I want to share an experience with women who cannot breastfeed due to any number of issues.
When I gave birth to my daughter she had to stay in the hospital for an additional week after I was discharged so she could be at least five pounds. She was born 4.5 pounds approximately and was bottle fed since birth because she was too tiny to latch effectively and the pediatrician at the hospital didn’t recommend continued latching practices and tiring her out. She also spent a good amount of time with the nursery staff at the hospital and they fed her Similac. When I was discharged I didn’t bring my baby home. She had to stay to meet the weight requirement in order to pass the car seat test and discharge criteria. I visited her everyday and spent the entire time I was there using the high efficiency, industrial grade breast pump that the hospital had. I did this for only two or three times a day of course so my milk supply died down. The only time I had engorgement was when I had to express colostrum.
When they discharged my daughter they gave me an amazingly useful diaper bag which I used for many years until we got another bigger one. They also gave me a one month supply of prepared formula. I just had to unscrew the top and screw the nipple on without having to add anything to it. Bottles were all disposable. I can’t tell you how much this made my life easy as I went back to residency merely twelve days after my C section. Those bottles were life savers.
I didn’t have my second baby until last year. When I had him I wanted to try many firsts. I wanted to have a vaginal birth and I also wanted to breastfeed him. I had almost sixteen weeks of maternity leave and I was so excited to learn how to breastfeed and provide this to my baby. Having said that I had never had any guilty thoughts about not breastfeeding Minha. No one forced me to nurse her either.
Raahim’s pregnancy was different in many ways. We now had our own home, more money, more means to do everything. I invested in two breast pumps, one through my insurance and one out of pocket. I was so gung-ho about the whole thing.
Alhamdulillah I gave birth to Raahim naturally even though the labor was more than 36 hours and required induction after I failed to have spontaneous contractions even though my water had broken.
Raahim was healthier than Minha by a few ounces. He weighed at exactly five pounds. He lost some weight in the initial days as expected. Pediatricians told me that 8-10 percent of weight loss in the first seventy-two hours of life is normal.
Raahim also had a rising bilirubin without jaundice. This was closely monitored even when we were discharged.
While in the hospital I felt that the staff was very reluctant about recommending any formula. My milk supply was very little and Raahim spent most of the time crying. Even then the lactation consultant didn’t recommend anything. Instead she picked out something with my nipple and that it wasn’t perky enough to facilitate nursing. So I was given a nipple shield.
Each night the nurses would take Raahim so I could sleep. He would cry the whole night but they never fed him formula or encouraged me to.
When I would feed Raahim a teaspoon of colostrum, the lactation consultant would say “ that’s fine. His stomach is the size of a pea. He doesn’t need anymore”. We were discharged the third day.
The moment I came home Raahim started wailing again. I was very concerned because he just wouldn’t stop. Slowly I noticed that not only was he crying, he had stopped making tears. This all happened merely two to three hours after discharge.
I called the local children’s hospital through their smart phone app. The pediatrician saw Raahim online and said “ he’s starving and I bet is losing weight rapidly. Do you have formula?”.
I remembered that the place that we had our baby registry at had sent us three types of Similac. And bless my most amazing husband, he had bought a bottle against my constant objection and had said” don’t use it but let’s get it”. I immediately made a bottle of formula. Dr Johnson stayed on the phone the whole time. She guided me through preparing the formula, how to position the bottle and when to determine that he had been fed. My mom was there, paralyzed at what was happening.
When Raahim had had four ounces, Dr. Johnson told me to feed him every two hours, not on demand but spontaneously. She saved my son from going back to the emergency room.
I continued to try and express milk but then I started to have bleeding from the suctioning and I gave up. My baby had had colostrum and I had some consolation in that. He had received antibodies.
What’s the point of this post? That fed is best. That breastfeeding is great but formula feeding is all that some people can do. That don’t feel guilty about legitimate choices. That breast versus formula alone isn’t the difference between a mother who cares and one who doesn’t. That don’t give people grief over not breast feeding for whatever reason.
I see so many posts from young mothers who are getting flak for not being the mother that others thought they’d be. For not breastfeeding. For not making trying more to nurse. For not giving up their life for it.
People who breastfeed! I have immense respect for you. My awe for you is so much more because you make it look so effortless. But you know it’s not easy.
Let’s give every mother the grace to carry her motherhood to the best of her abilities.