Tuesday, March 27, 2012

{Feeding Baby}: Breast is Best

{I promise this is not the beginning of S&S turning into a baby blog or even a baby food blog; But in the interest of sharing everything I know/am always learning about food, I want to document my experiences in feeding Ella during her first year.}

During my pregnancy, I had a regular joke about breastfeeding - anytime someone asked if I planned to, I'd point to my {very, umm, blessed} chest and say "If I can't breastfeed - I'm gonna be mad at someone!" I never even imagined I would have trouble feeding my baby breast milk. But a few weeks ago, I quit giving Ella breast milk.

I took a breastfeeding class and did the standard reading of baby books and breastfeeding guides during my last few weeks of pregnancy. I bought nursing bras and a breast pump, not even considering that I might not need either.

You can read a explanation of the benefits of breastfeeding here.

I breastfed Ella within the first hour of her birth and kept her in my room at the hospital so she could feed on demand. At her "newborn" doctor's visit, the baby-nurse called me a "milk goddess" because Ella had hardly lost any weight {newborns typical lose a few ounces after birth}! But our "one week visit" did not go so well. Ella had hardly gained any thing.

We started seeing the baby-nurse weekly. Some weeks were easy.  Ella would gain a little bit and I'd feel like things were going to be good. And some weeks were really hard - Ella would be really gassy, have a weird diaper, or not gain anything - and I'd leave the doctor's office crying and we'd spend the rest of the day in bed.

We tried a lot of different things. I cut coffee, dairy, and nuts from my diet. Later, I stopped eating red meat, seafood, and soy too. I carried a little notebook around to record everything I ate and every time Ella ate and had a diaper - even in the middle of the night! I ate fenugreek tablets, drank mother's milk tea and non-aholic beer {all known to increase milk supply} morning, noon, and night. We even co-slept for a few weeks, so she could nurse constantly.

Ella's lingual frenulum was cut in hopes of improving her suck. I started using the breast pump after nursing and giving Ella that breast milk too. For weeks, I felt like a human cow, but less like a human, because my whole existence became feeding the baby. I was without sleep, without most things I liked to eat, and without anytime to myself to mentally or emotionally adjust to the huge shift that had just happened in my life.

After a particularly bad visit with the nurse during the sixth week, I had a complete breakdown. I asked my husband to turn down work {he's freelancer} so he could support me and we spent a whole week bunkered down at home.

I couldn't understand how something that was seemed so simple and natural wasn't working for me or my baby. I felt like a failure as both a woman and a mother. Maybe a little bit as a chef to, I'm trained to feed others! I hated the idea of giving Ella any formula, and I had read that once you started supplementing you had reached the beginning of the end for breastfeeding.

I had to get over myself. I thought about what Ella might say if she could talk and summed it up as this: "Mom - I'm hungry".  I cried through the whole first bottle of formula.

But guess what? It didn't kill her. It didn't kill me. I immediately saw an improvement in her bowels after the formula feedings. She was happier! I realized that with only a week of maternity leave left, I had missed a lot of time with my darling, because I was more focused on the "feeding" than the "baby".

My first week back to work, I quit pumping. Ella's two-month check up was stellar. I can drink as much coffee as I want, and some booze too. I don't love that my daughter isn't getting milk I made, but I'm happy she's healthy and growing well. And I'm really looking forward to starting cereal and solids - when I can start cooking for her.

I know there are woman out there who will strongly disagree with my choice to use formula and I welcome their comments. It was important to me to share my experience, because I struggled and felt isolated by this choice at times.

So tell me - did you breast feed? Did you ever have to supplement with formula? How did you determine what was best for you and your baby? Are you finding any particular part of feeding baby to be a challenge?

I've also started a "Feeding Baby" board over on Pinterest - feel free to follow along! 


  1. First, I want to say that I applaud you for the effort. There are many women who never give breast feeding a chance. Second, the biggest lesson I have learned in parenting is that what works for some doesn't always work for others. Breast feeding vs. formula, the baby bed vs. the family bed, staying home vs. working...the list only gets longer and more guilt ridden the older they get. The key is to rise above. Believe in your choices while never judging others for theirs. There is no one right way and thank God for that right?

    Stepping off the soap box, I can share my breast feeding history. I breast fed Lila until she was almost 8 months and Evie until almost 9 months. Both girls were incredibly efficient eaters so I never had to do the whole feed for an hour situation. Even with that bit of luck, I am aware of how much of a full on job breast feeding is. No one tells you that if you choose to breast feed you might as well have had twins because you are doing two jobs at once. Plus, if you already have a child it's more than overwhelming. Doable, but overwhelming. Evie's reflux sent me down the change your diet road as well only to realize that had nothing to do with it. It's incredibly frustrating to patiently, diligently feed your baby only to watch it all come up five minutes later. Somehow we persevered. I'm glad I stuck with it, but I only did because I could. Because my boobs allowed it. That is until between 8 and 9 months. With both girls I just slowly started to lose milk at this age (around the growth spurt). It was like nothing I did was enough and they were always hungry which is how it sounds like you felt. I slowly supplemented and weaned and just let it run out. Honestly, it took almost no time for that to happen.

    Anyway, we now live in the world of the super picky two year old and the bottomless pit almost 1 year old! I LOVE food and Lila likes maybe 3 things. I officially decided to stop trying so hard to get her to eat more things. When she's ready she will (hopefully).

    Ah the joys of eating! Love the post ;-)

    1. Oh Jana, you are so right! I'm finding one of the toughest things in navigating motherhood is all the wonderful advice. I feel so much pressure to do whats "right" and half the time I don't even know what that is! Ella's almost three month and I'm only just starting to get comfortable making choices for us, and I'm sure that will change too. I can't believe Evie is almost a year!

      What three things does Lila like to eat? :) You should do a post on that!

  2. Oh truly said ,giving birth to a child and breastfeeding both are blessings to a women given by god to them.You may have heard that breastfeeding is natural and easy or that it's uncomfortable and difficult to maintain a milk supply,this is a major concern for mothers but breast pumps can be good option for them.

  3. i love how honest this post is! and i love that you did what was best for you and your baby :) there is never a "right" way to do anything and all the pressure and advice can really break you down. i applaud you for tuning that out and thinking for you and your baby!