When I planned out how feeding my newborn would go, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I also decided to hang on to all the free formula I received, just in case my anatomy or disposition was not conducive to doing so. In the hospital, I remember my sense of pride when the nurses told me I had “perfect breasts”. That’s not the first time someone has said that to me, but it was the best time. I can do this, I thought.Having a woman who sees lots of boobs tell you yours are perfect for breastfeeding while she manipulates your nipple into a baby friendly shape is definitely an experience. Breastfeeding was rough in he beginning. It hurt, it was awkward, and X and I struggled together to get it right. The nurses and my pediatrician told me we might have to go to formula feeding. I was determined that would not happen. Formula was unacceptable. Breast is best. Breast is the only acceptable option. Slowly, we got it figured out. We got through the first days and weeks. We made it through the all night, on demand cluster feedings and the growth spurts.
I started pumping so we would have a little stash for outings or whatever else. At first, I only pumped an ounce or two at a time. Later, it would increase. It was still disappointing to spend 30 minutes hooked up to the milking machine and see so little of that precious fluid. I started eating oatmeal and drinking water like a fiend. I switched to bigger breast shields and ate fenugreek. Slowly, my output increased. I got a nice little stash in the fridge of about 50 oz. Then I started slacking off. I took a pumping strike of about 4 weeks. We blew through our freezer stash with weekend camping trips and adventures.
One day, as we struggled to get our baby to sleep longer at night, I made him a bottle of formula and fed it to him. I had read that since formula is digested slower it can keep the baby full longer and result in a few more magical minutes of sleep. It really helped. So, we started giving him formula sometimes. Then, it was every day. Every night, he would nurse and then we would give him a bottle. Sometimes, when my milk output for the day wasn’t enough to freeze, I would mix that in with the formula. I felt guilty about that bottle a day of formula. I was depriving my baby of the much needed antibodies and nutrients that science can’t duplicate. I was being a selfish mommy for not feeding him with my body every single time. After a little while, I realized that formula is not the devil. It is a tool, a very useful tool.
We started supplementing with formula more and more. I kept nursing Baby X whenever we were home or when I felt full or just wanted to cuddle. I gave him formula when I needed a break, when nursing was inconvenient, when my nipples were raw or bleeding. It made sense for my family to supplement. It wasn’t something we planned to do, it just happened naturally. The more we did it, the more okay I was with it.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. There is a rarely discussed middle ground. My baby drinks his mommy milk on demand, but before naps or sleep, I give him a bottle. He is up to two or three bottles a day. He still nurses at least three times. I still pump the other three times, too. He still gets the antibodies and the special mommy nutrients. I still get to hold him in my arms and trace his features with my free hand. He still gets to dig his surprisingly pointy toes into the pressure points in my arms and reach up to cover my mouth with his sticky slimy fingers. He is a slender little baby and has been at the bottom of the weight charts and towards the middle on height. Since supplementing with formula, we have seen him work up the chart a little. He will always be slender. The genetics just aren’t there for him to be tall or stocky.
I give my baby formula. I breastfeed. I’m okay with that.
Here a couple of my other posts about combination feeding:
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