In my world, breast and bottle are friends, not enemies. […]
In my world, breast and bottle are friends, not enemies. I arrived at the decision to use both forms of feeding over the course of much trial and error. Having gone through every form and combination of feeding more than once, I finally have a system that works! Praise the Lord, I have a great eater on my hands who makes it easier—not easy—but easier!
When Bellamy was born she came out sucking on my collarbone. She was an instant eater and was apparently starving. The RN asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding Bellamy. I know most ladies have a strong opinion on what they plan to do. Most moms pick something to do exclusively, or that’s the bulk of what I hear from other women I know. For me, it felt like a difficult decision.
I was formula fed from day one. I never had a drop of breast milk, and my mother was very open about this if anyone asked. She formula fed my sister, too, and she was formula fed by her mother as well. I applaud her for doing what was best for her. She rocked it, bottle and all. When I got pregnant, it simply felt normal to choose formula feeding over breast. To this day, I do not judge or feel offended by any mother’s choice in this area—I truly think fed is best! I am not into the “breastfeeding isn’t a choice, but a responsibility” movement. There’s enough anger and judgment in the world without wasting time arguing over sweet babies and how their bellies get full. We are blessed to have options. However, as my due date got closer, I would be lying if I said I didn’t start to trip over my own thoughts on the subject.
While at a friend’s wedding one evening, I struck up a conversation with someone I viewed as somewhat of a health guru. She started asking me about vaccines, something I hadn’t even dipped my toe in yet, and told me the best way to start building her immune system early is to breastfeed. It’s not that I didn’t know that prior to the conversation, but something switched to the “on” position in my brain. I felt called to give more thought to breastfeeding.
It’s no secret breastfeeding is superior in quality of nutrition and growth development, but I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around the boob part. I’m not “sexualizing the breast” by saying it felt weird. It did. If you have never offered someone your breast as their meal, it may feel odd, OK? It’s not a crime! I decided the best way to combine both worlds was to exclusively pump breast milk and bottle-feed my milk to my baby. I felt as if I had solved the world’s biggest problem by coming up with this plan, and I started investing into products to help make it possible. One double electric breast pump and one Kiinde Twist Storage System purchase later, I was ready to go.
The RN I mentioned wasn’t too keen on this idea when I said, “I think I would like to try and pump to feed her instead of breastfeed.” I understand they are pro-breastfeeding, but there really shouldn’t be a lack of support for whatever the mother chooses the first five minutes after giving birth. After being told repeatedly I should at least TRY, I gave in. This was frustrating to me because it took away from the sweetness of meeting my daughter, and I felt I was under someone else’s rule while also in the most vulnerable position of my life. Bellamy is also extremely orally fixated, and she constantly has her hands around her mouth or is sucking her fingers as a soothing mechanism. EVERYONE and their mom kept telling me, “She’s starving. She needs to eat.” No matter how much I nursed her, the hands stayed in and around her mouth, causing me to constantly be on the defense. It was hurtful and exhausting to have many people I don’t know insinuate I wasn’t properly feeding my daughter. I found myself questioning whether or not she was eating as many ounces as she needed to get full, and I wanted a way to measure how much she was receiving. I was counting down the hours until we could go home, and I could feed her the way I wanted, no matter what method I wanted to try.
Once we arrived home, I wasted no time ditching the breast and trying out my pump. Bellamy had a mild case of jaundice, so the pediatrician asked us to supplement with formula to help her digest it out of her system more quickly. She immediately preferred the flow of the bottle, and at that point I figured the breast was totally out of the picture. Bellamy is an eater. She wants to eat all the time. As you could probably guess, it’s hard to pump enough milk to keep up with a hungry infant. I felt like my life revolved around my pump, not my baby. I was pumping, feeding her what I was able to pump, cleaning the parts of my pump, or crying because it was time to pump again. It was essentially double the work to feed her. After a week or so of that misery, I bought a can of formula.
Having both pumped milk and formula bottles to choose from made it easier to keep up with feedings. I was happy to let others feed her and store up an extra bottle or two of pumped milk. However, over time I started to regret my decision to give up on breastfeeding (talk about full circle). I think there was this innate desire in me to continue to supply her needs, like I did when she was in the womb. In my sleep-deprived state of being a new mom (and after my nightmare breastfeeding escapade at the hospital), I think exhaustion overshadowed the desire to connect with her in that way, or perhaps it simply took time to develop. I started to wish I could ditch all the alternative methods and supplies and just nurse my baby. It had never (really, never!) sounded so good.
One afternoon I decided to try and teach Bellamy how to nurse again. I had made various attempts to do this already, but she seemed to hate it over the ease of her bottle. I believe it was an act of grace that she somehow latched on like she never stopped nursing. I let out a huge sigh of relief as we both rocked back and forth in her rocker. Even through the pain and discomfort, I was experiencing true joy. I made a new commitment—one that I chose for myself—to nurse her every day. I felt very thankful I was given a second chance to breastfeed her. I was able to continue being the one person who could supply her every need. I no longer desired to share that responsibility, and my affection for nursing her grows every day.
Bellamy is now primarily nursed during the day and given one formula bottle at night to keep her fuller longer. She is nursed during the night if she wakes up, too. Her nighttime bottle is the set apart time during each day that she spends with her dad, and I am thankful they have that time together. Figuring out how to feed her has been a serious journey. If anyone wanted my advice, it would be to have grace with yourself to try different methods if you are unsure. You can change your mind, and that’s OK. It’s easy to say, “Do what feels right for you,” but as a first time mom, it’s hard to navigate that sometimes.
I am happy to say Bellamy is growing ahead of schedule, and she is a happy, healthy baby. The drama of how to feed her was probably harder on me than her. I now know that breastfeeding is my primary choice of feeding, and if/when I have my next child, I hopefully will have a much smoother transition in this area. My next challenge is figuring out how to get my MOH dress to fit at my sister’s wedding in a few weeks, as my already well-endowed chest has grown to massive proportions. There’s just no way this will be attractive, but that’s how breastfeeding life goes. I’m happy to get used to it!