Today is the second and final part of sharing your baby feeding experiences. It’s so important to hear various experiences and perspectives, and to support one another through the journey of motherhood. I’m incredibly grateful to all of you for taking the time to share your stories. You can read part one here and my own personal experience here.
Baby Feeding Experiences
When our surrogate was about a month pregnant I started researching induced lactation, which is a way for a non-birthing parent (usually a mom via surrogate or adoption, mom whose partner gave birth, or trans man) to produce milk and breastfeed. I decided to try the Newman-Goldfarb Protocol, which consists of six months of birth control and Domperidone, then stopping birth control and pumping around the clock for 6-10 weeks.
It. Was. So. Hard. I gained twenty pounds from the meds, which made me feel sluggish and depressed, and eight weeks of pumping before Naomi was even born left me totally exhausted. (I slept on the couch for about two months so I wouldn’t wake my husband overnight). I also had to find a way to pump at work, which led to lots of uncomfortable conversations about why I needed a lactation room.
By the time she was born, though, I was making 12 ounces a day and was super encouraged. And then, of course, you bring an actual baby into the picture and all of a sudden things are 90% outside of your control. She had a weak latch. She only wanted to nurse from one side. She would not let me use the supplemental nursing system no matter what.
After one week, about a month in, where I was constantly triple feeding (breastfeed, pump, feed the pumped milk back to her) I was losing my mind. We pretty quickly switched to bottles, and I started exclusively pumping. Another month passed and while exclusive pumping was working really well, we were also tearing through our freezer stash of the 300 oz or so I’d pumped before she was born (which was truly amazing to have). While our surrogate had also pumped for us, she had a very low supply and was only able to pump a few days’ worth before stopping.
I knew supplementing with formula was probably in our future. That was a horribly difficult decision; I felt like I’d put so much work in and this would signal failure. I’d pumped for months! Gained a ton of weight! Bought nursing bras! I had a really hard time wrapping my mind around quitting, but I got a lot of positive feedback from friends, who told me once you’re debating formula, it’s time to let yourself do it. I also had a appointment with a lactation consultant who specializes in induced lactation, and with her I committed to a very intense and rigid pumping schedule. At the same time, I pulled the trigger on buying formula, just in case.
Just having the formula in the house ended up being amazing for helping me let go of what I “should” be doing and just focus on my baby being well-fed. I very quickly realized I didn’t have it in me to exclusively pump around the clock anymore, and we started supplementing with formula. After another month or so, I had to decide whether to extend my pump rental from the hospital. Walking over with Naomi to return it felt sad but so freeing. Even though she was only three months old, I’d been pumping for five months and was just so tired. Now, she’s a healthy and extremely wild eight-month-old and is exclusively formula fed. (Fun fact: five months after quitting pumping and six months off the meds, I am STILL lactating. Did I briefly consider trying to start breastfeeding again during the coronavirus lockdown? Yes I did, and then quickly talked myself out of it.)
While I don’t regret the effort I put into breastfeeding my baby (it was an amazing bonding experience), I don’t think I’d do it again and wish I’d known how hard it would be before I started. There were a lot of success stories out there that encouraged me and I didn’t really understand the different factors that make one person more successful than another at inducing lactation.
I’m a first time mom of an almost 5 month old and I’m exclusively breastfeeding. I also pump about every other day, however my baby will not take a bottle. Sometimes it’s hard truly being the only one that can feed her, but it’s also empowering. My attitude was to take it day by day, then week by week, then month by month. The first few days I was in so much pain and wanted to give up, but I had a lactation consultant come and it was the best decision I could have ever made! She helped show me how to get my baby to latch appropriately and almost immediately all pain went away. Breastfeeding is now one of my favorite things and I feel grateful that I’m able to do it!
