Friday, August 23, 2013

mama confessions : breast vs. bottle {my breastfeeding story}

Let's talk feeding.  

I currently breastfeed.  Nearly exclusively.   Women breastfeed for many reasons.  My reason is not because I firmly believe breast milk is more beneficial for babies.  It is not because we can't afford formula...even though I love being thrifty. It is not because I think there is a stronger bond between mother and baby when breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. It is not because I think it is more convenient - in fact, my personal experience is that it is messier and less convenient than bottles and formula.

I breastfeed for completely selfish reasons. I do it because I love the connected feeling I get with my baby.  We are literally physically connected, and I love the natural, organic feeling of that.  I love the feeling of the letdown.   I am in awe of the way our bodies have been created and the amazing things they do.  I love looking down at her and seeing that my body is providing her directly with nutrition that is specifically for her.  I love when she notices me watching her and makes eye contact and smiles.

So, you see, all these things bring me pleasure.  Sure, she is getting a lot out of it...but that is not my main reason.  I like what I get out of it.

My attitude even before I got pregnant the first time was that I would try my best to breastfeed as long I could.

With my first baby, my son, I had difficulty.   Oh, he latched just fine from the start and I never experienced any pain while feeding...but I don't think I quite understood how often he needed to feed.  What did I know?  I was a first-time mama who perhaps did not research breastfeeding as well as I could have.
cormac, a week old, after a feeding session 
When he would fuss an hour after I fed him I exclaim, "There is NO way he is hungry again already!"  So I would look for other ways to soothe him.  This created a hungry/frustrated baby and frustrated parents.  Then my milk supply obviously went down.  I really wasn't feeding him frequently enough.  I ignored his need to cluster-feed to boost my supply, and then when I did feed him he didn't get enough.   I figured we needed to supplement with formula.  When we supplemented I didn't pump to keep my supply going.  Another mistake. One bottle of formula a day turned into two, then three.  Then, at twelve weeks postpartum I went back to work and Cormac went all day on the bottle.  I tried to pump at work but my supply was so low by that point that I would pump for a half hour and get maybe 3 oz.  I was so frustrated and bored while pumping.  During my brief two weeks back at work Cormac fell in love with the bottle - he got a lot of milk at a time - and fast!  He was voracious!  Pretty soon he would only allow me to nurse him at night...when really it was just for comfort.   I would try to feed him during the day and by that point my milk would not let down fast enough for him.  He would scream at my breast, which made me sad and anxious, which made the letdown take longer.  Which made him scream harder and not even want to try.

Finally, at about three months, I gave up.  I felt defeated.  I felt depressed.  I felt like a complete failure.
Until my milk dried up and the hormones associated with breastfeeding left my body.

Then I felt GREAT!  I loved bottle-feeding.  I had a happier baby who ate less often and was more satisfied.  I could feed him on a schedule...and I LOVE schedules.  We could go on weekend trips and easily leave him with the grandparents.   I didn't have to mess with bulky nursing pads, ugly nursing bras, or nursing in public (which I have no problem doing, with a cover, but it was just kind of annoying.)
finally at peace with bottle-feeding (and happier!)
In the end, though I had enjoyed a lot about breastfeeding while it lasted, I was a happier mama bottle-feeding, with a happier baby.

+ + + + + + 

With baby number two I still wanted to breastfeed, for the same reasons mentioned above.  I did not make the same mistakes again and end breastfeeding earlier than desired.  So, when Finola was a newborn I fed her all the time.  She didn't even have to barely squeak and I put her to the breast.  Also, I did not give her any formula/bottles until she was a month old and I felt like my milk supply was well established.  Even then I was afraid I would jeopardize my milk, but there have been instances where I've had to leave the baby for longer than a couple hours and she needed to eat.  I wanted to make sure she had practice with a bottle and would take one if necessary.  When we do give her one, which is not often, she seems to do just fine.
after an on-the-go feeding session.
So, unlike last time, the breastfeeding has been going beautifully so far.

Maybe too well.

I'll be completely honest:  I dread weaning her off the breast, because I know how hard emotionally it is to let those hormones exit my system.  I'll be a wreck.  Also, Hubby and I want to take a long weekend trip to Chicago in a couple months, sans kiddos, and I am afraid to let her be bottle-fed for several days.  I am afraid I will be forced into a premature end.

In some ways, as bad as this will sound, I wish she would "decide for herself," like her brother did, to go to the bottle, rather than making me, her total wimp of a mama, decide to end our breastfeeding relationship.

I don't know if and when I will have the guts to...

...but when it happens I will, of course, share the rest of this story.  :)

+ + + + + + 

So what is your story?  It is National Breastfeeding Month and I post this only to share my own experience.  Everyone has their own story and opinions.  Mine is to do what makes you happiest as a mama.  Happy mamas are the best mamas.