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Support for moms who can't breastfeed

post #1 of 307
Thread Starter 
(OK, deep breath.... here we go....)

I've been wanting to start this thread for many weeks, but haven't had the nerve. After hearing several MDC moms in the last few days express some intense feelings related to this topic, I've decided to go for it. We need a tribe of our own!

My story is all over MDC in bits and pieces, so I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say, my ds is adopted, I spent six months trying to induce lactation, and it didn't work. I do consider my experience a success considering the circumstances, and I have NO guilt whatsoever about my efforts.

I think there is almost nothing lonelier than being a formula/bottle-feeding mom in a culture of passionate breastfeeders. We often feel that we do not fit anywhere. We certainly don't fit on a "mainstream" parenting board, because our hearts are "AP". (I use those terms only for lack of a more concise way to say what I mean.) We live under constant judgment and stereotype. When we go to the grocery store, we worry about who will be making assumptions about us based on what's in our cart. We worry that they will never want to get past first impressions and give us the benefit of the doubt.

We often don't know where to turn when we need answers to questions about our child's health or to other issues, like feeding solid foods. We can't go to a regular parenting board and expect to get answers that reflect our parenting style and values. We can't ask questions here without risking misunderstanding, or simply that most people don't have experience with what we need.

All this is on top of the grief and disappointment of missing out on the experience of nursing, of having our bodies fail us, and on top of the concern for our children's well-being and how we'll meet their needs in spite of our limitations. (I'm actually not "grieving" at the moment, but I have in the past, and know many moms still are.

I feel I have to explain and tell my story so often--it gets cumbersome. But if I don't explain, I can just see the wheels turning in people's heads. I try to stay away from the "formula is evil" threads, but I can't--I just have to go see what's being assumed about me. I can't resist posting on them either.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your story, your issues, your worries, your frustrations--whatever you'd like to share about your breastfeeding and bottlefeeding experiences!
post #2 of 307
Hi Lisa,
Can i offer support and enouragement, even though i breastfed?

my shoulders here if you need it.
post #3 of 307
Hi. I guess I don't count for moms who can't-at least with this baby, but I did have major trouble feeding my son naturally.
I was a first-time mom with very little to no support. My mom only bottlefed, and the people I knew who breastfed lived far away. My obgyn would not give me something or recommend holistics to increase my supply. At 4wks old, I called the doctor after many sleepless nights and horrible days with a screaming baby and sore breasts. It was about 4am, and the doctor told me to just give the baby a bottle. That was the beginning to an end. I breastfed a couple times a day, just for the immunity and closeness. I had a newborn who would eat an 8oz bottle of formula right after nursing, so that prooved my theory of a low supply. I really blame my obgyn for not helping me to breastfeed exclusively.
This time around, my breasts are finally developed, and I am able to exclusively breastfeed my baby. It has been 4mos and I am learning more every day. I send support to those of you who cannot nurse, or have nursing troubles.
Edited to add that he self-weaned at 5mos.
post #4 of 307

I'm officially coming out of the closet!

I, too, am a formula feeding mama. But never for one second have I not considered myself AP. We co-sleep always, sling, no CIO, and of course always always always held and cuddled during bottle feeding.

Our ds is 14 months now.

My bf'ing failure story is long, but it basically boiled down to a baby with severe reflux who didn't want to nurse for longer than 30 seconds because of the pain and lots of bad advice. I didn't know about MDC at the time. If I had, I may have stuck it out a little longer (we went nine weeks), or at least would have strongly considered exclusive pumping (damn, I had a great supply).

I went through a mourning period when we made the switch, because I had envisioned so strongly nursing him through toddlerhood. But now, I look at my strong, healthy, happy, well-adjusted baby and know that I did my best, and that he is thriving in every way.

Thank you, Lisa, for starting this.

post #5 of 307
Hello. I think it's great that you started this thread! I sometimes feel like maybe I shouldn't be here because I'm not as into a lot of the 'natural parenting' part of this, but anyways... I bf for about 6mos. then ff'd until my ds was 14mos. I def. consider myself AP, my ds has never cio, we co-sleep, always fed on demand, respond to cues, etc. and trying our best at using gentle discipline.
I just wanted to offer you some support as well, and also I host a board about starting solids on a more mainstream site so if you have any questions about that I'd be glad to try and help you out!
post #6 of 307
post #7 of 307
What a wonderful support thread! I have been able (fortunately) to bf both of my kids, but have several friends who were either unable to due to supply issues or couldn't because of medication necessary to their survival. I try to support them, and they I. What's important is how you parent your child, not how you feed them (and I can lay down on the chopping block now, right?)
post #8 of 307
I would also like to thank you for this thread, Laurel, you speak directly to my heart. It kills me that I could not continue to nurse Sophie, and I have questions about transitioning her to solids, too, at 16 months, she is still drinking 7-8 bottles a day, along with three meals which are sketchy because she hasn't any molars.

