Monday, July 22, 2013

Mourn and Release: Breastfeeding

This post is last in a series of posts where I'm facing things that I have to give up or change because of my cancer diagnosis.  The introduction to the series is here.  Here are the specific posts about homebirth and homeschooling.



Look at the picture above...what do you see?  If you became a mother after the year 2000 you probably see a symbol for FAILURE.  If you're really loopy you likely see evidence of NEGLECT and proof that the user of said item WILL NEVER BOND, WILL HAVE ASTHMA, WILL BE OBESE,  WILL HAVE TYPE 2 DIABETES, WILL NOT LEARN, WILL BE AN AX MURDERER!!!!!!!   Most men and older mothers (i.e. sane people) see a baby bottle.

Breastfeeding is a big deal.  Especially in the last 10-15 years.  Well, actually, it's been a big deal since the dawn of man, then it was down for the count, now it is BACK WITH A VENGEANCE BABY and we will be damned if we're gonna go back again.  And that's good, because breastfeeding is good.  But, BUT--some mothers and babies can't do it.  Legit CAN'T.  Not won't--CAN'T.  Now lest you get up in arms (I can hear it now "studies have shown", "you need to find the right consultant", BLAHH!!!), let me tell you a bit about how much I believe breastfeeding is good and how much I support it.  This is my breastfeeding history:

Owen-  Nursed 28 months including 4 months of pregnancy #2

Madeleine- Nursed 32 months including ALL of pregnancy #3  and then in tandem with Anna for 7 months of pregnancy #4

Anna- Nursed in tandem with Madeleine for 16 months until the 7th month of pregnancy #4 because 3 babies + 2 boobs is not a balanced equation.

Julia- Nursed 41 months (<---Full discolsure:  Even I think that's nuts.) through all of pregnancy #5 and in tandem with Adam until my diagnosis forced me to ween them both in March of this past year.

Adam- Nursed 18 months in tandem with Julia

Some of that math may be off by a month here or there but you get the gist.  So...if you have a question about nursing, I'm your go to gal.  Fo realz.  I think the kids call it "street cred".  Anyway, I put that out there in all it's gory detail to show you that I am a breastfeeding supporter, some might even look at my history and call me a fanatic.  Really, I'm just lazy.  Breastfeeding isn't easy, it actually kinda sucks (pun both intended and not intended) a lot of the time, but it fits my personality because you can't forget to bring something with you that's attached to your body.  It takes a lot of commitment and stamina but there's nothing to wash.  I never intended to be that girl described above.  If you had told me when I was 6 weeks into nursing Owen that 9 years down the line I'd have racked up that much nursing time I would have probably ended you.  But you get used to it, and if you're like me you don't exactly love it--some of the time you HATE it, but you're glad you're doing it and soon it's all you know.

Fast forward to present day.  I can't nurse this little girl.  I'm packing poison and so obviously this dairy is closed for business.  I can't really explain how I feel about this except sad and nervous.  Sad because she won't have the same thing her brothers and sisters had and it is the best option.  Sad because while I don't love nursing, I love loving my babies that way.  Nervous because after 5 babies I'm basically going back to newbie status.  I have NO CLUE about this formula/bottlefeeding thing.  NO CLUE.  I asked my pediatrician (who we love) about it and he was like "You just...open the bottle...put in the formula...and feed it to them.".  I had no idea our beloved pediatrician was also a comedian.  I'd also like to to add that he is a HUGE breastfeeding supporter and has two amazing lactation consultants on staff.  This is not a man/doctor who doesn't take the benefits of breastfeeding very seriously.

Breastfeeding is pretty much: move shirt, feed baby.  Don't get me wrong there is a learning curve, but the choices are limited.  What I know nothing about is what bottle do I open and with what kind of nipple and then what formula do I put in it and then how much do I give the baby?  When you're nursing you just have to remember left or right.  Now with this bottle business I have to make sure I get the right kind of bottles and do you know there is not ONE kind of soy free baby formula available in the United States?  I can't use the water from the tap to mix it and do I need a bottle warmer?  Do I have to sterilize them every goodness gracious time I use them?  Holy moley.  That's a lot to figure out. That's A LOT of extra work.

