Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

Thanks for the Mammaries

on September 26, 2012

This afternoon, a coworker asked me how big Buddy was these days.  When I told her he was almost 16 pounds, she smiled and said, “The power of breast milk.”  I nodded, smiled and – on the inside – laughed.

I never thought breastfeeding would get me down.

When I was pregnant with Bud, one of the decisions I really mulled over was whether or not I’d breastfeed.  Truthfully, I had no desire to do it.  The idea of a small infant attached to my nipples didn’t fill my head with images of angels singing and fairies sprinkling pixie dust.

Back when the idea of Bud was just that – an idea – I had one good friend ask me if I was going to breastfeed.  I told her the concept kinda skeeved me out.  She responded, “You don’t have to breastfeed.  It’s okay to formula feed.”  I nodded and said, “That’s good.”  In the back of my head I thought, “Duh.  Of course I don’t have to.”

And then I got pregnant and ran smack dab into the Boob Nazis.  It seemed like everywhere we went – OBGYN, pediatrician, maternity clothes store, car dealership, people would ask “Are you going to breastfeed?”  My husband and I quickly learned that “We’re not sure yet,” was the equivalent of saying “Please convince us to breastfeed,” or worse, “We clearly are dysfunctional idiots who need to be given dirty looks.”

When my favorite OBGYN asked if I was going to breastfeed, I told her I hadn’t decided.  She responded, “As long as the idea of it doesn’t gross you out…”  Hubby and I looked at each other and I kinda foolishly giggled.  Because, yeah, the idea DID gross me out.

My husband and I did a lot of research (he more than me, actually) and discovered that there’s no decisive evidence that breastfeeding makes better kids.  It seems a strong parent/child connection is what makes a difference in a child’s development.  Because this is such a debated topic, I won’t go further, but I will point you toward this article if you’re interested.

Since colostrum (the first breast milk product)  is so high in nutrients and antibodies – and helps babies work up a poop – we decided we wanted to give breastfeeding a try.  The plan was that I’d breastfeed, hopefully making it until I returned to work after Bud’s three month birthday.  If I got that far, maybe I’d consider going to six months.

Soon after they wheeled me and Bud out of the operating room, the nurse asked if I was ready to breastfeed.  Uneasy as I had been about it, the shock of just having an emergency C-section took the edge off my earlier hesitancy, and I was blessed with a baby who, as several OB nurses exclaimed, had “a perfect latch.”

Not long after this, I told my husband I was proud of how well I did with breastfeeding.  Moms who breastfeed SHOULD be proud.  That business HURTS.  At Bud’s newborn photo session, one of the photographers remarked for the first few weeks of breastfeeding her babies she had to sit on a rocking chair and rock through the pain.  And that’s the truth.  I remember for the first couple weeks wincing in sharp agony at the initial latch.  If you can deal with the pain, you also have to come to grips spending more time breastfeeding than doing anything else.  It felt like breastfeeding was all I did.  It was work.  It was a job.

When we went to Bud’s one-week check up, we learned that not only had he not started to regain his birth weight, he had lost even more.  The pediatrician assured me that this was common in first-time moms, but she wanted us to give him a ½ ounce shot of formula, to help him gain weight.  In seven days of life, our little guy was even littler, and we would not allow him to suffer.  After a week or two of supplementing, we were able to get him back to being exclusively breastfed.  And this worked well.  Until we started taking to heart the comments about how tiny our baby was.  A week of daily home weigh-ins proved Bud wasn’t gaining, and a trip to the pediatrician for a weight check supported that.  Bud wasn’t adding weight like he should.  At around two months of age, Bud had to go back on formula in addition to breast milk.

I was not prepared for the emotional setback this would cause.  I – the woman who wasn’t even sure she wanted to breastfeed – hesitated to supplement.  I felt bad about breastfeeding, about myself.  I felt like I was letting Bud down.  After all, I had oodles of packets from doctors, and hospitals, and baby companies all telling me the same thing – Breast is Best.  And if breast is best, everything else is worst.

The pediatrician assured me that some women just don’t produce as much as is needed.  She said he’d gotten many weeks of antibodies, and that was good enough.  Yet, I still felt bad.  I asked what I could do, and she gave me a prescription for Metoclopramide, a medicine that can cause weird muscle twitches that never go away.  After getting freaked out about that, I decided not to take the medicine, but that meant I would not longer be able to exclusively breastfeed.  I would be a “supplementer.”

And that’s when I got hit by the Boob Nazis.  BN’s are not to be confused with the helpful friends who legitimately wanted to offer help (I now take an herbal supplement from Motherlove which increases my milk output by ooooh, half an ounce on any random day).  The Boob Nazis were other people who appeared out of nowhere, in the shape of people I never thought would gave two twitches about breastfeeding.