My daughter will be 3 in a month and when she was born I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed. But after 3 weeks (give or take) I just wasn’t producing nearly enough and had a hungry/fussy baby 99% of the time which definitely didn’t help my production. Plus I had 0 support besides a husband – who was working full time. Alas, I called the doctor one day with a baby who wouldn’t stop crying and obviously sobbed myself. I was advised to give her an ounce or two of formula after I fed her which I started to do and it made a world of difference. Happy mommy, happy baby! Happy baby is a fed baby! I slowly increased her formula and started to give her a bottle between breastfeeding, which was amazing. My husband was able to feed her and I had a break on occasion. All experiences are different and it’s GREAT you’re open to hearing other experiences and sharing them. No woman should be in this alone – we need to support each other, not judge!
I had a double mastectomy a few years ago (preventative surgery, both breasts removed, because I am BRCA 1 positive, which increases my risk of breast cancer a ton), so I had zero option to breastfeed. I didn’t experience any of the boob growth, milk coming in, etc. My boobs had zero involvement in my pregnancy, and then zero to do with feeding. I was super sad about this prior to my surgery, when I thought about future babies, and this “lost opportunity” – but I must say, it is totally ok now that I’m here with my baby!
Delilah is almost 5 months old, and she has been bottle fed since she came into the world, and girl is thriving! She’s always been gaining weight steadily, and sleeps LIKE A CHAMP! I’m talking through the night a whole bunch of times as early as around 6 weeks! So, I would have to go ahead and say that formula has been great for her. I am using the standard, Enfamil, nothing fancy or organic etc… I’d like to look into that, but honestly, it’s expensive. I’ve attempted getting insurance coverage for formula because I am physically unable, but I haven’t had any success.
I must say, there are definitely formula-shamers out there. Most of my girlfriends, without the intention of being one, have been, at some point or another. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get upset or offended, because I know they don’t mean to do it – but I certainly notice it. It usually comes in the form of speaking very highly of breastfeeding and its benefits, which sort of inherently disses formula feeding without even coming out and saying it.
Has the thought crossed my mind that I might be missing a unique experience with my daughter? Of course! But I also firmly believe that I have bonded with my baby just as strongly as those mothers who breastfeed.
I have three children. My first, I breastfed until he was 6 months. I worked in a restaurant and was unable to pump, therefore this was difficult to maintain for that long. Then we formula fed and he was actually much happier once we made the switch. My second, I breastfed until he was 18 months. I worked in an office and was able to pump regularly. I was even able to regularly donate extra milk to another mother. My third, I breastfed until he was 10 months. Again, I was able to pump at work but not as regularly. We started supplementing formula around 8 months.
The first time I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t introduce pumping into my routine at all before I went back to work. I basically gave up after that. My second, I was dedicated and started pumping in the hospital. I pumped when he wasn’t nursing to build up my supply. The challenge came when I went back to work and he wouldn’t take a bottle. He was this way nearly the entire time, therefore I had a ton of extra milk. My third time around I had a slow start. I did not respond to a pump for nearly a month. The only way I could build a supply was with a haaka. I knew my baby was getting milk nursing, but for some reason I could not express milk when I tried to pump. It was so frustrating and made going back to work stressful. The entire time I didn’t respond to any type of pump well, I had to start introducing formula around 8 months. I tried everything to get up a supply and finally decided it wasn’t worth the stress, frustration, and lack of sleep. I also really ended up not enjoying pumping at all due to this.
I loved nursing my babies, I loved the connection I felt to them when I was nursing. It is so nice when night feedings happen and I can just pull babe in bed with me and fall back to sleep while they nurse. It is also nice to transition to formula because then Dad can help out. It’s a lot of responsibility on the mother when she is the only one able to feed baby. My second born is still 100% reliant on me and I wonder if it’s because he would only nurse and would not take a bottle.
My biggest advice is don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself grace. Try multiple pumps, but if it doesn’t work it’s not worth being upset. Fed really is best. Start pumping early (in the hospital) if you know you want to try nursing/pumping. Be prepared that every baby will be different. Just because something worked before, doesn’t mean it will work again. This was my biggest surprise!