We're blessed to have some very generous women pumping milk for our little girl so that she will still get at least some of the benefits of breast milk.  Gratitude doesn't even begin to cover how I feel for these women. Do you have any idea how tedious and time consuming and inconvenient pumping is?  It is the WORST.  I hate it.  I could barely force myself to bother with it for my own kids so we could leave them alone with a sitter every once in a while.  Which incidentally, is a big reason working Mamas are heroes.  Working Mamas who pump every goodness gracious day more than once a day are Grade A a** kickers.  So anyhoo, THESE LADIES are pumping for a baby that's not even theirs.  Do you realize that means they're already nursing their OWN baby, most of them also have other children, and they are taking on this massive inconvenience to help out someone else's baby?  Women are awesome.  Every precious ounce our little girl gets will be a gift of the highest magnitude and I am humbled by this generosity.  It eases my mind and heart a bit while I contemplate the fact that the next time someone posts a formula recall on Facebook, I'll have to worry about it.

Let's face it ladies, if you nurse, you know that's one area you get to look like a "Good Mom" without even trying.  If other Moms see you nursing it's like they check a box and you're cleared from a certain level of scrutiny.  I've never encountered someone who was openly judgmental towards a bottle feeding Mama, but I also know it is something that they often feel terribly sensitive about.  I know I will.  I used to think "Don't worry about it, you know what's best for your family!  Who cares what other Mamas think?".  You're an idiot Nella.  EVERY Mom cares about what EVERY OTHER Mom thinks about her.  The first time I have to take a bottle of formula out in front of other breastfeeding Moms that I don't know I will probably be more nervous than the first time I nursed in public.  I will probably want to explain myself.  I will have to get over that because it doesn't  matter.  Breastfeeding is the best choice for babies, but it doesn't automatically follow that formula is poison.  My breastmilk is poison.  Just because there are health benefits to breastmilk, doesn't mean my formula fed baby will be doomed to a lifetime of health problems and added bonus: she won't starve to death.

You know the number one reason I will never explain my bottle using ways to anyone?  BECAUSE NO OTHER BOTTLE FEEDING MOM SHOULD HAVE TO EITHER.  Period.  There is probably at least one breastfeeding Mom who started reading this post thinking "Well of course you have a good reason to use formula, but (fill in the blank).".  I know because a year ago there is a chance I would have read a post like this and thought a thought like that.  Ewww.  Shameful.  It's not enough for us to think things and not say them fellow Mothers.  We need to banish this kind of judgement from our hearts and give each other the benefit of the doubt (I'm looking in the mirror-ok really the reflective computer screen--with a very stern look on my face AT MYSELF while I type this.)  My reason for bottle feeding is no more valid than any other woman's.  I will not explain myself because NO WOMAN should have to explain the choices she makes for her family and NO OTHER WOMAN should purport to know what is best for every baby.

Beyond that, while breastfeeding is free, it is often possible because of privilege.  I could be the crazy breastfeeding lady because I could stay home.  Had I been working it would have been hard but I would have been in a white collar environment where pumping would not have been easy but it would have been possible.  I honestly probably would not have been tough enough to keep pumping and turned to formula anyway.  I had a supportive spouse.  I had many many advantages that made it possible for me to nurse.  All that nursing was really difficult, but it was a challenge I could accept because there were factors in place in my life to support me.  When I'm making a sacrifice, and it is a sacrifice to breastfeed your baby, I can start to see myself as some kind of hero or martyr, rather than who I really am--a woman of privilege who has the luxury of the best because of the sacrifices of others.  Say it with me:  "GET OVER YOURSELF NELLA!!!".