Left and right I was bombarded by women telling me no mother ever needs to supplement, that a mother can provide exactly the right amount of food for her baby, that it’s okay if your child is so tiny they’re not even on the WHO’s breastfed baby growth chart.

“Did you pump between sessions?”
“Did you try eating oatmeal?”
“Does he have a good latch?”
“Are you drinking enough water?”
“Are you keeping him at the boob long enough?”
“Have you tried standing on your head in subzero temperatures while eating raw crocodile?”

I wanted to scream!  I already felt like my body was dysfunctional, and now people were reinforcing my negative self-image.  Through their words, they reassured me that my body was in fact failing my son.  I had tried everything I could think of but they made me doubt myself.  I began to wonder if drinking one can of beer before bed would fix the problem.

At one point Hubby said to me something along the lines of “It seems like you’re okay with Bud not gaining weight if it means not giving him formula.”  That statement gave me the wake-up call I needed.  Breast is Best advocates promote breastfeeding because it creates a good, healthy baby.  But in my case, exclusive breastfeeding wasn’t getting the job done.

So now I breastfeed.  And I supplement formula.  And I’m becoming okay with it.  As you can tell, I’m still a little sensitive – and a tad bitter – about it.  Yet this past weekend, Hubby looked at me and said, “Look how happy and healthy this guy is.”  We chose the right thing.

I’m not sure why the Boob Nazis perpetuate the myth that every mom can successfully and exclusively breastfeed all the time, right from the get go.  Would these same people tell women suffering from infertility not to take Clomid because “Every woman ovulates in the manner needed to produce a baby”?  Would they tell someone whose thyroid isn’t functioning not to take Synthroid because “All thyroids function in the appropriate manner?”

I belong to a support group for molar pregnancies.  Recently one of the members said, “If this had happened to us 100 years ago, we’d all be dead.”  Her sentiment is truth, and one I’ve thought of before.  If I had Bud 100 years ago, he might have failed to thrive.  Luckily, Bud was born in 2012, and his mom didn’t die from a molar pregnancy, and he won’t suffer from a lack of milk.

So, I thank God for the mammaries, but I also thank Him for the formula companies, who help keep my garden growing.



12 responses to “Thanks for the Mammaries

  1. Matt says:

    You’re doing great! And that one can of beer a night might not work for you, but it’s doing wonders for me!

  2. sara says:

    the decision to bresatfeed should be a decison that is best for.mommy n baby. as you.stated, the data n research is inconclusive. there is no REAL data that completely proves breast is best. breastfeeding is demanding n as you state, since im sure yet, hurts. I had a friend that HAD to go back to work but was determined to breastfeed. she spent her lunch hr pumping. when she went dinner, shed excuse herself to go pump since the pain was unbearable. no one.should be forced to do that or guilted into it. I know.plenty of.ppl who where not breatfed, including myself who are fine. not only am I intelligent, but im hardly ever sick and im NOT allergic to anything. you do what is best.for you n bud and screw the bn’s!!

  3. After reading this on my phone, I just got out of my comfy bed, went downstairs to my office, took my laptop out of its bag, and started it up for the sole purpose of writing a lengthy response to this post. Girl, we ought to get together and go bowling sometime, because good god do I know how you feel. Like you, I struggled with the choice to breastfeed – not because I didn’t want to (I did, badly), but because I was told by so many people that I couldn’t or shouldn’t. I had breast augmentation surgery over a decade ago – not to enhance, but rather to even out the two-cup asymmetry that had made me miserable since puberty (and which I feel I must justify to this day, which makes me feel so sad and annoyed). Several of my ‘friends’ at the time told me very matter-of-factly that I most definitely would not be able to breastfeed my child. My best friend at the time, whose mother is an ob/gyn, even cited her mother as her source of information when I questioned it. (She was lying, we are no longer friends.) Of course, when I asked MY ob/gyn, she told me that it shouldn’t interfere in the least and not to stress about it – so I stopped stressing, and once my first daughter was born, I breastfed her for eight awful months.

    They weren’t awful because I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding – in fact, I loooooved it. And it turned out that I had plenty of milk; I’d often have to get up 2 or 3 times per night to pump. The problem was that, when my daughter was about a month old, PPD came along and knocked the wind out of me. I’d been on antidepressants for years pre-pregnancy, and I didn’t want to start taking them again because my medication was not deemed safe for nursing moms. My choice was pretty clear: stop breastfeeding and feel better, or continue to breastfeed and feel miserable.

    So I stopped. My daughter had no issues with a bottle. Easy, right? Not so much. I was completely unprepared for my reaction. It was horrific. Each time I’d try to stop, my body would scream, “what the hell are you trying to do, kill your child?” At least, that was how it felt – I felt like such an enormous failure. Sitting here now, I can’t really describe how overwhelming it was – I went back and forth so many times (take the pills and dry up, don’t take the pills and keep nursing), and each time I changed my mind it was like starting from square one again. It was so difficult psychologically for me to stop that, on more than one occasion, my husband “caught” me pumping milk so my supply wouldn’t dry up. It was hands down the most difficult time in my marriage. I was just an absolute hormonal mess. Looking back, it seems so silly, but at the time it felt like the hardest choice in the world, an absolute lose/lose situation.

