding is hard, mama, I understand. You’ve got this!
  • No! Bond with your baby!

Can you imagine how depressing, frustrating, and disrespectful this is? Even when women choose what they don’t want to do with their body, other women tell them they’re decision isn’t good enough. It was heartbreaking for me. No one accepted my or my daughter’s choice. All I saw was disdain. And the idea that I wasn’t “bonding” was disgusting. How dare anyone say that to a new mom? That bond is immediate, and it has nothing to do with sucking on a titty. If it DID, I would have an intense bond with a lot of my ex’s.

By week 6, I was completely done. Milk had been stored for later use (illnesses, teething, extra nutrition), and tons of formula had been purchased. She loved her bottle, and once I switched over to formula in week 4, Vienna was sleeping for 4 hours at a time. Best decision I ever made. I finally felt strong enough to say I hated breastfeeding. I completely support moms who love it (to an extent because some ladies take it too far) but for me, personally, absolutely not.

Finding Peace In A Bottle

Vienna and I were able to get one week of successful latching without using nipple guards. It was after this week (week 5) that I knew I could breastfeed. Knowing I could do something felt good, and I felt like I was killing it at motherhood. That’s when I made my decision: just because I can doesn’t mean I should, or want to. I didn’t want to. That was the real issue the entire time.

I thought it was the difficulty of new motherhood, or maybe it was a misunderstanding in latching techniques. But it wasn’t. We couldn’t get the breastfeeding down because it wasn’t for us. My lifestyle, my needs, my daughter’s personality all combined made breastfeeding a nightmare. When I hung up the maternity bra for good, I knew I was a mom. I was a strong mom, who was going to raise a strong young woman, who would make her own decisions – regardless of popular opinions.

Whatever you choose to do, do it with confidence and self-assurance. That’s what makes good moms. Vienna is healthy, has been sick once in her life so far, and is not hindered by her “formula” year. Making this decision didn’t affect her health and it never will. So, when it comes to making decisions for your family, if it doesn’t put them at risk, do what works for you!

Margaret Greco

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