Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doing What is Best

I did it all for the leche, the leche.

Well, more accurately, I did it all (am doing it all) for Ebba.  Pumping at 2am.  Setting alarms every 2-3 hours to feed her in case she -- or we -- don't wake up.  Feeding her as often and as long as she wants, and then still having to top up with a bottle (while I pump...again).  Spending tons of money on things we aren't even sure will work -- the teas and the tinctures and the breast shields and nipple shields and supplementary tubes (for supplementing right at the breast).

After my last post on breastfeeding, so many women (friends, aunts, cousins, teachers) came out to tell me their stories of not having enough milk early on, or ever.  Some of these women supplemented, some didn't need to, but all of them struggled.  Disappointingly, though, one of the main themes in many of the stories of those who did supplement with formula (or switched to formula all together) was how awful they were treated by other women for their choice.

The fact is, and everyone and their grandmother will tell you this, breast is best.  It provides the baby with antibodies to boost his immune system.  It's specialized to give all the nutrition a baby needs.  It's easier on babies' tummies (uh, duh, their tummies were made to digest that stuff.)  It prevents obesity, diabetes, and a whole host of other ailments later in life.  It changes to meet your baby's changing needs.  It helps mum's uterus contract after birth, and even helps prevent cancer in the mum.

Well, okay, maybe no one's grandma is going to tell you that, because most of our grandmas used formula without thinking twice.  It was en vogue then, and the breast was considered a little taboo, as natural as it is.  And, while "everyone" is right about the major benefits of breastmilk over formula, that whole generation that was raised on formula?  Most of them turned out okay.

But, of course, we all want what is best for our babies, which is why I'm writing this at 2:30 in the morning with a milking machine attached to my chest to hopefully increase my supply so Ebba gets 60, 80, or even 100% of her nutrition from me, instead of the 25% we're at now.  But it's also why I decided to give Ebba formula, as I discussed before.  I couldn't give Ebba everything she needed just from my breast.  And she was suffering because of that.  It wasn't an easy decision, but in my case, it isn't "breast is best" but "breast and whatever will feed Ebba is best."

I talked before about "The Guilt We Give Ourselves," but, as one of my readers pointed out to me, that isn't the only kind of guilt we get.  Mums who use formula can often be persecuted by the extreme breastfeeding crowd.  They are made to feel "less than," or even to think that they haven't tried hard enough.  Let me tell you, most mums who try to increase supply and then have to supplement try very hard.  We are all jealous of you ladies who have bosoms of abundance! :)  We aren't slacking or lazy.  We work harder than anyone.  In my opinion, mothers should support other mothers' decisions as long as they are for the good of the baby.

Yesterday, I attended a La Leche League meeting with little Ebba, my boobs, and a bottle of formula.  I was actually a bit hesitant to go, because I pictured a room full of hardcore breastfeeders all browbeating about the demonic presence of formula among us.  But it wasn't like that at all.  There were other mothers who had supplemented, and others who were currently supplementing.  There were women with tiny babes who were having weight gain issues because their supply was low.  And, of course, there were hardcore breastfeeders there, but they weren't browbeating.  They were commiserating.  They, too, had had supply issues early on.  And the ones who didn't still shared their ideas for increasing supply or improving latching.  And no one flinched when I took out my bottle of formula.  The leader of the group, when I talked to her later, was like "Whatever!  Of course you have to feed your baby.  If she isn't fed, she won't be strong enough to take anything from the breast!  You do what you gotta do."  I came home yesterday feeling better than I had in awhile.  And since the meeting, my milk yields have been higher.  Not hugely so, but still noticeable.

It's true, what my reader said.  There is a lot of guilt thrown on women who have trouble breastfeeding, so much of it from other breastfeeding mothers.  But this guilt tossing isn't helpful.  Stress is one of the leading causes of low milk supply, so why stress out mums who are already feeling bad?  The best thing to do is to support them and surround them with understanding.  That way, hopefully they (we) can relax and feed our babies as we want to.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far -- you know who you are! :)


  1. great post. Not being a mum, I will leave it to the pro's to discuss. :- )

    However as a formula-raised person without the option to breastfeed [adoption, it happens...] I support the alternatives, otherwise I woulda starved :-O

  2. Aw thanks bpf. :)

    And, in other news, here's a great article about the same things:

  3. fantastic should submit it to Offbeat Mama/'s just the kind of thing that so many women would benefit from reading!