Confessions of a Bottle Feeding Mom

We hear a lot about how breast feeding is best for babies. One of the hospitals in town is running an ad campaign with slogans on billboards and bus benches such as “Breast is best” and “Every baby deserves the best. Every baby deserves breast milk”. I want to be a voice for the bottle feeding Moms out there. Here’s my story about the very difficult choice not to breast feed my daughter.

After NR was born, I began breast feeding. She took a long time to actually nurse for only 5 minutes the whole time we were in the hospital. With her being my first child, I didn’t know that she should be nursing longer and more efficiently in such a short time. We only had one opportunity to meet with a lactation nurse and by the day we left she was barely nursing.

The day we got home, we struggled through the day and that first night, with her failing to latch and nurse enough to speak of. She went 18 hours without nursing and without wetting a diaper. I remember calling the lactation office so hysterical that I could barely even speak to her. She instructed me to immediately make a bottle and give it to her. Thankfully, they had sent some instant formula home with us from the hospital. After getting her some nutrition and a wet diaper, we went to rent a breast pump and made an appointment with the lactation nurse. She had me attempting to nurse NR as well as pump to try to keep my milk supply up.

When we attempted to nurse, NR was the “nip and nap” type. She would eat a few minutes and then nap a while. She usually followed this pattern for 40 minutes while latching and unlatching about 100 times (I’m not exaggerating) before becoming frustrated enough to melt down. I also had to pump and she was taking the expressed breast milk as well as supplementing with formula when necessary. The whole process took nearly an hour and a half. I was repeating every 2 hours. That’s right. I had a half hour between cycles. This means that in those 30 minutes I slept, ate, or played with NR. Pretty much the only time I got to spend with NR was while we were struggling to nurse.

I was stressed to the max, sleep deprived, chapped, cracked and sore. I would sit in the nursery and cry. When NR would latch nurse, my toes would literally curl and my stomach would turn with the pain. I could feel my grip on my mental health slipping away. That sounds sensationalist, but I was spiraling into depression and that’s how it felt. Whenever I held her she was crying and I would be frustrated, angry, and sad. We were not bonding healthily. She was sensing my anxiety and frustration and mirroring it, but I couldn't control my emotions. The whole process was counterproductive. I held out hope that that things would get better and kept trying for 2 ½ weeks.

When after 2 ½ weeks my milk supply was still not fully “in” and the vicious cycle was more than I could take. After prayer, talking to husband, family and friends, I finally made the decision to switch NR to formula exclusively. I felt better immediately. I was providing for my daughter. She was satisfied and growing. I could sleep, she could sleep. We could bond in a healthy way and I could enjoy her.

For us, the breast was NOT best. I applaud and respect the breastfeeding Moms who overcame the same obstacles, others, and some even more difficult ones. Breast milk is best for babies, nothing else compares. But even more important is having a healthy parent who can cope and care for baby. Do I get the side-eye from other Moms when they see me pull out a bottle? Yes. Will I try breast feeding next time? Yes. Do I regret the decision I made for NR and myself? No.

Sorry this got so long, and thanks for reading our story. Hopefully someone will stop feeling guilty for making the same decision I did, or someone will be more compassionate and less judgmental of bottle feeding Moms because of it.


Erin said...

Great to read, Joy. I applaud you for making the BEST decision for you and NR! She sure is a beautiful baby --- and she looks mights healthy! Bottle feeding is nothing to be ashamed of, but it was so hard for me with my first to get all the "looks." Of course I know now that that was very prideful of me. My babies were primarily bottle fed (well, were and are... b'c obviously we are still in the midst of it), and are happy and healthy!

Jennifer Freeman said...

Thank you so much for sharing. You are an amazing woman and mother!

Adrienne said...

Joy, we went through the same ordeal with Gabe. And actually, our lactation consultant was the one who told us that it's better to bottle feed exclusively if the baby is uncooperative (like Gabe was) or it is causing too much anxiety. I believe the reasons you stated were the ones she gave us as well.

Sabrina said...

Joy & Zach, thanks for being a voice on this very emotional topic! We had a very similar story with RC. At 2 weeks we were told by our pediatrician to add formula to her diet when she hadn't regained her birth weight. All of the "Breast is Best" campaigning made me feel like a failure and so I pushed myself to pump for 4 months. I spent so much time and energy pumping and then turning around and feeding RC that I was wiped out physically and mentally. Not to mention I had to pump much more frequently than if I were nursing in order to keep my barely-there supply going. Looking back I wish I would have been strong enough to simply choose the bottle over the 4 months of pumping torture. Like you I will try to nurse again if God chooses to grant us more blessings, but other people's opinions and pressure can't/won't make such an impact on our decision.

Stacy said...

Sounds like me with Kate! We had a rough go for other reasons, but she was impossible to nurse. Sounds just like your little one. I did breast and bottle for six weeks and gave up. What an agonizing six weeks! Going to the bottle made life so much better. This time around, however, has been so much easier. Our lactation consultant was great and Jack is a much better eater. Five weeks strong tomorrow. There's hope for your next one!!

Zach and Joy said...

Thanks, everyone, congratulations and good luck! It feels good to have a support system and not feel like you have to go to "Bottle Feeders Anonymous" to get it :)
(It also feels good to know I have readers! haha)