Part 2 – 0 – 3 Months – Post-Partum experiences and lessons – What you may or may not know


Part 1 – 0 – 3 Months – Post-Partum experiences and lessons – What you may or may not know
Part 3 – 0 – 3 Months – Post-Partum experiences and lessons – What you may or may not know

3. No matter how much you’ve read about it and know what you’re doing is right, you may still agonize with breastfeeding vs. formula decisions.

I did. I was one of those women who pre-parenthood, was firmly against formula and pacifiers. At the hospital, the day after he was born, Baby J lost 9% of his birth weight. At the time, my nurse strongly suggested that we consider supplementing with formula. Aaron and I just looked at each other, worried. She said that had Baby J lost 10% of his weight, supplemental formula would not have been an option and they would have fed him that.

Given the gravity of the situation, we relented and allowed for the nurse to bring him formula. We were provided with Similac Advanced ready-to-serve formula. We used this for a couple weeks after we returned home and then switched to Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce

Every material you read online or off, says that your milk will come in in 3-5 days. This is misleading. While I produced colostrum soon after J was born, milk itself took a while (over a week) and even then, my supply wasn’t the greatest. I struggled meeting J’s needs for a while and for a long time, resisted formula even though I had to begrudgingly accept the inevitability of it.

Thankfully, I didn’t have any of the guilt that dovetails often with feeding formula. I continued breastfeeding without ever knowing how much I was actually producing. I pumped thrice a day. At first I pumped for 15 minutes starting on day 3 of J’s birth, then upped it to 30 minutes and settled in for 1 hour or a little over, thrice a day for weeks, sometimes in the middle of the night if I had been too tired to pump a third time during the day.

I never pumped more than 2 oz for the longest time. Today, on the best of days after over an hour of pumping, I produce about 4 oz. I understand that how much you pump is not an indication of how much milk you produce so I made peace with the fact that starting with week 3, baby J was exclusively on breast milk for at least three weeks. Then, we switched to formula for night time before-bed feedings (I breastfed throughout the night whenever he woke up and during the day).

Once Baby J was about 2.5 months, I started pumping only once a day. By this time, my supply had been established and I pumped enough in just an hour (still never more than 4 oz and typically, only about 2-3 oz, both sides total).

A little shy of 5 months now, Baby J is on 75-80% breast milk but I am no longer averse to using formula. I embraced formula for a few reasons:

(a) I could tell how much Baby J was feeding;
(b) I wanted to pump and freeze breast milk for the time when I stop nursing exclusively and save it for mixing it with rice cereal and other solids;
(c) it was more convenient when going out because even though I did breastfeed in public (with a nursing cover), it was easier to just prep formula and especially so if when we were driving somewhere (yes, I fed Baby J formula in the car multiple times and no, I didn’t pick him to burp him after. I figured the upright position in the car seat worked in his favor).
(d) I felt confident in the quality of formula I was feeding him and on days when my breast milk had more foremilk than hindmilk, it made me feel good that Baby J was still getting most of the nutrients he deserved (I am not sure if the total number of nutrients and advantages that breast milk provides over formula counts more if there is more foremilk than hindmilk…or if in such cases, formula is indeed better than ‘dilute’ breast milk…I need to look this up)

Until yesterday, I was pumping and storing milk. I wanted to make 25 bags and sealed my 25th bag last night. I used Lansinoh 20435 Breastmilk Storage Bags, 25-Count Box . Each bag holds 6 oz so I didn’t accumulate a lot of milk but it should help at least somewhat to make rice cereal (this was the original intention but since I learned that unused rice cereal should be thrown out and had to throw about 1.5 oz of breast milk-prepared rice cereal the first time I made it, I will now use pumped breast milk for feeding Baby J once I stop actively nursing).

The bottom line is that for a while I agonized over using formula. I wanted my baby to be exclusively breast fed. I wanted to enable my baby for a bright and intellectually superior future with the best nutrients available through breast milk, with all those disease fighting capabilities, antibodies and everything.

As a result, I feared that I wasn’t giving my baby the best I could – a more than fighting chance in a highly competitive world if I supplemented with formula. I have come around since then. Breast milk alone cannot account for a bright future.

Nature, environmental factors, as well as other genetic factors count toward a heckava lot too. I strongly believe now that every parent (not counting exceptions such as dead beat parents and others who fit likewise categories) does the best she or he can to do right by their child. If that means exclusively formula feeding, breast feeding, or a combination of the two, then so be it. No guilt. No questions asked. Certainly not from me.

4. You can’t wait to stop breastfeeding yet the thought of no longer doing so fills you with a range of emotions. 

Since my parents returned to our place after a short visit to my sister’s and because I was still working toward my 25 bags goal, instead of using pumped milk to feed J in the mornings after I bring him out so my mom and dad can take care of him while I catch a couple hours uninterrupted sleep, we have been feeding him formula.

Now, to Baby J’s credit, he has always accepted the breast, the bottle, and the pacifier without too much fuss. More recently for a couple days, however, perhaps because of more bottle feeding, he either rejected the breast or barely nursed even when very hungry (the only time he nurses without protest in during all his dream feedings at night). The first few times he rejected the breast, I was devastated.

It is true that I have been waiting for breast feeding to end even though I have come to accept and even enjoy that precious time with my child but suddenly faced with the reality of perhaps being pushed to do so because J had other ideas really saddened me. I am not sure how I feel about ending breast feeding. On one hand, I am looking forward to it so I can hopefully get my old breasts back to their size (at least that’s what I read) and not worry about what I eat or drink.

On the other hand, I might actually start feeling guilty if I stop nursing knowing that I stopped for selfish reasons. A part of me wants to nurse J till he weans himself off however long that might take and another part of me wants to stop at 6 months and introduce cow’s milk slowly at 9 months. Kids in India or at least my siblings and I had cow’s milk as babies under 1 year of age and we all turned out fine. In fact, my parents’ generation of parents weren’t even aware of the whole ‘no cow’s milk before 1 year of age’ deal.

So, all in all, when suddenly faced with the thought that Baby J might no longer prefer the breast, I was upset and hoped that he would still feed at least some (also, if he doesn’t nurse at all, I won’t be able to pump any more – I wonder how exclusive pumpers do it – how do they keep their supply up when the baby isn’t nursing off of them). Now, he nurses at night and makes little snacks of our breastfeeding times occasionally during the day. Because he is on solids and because I now have my frozen bags, he drinks breast milk from a bottle (that I pumped the day before) and formula at other times. He hasn’t completely rejected the breast but whether he takes it or not depends on his whim.

Next: Read Part 3 – 0 – 3 Months – Post-Partum experiences and lessons – What you may or may not know

Published by Suchitra

I am a former Communication Studies professor turned stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) to two multiracial kids. I write about my adventures in parenting and living a multicultural life with my family. Blogger at: Follow me: @thephdmama

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