Phew. Hot topic.
It seems every time I open my Facebook feed, there are one or two posts about some breastfeeding controversy. Breast is best! Breast is offensive! That kid is too old! She didn't try hard enough! Formula is best! Use the bathroom to breastfeed! Breastfeed wherever you want!
It seems no matter what a mom does, someone is going to give her a hard time about it. There is no all-pleasing answer for women when it comes to feeding their child. So if you're a mom and you're reading this, while I chose to fight for a breastfeeding relationship with my children, I also formula fed my children, and the bottom line is, my children were fed. Go me. I hope no one judges me for giving up early with my son, and no matter what, I will not judge anyone for choosing formula over breast, or choosing donor milk over formula, as long as your choice is to feed your child.
One thing that I wish I took to heart before I started breastfeeding is that breastfeeding isn't easy. Yes, it's natural, and intended, and wonderful. But it isn't always easy. When C was born,I had nurses and lactation people in and out of my hospital room trying to make breastfeeding easy for us. Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not easy, and so many opinions and "helpers" only made things difficult. We got home, and C would go hours without eating. At one point it came down to the on-call pediatrician telling us if he went 8 hours without eating to take him into Children's. He ate about 15 minutes before the 8 hours was up. My friend Terri was instrumental in keeping me calm during this time, and I credit her with making sure everything was ok.
C and I continued to struggle though, with low supply, and what is called a bad latch. The night before I went back to work we gave him two ounces of formula, and for the first time, he knew what it was like to be full. He calmed down and was a happy kid. I started pumping at work, but the damage had been done. My supply was too low, and I was pumping less than 1/4 an ounce at a time, so from about 3.5 months on, C was formula fed. And it was ok. He was fed, he was happy, and he is now the most amazing little boy ever.
At C's last pedi appointment, we discovered that he has a lip-tie. The frenulum is connected to his gums really low, causing bad latch when nursing, and resulting in a low supply for mom. It's nice to have an answer, and to truly know that it wasn't my fault. I wish we had caught it sooner, but either way, C is good.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I was determined that this time would be different. I was going to do everything right, and I was going to succeed at breastfeeding this time around. When M was born, I started pumping immediately when we got home. I wasn't going to wait and risk a low supply. I nursed on demand, and didn't give her a bottle until she was over 4 weeks old. I was tired. But we were nursing full-time. We were going strong.
Despite all of this, M lost weight. She wasn't getting enough. I was crushed. Many, many tears were shed. I started doing everything I could to up my supply. I started taking fenugreek right when we got home from the hospital. It didn't help, and it made M fussy. I ate oatmeal with flaxseed and brewer's yeast for breakfast every single day. I ordered go-lacta. I tried more milk plus capsules. I tried goats rue. I power pumped, I tried every size of shield, finally, in desperation I rented a hospital grade pump in the hopes that the stronger suction would boost my milk supply. Nothing worked. My lactation consultant suggested I try domperidone.
It worked. Finally, I had a strong milk supply. I was pumped (heh) and was thrilled to return to full-time nursing.
Cue whomp whomp sounds. All that bottle feeding, no matter how hard we tried paced feeding, had made my little girl a bit impatient. For a long time the only time she would nurse was overnight. So I had another lactation consultant come to my home. She gave me tips and tricks, and we successfully got M to nurse during the day. Sometimes.
At this moment, we are still going. M gets 1-3 bottles of formula or pumped milk a day, but she is nursing the rest of the time. It's not what I hoped for, and it's not my ideal, but at the end of the day, we are still breastfeeding, and M is getting fed.
She is still on the 8th percentile, but she is gaining in line with that percentile, so she is ok. In a dream world we we return to full-time nursing, but I've accepted it isn't going to happen. So we will soldier on. I will nurse M as long as I can. I have reason to believe that it will be before she is one year that we have to stop (a vacation away from the kids is coming up) but however long we go, I will be happy that I made it work.
While I don't want to become a "lactivist" I do ask that when/if you see a nursing mother you realize that she is only trying to feed her child. She is not trying to offend you, and chances are that "natural" activity came harder than you can imagine. So don't stare, don't ask her to feed her child "in private" because of your own sensibilities, just continue on with your day.
Because a nursing baby is a beautiful thing.