Friday, July 30, 2010

I gave up.

I did it. I stopped breastfeeding and switched my baby to formula.

When Cayden was first born we did immediate skin to skin and I let him crawl up to my chest to breastfeed for the first time. He didn't latch on really, but he was beginning to learn. Later that night when we moved to the recovery room, I tried breastfeeding again and again, but I couldn't quite get him to latch on properly and he wasn't eating. The nurse on call threw a nipple shield at me and told me to keep trying. Which I did, without success, all night long. The 2nd day I was introduced to a new nurse who's nickname was 'The Dairy Queen' and she was a huge breastfeeding advocate. She showed me how to hold his neck and manipulate my nipple to get him to latch on. Hallelujah! Whenever she was there to help me, I managed to get him to eat, but when she wasn't around I still couldn't do it. I was absolutely terrified when her shift ended. The new nurse was a sweetheart, but I could tell she had no clue about breastfeeding. That night Cayden spent 3 HOURS on one nipple (he refused to be on the other side) and I was crying from the pain. Every time he would wake up I would cringe knowing I had to feed him because I knew how painful it was going to be. Furthermore, the staff was beginning to get worried because he hadn't pooped in over 24 hours.

The next morning my favorite nurse was back on shift. Once again, she continued to help me, and finally managed to get Cayden latched on the other side to give my right nipple a break. Whenever she did his latch I wouldn't be in as much pain, but I still couldn't do it on my own. She encouraged me to keep trying and promised it would get easier. Finally Cayden pooped (twice) and I felt a fresh wave of hope. Before I was discharged from the hospital I met with an awesome lactation consultant. She gave me some good tips and showed me some new positions and I prayed I had enough information to go home and feed him on my own.

The first night home was terrible. I was crying in pain every time I fed him. I wasn't getting any sleep because it would take me 15-20 minutes just to get him to latch on and then he would let go after 5 minutes and the process would start all over again. He was screaming and was getting frustrated which was causing me to get frustrated. I was a mess. The next morning (yesterday) I noticed scabs had formed over my nipples and freaked out. I did NOT want to put a scab in my newborn's mouth. However, everyone told me that it was normal to have sore and cracked nipples the first few days and I was determined to make it work. I noticed that my milk had come in and I had boobs that would make Pamela Anderson jealous. I continued to breastfeed him even though we both spent the whole time crying and frustrated. My boyfriend felt helpless and hated watching the two people he loved most go through this over and over again. That night we went to bed, and when he woke up hungry I could NOT get him to latch on. My nipples were completely deformed and scabbed over and I was in so much pain. I could tell he was hungry and I couldn't feed him. After about an hour of trying and many tears I finally got him to eat. We were both exhausted and angry and I really started reconsidering my choice to breastfeed.

I was really only planning on breastfeeding the first 6 weeks while I was on maternity leave. It wasn't practical for me to pump at work so I had planned to slowly introduce formula to him and continue to nurse nights and weekends while my supply lasted. Was all this pain and anguish really worth it for just a few weeks of breast milk? Was a crying, angry baby and an exhausted mama really worth it? I was torn. I really wanted to be successful at breastfeeding and I KNOW it's the best for my baby. I wanted that bonding experience that could only be between him and me. However, I didn't see how this was going to get any better after a week of misery. I completely ran out of hope and I felt like a failure. I knew he had a bad latch, but I was too concerned with getting him to eat that I couldn't worry about making it better. My priority was just to put food in his little tummy. That morning when we got up after my 5th night of no sleep and being in excruciating pain I sent out a panicked text message to my mom and my sister. I couldn't do it anymore. It just wasn't working out and I felt like a failure. My sister encouraged me to keep trying, but just the thought of another day of trying made me start crying all over again. My mom called and finally calmed me down. She truly was the voice of reason. Yes, breast milk is absolutely best for my baby, but a good mental state was just as important. She said it wasn't normal to be in so much pain and if it wasn't working out, don't beat yourself up about it. You gave it a shot. You gave him as much as you could. That was what I really needed to hear and I immediately felt a sense of calm. I sent Mando to the store to pick up a can of formula. No more would I be strapped to the bed for hours in pain. No more would I have to watch my baby screaming in frustration. Finally I could get help from Mando to feed him and maybe even get some sleep. Maybe now motherhood wouldn't seem so HARD.

