Choosing to breastfeed was a no-brainer for me. While not a tree hugger, I'm finding my tendencies to be more and more granola these days. I'm also practicial. Breastfeeding = free. Formula = $$. I'm also the emotive type, and something about nursing my baby seemed more emotionally connective.
In the hospital, Reed seemed to be eating fine. But an initial weight check after coming home showed that he'd dropped from 5 lbs 8 0z to 4 lbs 14 oz. Our pediatrician referred me to a lactation specialist, who told me that Reed essentially had no sucking reflex (it's often developed in the last week of pregnancy; I had Reed at 38 weeks). We did everything to keep my supply up while Reed's reflex developed. I pumped. I tickled his feet while he ate. I supplemented his nursing with pumped breastmilk. I pulled triple-duty -- feed, supplement, pump. And sometimes it felt like that was all I did. I wasn't sleeping anyways, so what else did I have to do? But I really wanted breastfeeding to work out.
We went weekly for weight checks. Some weeks were encouraging - he'd gained more than enough weight. Other weeks were discouraging - he hadn't gained any weight. And some weeks were just status quo - he'd gained just enough to squeak by. At one point we even dropped the supplement completely because we thought he was doing so well. But as soon as we did that, he stopped gaining.
Knowing that gaining the right amount of weight was crucial to his physical growth and brain development, we needed to return to supplementing. But I did not want to pull triple duty again. At the time he took close to an hour to eat (and would need to eat again only an hour after finishing). I'm not a math rock star but one hour + 15 minutes pumping = 45 minutes to sleep/eat/go to the bathroom/not have something sucking the life out of me. Repeat 10 times a day.
This set back ignited some serious baby blues for me. I wanted to go all formula just to know for certain that each time Reed ate, he was getting the right amount of food. But I wanted to be committed to the benefits of breastfeeding. Enter agonizing questions. What does my decision say about me as a mom? Was my unwillingness to pump a selfish decision? I felt internal pressure to make a decision -- nursing or formula?
Ultimately I chose neither exclusively. And still today I nurse him first and then give him a 2 oz formula supplement via bottle. This works for us because
- Keeps him gaining weight
- Provides flexibility (he doesn't mind a bottle when it's more convenient)
- Helped me keep my sanity so I didn't feel like a 24/7 dairy cow
So I write this for you soon-to-be mommas, and probably, I wrote this for me too.