Friday, October 05, 2007

Tough Choices

I had to stop breastfeeding.

Not that I ever really was breastfeeding. More like pumping with a hospital-grade torture machine.

Nora has been eating mostly formula since Day One, since I never produced enough milk for her to drink, and she didn't have the strength to "go to breast" as the pro's say.

You may not know it, but breastfeeding for any infant, let alone premature ones, is a LOT of work. Much more than the bottle. And for Mommy, it's no picnic either.

Not that I expected it to be.

But for preemies, it's more work than it's worth for them (when you consider the calories they get from it vs. what they spend in calories to get it out).

I tried. For nearly 3 weeks now I've been pumping every three hours -- in the middle of the night -- before or after feedings. I was exhausted, hurting badly, and at my wits end.

I saw a lactation counselor three times. I did everything they told me. I got advice from lots of well-meaning people who did great at breastfeeding their own children, and who I hoped would have advice that would help me.

But despite all the attempts to ease my pain and up my production, my milk never came in.

I talked to my doctor when I went in on Wednesday, and she gave me Raglan, a anti-reflux medication that has the added bonus of producing prolactin, which ups milk production.

But for me it was too late.

I didn't realize how "at the end of my rope" I was with breastfeeding (or pumping really) until I came home from the doctor, took one Raglan pill, and knew I wasn't taking the rest. The side effects list alone made me not want to take it, and it does get to the baby...Irritability. Diarrhea. Anxiety attacks. For both me and the baby. Thanks but no thanks, but I'm already overly tired and stressed. I don't need to add "running to the bathroom" and having a freak out session not already related to my post-partum dip in hormones.

I resisted saying anything on my support group board because I knew some people would not support my decision, and it has been tough enough without having to sit under someone else's judgement, specifically when I felt very emotionally fried.

At one point a gal had invited me to be part of a breastfeeding board...and this is on their front page:

We do not support supplementing with human milk substitutes or giving up for any reason (unless absolutely medically necessary), and we do not accept the following excuses:
"I want my body back."
"It's too much work"
"I want more sleep" etc...
Breastfeeding is not a "choice", and will not be presented as such in this community. It is your child's birthright, and your responsibility as a Mother. We are all here because we know that babies were born to be breastfed, and we will all do our damnedest to ensure that every one of us is successful.
You are a strong woman, and you CAN do it. You just need to believe in yourself, and we're here to help.
We fully support and encourage all mothers to eliminate their reliance on supplementing with inferior human milk substitutes and return to 100% breast milk. If your goal is to get your baby back on the breast, we welcome you with open arms, you can succeed! "

They don't mention what they'll do if you fail to meet your goal. And as you can imagine, I didn't join this just felt like I had to join the cult of breastfeeding or else I was going to have some La Leche League women over here to beat the milk out of me!

Then today she acted surprised when I didn't appreciate her basically saying I wasn't trying hard enough and that I had "given up on yourself". And she called it "tough love".

Nope -- that my friends is what I call a guilt trip -- and it was sickening.

Suffice to say, it's a horribly difficult decision if it is a decision at all. I feel my body after a complicated pregnancy, emergency c-section and 12 days in the NICU -- had spoken for me already by not producing milk.

But to feel unsupported in that decision as I was today, well that was hard too.

I'll get over it though. In the end, I am the Mommy, and it is my choice when to end suffering, even if it is my own. It is my choice to give my child a healthy alternative and stay happy and sane myself.

And judging by the e-mails I'm getting, I'm not the first to feel this way.

Please keep in mind that this post -- like all posts -- can be commented on, but I have to approve them before they will show. Any comment less than civil will be rejected. -- Ed.


susan said...

Nora is loved, well taken care of and her parents are there for her! I think she is very blessed. I know you wanted to breast feed, and not being able to must be very difficult thing for you, especially after trying so hard.
Koodos for trying as hard as you have. Many women wouldn't even have gone that far.
Nora is a thriving and blessed little girl, with a great Mommy and Daddy.

No judgment from us. Just love.

Susan and Doug

MeesheMama said...

You made the right call. Formula is no picnic either!

Tammy said...