The next time Cayden woke up I fixed him his first bottle. I was crying as I gave it to him just feeling like a complete failure. But then something changed my mind... From the second I put the bottle in his mouth it was like he was a whole different baby! He wasn't crying! He wasn't frustrated! He looked so happy and finished the first 2 ounces in record time and wanted more. I made him another 2 ounces and he drank about half and then drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep. The whole process took less than 20 minutes whereas I was spending 2 hours or more trying to breastfeed him before. I could take a nap! I could shower! It was like the clouds parted and the sun came out. I knew I had made the right decision.

I've been giving him the bottle all day today. He's eaten like a champ each and every time. He hasn't cried once. I was so worried that trying to digest the formula would mess up his tummy, but he has been pooping spectacularly! As bizarre as it seems, I truly believe that my child prefers formula. Or rather, the formula feeding process. My boobs are rock hard, sore, and engorged and my nipples are still extremely sore, but I feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel and I know that it will pass eventually. I feel a sense of peace and release knowing I can leave for a few hours if I need to and I won't have to worry about being the only one who could feed him. I could have guests come over to see the baby without being stressed out that I would have to take him to another room to nurse because I don't want to show my boobs to everyone. I can sleep longer because my boyfriend can feed him. And he's just loving the bonding time with his son.

As determined as I was, as hard as I tried, and even with my awesome support team of friends, family, and Twitter, I still failed at breastfeeding. But you know what? I'm okay with that. I feel like I did what's right for us and what worked in our situation. I will NEVER judge another woman who decides to formula feed again. You truly never know what someone is going through until you've been there yourself. Although this wasn't where I expected to be, I KNOW I made the right decision.


  1. You definitely have the right spirits. Don't worry about anyone judging you. He is your son, and your mom was absolutely right. A sound mind will care for your little one better than a tired, frustrated, and anguished one.

    Good for you mama for doing what you had to do to feed your little one.

  2. Aww, thank you! I am so lucky to have the support of everyone! It means so much to me. No matter how bad I wanted to succeed I know deep down I did what's best in our situation.

  3. Sorry to hear you had such a difficult experience. What you went through is NOT normal. Some soreness and possibly some cracking is normal as your nipples adjust to being suckled so frequently. But bleeding and scabbing is due to a bad latch (which you obviously realize) and it CAN be fixed, but it takes a lot of work with specialized help (like ongoing consultation with an LC, preferably at your house) and a lot of commitment. You would likely get things on the right track in a couple weeks, but you might find yourself just getting the hang of things right before you had to go back to work.

    On Twitter you asked us to "please not judge." I don't make a habit of judging other mothers, and especially in this case I don't "judge" or blame you, I blame the awful lack of maternity leave in our country, that forces a mom to go back to work a mere 42 DAYS after giving birth, and doesn't treat pumping at work as a "given" with appropriate breaks and facilities. You shouldn't be having to make these choices. You shouldn't have to be worrying and stressing during the scant time you get to spend being a full-time mother to your child. You shouldn't have to choose between providing your milk to your child, or dealing with repercussions at your place of employment. It just makes my stomach hurt. I faced the idea of going back to work at 8 weeks (since I was put on leave at 36 weeks and my son was born just before 40 weeks), and it gave me waves of panic just to consider it. But thankfully, I was able to leave my job and be a full-time mom the last 17 months.

    It's important that you take care of yourself right now. Since your milk has come in, you're at risk for developing plugged ducts or mastitis from not breastfeeding. Have you thought about expressing some of your milk and giving it in a bottle? If you do that a few times a day, and gradually space out the pumping sessions, dropping one every few days, your supply will dwindle and you might be a lot more comfortable, while still giving your baby your antibodies which are so important. (To me, the antibodies ARE worth breastfeeding if only for a few weeks, because newborns have NO immunity for the first few months.)


  4. Thank you for the sweet comment! I know I probably could have worked through it with the help of a LC, but like you said, it could take several weeks with specialized help and by then I would be returning back to work.

    I agree with you so much - the maternity policy in this country is sickening. I can't believe that I only get a few short weeks to bond with my newborn child before I am forced to go back, and I'm only getting 55% of my normal income paid which is so hard on us. I desperately wish I could stay home with my son, but unfortunately it's just not an option at this time. Although it's illegal to not provide a place to pump in CA, I know my boss would be so annoyed and it could put my job at risk. Not to mention, I would end up being forced to pump in a tiny dark server room every two hours because the rest of our office is floor to ceiling glass walls. Or the car or bathroom. It just wasn't something I wanted to do...

    I did try to express some milk while taking a hot shower earler to try to relieve the soreness. It is just still so painful on my nipples so I don't know if I'll be able to keep it up. I will definitely keep trying though because I agree, the antibodies in breastmilk are so important.

    Thanks again for the support, it means a lot! Xoxo