I breastfed Maeve until she was 18 months, and Sophie till about 6 months. I was unable to keep Sophie nursing longer despite agonies of effort.

In another thread, I was being "educated" to wit, "
And Moon, I know it's true that SOME formula feeders have legitimate reasons for doing so (adoption, surgery, chemotherapy, etc.), but the vast, vast majority do not. I have a girlfriend from Rwanda, and she has never even heard of a woman who couldn't breastfeed. I think it's very interesting that in countries where women have no access to formula, 99.99% of them can miraculously breastfeed.
The next time someone assumes you didn't work hard enough, long enough, or were smart enough, and that they know it all, point out that in, for example, Rwanda, children are dying in huge numbers because they are malnourished. It took me about 30 seconds to find this WHO article

Thanks again, Laurel.
post #9 of 307
Glad to see this thread. I had sort of a double whammy with dd and bfing. First of all I had a breast reduction when I was 20 (14 years ago). I worked my tush off when I was pregnant, educating myself about bfing after a reduction, bought a lact aid, I was *ready* and *determined*.

Then dd was born via an emergency c section at 29 weeks and was in the NICU for 11 weeks.

So, I pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped....never got her to the breast (she had lots of feeding issues and reflux)

I fought like a wild hyena momma to get breast milk for her from the milk bank and a couple of close friends helped also. So she had mom's milk until about 16 months and now has goat's milk. But it was a disheartening and exhausting battle.

Sometimes, when I think about having another baby, my breasts ache. I want to bf SO badly. I literally think about it every day....everytime dd cries and I want to bf her....everytime she pats my breasts....and she's 20 months old!

Feeling the judgement coming from other AP was (and is) so depressing. If only they knew how much I would pay to be able to whip a boob out for dd!

And I hate feeling like I have to go through my whole story just so they stop looking at me with "that look"!

I thought about typing it all out and just handing it to people!!

Great thread and big hugs to us all!

<I LOVE all our smilies)
post #10 of 307

I too had a breast reduction, and I have a Reilly! I bf AND ff--Reilly is 11.5 mo and gets about 10 oz of formula a day. He gets the rest from me. With ds1 (who is 4.5) I supplemented about 18 oz at this age, so my supply has definitely increased with child #2.

I ALWAYS have to include "I ff 10 oz a day due to a breast reduction and supply issues" on these boards--there are some EXTREMELY judgmental folks on these boards (won't name names but I'm thinking them....) and frankly, if one more person lists "chimpanzee or primate milk" as being better than formula, I'm going to . Are they going to hold down the chimp while I hook up the Pump 'n Go?

I do think that there are some mothers out there who breezily dismiss breastfeeding, and others who "try" but stop when it gets even slightly difficult. HOWEVER, I haven't seen ANYONE on these boards like that, and if someone is on these boards, they're here to educate themselves and to progress as a parent in every way.

We circ'd my 4 yo but left our 11 mo intact. Should I beat myself up every minute for circing ds1, or should I be glad that we learned from that and left ds2 intact? Same goes for bfing.

You do what you know at the time. And sometimes, sadly, even being educated and having lots of support isn't enough. I see a lot of absolutists here--but most folks on these boards are flexible and real, mothers with enough experience and introspection to know that we're all just human beings trying to do our best.
post #11 of 307
Oh my gosh -- I am so excited to see this thread! I didn't even have time to read all the replies-- I'm on vacation at the moment, but I just wanted to say that I am THRILLED by this discussion and am so happy to meet other mamas with my issues. I got a lot of support here when James was born and I found out I couldn't breastfeed, but it's been hard sometimes on these boards, since I feel so awkward that I can't nurse him, so I rarely post, but this is great...anyway, more later, when I have time to post a real reply. At the moment, I'm just happy to be here.

mom to James 7/14/02
post #12 of 307
Moon, what kind of solids and how much is Sophie eating a day?

