A woman is standing at the front of the room with a knit scarf that has a large breast on each end. There are baby dolls lying on tables in front of each couple and 70+ PowerPoint slides covered in text from top to bottom that are meticulously read instead of just a couple of bullet points… this was our version of hell.
My husband and I are preparers, we like to have things ready to go and know exactly what is going to happen. That is how we found ourselves listening to a lady with a monotone voice go over how to properly massage the nipple at 8pm on a weekday. Friends of ours had opted to take the parenting course that was covered all on a Saturday but we didn’t want to give up our time for that so we opted into the once a week for four weeks course. Everything about the course up until the last one on breastfeeding had been great and not as awkward. Then this lady happened…
“Breast is Best”
I tried to be as serious as possible while she droned on about colostrum and statistics on why breastfeed kids are smarter and healthier. The only thing mentioned about formula is that the formula companies try to get you hooked on it because it is easier and that it isn’t as good for babies and is full of fat. By the end, I was indoctrinated into the breast only way of thinking. We were going to breastfeed P and that was that.
What the breastfeeding expert and what “expert” moms on Facebook walls with way too much time don’t mention is that sometimes babies can’t drink milk. Baby P wouldn’t latch at the hospital and the breastfeeding expert they had on staff didn’t really help at all. She came and talked to me for a total of 15 minutes and left saying she would be back later… she wasn’t. We started freaking out because P hadn’t eaten since she was born and it was a day later. “She’s going to the bathroom so she’s fine,” they said. It was not fine… I was not fine. I was supposed to breastfeed and I took a class, this was a breast is best hospital, why is no one helping me.
We spoke with the head pediatric doctor who said that if we wanted there was emergency breast-milk they could use if she still wasn’t eating. We weren’t fans of that but it was better than formula. In the middle of the night, she still had not eaten and we gave in to the idea of the emergency milk. We called nurses in to talk with them. The magical emergency breast-milk that was available wasn’t actually available… it was for babies in the NICU. Why they offered it to us, we still don’t know.
At this point, we had been at the hospital for four days and I hated everything. The hospital had a baby always in the room policy so they never took her out. She laid there screaming her head off all day and all night, she was hungry. They brought in a pump for me to use which didn’t do anything and I was stressed, exhausted and felt like a failure. How could I not feed my own child? Had I not carried her 9 months, dealt with illness and given birth to her? Why couldn’t I do this one last thing?
They had told us that the milk doesn’t come in for a couple of days but it took longer than that for me and breastfeeding was extremely painful. It felt like a million needles every time we tried to get her to latch and I hated it. I started resenting “breast is best” and everything that went along with it. My husband was supportive and encouraged me to keep trying which made me want to punch him. It was painful, she hated it, I hated it and nothing was happening. Sometimes she would latch properly but then a second later, she would change position and it was wrong again.
I switched to pumping because we needed to get something for her and used bottles to feed her at least something. For the first month, I pumped all of the time, tried feeding her all of the time and cried. She was crying all of the time if she wasn’t sleeping, she would wretch in pain and we didn’t know why. P screamed all night long and we took shifts holding her and having her sleep on our chest in the living room. I’m thankful my husband was home because I think I would have gone crazy alone. I resented pumping because it took forever and sometimes it wouldn’t be enough. I wasn’t eating enough, drinking enough water, had no energy and just wanted to sleep. My C-section was still healing, I couldn’t lift P on my own and I was taking pills for the surgery induced anemia all while hating myself for being a failure.
P is Sick
P started having a rash, would eat a little and then writhe in pain and scream at the top of her lungs. It was rough on all of us and nothing seemed to be getting better. She was almost 2 months old and it hadn’t changed at all. Everyone kept telling us that newborns cry, but we knew there had to be something wrong. I started researching it and everything was pointing at a milk allergy. We didn’t even know babies could be allergic to milk (thanks 4 hour long breastfeeding class). We switched to some different formulas that were supposed to be for allergies but they all still had milk protein in them so she was still sick. My husband had taken her to one doctor who said I would have to cut out a ridiculous amount of things that didn’t even have milk protein in them so we could keep breastfeeding. We tried to cut it out but it was impossible for us.
We had been down for so long that we said f that guy and tried a special formula that didn’t have any milk protein in it at all. If someone asked me to prove to them magic exists, I would show them the difference Alimentum made with P. The day we switched her to that formula we took her to a different doctor and she was a completely different baby. She was sleeping, alert and exhausted from a month of trying to ingest something that was making her sick. The doctor confirmed the allergy and she’s been on the formula ever since.
If it would have been mentioned that babies can be allergic to milk then we wouldn’t have put her through being ill her first month alive. We were so obsessed with “breast is best” that we couldn’t see it. I don’t blame the breastfeeding instructor because her job was to teach us how to breastfeed (and bore us to death). I don’t blame the hospital because I’m sure a lot of first time parents are crazy and worried about their kids and I don’t even blame judgy moms on Facebook because they aren’t experts. I do think we need to make it a more widely known fact that babies can be allergic and what signs to look for.
People are so quick to judge moms who accidentally starve their babies because they are trying to breastfeed but unless you’ve been there you don’t know. You don’t know if the baby is getting anything. It doesn’t feel like a water hose that is turned on in your breast. All of the people with their nose turned up at bottle feeding, formula feeding and any other alternative that isn’t dangerous to the child should mind their own business. I feed my daughter formula because I have to. I wanted to breastfeed her, I wanted her to have the healthiest start that she could and the best way for P is via formula. Breast isn’t always best… fed is best. A happy healthy baby with a full tummy is always best.