I had to stop breastfeeding

I had to stop breastfeeding
Lane Christiansen, For Chicago Tribune

As I type this with one hand, my newborn daughter is snuggled up, happily snoozing in my arms, with Pepper resting his heads on her legs. She just finished a bottle of formula.

I know. Formula.

Don’t I know that “breast is best,” full of delicious nutrients and love that are lacking in the corporate-created simulated powder?

Trust me, I know.

It was drilled in and highly encouraged everywhere I looked. Prentice sent weekly pregnancy progress emails, which seemed to nearly always extoll the virtues of breastfeeding. Bonding! Skin-to-skin! Health! Weight-loss!

I agonized over the decision, my heart aching, for several days. Which was probably too long.

It made no sense though–why would I be having panic attacks every time I fed her?

Maybe it was the pain, I thought. I pushed through the excruciating nipple pain, a scary-looking blood blister that made it look like my baby was a vampire, tried nipple shields (C said ‘no dice’ to them). The pain got better, but the racing heartbeat and fear and tears were still there.

I tried again. And again. Maybe it was a freak thing. But at some point in the feeding, whether the beginning, middle, or end, I ugly-cried and freaked out.

Pumping didn’t do that to me, oddly enough, and I debated doing only pumping, except I wanted to hold her. I wanted to coo at her. Talk to her. And that is incredibly hard to do when pumping.

And I started getting fevers. Apparently engorgement leads to fevers, and I was engorged because C, as a newborn, didn’t need 4 ounces of milk in every session. I needed to express every 2-3 hours in order to avoid it, but she only got hungry every 4 hours.

It would be a never-ending cycle of pumping, pain, and pyrexia.

I wanted it to work. It seemed such a waste of time and resources if I gave up. But breastfeeding was only exacerbating the so-called baby blues. Something had to give–and finally I strapped on a too-tight sports bra, stuck nursing pads inside because my boobs were leaking like crazy, and took Advil. My husband made a formula bottle, and I fed it to her.

And instantly a cloud lifted. I was no longer chained to the pump. I could hold her and gaze into her blue eyes and love her and adore her without panic seizing my chest and tears dripping onto her fine baby hair (which always made me cry harder–what mom cries so much that it made her baby’s hair get wet?)

The difference was amazing. My husband even said “I have my wife back!” when I was actually engaged with the world instead of worrying about the next panic attack and crying about the decision.

I still feel the guilt of not being SUPER MOM and just gritting my teeth and breastfeeding anyway. Just yesterday she rooted for my boobs and my throat constricted, trying to hold back a sob. Failure went through my mind.

Why is formula feeding considered such a failure? Why is it considered “giving up” to switch to it? Why does it cause so much anxiety and fear? (well, I know the answer to the last one–The Mommy Wars.)

Isn’t it so much more important to be engaged and all there for your baby?

I’m grateful for my husband and my mother in law for being supportive and letting me make the decision myself one way or another. And I’m particularly grateful I stumbled across Fearless Formula Feeder blog when researching how to stop my milk production. It’s full of stories from other women who also had to “give up” on breastfeeding. I’m not alone.

And if you found this post because you’re having similar issues–you aren’t alone either.


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