I also pumped exclusively. With my first daughter, I hated nursing so much that I only made it 3 months. With my second, l was determined to make it to a year, but I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding this time around either so I knew I would have to do something different. At first, I started with a Medela pump. Had a lot of problems with that so I switched to a Spectra. Once I got that pump I was able to continue giving my daughter breastmilk and also built a stash that filled my freezer. I liked how with the pump I was more in control of the strength and speed of the pump. I was surprised how many people doubted that exclusively pumping would work. Many told me I wouldn’t make it, so I just stopped telling people. Even my doctor asked me several questions as to why I was pumping exclusively when I didn’t work. Honestly, it was super time consuming and I still counted the days until we could wean, but this is what allowed me to give my daughter breastmilk for so long.
I tried breastfeeding for a few weeks but it just didn’t work out for me. My nipples were so sore and purple and close to getting infected. I switched to pumping and supplemented with formula. The breast feeding consultants at the hospital were great and we decided that would be my best path. Pumping was fine for me and it helped that my boyfriend also got a chance to feed her as well. I pumped up until I went back to work then switched primarily to formula. She’s fed well & is now a healthy 21 lb one year old!
My son was tongue tied and lip tied so bad that it was diagnosed day 2 in the hospital, so I had to start pumping in the hospital for colostrum to feed him. They still tried to put him to breast but that was so hard. The night we got home from the hospital we had to try formula the hospital sent me home with because he lost 7% of his body weight. He ended up having an awful reaction to the formula so I was back to stressing out about pumping/breastfeeding him enough food. Our pediatrician recommended his tie be clipped by an ENT so we made that appointment and saw very little improvements. A few weeks in I finally had to supplement again with formula which was terrifying considering the reaction he had when he was 3 days old. My partner is Italian so his parents sent us the formula from Italy that his mom used with him. This went SO much better. My son digested that formula just like my breastmilk. There’s a huge mental shift in supplementing. There are thoughts of “why can’t my body do what it’s supposed to” and unsolicited comments from family or friends asking “why is this so hard for you” or “just give him formula and be done with it”. None of which is helpful, of course.
I supplemented for 3 days, 3 oz a day around 5pm when my supply was low and there was nothing left to pump which I know now is common. I found the lactation consultant at my pediatrician to be total garbage. I had clogged ducts that were backing up into my armpit and she made comments that she couldn’t really help with that because she could only focus on the baby for insurance reasons. How in the world can you help me breastfeed without helping ME?!? So I started going to a weekly breastfeeding group at the hospital I gave birth at and found so many women with similar issues.
At 8 weeks I had my son’s tongue tie and lip tie lasered. This was a game changer. Looking back, this was mistake number one which led to 2 months of misery. After the surgery, we had follow ups with a much better LC that I paid for out of pocket who comes to my house, in the environment I actually feed in and helped ME and my baby. I seriously love this woman. So after all of this, now I have to go back to work. Pumping at work is so stressful and time consuming and overwhelming. I had no idea the mental component to pumping until I pumped for 15 minutes at work while answering emails and nothing came out! I had to stop working and watch videos of my son before I could get a let down. I had no idea the mental challenges to making this work. My second ‘ah ha’ moment was buying the Elvie. It is pricey but worth every penny to me and my sanity and my supply! We are now at 7.5 months and happily breastfeeding successfully. Of course we introduced food a few months ago and it’s really insulting he prefers food over breastmilk! My goal was to nurse to one year and one positive outcome from COVID is I’m now home and get more time to put him directly to breast so I’m hoping I can still meet that goal!
My advice is that if something seems off, it probably is. Breastfeeding is hard and no one really talks about it. When people ask me now if they should take a birthing class I recommend a nursing class instead. I did both but looking back, you’re going to give birth. That baby is coming out one way or another and honestly you have very little say and how that happens. Breastfeeding on the other hand may not happen and it’s not as natural as everyone makes it sound.