So.  Bottle feeding Mamas:  I need your help!  What bottles, nipples, formula, or any other gadget/paraphernalia do I need to know about?  What can I expect?  What takes out a breastfeeding nazi faster, a drop kick or a left hook?  Help a girl out!

19 comments:

  1. First of all, thanks for this post. You don't know how many times I felt like I needed to explain why we have used formula, and still got "the look" or very insensitive comments from people. I wrote to you already about formula, but just wanted to chime in about the whole bottle thing/sterilizing. We use the regular old Evenflow glass bottles or the Born Free glass bottles (which are way pricier but those nipples and vents seem to work better when my babies are very young). The Evenflow are affordable, and available everywhere (Target, Walmart, even TOPS) and glass. I sterilize before first use and then once a week when the babies are very young (like the first 4 months). After that, just wash like the rest of dishes. The amount you feed is very dependent on the baby. Generally they start with 1-2 ozs when they are born and go up from there (1 oz per month is a good guide at first, but like I said, it's up to the baby). I like do not use a bottle warmer, I just warm it up in a measuring cup with hot water, but a bottle warmer is easier and faster, which comes in handy in the beginning. There is that wait time for the bottle as opposed to just letting them nurse. Obviously, the longer they need to wait, the more they will fuss. And if I can give one most important piece of advice, it is to BURP. BURP. BURP. Every 1 ozs, especially if the baby spits up a lot, which formula fed babies tend to do more of. This really helps. They swallow more air when they drink from a bottle, so this is really important, or you will experience major spit ups, not to mention gas (NOT FUN). Don't worry Nella, it's not that complicated, I think once you get in the routine, it'll be piece of cake. Just keep a watch on those poops...formula tends to constipate.

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    1. Thank you! Burping-check. That will be a change, I'm a VERY lazy burper. Poop-check. I've heard that it's very different. You might get some calls from me as I figure this out!

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  2. Jillian bartholomewJuly 22, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Sweetie, as a working mom, i breast fed and bottle fed. Your child will know the love you have for him or her long after a bottle or breast. I could not physically nurse after 3 months with Ava and 2 months with Andrew because i could not keep enough weight on for my health and to feed the baby. (I know, slap the skinny bitch now). I felt like a complete failure. James told me he liked to feed the baby too because it helped him bond more. You are lucky to have a house full of loving people to bond with your new gift while you continue to heal.
    Bottle thoughts...Tommy Tippie is my absolute favorite. (Target and babies r us) It is the only bottle that never leaks! Besides a bottle cleaner scrubbie and a bottle drying rack, you don' t needmuch more. I used emfamil with both of my kids and it was a good product. You can get coupons and free samples if you go to their website.
    Formula poop is completely different, brace yourself for a visible and smelly change. :)

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    1. Jill, you're so right about Daddy feeding the baby. I'm actually looking forward to that. The kids are really looking forward to "nursing baby sister". That is a huge blessing. Thanks for the recommendations too. PS. You don't need to hear it from me, but you're an awesome Mom and I'm not surprised about that one bit.

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  3. it's so difficult to leave the choices you've made behind and accept what is given to you when it's not what you'd choose if given the choice. Cancer strips so much choice away... just keep swimming, just keep swimming is not just a mantra for treatment but life as a whole while in treatment. I learned this while Stella was inpatient in the Peds wing of Roswell. Nothing we were doing was ideal and nothing was our choice it seemed. We were told when and what treatments were ahead of us and we just needed to figure out where my son, Nigel, would go - not that I could have my first, second or third choices on his caregivers some of the time if A, B & C were busy. I don't know how you are doing all you are STILL doing as I'm sure you are still doing more than I do in any day. Nursing is hard because it's just what you've done... I never weaned without medical intervention. Stella was 18 mo and I was preggers with Nigel and had hyper-emisis - I went to the hospital for hydration and never nursed her again. Nigel was 20 mos and I had to have a CT with contrast and it meant no nursing for 24 hours so no more after that... I wanted more than two kids but I think Nigel's pregnancy and my Fibromyalgia was God's plan so I wouldn't have more kids to worry about when Stella was in treatment and Nigel was safe for 6 hours a day in school... It's what I've told myself to come to terms with not having more kids as I had deeply wished for before I had Nigel... I had the Dr trying to talk me into tying my tubes before he was even born! Sometimes it's not worth the questions but to keep saying to yourself "just keep swimming, just keep swimming" in Dory's voice to get you through along with lots of prayers. You're always in my thoughts Nella! <3

