On July 6th, Miss E turned 18 months. On that day I nursed her in the glider I hadn't used for a while. As we sat there I couldn't help but think how far we had come.
I want to be honest.
Those first few weeks were HARD! I wish people had been honest about it. The thing I heard most often was, "breastfeeding is natural, your body was made for this". Well, supposedly my body was made to have a baby, too, yet, Miss E was born via an unplanned c-section after 12+ hrs in the hospital. I couldn't push her out, but that's a story for another day.
Anyway here's what I want to say: while I agree formula should not be pushed on anyone, I do believe if used "properly" it can be helpful to a nursing mother. My intent is not to judge how someone chooses to feed their child, but to share how it was beneficial in my own breastfeeding journey. I can already hear the gasps and tsk, tsks from lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates. But you know what? I don't think I'd still be breastfeeding if supplementing hadn't been suggested.
As a new mom, I was worried about Miss E's lethargy. Her latch was pretty good, but getting her to take an interest in nursing was a bigger problem. I felt that maybe this wasn't the way it should be. I talked to the nurses and they mentioned it to the pediatrician. On his next rounds, he asked me about my concerns and I expressed them. He then shared with me that in his family, his wife, also a pediatrician, struggled with breastfeeding their first child. He said that with all the studies out there, they didn't want to chance nipple confusion by introducing a bottle. It was different with their second child. After much research they decided that supplementing with formula wouldn't be so bad. Their second child was a better breastfeeder. He explained that since my milk hadn't come in yet, Miss E was using a lot of energy for little return and that could be causing the lethargy. He then explained to me how to supplement if I chose to do so. At each feeding, I was instructed to put Miss E to each breast for 10 mins, and only after that was I to give her a bottle. We only did it for her first week. After that I was comfortable enough that my milk had come in and felt she was nursing better.
So what's my point with all this?
I had resolved to breastfeed Miss E, but I know if I had continued to worry about whether or not she was getting what she needed, my resolve may have faltered. Having the formula available allowed me to continue to try breastfeeding without the fear that she would starve. It was a real fear for me, especially after my body "failed" at another natural process, birth. With the formula available, I stressed less about nursing. I knew that if it turned out I couldn't nurse, I had a back up plan.
We also have to be careful when we put so much emphasis on how much of a "superwoman" someone is for breastfeeding. Statements like that neglect the fact that although breastfeeding is natural, not all bodies are made to do it. We would never make a diabetic feel bad for not being able to produce insulin. I think because of my experience, I don't understand why we get into "breastfeeding versus formula feeding mommy wars". Shouldn't the point be that we are feeding our children? There are so many reasons why people choose to breastfeed and there are probably just as many reasons why people choose not to. The important thing for us to remember is cliched, but true. We haven't walked in another woman's shoes and therefore shouldn't judge her decisions.