**Please join us in welcoming Jenn to Mama Might**
In the three months since becoming a mother, the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion about every issue surrounding how to raise my child. They have very strong opinions. Not only do they readily share their opinions, but they make you feel like you are going to ruin your child’s life if you don’t adhere to the same philosophy as they do. This was manifest in my life as a mom when it came to the issue of breastfeeding.
My husband and I have been married for seven years, waiting until a few months ago to have our first child. This means that most of our friends and family members already have children and have “tried and tested” methods for raising them. Leading up to delivery, we attended the prenatal classes together. I read every book and blog I could find on labour, delivery, the first weeks and especially breastfeeding. I was prepped. I was ready. I knew what to do.
Little Man had to be evicted five days after my due date. He was just shy of seven pounds and because of the drugs in my body, he was a very sleepy and reluctant latcher. The nurses and I tried for the first 12 hours to get him to drink, but he kept falling asleep. They checked his blood sugars, but he was fine so we didn’t worry. He had dropped 11 ounces before we left the hospital.
When we got home, I was not prepared for the hormones and exhaustion that took over my life. Besides dealing with the trauma my body had just endured, I was trying to nurse this little infant. Pushing through the pain and cracks, I kept asking everyone, “Is this normal? Should I dread every time he needs to be fed?” But we pressed on.
We started taking him in for his Well-Baby check ups about a week after he was born, going every few days to monitor his progress. By the time he was three weeks old, the nurse was getting concerned that he hadn’t gained enough weight. He wasn’t back to his birth-weight yet. She said they would give us a few more days and he may need to be given formula. I cried on the nurse. I felt so ashamed and disappointed. Mostly in myself. I thought that there was something more I should have done. What was wrong with me as a woman and a mother that my body couldn’t give my baby what he needed? I tried following the advice of the nurse to the letter: drink more, rest with your feet up, wake him every two hours no matter what, and do everything you can to keep him awake while he eats.
I went to meet with the local lactation consultants. They watched me feed my son, gave me a few suggestions about positioning, but told me that we were doing great together. They urged me not to fret and to continue doing what we were doing. They really frowned on “giving up” on breastfeeding by “giving in” to formula. Later that week, we were attending a breastfeeding support group meeting when my phone rang. The pediatrician told our nurse that he would really like us to try formula, at least for a few days, so they could rule out other health related causes. I was devastated by this recommendation.
I felt like there was no way to win. Every path I chose had someone nay-saying, frowning and clucking their tongues about my choice. Oh, and on top of everything else, my husband left to be away for work in the middle of all of this. I talked to him and we decided to listen to the medical professionals and do what we felt was best for our son. Nay-sayers be darned!
So I would breast feed him as usual, then I would offer him formula in a bottle. That first bottle he gulped down almost two ounces. I will admit that I cried, feeling like I must have been starving him if he was that hungry right after drinking from my supply. He started out only taking between a half ounce and two ounces at every feeding. He then started crying after he breastfed, looking for more, until I gave him the bottle. I started to believe that I was insufficient and he would always need more than I could give. BUT at least he was still getting the benefits of breast milk.
After five days, we went back to the nurse and he had gained over a pound! We were all flabbergasted! We continued in this way for another week and he gained another pound! The nurse couldn’t believe it. At that point, he had reached his milestones, so we started giving him the bottles every second feeding or so. He continued to gain, so we eventually stopped giving them to him at all.
I am proud to say that we are back to exclusively breast feeding. He has more than doubled his birth-weight at three months of age (which is the six month growth milestone). He is a happy, healthy, growing boy. He didn’t reject the breast because of the bottles. My milk supply didn’t dry up. He is not scarred for life. It is actually very convenient that he will take the formula now from someone else when I need to be away.
I share this because I know a lot of women go through the same situation. This is especially true of babies with low birth weights or who were born prematurely. The doctor figures my son was getting too tired while breastfeeding and stopped eating before he was full enough. This was enough to satisfy his thirst, but not to gain enough weight.
The moral of the story is: don’t let anyone else shame you into doing something that goes against your instincts. First time mothers often doubt our intuition for our children because we feel that we do not have the expertise that experience gives. However true this may be, please learn from my story that doing what is best for your baby is never wrong. Every mom is different. Every child is different. What works for one, may not work for another. God designed us to be the mother of that particular child and has equipped us to handle any situation. Even if we doubt ourselves sometimes. As someone pointed out to me, on graduation day, you will not be able to tell which student on that stage was breastfed and which one wasn’t.
Jenn married her high school sweetheart seven years ago. She and Scott just had their first child in March. They live on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, where Jenn is an elementary school teacher.