I always thought I would breastfeed Ellison. Afterall, "breast is best" says the American Academy of Pediatrics, your pediatrician, and even the containers of formula. I work in pediatric healthcare. I get it. I know the benefits. That's why the plan was always to breastfeed. I knew that breastfeeding wasn't always easy though. Not everyone can do it, for a variety of reasons. I promised myself that if it didn't work out for some reason that I wouldn't beat myself up over it. Well, it didn't work out, and I did beat myself up a little.
We tried really hard from the day she was born to breastfeed. When we were in the hospital, we started working on it within the hour after she was born. Without any help or coaching, she latched right on and I thought we were in business. We'd taken a breastfeeding class before she was born, so we had an idea of how it was supposed to go and things seemed to be working. Fast forward about 18 hours or so, and things were starting to get uncomfortable. Ellison just couldn't quite get it right, and it was becoming very frustrating for all of us. She'd either latch really well, but would just sit there and not suck, or she'd suck really well but would have a tight lipped, pinched latch. We worked with three different lactation consultants in the hospital. We tried every trick in the book. Here's what we learned...
-Ellison has a high palate. Touching the palate is what triggers the suck reflex, but her's is so high that it wasn't being triggered.
-She didn't like to stick her tongue out. Apparently that's a problem too.
-It was taking us so long to get a good latch that Ellison was getting over hungry which made her angry, and it made us really sad. She's just start to wail, and then I'd cry, and then we'd be in a mess.
So, the final word from the lactation consultant was that we needed to just try pumping, feeding her breastmilk with a bottle, and supplementing formula as needed. We were going to still try to nurse at every feeding, but if it was taking too long and if Ellison was starting to work herself up, we were supposed to just follow the pump/bottle plan.
Once we were home, things did not get better. In fact, they got worse. At first, I thought that maybe we could make the pumping thing work. If we couldn't actually breastfeed, at least Ellison would still be getting all the benefits of breastmilk. And, other people, including Barrett would get to feed her too. Let me say this, if you are exluxively pumping, I've got major respect for you. It is hard. Really hard.
The biggest problem was simply that I couldn't keep up with her. She was eating more than I was able to pump. So, I was pumping every two hours just to get enough for her next feeding. Once Barrett was back at work and our family wasn't here anymore, doing this on my own was nearly impossible. Every two hours...Ellison would eat, I'd spend just enough time with her to get her settled down enough so I could pump, I'd wash and dry bottles/pump parts, and then Ellison would be up again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over and over again. All day and all night.
I didn't feel like I was getting to enjoy my baby at all. I didn't get to spend quality time with her because I always needed her to fall asleep so I could pump and clean parts. I was always watching the clock. I didn't have time to eat, brush my teeth, play with my baby, sleep, or do anything other than feed her and pump. Not fun.
So, after lots and lots of tears and discussion, we made the decision to wean Ellison from breastmilk and switch her over to formula exclusively. I have to believe that there is more to her being happy and healthy than just breastmilk. I truly believe that once I'm able to spend more time with her and less time pumping, that we will all be happier. I can't just stop pumping cold turkey, so I'm weaning myself too. I went from every two hours to every four hours to every six hours and now to every seven hours. I went from 15 minutes to 13 minutes and now to 12 minutes per session. She's still getting mostly breastmilk at this point, so we may even make it to six weeks with her still getting some.
I felt really guilty about it for a few days. It just seemed like something I should be able to do for her. I feel much better about it now. We're not watching the clock all day. We get to play and snuggle and rest! She's happy, so I'm happy. I was formula fed, and I think I turned out just fine. At least she was able to get some breastmilk. That's more than a lot of babies get!
So, if you're able to breastfeed your baby...good for you. If you can't, don't beat yourself up over it. Our babies need to be loved, they need to be cared for, and they need to be fed...it doesn't matter how it has to happen.
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