I don't even really know what to say but I want it said that I support your decision 100%. You are a mother and as far as I am concerned, no one and I mean no one has the right or place to tell another how there child should be parented or what is best for their child and their family.

And this is especially true about people who for there own reasons, aren't willing to consider the full spectrum of what you have been through and how the stress on your body, physical and emotional stress both, can do to how your body can/should function. And there is no one that I know who has experienced the loss, stress, worry, physical trauma that you have in the last 18 months. THAT to me, is the bigger picture.

And as for that board... I am offended with you. Really, they are judge and jury for all persons who don't reach what they feel is their standards, no exceptions. Well... the world doesn't work that way. And as hard as I try, I can't help but take it personally, for you and for me.

We know... we know that we are mothers in spite of the fact our bodies haven't worked as they should in so many ways. We know that we are doing the very best for our kids. We know it. And they have no right or place to speak to it None. It is none of their business, up there on the high horses of boobfood perfection. That might be their agenda but they don't know you and therefore, they can't touch you.

Yes... our bodies are created to give birth and then feed our babies. We know that. But sometimes our bodies betray us and we have to grieve and go on to care for our children knowing we are the best people to make decisions for our children.

I can't say how sorry I am that you not only felt attacked but demeaned as a mother as well. I felt it for you.

Jules, you don't need to hear it from me but I'm going to say it...

You did everything you should have to try to make this work. Nora knows you love her and could not ask for a more thoughtful, caring and self-sacrificing mother as you. Anyone who knows any of your story should understand that. It's hard not to feel guilty (believe me, I know...) but I hope and pray that you'll find peace in all of this. You are loved, my friend...

Polka Dot Creations said...

As a mother, you have so many choices to make, and it's not worth it to beat yourself up over any of them. You know what is best for your particular situation, and your child's situation.

The tone of that breastfeeding message board is scary. There are always exceptions to every rule, and the fact that they can't accept any of them makes them seem a little too militant to be a good support network.

You made the right choice, Mom, and it looks to me like you are comfortable with it. Try not to let the naysayers get to you.

3outta5 said...

You know what? You gave it your best shot. You did all you could. You went above and beyond. It didn't work. Sometimes stuff doesn't work out. (Aren't I the poster girl for THAT?) In the end, Nora will have absolutely everything she needs, including a non-sleep deprived mother that doesn't have sore boobs. Hey, can't beat that. Not even with a stick. ;-) Love you.

Amelia's Mom said...

A happy mom is important for a happy baby. A fed baby is even more important. You do what you need to do and feel good about it. There's plenty of mama guilt left for everything else!

This sentiment of support comes from a breastfeeder who struggled with supply, especially in the evening feedings, who desperately tried everything and felt so inadequate and even angry at my body for letting me and my baby down - when all I wanted was a good letdown. We were able to breastfeed but, like you, I cringe at folks who make blanket statements about everyone being able to do it and that our supply will meet their needs, etc.

Nora is so beautiful and I am so happy for you and Brian. Continue to enjoy her and don't feel guilty for choosing to feed your daughter.

Audrey said...

I am in shock over that message boards "Welcome". Run, run far away from them.

I tried to breastfeed my three children. I never once felt the closeness I felt I was told I would feel while breastfeeding. I felt it when giving them a bottle of formula. They could then look in my eyes, instead of at my chest!

It was bad enough I was giving myself a guilt trip because I felt I failed at breastfeeding, to then go through others telling me as well I didn't try hard enough. My body never made enough milk to supply my children. My third was crying so much the day after she was born. They kept bringing her to me to feed, and it just wasn't enough. My milk hadn't come in and she was starving. She ate 4oz of formula in one sitting the day after she was born. That is a lot!

So my new friend, you do what you feel is right when it comes to Nora. She is doing very well on formula, and never let any breastfeeding nazi tell you anything otherwise. I know several babies who were exclusively breastfed that have been sicker with colds and ear infection than my formula fed children.

Being a mom is hard and you are doing wonderfully!

Anonymous said...

Jules- there is no shame is making this decision- it is absolutely the right decision for yourself, your daughter, and your family at this time!! You gave it the ol' college try!! You know yourself best!! Remember that book- "Our Bodies, Ourselves". It's always up to you!!