    I could go on and on, telling you about this experience – and how it repeated itself a year and a half later, with my second child – but it’s late and I’m kinda drunk, and I’m concerned that I’m not being very linear with my thoughts here. What I really want to say is that you have made the perfect choice, because you feel it is the best choice for your child and your family – not because of what anybody else tells you you should do, or because you feel the way anybody tells you you should feel. Being a new mother is very, very, very hard, for reasons that childless people cannot begin to fathom. It’s all very “Allegory of the Cave.” I sort of just want to hug you and tell you that it gets better and easier. Not that it’s not wonderful now – but those moments of “my god, what the fuck have we done/ when will I be able to relax for even a second/what the fuck have we done,” etc – they go away eventually. And you’re doing great.

    • Molar Mother says:

      I’m so glad you got out of your comfy bed to post this. I’m also glad you got past this and made it out okay. I want to get to the point were I can look back and think, “I stressed for nothing.” There were times I really thought, “What is wrong with me, how am I messing up my kid??????”

  4. Meg Mims says:

    TOTALLY understand!!! My daughter was 11-4 oz, 3 weeks late. I breastfed and felt like a MILK machine. Oh, sure, it was “bonding” – but I went through the same guilt trip — was I giving enough milk? Was I a failure? She cried like crazy for a week. Hub started to supplement, and baby was happy. I refused to pump – ugh. I even drank BEER (a BN told me the yeast would increase my milk – haha!) while pinching my nose tight (the smell made me sick) and that didn’t work. At five months, I was done. The best advice I ever got was “YOU ARE THE MOM, THIS IS YOUR CHILD so use your own gut instinct.” My kid is 25, and I *still* know when something is bothering her, if she’s sick, if life sucks, etc. Learn to “read” your kid. Go by that. Because you are a fabulous mom. 🙂

  5. Mea says:

    Love this honest and sincere post, Molar Mother! I only disagree with one thing that I thought you implied (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.): a mom shouldn’t not breastfeed because it freaks her out or feels weird. To me, that’s not a good enough reason to not try breastfeeding. For me, there were parts about it that I loved (the bonding, the forced slow down of my day) and parts that I hated (the pain!! and other people’s judgements about feeding lil man in public). I also regret having to stop when he was 9 months, because of my health issues. Overall, though, it was a positive experience for me.

    Between the two of us, we know a lot of moms and each one I talk to has some similar and some totally different experiences with breastfeeding, but they are all good moms, just like you!

  6. Emily W. says:

    Love your title! Love your story! I had to supplement Aanabelle beginning around 4mths and it made me feel like an utter failure. I was actually more embarrassed to bottle feed in public than to breast feed in public…how crazy is that? It was an emotional roller coaster for me. Annabelle was gaining weight up to her 2 mth appointment but then lost weight from her 2 mth to her 4 mth appt! To this day I don’t know how I or anyone else didn’t see it. EVERYONE called her petite and marveled over her beauty. She was meeting all other milestones so I wasn’t concerned.

    I got hit hard on both sides by the extremes. My regular pediatrician was on vacation so we saw the physicians assistant and she immediately wanted me to supplement, but what I heard was, “You can’t feed your baby, you are a horrible mom and you need to use formula ASAP.” I called my lactation nurse immediately (who is wonderful), but she tried to put me on a pumping regimen that was INSANE. I was suppose to pump after every feeding (feedings lasted forever to begin with). I had a 2 yr old running around, an underfed baby, and a husband working in Philly (never home). I didn’t know how I could feed my baby and make time to feed myself and my son!

    I was overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed to the max. In the end, I breast fed and supplemented with formula until she was 8 mths old, but I still feel like I could have done better. My goal was to breast feed for a year and never use formula. I thought for sure I could do it since I would be home, but life happens and things work out.
    I still cringe when someone in my family brings up that time period and refers to Annabelle as being sick or so tiny. It reactivates all my insecurities and feelings of failure. But the bottom line is that Annabelle is an AMAZINGLY STRONG and SMART little girl. And, can I just tell you that I am sooooo happy to be giving her whole milk now that she is one!

    Molar Mom, you are an awesome person and a wonderful mommy. I wish we had gotten to spend more time together when I lived in Hershey!!

    • Molar Mother says:

      I’m so sorry I’m just responding to this now! Parts of your story are so similar to mine — though yours is much, much more devastating. I remember when Annabelle was at the doctors for this!

      I am glad that she is happy and healthy and strong and smart — just like her mom — and I know when she’s an adult she’ll marvel at how much care her mom took of her. 🙂

      We need to plan a get-together to share our milk woes. 🙂

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