We're having the same type of problem with our ds. He still gets 5-6 bottles a day and 2-3 solid meals. He only has 5 1/2 teeth, so I'm terrified of choking. I feel like I'm giving Aidan the same food over and over again. Cheerios. Cheese. Mac&Cheese. Whole wheat bread. Eggs. Peanut butter. Green beans....and a few other things. He's also really picky.

What kind of stuff is your Sophie eating? Our Aidan is 14 months.


Ahhh, I can't tell you the sigh of relief I feel when I can say the word 'bottle' here and know that others understand and won't half-answer my question all the while inserting a guilt trip. KWIM?
post #13 of 307
Thread Starter 
Wow! I had a feeling all of you were out there1 I'm so glad I decided to find out for sure!

I too find it frustrating that every time a ff mom pipes up with a complaint about being judged, someone tells her that of course they don't mean her, she's the exception, why would she dream of being hurt by it--and of course, what should she expect being on these boards? I wish people could understand that behind that nameless bottle of formula is a real mom with real challenges and real feelings. Sometimes I feel like some would think we are a lesser part of this community whose opinions don't quite matter as much because we must bottlefeed.

I am curious how you all cope with this in a productive way, as 1) I recognize that this is reality that isn't going away, and 2) I respect that every mom has the right to her opinion and feelings, even if they are different than mine. I DO expect it being part of a community like this, and I would really hate things to become too watered down, because I'm sure all of DO support and advocate for breastfeeding. I guess what I've had to do is sit down and remind myself that why should I let the opinions of some stranger on the internet who I'll never meet hurt me. Who really cares what so-and-so thinks? I'm never going to meet them IRL, and they're never going to meet me. I also tell myself over and over that people only put the part of themselves here that they want people to see. Maybe that mom can breastfeed, but she has something somewhere that she can't give that I can.

Someone also mentioned something else I wanted to bring up: using donated milk. It sounds like some of you have been able to do this long term, but I'm curious for how many it's really been a feasible option. I hate hearing, "I would never, never, never give my child formula--I'd get donated milk, use a wetnurse, ANYTHING but give formula." I say, "Never say never." I think this is a statement that's easy to make if you have never actually been in the situation. When people say "never", it makes me wonder things like--would breastfeeding/milk truly be worth ANY price you or your child might have to pay to do it? Not just a high price (I think we would all agree it's worth a high price), but ANY price? My feeling was that I would do just about anything regardless of how painful or inconvenient it was for me, but once my ds started becoming negatively affected (which he did after a number of months), how could I continue to push it? If you used donated milk, how did it come about? If you didn't, why not?

ITA with gurumama on the chimpanzee comment! Don't they realize how demeaning and vindictive that is?

Oh, and to all you who can breastfeed and want to give support, of course you are welcome and loved! I think there is nothing most of us appreciate more than an understanding and nonjudgmental friend and advocate. Please don't be offended by the venting.
post #14 of 307
RE: using donated milk...

DD qualified for milk bank milk because she was a preemie. I had enough supply for about 4 months (pumping) before my supply started dwindling and she started eating more. So from about 4 months until about 11 months, I got milk bank milk (screened and pastuerized). After that, I had 2 very close friends from church that I totally trusted and that had enough milk to feed a small country! They supplemented my supply until about 16 months.

It is not easy and if DD hadn't been a preemie, I probably wouldn't have gotten as much support. People were really willing to go out of their way to help me. I'm still very thankful!

As far as the expense, dd was on medicaid for her first year and they paid for the milk bank milk, which was about $3 an OZ!!!! My insurance paid for a pump for me since dd was in the NICU. I reused the glass bottles that the milk bank milk came in for me and my friends to pump into. So, expense wise, it didn't cost hardly anything.....just alot of fighting to qualify for the milk, etc....
post #15 of 307
I am so glad that the milk bank was there for you. It makes me feel good to know that there are babies who benefit! We just got a local milk bank this summer and altho I can't donate (antidepressant that I really can't go off), I support them financially. And I donate all my formula samples to our local food pantry for the crisis nursery. And why do I get dirty looks for telling other bfing moms that I DO take the freebies from the manufacturers. If I were in crisis, I would want to know that someone could feed my baby. It's not fair, is it ladies? Either you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

