Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Want to Breastfeed? Don't have Formula in the Home!

As my many posts which include the label breastfeeding attest, I've found breastfeeding to be important, interesting and challenging. I pause from my work three times a day to pump. I wear funny clothes to make breastfeeding and pumping easier. And I think in the end, one thing has been critical to our success:

Not allowing a single packet of formula in our apartment.

There were many dark nights - and days for that matter - when I was so frustrated with trying to pump and feed the baby at the same time, I would have taken any opportunity, any escape, to feed her without all the complication.

I remember she'd wake me, crying in hunger. I'd be so tired from not sleeping enough and the stress of adjusting to having a new baby, I'd feel compelled to try to maximize the accomplishments of my awake time. So in this sleepy haze, over and over again, I made her wait, crying, while I strapped on the pump, before I'd start feeding her. Sometimes I'd feed her a bit before starting to organize the pump stuff, but even then, she'd not be sated and would always be crying again before I finished getting the pump organized.

I was not at my decision making best. For some reason, I often wouldn't even accept the offers of help from DH.

Because I didn't have any viable alternative, we made it work. I pumped, we fed her, we cried. Repeat as needed. Had there been formula in the house, she would have been fed it. I imagine how it would sit in the kitchen, calling to my addled brain, like crack to an addict, offering to solve my problems.

If I had had formula in my house, I would have fed it to my baby, potentially starting a downward spiral of supply problems. I was offered it as I was leaving the hospital. I said no. I'm so glad I did. I'm glad formula exists for those who choose to or must use it. But I'm glad it's not here too.

How did you or do you plan to feed your baby? Got any just in case packets of formula around if you're breastfeeding?

(PS: of course, I don't think formula is like crack. They're both just something that's potentially tempting, one to a stressed out mama, another to an addict.)


Melodie said...

I had formula in the house after my oldest turned 7 or 8 months. I know it doesn't seem like a good comparison but the nutritionist said I should mix some in with her cereal for more iron, that my iron stores were gone and she wasn't very interested in food in general AND I'm vegetarian and making her veggie too. I did it once. Twice? Then I threw it out. Never mixed it with water to use to drink though. I remember it smelled bad.

CaroLyn said...

@Melodie - thanks for stopping by! Interesting about the nutritionist. I wonder what evidence that's based on... She turned out fine of course! :)

Anonymous said...

We had serious struggles with my first daughter, who was born prematurely and put in special care. For the first week we were separated, and she refused to latch. I pumped, but didn't get enough, so we formula fed. I was very upset about it, and viewed it as a failure on my part.

I would never suggest that someone buy formula 'just in case'. I bought it when I needed it to feed my baby, and was able to do so easily and quickly. I think that, in many cases, 'just in case' might indicate some suspicion towards breastfeeding, and I think that might be more the problem than whether there is formula in the cupboard or not. I had most of a can left when I finally got breastfeeding working and I was very glad to throw it away, so if you really don't want to use it the mere presence is probably not going to cause a problem.

I would also like to say that while I would never suggest that someone use formula, and I advocate for breastfeeding, it's important to remember that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you have used it, you can return to exclusive breastfeeding in most cases. I think sometimes that early problems can be really confidence-destroying, and they can lead moms to think that their milk can never be enough. Learning to breastfeed is HARD for lots of moms, and using formula when you feel you have to does not have to mean the end of breastfeeding altogether.

CaroLyn said...

@Amber - thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, and for stopping by. It's a good reminder that a bit of formula feeding does not equate breastfeeding failure. I had hoped to avoid it, because I'd read about the risks to my milk supply and the sensitivity of the newborn intestinal tract. Thank the PTB that formula is available where necessary though!

Lynda said...

After a week of breastfeeding my first around the clock we had to supplement him due to dehydration and weight loss. I was so determined to breastfeed and we didn't have any formula available in our home. It only took my husband 2 minutes to drive to the store and get some. I don't understand why anyone who wanted to breastfeed would keep formula in their home when it's so easy to obtain at a moment's notice.

And if problems do present themselves, it's usually over time and correctable. The baby doesn't need formula just because you don't think it got enough at one feeding. There will be signs of dehydration, orange crystals, severe weight loss or inadequate weight gain. Get to an LC, fix that latch, work on boosting your supply.

I've had two babies and I have insufficient glandular tissue and therefore, chronic low supply. It took a full three weeks to monitor #2's feeding, weight gain, dehydration signs before it became apparent that I really needed to supplement. The decision to supplement should never happen based on one poor feeding and you should always consult an LC if you feel the baby is not getting enough.

I didn't have any formula on-hand for #2 either. Luckily I knew ahead of time I might have a problem with supply and was able to arrange to have some donor milk in the freezer which we used when it was clear I needed to supplement.

I still can't wrap my head around why anyone who WANTs to breastfeed would EVER have formula sitting at home when the baby is born "just in case". Formula is not a "just in case" tool.

After what I went through, I also don't really get people who say they would have relied on formula if it was in the house though. Maybe I'm just super stubborn and was determined to make it work, but I never wanted formula to touch my babies' lips. I used it as a medical aid when it was determined it was medically necessary for the baby to thrive. If you want a good night's sleep, co-sleep, don't think that formula is going to help out with that. :)

Lynda said...

Very strange comment from a nutritionist to use formula for its iron. Surely they make iron supplements safe for infants to consume?