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    1. Thank you Anon ;) You are one of the strongest, bravest warrior Moms I will ever know. You don't know how I'm doing it? You've done more in the last 2 years than I will ever do. Stella and Nigel are blessed to have you as their Mama! Your courage and Stella's inspire me daily. I most certainly WILL keep swimming. If you and Stella can do it, then I will too.

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  4. Nella, for me this was the hardest part of going thru chemo....not being able to nurse. I know you don't want to hear this and I probably am making you cry....but really....I cried the most over bottle feeding my infant than when I got my diagnosis. I was able to breastfeed the first two and half months...then the ct with contrast and other test started and I had to stop cold turkey. Hurt like hell! But the pain of having to give him a glass bottle was worse. And you know what, my son was given cheap formula (parents choice) and a variety of bottles....only sterilized before first use and with refrigerator filtered water and he is now a happy loving terrible two year old. He's even a mamas boy! :). Your baby will be just fine and grow healthy and happy just being with you. Thank God they love unconditionally. You on the other hand will deal with post part umm pregnancy hormones telling you the bottle is cruel and unusual punishment. Don't listen to the hormones! Just enjoy your little blessing during your tribulation. God will get you thru it. And knowing you want to be there for this new love in your life will keep you moving forward. That's what got me thru and pushing forward. There was NO other way. God bless you and your family. I'm praying for you!

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    1. Thank you Tm, your Mama's boy is so blessed. I appreciate hearing that this bottle stuff isn't as complicated as it seems. You're right, they DO love unconditionally. Thank you for reminding me :).

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  5. Followed a link from Mary and just want to say I nursed two and bottle fed two. All smart in their own ways, all healthy except the two breastfed have terrible allergies (one life-threatening) and the two bottle fed have no allergies at all. But they did have to have their tonsils out -- weird connection. Anyway-- it's all good in its own way. It has to be. If I had it to do all over again I'd use glass bottles, but I don't even know if they make them anymore. And rubber nipples. I used plastic bottles and heated them in the micro and now I could shoot myself. Now I'm a plastic phobe.

    I will keep you and your little one in my prayers. She'll be just fine!

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    1. Welcome Barbara! Thank you so much for stopping by. It's easy to forget breastfeeding is not a guarantee against health issues. We could all stand to be reminded there are no guarantees. Thanks for your prayers, they are so appreciated!

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  6. I followed Barbara's link to your blog...and I've got a lot to say about nursing. I have IGT (meaning my body never developed the tissue needed for milk production) so I also use formula. I use a supplementer at the breast for the first few months, then move on to bottles.

    I've found the Born Free bottles to be the best out there, no leaking! We've used both glass and plastic models. The glass should not be given to an unattended 11 month old who can toss things on to ceramic tile floors :)

    About formula, honestly, I've found the Target Brand Gentle Formula to be the best for my children. I've used it with the last two and no issues with gas or constipation. You can also buy it online from their website, no need to go to the store.

    And those people who judge at your use of a bottle, I have found holding my head high while reaching for the bottle tends to keep the dirty looks away, or at least allows me to ignore them. I've never felt comfortable explaining my situation because I can hear the responses "Well you need to nurse more, or try this herb...." and anything I say sounds like an excuse for not wanting to bf. I do explain my situation to women who are friends or if breastfeeding comes up in conversation. I've also talked about it on my blog. So I don't know if a left hook or not :)

    Finally, I have five kids, all of them have been on formula, and they all seem fine :)

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    1. Thank you Beth! Based on the pictures on your blog your kids are a resounding endorsement for formula :) Thank you for the recommendations and absolutely note to self, no glass bottles for toddlers.