And I love this quote:
Maybe that mom can breastfeed, but she has something somewhere that she can't give that I can.
That's it exactly. I have had ppd with both dds. And I bet half of my days I'd trade you to feel normal and give them formula vs. being able to bf and dealing with antidepressants and mood swings and all. Ok, I'll quit hogging your thread, but I wanted to give you a big and for doing what YOU think is best for your child.
post #16 of 307
I breastfeed, but had a dicey start, and am very mindful of how easily it could have gone another way. I was directed here by Moon, and just want to offer my support, as well. I mentioned in the thread Moon referred to that I have a friend (yes, still a friend) who purposely weaned her dd at 4 months so that she could go on a solo vacation, and I find that pretty tough to understand, but I do. And going through all of these efforts TO breastfeed and not being able to... well, I'm very sad that you're judged for that.
post #17 of 307
Just wanted to offer my support to all you dedicated mothers here. I've been very lucky in that bf is no problem for me. It is a secret dream of mine that one day, in the not too distant future, that people will be able to assume any mother giving her child a bottle is doing so because she truly cannot bf because support, information, and education will be available to every mother who needs it and it will be expressed bm in those bottles because the milk banks will have increased in numbers sufficient to supply every hungry baby. Come dream with me .
post #18 of 307
Thread Starter 
Oh, and one more thing on my mind... I think it's also hard because in the regular parenting world, people just don't understand the magnitude of the loss. I'm on a "parenting after infertility" email list, and when I've talked about my feelings of loss there, I just get told, "What's the big deal? Now you know, I couldn't bf my baby and s/he's totally bonded and healthy." They simply won't validate the loss. These are the same women who would be all over you with empathy because you lost the experience of pregnancy--nobody would imagine undermining that one--yet they can't see that for me, nursing is actually a greater loss than pregnancy at this point.

I mostly do fine with it right now. I know I made the right decisions. The main time I have a hard time with it is when he's sick and I can't comfort him that way. And I HATE having to wash and fill bottles! I long for the convenience of bf'ing.
post #19 of 307
I just wanted to chime in with my story...James was born in July, and I had always planned to breastfeed/co-sleep/sling/AP, etc...well, after a hospital stay at 3 days old due to a dehydration-induced fever, and weeks of lactation consultants, a wonderful LC/MD finally told me that she was pretty sure I simply don't have enough milk glands to produce a full supply...horrible as that was to hear, at some level it helped to know that it wasn't MY FAULT (or at least, it was my body's fault, but not my trying). I pumped and pumped, and all I could get was 1/4 ounch at a time - I kid you not. Anyway, James continues to nurse for comfort, and when he wakes up at night, but his primary nourishment has always been formula.

Apparently, 1-2% of women just don't have the full equipment...and although all the literature says "almost all women CAN breastfeed," I've met a decent number of women either on line or IRL, who have my problem, or some variation. And these are women who I believe have TRIED as hard as they could to bf their children. So I know I am much less likely to judge when I see a woman with a bottle. In many ways I think this has made me a much more tolerant and less judgemental parent...I now realize there are often complicated stories behind all of the choices we make. And those stories are not visible to the outside world.

It was so hard for me to accept that I'd be a bottle-wielding mama - and I am still sensitive to it when we are out and I have to pull out a bottle. I'd give a lot to be able to pull out my breast instead, but it's not a viable option. But I know that I am doing what's best for my baby, and he is a wonderfully happy, healthy 8 month old.

Anyway, this brings me to my question about solids -- James doesn't like them much, but should I try to give him more to get him off of "evil formula"? I just have no idea how to approach this. All advice welcome!

mom to James 7/14/02
post #20 of 307
Thread Starter 
Abalee, that's exactly the question I had about solids: Do ff babies need to start solids earlier since formula is not as nutritionally complete?

My ds actually loves solids. I tried to hold him off, but he was begging, so we started at 5 1/2 months. Then, during a month of illness and teething, he refused them. Now, he's been gung ho for the last week or two. I'm still not pushing much--he eats maybe twice a day, purely at our mutual convenience, and only maybe the equivalent of 1/2 small jar max.

Als, how much do you replicate a nursing-style feeding experience with bottles? Does anyone worry about overfeeding? I did alot in the first months (when he was still nursing but getting formula through the lact-aid). Now, he is very much a baby who wants to take small nips all day long--if he were nursing, he'd be the one hanging out in the sling snacking whenever the mood hit him, but never sitting down for a full "meal". I find this hard to manage sometimes, as it is not nearly as convenient with bottles that have to be warmed and washed. The instruction to not reuse a bottle that's been drunk out of if there's formula left got thrown out the window months ago! My worry now is getting him to eat enough, and I sometimes wonder if I should have gone with encouraging him to take four or five bigger "meals" a day.
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