Breastfeeding. A topic that conjures up all kinds of hopes, emotions, and images. A topic that is also quite controversial depending on who you ask.
I’ll get straight to the punchline. Despite preparing myself with a class, articles, videos, advice from friends, etc., I was unable to breastfeed Kaiden successfully. Instead, I opted for the pumping route, and while that wasn’t necessarily the path I wanted to go down at first, it worked ok for us. And if pumping hadn’t worked, formula most definitely would’ve.
If you can’t tell, I’m a firm believer in ‘fed is best.’ This means ensuring your baby is fed and thriving supersedes all else. Yes, breast milk is ideal, but guess what, parenting and idealism don’t always go hand in hand (shocker!).
In my humble opinion, formula is not the devil and it’s certainly not poison, like many people would have you believe. In fact, both my sister and I were formula fed. My sister was salutatorian of her high school class and went on to attend a prestigious college, medical school, and now residency program. I did ok too!
To be honest, I was pretty wrapped up in the idea of breastfeeding before K was born. However, Vishnu and I both decided early on that we would do whatever was necessary to help him grow, and if that meant supplementing with or solely feeding him formula, we would do that.
So my breastfeeding journey began soon after K was born. As I shared in Kaiden’s birth story, our labor and delivery didn’t go quite as planned. Because of the chorioamnionitis, I was on antibiotics/medications well before Kaiden was born and five days afterwards. Kaiden was taken to the chorio nursery for surveillance and didn’t join me until six hours after he was born, except for a brief period of time (~30-45 minutes) where we did some skin to skin and I attempted to breastfeed him some colostrum. I say attempted because I have no idea if I actually did. There was no one in the room to help me, so I honestly just tried my best.
A number of factors led to my inability to breastfeed properly. One, I think the stress and antibiotics/medication caused my milk to come in a lot slower and later than most. Two, we had one nurse early on who just wasn’t helpful in the breastfeeding department. When I asked for help, she would literally just push Kaiden on to my breast and walk away. Three, Kaiden was and still is a hungry little guy. He had zero patience for the boob. Ha! He would scream and scream and scream while I tried to get him to latch. We later learned that he also has a small mouth (whatever that means!). Four, because of the lack of latching and slow milk flow, Kaiden’s weight dropped more than expected in the first few days. We were told if he continued on that trajectory, he’d end up in the NICU. This obviously freaked us out big time. This comment led us to rely more heavily on formula for the first two weeks of Kaiden’s life. We believe he got so used to the faster flow (we tried SNS (supplemental nursing system) in the hospital and for a week at home) that he had no patience left for the breast because when we’d try to get him to latch at home…you guessed it…he’d scream and scream and scream. Even with breast SNS.
Ultimately, I said enough is enough and decided to exclusively pump.
So there’s breastfeeding and there’s pumping. The end result is the same but the method is different!
Because breastfeeding didn’t go as planned from the beginning, I started pumping while in the hospital. I honestly don’t remember how much I pumped at the time, but I do remember it wasn’t much. Hence the supplementing with formula.
When we got home, I immediately started pumping while continuing to try breastfeeding (very unsuccessfully) and feeding Kaiden formula using the SNS method (we stopped this after our second doctor’s visit and started using slow flow bottles instead). I even had a lactation consultant come to me the week we got home from the hospital. She had a few helpful tips, but at the end of the visit, her basic recommendation was to keep trying. To my credit, I did try but to no avail. My boy just didn’t want to latch. He preferred screaming instead!
At first, the formula to breast milk ratio favored formula, however slowly but surely, my supply increased and we were able to phase out the formula. Currently, K’s diet consists of solely breast milk, and I’m hoping to make it to six months. My supply’s suffered a little since starting work, but because I was able to stash a decent amount of milk in the freezer, we may end up making it to the end of December. Fingers crossed!
Life as an exclusively pumping mama has been kind of chaotic to be honest. If I had/have an extra pair of hands to help take care of Kaiden while I pump, it’s fine, but when I don’t, things get a bit wacky in terms of schedule. Earlier on, I tried to pump at least 7-8 times a day. That averages out to every 3-3.5 hours. Craziness. Now, I pump four times a day…sometimes five when I can swing it.
In terms of keeping my supply up, my mom helped a ton. She made sure I ate fenugreek seeds every day along with this Indian mixture that had lots of nuts and seeds. I also ate a TON of oatmeal for the first couple of months. And of course, hydration is key. Water is your best friend when it comes to breastfeeding/pumping.
I could go on and on about pumping because it’s all I know, but for now, I’ll say this – it’s hard, yes, but it’s doable! You just have to put your mind to it and be consistent. And as I’ve been told multiple times, do what you can. Don’t kill yourself if it’s not working. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my humble opinion, it’s 110% ok to go the formula route. FED IS BEST! And of course, happy mama equals happy baby. Do what feels right TO YOU!
Phew…this turned into a long post! If you have any questions that I may not have addressed, please feel free to ask. I’m an open book when it comes to my experiences and am eager to help other mamas when I can!