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  7. It could be that I have rushed through reading this blog post and comments and that what I am about to say has already been covered. If that happened, then just read this as "I'm praying for you." k?

    As Jillian said, formula poop stinks. Formula puke also stinks. More importantly, both of these can stain. It's possible to wash clothes and diapers with formula poop and puke on them and think that they are clean and then they come out of the dryer with stains on them—heat-treated, intractable stains. Yeah, there are worse things than having slightly stained clothes and diapers, but why have them if you don't have to?

    I don't know how to avoid them. When we had our kids, I had to work full time. And the milk that I pumped at work didn't stay fresh from Friday through Monday no matter what we did. Plus I couldn't manage to nurse longer than seven months with any of the kids—being forced to work full time probably didn't help, and going through this in the '80s (when nursing was almost counter-cultural) didn't help, either. So anyway, my kids were partly nursed, partly bottle-fed with my milk, and partly formula-fed.

    It could be that it would work to air-dry the clothes that get baby excretions on them. I know that the heat of the dryer sets some formula stains, so a solar dryer (read: clothesline) might help. But I don't know.

    Whatever happens, I am praying for you and that sweet little baby!

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    1. Thank you Melissa, I'm not the queen of the laundry anyway so we might be thanking our lucky stars that as the 4th girl a lot of her wardrobe will be hand me downs. Maybe when Mama's stuff get's stained I'll be thankful for the excuse to replace things that have been in heavy rotation for more years than I care to admit ;). I really admire the Mom's who work and pump and manage all of that, you ladies are way more together than I could ever hope to be.

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  8. I nursed my oldest three but after having our fourth baby I nearly died and as a result never produced enough breast milk to feed her. I pumped a measly 6 whole ounces a day for 6 weeks but it just wasn't going to happen. She is now 2 1/2 and just as smart, crazy, healthy as the rest of them. We used Costco's store brand formula and the cheap bottles from Walmart, I figured it was best to start cheap and then change to more expensive items if she needed it.

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    1. Hi Heather, I'm glad you and your little girl are ok! All of these comments are showing me that I can relax about this! Thank you so much!

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  9. I couldn't produce enough milk with either of my boys, so supplemented with both of them. We loved the Playtex VentAire Advanced bottles with wide nipples. We used Similac for one baby, Enfamil for the other. I noticed no difference -- I just chose one over the other based on whatever coupons we were getting at the time. Re: sterilizing, we boiled all the pieces when our babies were newborns, but once they got older, we just used the dishwasher. Also, our pediatrician told us that if we were on city water, we could use the tap water to mix the formula. (Which was great, because then we didn't even need to heat the bottles -- we'd just adjust the temperature on the tap water to what we wanted.) If you have well water, there's a chance it has bacteria in it, so then I think you'd need to do something else. Best of luck with it all!

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  10. Thanks Julie! We DO have city water...good to know! It's such a relief to see that bottles/formula, etc. is pretty individual.

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  11. Oh my gosh, so I posted your article yesterday about abortion, and someone said, 'have you read her breastfeeding one'. So I thought I'd come check it out. I am in love with this post.
    On the facebook, I read this comment last year (one should never read 'thefacebook' comments). An adoptive mother had admitted breastfeeding wasn't going to happen. This woman posted, 'as a breastfeeding advocate, let me assure you, we would never judge an adoptive parent for not being able to breastfeed'. Although I am sure the sentiment was lovely, I thought to myself, 'well, as a breastfeeding advocate, who exactly do you think you can judge for not breastfeeding?'.
    It's a year later....maybe I should let that go! :)

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