There enuf other stresses and pressures in life. You make the decisions for each as they come up.

Giving birth and adjusting to a newbie is really haard, as well as joful. Here's to you all, thriving together!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jules,
I'm so sorry you had a rough day yesterday. Your baby just needs to be fed and loved. The source doesn't matter. Do what you need to do so that you can ENJOY this time with Nora. It goes by SO quickly. Don't waste another moment worrying about things that aren't going to matter in the grand scheme of it all. I think you went above and beyond what many in your situation would have done to try and make the BFing work. You should be proud of yourself.

You have waited so long for this. Enjoy little Nora and all her newborn-ness Now because tomorrow you're going to be telling us about how she's walking! :)

Many hugs,

gailpet said...

Jules -- you know how I feel about this. I just wanted to send you extra support and hugs today. You ARE the mommy! And a great one at that. You can just see the proud momma in your pictures and hear it in your words. And your friends will be here for you as you go through the rough spots with motherhood. I tell you, the lack of sleep can really get to you! :)

anyway, more hugs sweetie! Give that precious babe a hug and kiss from me!!!

ShielaLee said...

Oh come ON - post the "less than civil" ones! LOL How about just their names?? LOL

Ok, sorry - I couldn't help myself. I'm sorry about the dog fight yesterday - wow! You should have sold tickets - you could have purchased 2 years worth of formula! Try to look at it all as entertaining and educational. You have been able to see who your true friends are and who aren't!!

You've chosen to feed your baby! THAT is the right choice!

Anonymous said...

you don't know me, but i could have written your post. i struggled through my pregnancy, gave birth to twins at 36 weeks, and tried like heck to breastfeed. my milk took its sweet time coming in, and well, life took over. i was a hormonal mess, the babies were losing weight, and it was just more than i cared to handle. i had a doc try to "guilt" me in to trying it again. my mother was at that appointment with me, and she about blew his doors off. go mom!

your baby is beautiful - you are doing it all just right.

enjoy her!

Teri said...

You tried and it wasn't a fit. 10 points for trying and none deducted for choosing to stop. For me, it worked with one for me and with one it didn't. Betcha can't tell which was which. Both were/are healthy thriving adults.

And remember - you as the Mom will always know the BEST in all cases on ALL things.

Love ya!

YA said...

1st Big hugs to you my Sista.

I am with you 100% on whatever you decided... I have been there and well it was an emotional struggle. My boys are still very very healthy preemie boys.

Breastfeeding was not working for me either the boys would not could not suck, pumping was a bit easier for me but formula was what made us happier.... and it took me a long time to get there the 1st time around.

I wish I could write as well as Tammy..

Nora is healthy, happy and thriving so she is getting what she needs... Your doing awesome Mommy J.


and as for those type of message boards oh shame on them...I'd run from it to

Christa said...

(((((((((((HUGS))))))) You are an amazing mommy, and you are doing what you feel is best for you and your beautiful little girl. I'm amazed how long you tried to stick it out with something that was so incredibly difficult for both of you. Breastfeeding is wonderful, yes. But even more wonderful is giving your daughter the gift of a mother who isn't in pain and struggling with forcing something that isn't working. I'm sorry you were hurt. It was not her place to judge what you do for your daughter. I love you guys.

MissHelen said...

Nora is thriving, healthy, and very very loved.
You have my full-on, 1000% support. Ain't no more to say. :)

Anonymous said...

Here is the bright side to your decision, Jules. No mercury or any other environmental by-products from breast milk.

I'm not sure I would breast feed again if I had another one for this reason. And I successfully nursed four.

There you have it, from a nursing "pro".

Now tell your husband to get his ass into the kitchen and feed the baby -- that's the BEST part. ;)

Cal said...

I had the same breastfeeding consultant/ LaLeche issues you did. I was suffering from debilitating postpartum depression and needed meds. But that meant I had to quit nursing. I was floored by the responses I got! Apparently, they believe it is better to breastfeed and commit suicide than it is to feed formula and have you both live happy lives!

Really, in the whole scheme of things, whether you nurse or not is not a big deal. What counts is that babies have loving attentive parents who do the best they can for their child. And I've no doubt you and Brian will be excellent parents!


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