So here it is: an explanation. Not because I need to justify myself. But for the comfort of moms out there who have been to hell and back with breastfeeding and feel the need to bury their head in shame when whipping out a bottle of (gasp!) formula for Baby. Me, I'm pretty unashamed at this point, but I have my moments – the ones where I wish my bottle had I TRIED – HONEST! stamped on it.
It started with my oldest. I just assumed that all I needed was the patience and fortitude to withstand those first couple of weeks of breastfeeding. My milk didn't come in, and woman at the Le Leche League was little comfort – insisting that I NOT under any circumstance, feed my newborn a bottle. What the Le Leche League could not know (that my motherly instincts were telling me) was that my poor little girl was starving. By late the second day with no milk, I decided to supplement. No one had given me "permission" but I was worried. By the time we got to her pediatrician she was jaundiced and near hospitalization. The nurse practicioner gave me some great breastfeeding help, as well as strict instructions to continue supplementing with a fast nipple to get her weight up. Between breastfeeding, supplementing, and pumping, I got zero to no sleep and effectively lacerated my chest in pursuit of this ideal. The nurse who followed up with me some weeks later could see I was desperate and needed someone's validation. Mercifully, she gave me a gift: permission to stop. She assured me I'd done everything any sane mother could have and that it was time to give it up. She insisted that I would still bond, that my child would not come to hate me just because she was bottle-fed, and that everything would indeed be okay. Besides, I planned to have a second child. I could try again then.
I'll make that story more brief. Same problem. No milk, sleepless nights, lots of counting ounces and worrying about production, getting prescriptions, drinking tea, etc, etc, etc. I basically missed truly enjoying those first weeks of my Ashlyn's life in pursuit of this breastfeeding thing. But by the time I gave it up it was too late…Ashlyn was used to waking every two hours, I was starting to become sleep-deprived, and unwittingly on my way to a downward spiral. At some point, between those sleepless first few weeks, and the sleepless weeks where Ashlyn started to "wake up," coupled with my insane idea that I should take ALL the nighttime feedings – I broke down altogether. To be fair, it wasn't just a lack of sleep. It turns out there were other things going on. But the sleep deprivation probably sent me over the edge.
This time around, I decided far in advance: my milk supply could feed a small country and I would still choose the bottle. At this point I know bonding isn't dependent on breastfeeding (although I certainly see why mothers feel closer through such a nurturing experience). If anything, I am more able to bond with and enjoy my Little Man because I don't have ounces and production and supply and "every two hours" hanging over my head. I'm able to simply enjoy him.
I'm the odd one out in my demographic, I know. And I am entirely supportive of my breastfeeding friends who brave some really tough stuff in order to give that gift to their child. But the gift I desperately wanted to give my children this time around was a sane, healthy mom. I resented the idea that everyone who chooses to bottlefeed is somehow making a lazy, uneducated choice. I stand steadfast in my decision, having looked at all of my options and weighing the possible risks (including another expensive outpatient stint in intensive therapy), and I choose sleep. I choose the ability to run errands, to enlist the help of my husband in feeding, and a certain freedom to just stare at my guy during feeding and breathe him in without wincing in pain, checking his latch, and crossing my fingers that he got enough.
I love the idea of breastfeeding…I know there are some things I'm missing out on. But we've considered it all, and quickly concluded bottlefeeding was our healthiest option. Because, as we all know, "if momma isn't happy…"