Spring break was last week, and while we had a great time doing some fun stuff around town, staying in pajamas until mid-morning, and playing with friends, I was pretty excited to get back to our regularly scheduled programming yesterday. Reid does pretty well with a schedule, and it’s no shocker that my super controlling, type A personality does as well. Sunday night I fell asleep with a smile on my face, dreaming of a quiet morning on Monday while Reid was at school.
Then he woke up with pink eye. No school for Reid, no peace and quiet for me.
For those of you whose children have never had it, pink eye is the worst. I mean not literally – it’s not life threatening or anything – but we now have to do eye drops 3x/day. Reid is really sensitive about things touching his eyes, ears, hair, etc. This makes haircuts REALLY fun, and eye drops fall into that category as well. I tried everything to get him to lay down willingly- bribes, taking away TV, threats, and finally sitting on him with his arms pinned to his sides with my legs. I controlled his head with my elbows and got his eye pried open with my fingers. We have to do this a total of 21 times. I told Reid if we didn’t, his eye will fall out of his head on the playground.
Anyway, something has been on my mind lately. When I got pregnant with Reid, I read tons of books, websites, went to classes, and got as prepared as possible. We hired a doula for the birth, and I thought that we were pretty ready. I did not prepare for breastfeeding, because I kept reading about how “natural” it is, how it’s what babies and mamas are meant to do. I didn’t even think twice about it- that’s how I would feed our new baby. I didn’t even learn to use my pump ahead of time because I didn’t think I’d need it. I owned no nursing bras or shirts, no nursing pads or lanolin cream. I didn’t even know half that stuff existed, or why I’d need it. I didn’t know what a lactation consultant did, or why I’d need one. I had no clue that there was more than one position to hold a nursing baby. I was clueless.
Then Reid was born.
It turns out that breastfeeding is really HARD. Reid was a super sleepy baby, so when I finally got him to latch on (a whole process in itself) he would almost immediately fall asleep. I confused this with him being done eating, so I’d try to put him back in his bed. Almost immediately he’d cry, because he was still hungry. This dance of latch-eat for 2 minutes-sleep-cry continued night after night. He never got into that “milk coma” that newborn babies get- he was just crying after eating. I felt so guilty, because this was supposed to be natural and easy, right? But it wasn’t. It was hard, and terrible, and painful (thanks engorgement). I felt lonely- Kirk was asleep in our room, and I was stuck with this baby in the nursery, so unsure of how to handle this, but Kirk couldn’t really help me because he lacked the proper equipment. I started to get a little resentful that I had to grow a baby, push him out, and then single-handedly feed him. This wasn’t fair.
I had my mom run to Target at 9pm on a Friday night to get me a manual pump because my electric one was too confusing for this first time mom to figure out. I pumped a little bottle for Reid, which also eased the pain, and he ate it right up and FELL ASLEEP. This was amazing! We talked to the pediatrician, who also felt that a dairy sensitivity may be at play, and decided about 3 weeks after Reid was born to switch to formula. He became much happier and slept better, and I hardly felt any guilt at all anymore. Sure, I wanted to breastfeed, but it just didn’t work for us. Plus, the difference in Reid’s mood was so clear- we made the right choice.
Three and a half years later, Sydney arrived. This time, I put all my effort into learning about breastfeeding, which I felt a little silly about being a mother already. I hired a private lactation consultant who came to my house to talk with me before Sydney’s arrival, and then came twice after her birth. I bought nursing bras, tank tops and shirts, pads, creams, and watched about 500 YouTube videos on latching properly. I talked to all of my breastfeeding friends about my plan, and lined up as much support as possible. I googled lactation support groups and knew where I could go almost every day of the week. I was prepared for the engorgement, the pain while the baby figures out how to eat, and the endless leaking once my milk came in. I set up goals for myself- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, then the 6 month mark. I WAS READY.
Sydney is a much different baby than Reid was, and she caught on to nursing right away. She was still sleepy, but I could usually keep her awake enough to eat. My lactation consultant, Sam, came over about 5 days after Sydney was born, and helped me figure a few more things out. I struggle with the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much she was eating (one benefit of a bottle-fed baby), and she reminded me to just watch the baby. Syd was happy, slept well (for a newborn, anyway), was content after eating. Kirk and I developed a system where he’d sleep with Sydney in the guest room (her little baby noises would wake me up all night), and change her when she woke up to eat. I then fed her and put her back to bed. It allowed me to stay in bed for the most part, and I felt like Kirk was actually helping where he could. It was a good system.
I made it to my Halloween goal, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Around the 4 month mark, I decided to start supplementing with a bottle of formula before bed to make sure she had a full tummy before bedtime. But for the most part, I kept breastfeeding. We finally made it to the 6 month mark, and I was so happy. I felt pretty proud of how much we had done- I wanted to quit when Sydney had RSV and basically threw up most of what she ate, but I kept going. I wanted to quit when I was so, so tired of getting up in the middle of the night but I didn’t. I really wanted to quit when I got mastitis, and again when I had the flu, but I didn’t. I have so much love and support- it was so needed.
But now, at 6 months, I felt a little different about it. Sydney was becoming more and more distracted when she ate, and it was really difficult to feed her. Nursing took at least 30 minutes a lot of the time. I couldn’t just take her to her room where it was quiet- I still had Reid running around and terrorizing the house. I tried that once and came down to crayon all over the TV. Plus, I selfishly liked the idea that anyone could feed her, and I’d be able to have a little bit more of my body back to myself. So I started pumping and giving her bottles all the time. And guess what? She was still happy and thriving. As pumping got to be more of a chore, I weaned off of that and mixed in more formula. And guess what? She was still happy and thriving.
Today, at 7 months, she is 100% bottle fed. I sometimes miss the connection and bond I had with her with breastfeeding, but I don’t regret my decision. I do feel some guilt- not that I made the wrong choice, but that others will judge me for not going a full year. I’m such a people pleaser, I want everyone to agree with my decisions (on everything, really) regardless of whether it matters or not. I mean, the people who think I should have kept going aren’t exactly going to come over and help me feed my baby.
Sydney is doing great. She’s happy and so am I. Breastmilk, formula, bottles- it all ends up the same, in my opinion- with your toddler eating something they found on the floor at Target.