Warning: there will be lots of talk about breasts in this post, so if you’re reading this and you’re uncomfortable with the words boob, breast, nipple, areola…you get the point, then I suggest you skip this one. 🙂
You’ve completed pregnancy.
You’ve conquered labor and delivery.
And now it’s time to feed your baby…
Do you feed breastmilk? Formula?
Only you can answer that question.
I’ve personally chosen to exclusively feed my baby breastmilk for her first year of life, and possibly a bit beyond that.
The choice to me was simple because of all the benefits of breastmilk.
To name a few:
-it is literal medicine for your baby- containing antibodies and other components to help your baby fight infection, causing fewer doctor/hospital visits
-only you can make the perfect breastmilk tailored for your baby
-you have it ready in a split second anywhere you go, at any time
-you don’t need any bottles
-did I mention it’s free?
Yes, my choice might have been easy, but breastfeeding itself wasn’t such an easy ride for me in the beginning.
My daughter had a short latch starting out. She literally chomped on my nipples during her entire feed. And honestly, even as a nurse I didn’t know that something was seriously wrong until a doula told me so. I knew that it could feel uncomfortable each time until the let down happened, so I just figured that this was that pain.
For those unfamiliar, “let down” is the process of your milk ducts releasing your breastmilk for your baby. (It goes deeper but I’ll leave it there for the sake of this post.)
Anyway, I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed; to the point where I dreaded having to breastfeed her each time because I knew I’d want to cry. Every time I saw her open her mouth, I would wince in anticipation of the pain.
I didn’t wanna seem like a wimp, so I held my tongue and said nothing to the hospital staff. And they figured since I was a NICU nurse, I was fine, I knew what I was doing.
I tried to hold my baby in different positions, but that didn’t help.
A few days after I’d been home from the hospital, a doula witnessed my painful experience and told me to try a nipple shield -a flexible silicone shield that covers the nipple and makes latching easier- and that helped some; but at that point my baby was nursing every 1-2 hours and there was so much nerve damage done to my nipples that I didn’t even want them to be touched.
So after about a week, I stopped putting her to my breasts. Instead, I pumped and fed her my milk from a bottle.
I felt defeated because I had always wanted to breastfeed. But, at the same time, I had to remind myself that I was lucky to still be able to feed my daughter my own milk, because not every mom is able to produce any milk for her baby at all.
When you pump, you should do it as frequently as your baby is eating, or even more frequently if you have a low supply, in order to produce more milk. I was fortunate to have a great supply, but I still had to pump every 3 hours to keep up with her needs. This meant pumping every 3 hours around the clock.
Yes, even at night.
So for the first 3+ months of her life, I was getting no more than 3 hours of sleep at a time.
I LOVE sleep.
Sleep is my best friend.
We go way back.
I used to sleep 12 hours easily after working a nightshift, so this sleep deprivation was a HUGE shock to my body. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME.
(I’m still exhausted, but it has gotten a little better.)
After about 3.5 months of bottle feeding, I decided to give breastfeeding another try.
To my surprise, my daughter did much better! I didn’t even need a nipple shield anymore.
I now breastfeed around the clock when I’m at home, and she gets bottles of my breastmilk when I’m at work or when she’s at a babysitter. The kicker is, sometimes I still have to pump in addition to her nursing because she doesn’t empty my breasts all the way yet. (She will as she gets older and drinks more milk at a time.)
Luckily for me, she’s starting to sleep through the night now. So, I follow her lead and sleep when she sleeps, allowing me to get a good 6 or so hours at a time. Yay!
I say all that to say, breastfeeding/breastmilk feeding is a lot of work.
Which is why some women choose to just formula feed their baby instead.
While breastmilk has a ton of amazing benefits for a baby, formula feeding is an option and it is perfectly okay!
A mom has been through a great deal of physical and emotional stress from pregnancy to delivery, so if she wants to take it easy and use formula, she has every right to.
Should you choose formula over breastmilk, don’t let anyone force you to do otherwise! However, I do suggest that you listen to all of the pros and cons from a healthcare professional before making an informed decision. Don’t just go off of what your momma, neighbor, sister, auntie, etc told you.
Whatever you decide to do, you made the right choice for you. It is your body, your baby, your choice.
Always remember: “a fed baby is a happy baby!”