Actually, I Wanted to Supplement With Formula, And I Don't Apologize For That
It all started the moment I joined my very first secret parenting group on Facebook. The group was specifically for mothers like me, who were trying to breastfeed after having had a breast reduction, and the struggle of getting my baby to latch was keeping me up at night. I found myself scrolling and scrolling and reading post after post, getting lost in the chain of comments. I was what you would call a “creeper,” never posting, just reading.
Many of the comments were the same: the moms talked about round-the-clock feeding and pumping, how long it took, and how incredibly draining it was for their self-esteem. Their words made me feel like I needed to make a choice: I could breastfeed exclusively and forget about having my life or career, or I could supplement with formula.
At first, I really did want to exclusively breastfeed my baby. But after reading about the time and energy that the women in the group were putting into trying to achieve that, I felt incredibly overwhelmed. I made my decision, right then and there: supplementing with formula would be the right choice for me, and I didn't feel bad about it at all.
I was definitely apprehensive about this choice. I knew the looks that bottle-feeding women get in public, as well as the comments that fly behind your back if you aren't breastfeeding. I was also nervous about my little one going back and forth between breast and bottle: would she be too confused to eat? Was nipple confusion really a thing, as breastfeeding advocate have claimed? But most of all, I just wanted to know that my daughter was getting the nourishment that her body needed — and I didn't want it to have to be at the expense of my own sanity.
Don’t get me wrong: I commend women who are able to exclusively breastfeed. I've heard the mantra “breast is best” ad nauseam, and I know that there are many health benefits associated with breastfeeding, including boosting the baby's immune system and reducing their risk of developing asthma and eczema, among other conditions.
At a certain point, I accepted that supplementing would be my path, and I don’t apologize for that.
But I also know myself, my family and the challenges that were ahead of me already just because I was already working with fewer milk ducts as a result of my breast reduction surgery. I had a breast reduction when I was seventeen, at a point when doctors weren't nearly as cautious about making sure milk ducts remained intact for young women. It's super common for women who have had breast reductions to get a very small milk supply or to not be able to breastfeed at all.
During my first pregnancy, my doctors told me not to even try to breastfeed. Yet while I was determined to make it happen this time around, I knew that ultimately, breast wasn't best: being fed was. So at a certain point, I accepted that supplementing would be my path, and I don’t apologize for that.
There are obviously many different reasons why moms would choose to supplement with formula. I made the choice to do so because I knew it would work for us and our feeding situation. Because I had had an amazing experience formula-feeding with my first child, I knew exactly what to do the second time around. Formula feeding allowed me to bond with my son and newborn daughter and for my husband to have that bond, too. It also gave me a chance to relax and even sleep during times when our children needed to eat.
Did I cringe a little bit whenever the formula touched her sweet lips? Yes, I sure did. But I also knew that I was doing what was best for our baby.
I also supplemented with formula is because I work a lot, and I work stranger hours. While I work from home and am present in my babies' lives, my demanding schedule wasn’t going to allow for exclusive breastfeeding. My family relies on the income that I bring in, and let’s face it — if I gave that up to exclusively breastfeed, we’d be faced with a whole new set of problems.
So we started supplementing immediately, right there in the hospital after our second baby was born. Did I cringe a little bit whenever the formula touched her sweet lips? Yes, I sure did. But I also knew that I was doing what was best for our baby. She wasn’t going to get enough milk from me, and I wasn’t going to be able to put in the work to make breastfeeding a full-time thing.
Unfortunately, despite all of my efforts to breastfeed and supplement with formula, my breastfeeding journey ended when our little one was a little more than a month old. I was on every supplement imaginable, pumping and feeding around the clock, but my supply dried out, as my doctors had warned meit would.
It was a sad moment, and I cried, because it made me feel like a complete failure. But I also knew that our new little baby would never go hungry, and that my husband and I would always make informed decisions her whole life through. We both knew that killing myself to produce a few drops of breastmilk just wasn't worth it. So supplementing for us turned into full time bottle-feeding, and I couldn't be happier about our decision.