I am not against formula feeding in any way. If it has to be done out of necessity, so be it. But given a choice, I’d choose breastfeeding over formula anytime. Simply because, it has been proven that the benefits far outweigh that of formula. Besides, breast milk is free!
I did research as much as I can on breastfeeding, but the theory behind breastfeeding did not prepare me for the practical aspects of it. Truth be told, it did not occur to me that breastfeeding can be really tricky. Besides, it hardly seems to be a topic that people talk about on how difficult breastfeeding can be. Fact is, years and years ago, women just put the baby on the breasts and everyone knew what to do. There was no lactation consultant. After all, isn’t breastfeeding the most natural thing? If only it was THAT simple.
I struggled in my first few weeks of breastfeeding. I blame it on the lack of support and education from the medical staff at the hospital I was in, and I did not know any better. While they seem to be pro-breastfeeding, their attitude towards it certainly was very far from the truth. Being a little more knowledgeable now, I feel angry at the thought that they could have tried to subtly manipulate me to go with formula and undermine breastfeeding. I absolutely hate that feeling of being manipulated. I have my reasons for thinking so (and I did not know these things then):
#1: They should be bringing Spud to me often enough as soon as I delivered. No one explained to me that the baby needs to suckle on the nipple often (every hour!) to stimulate milk production, especially at night. In fact, I was told to rest the nights away to recover as the nurses can take care of the baby in the nursery.
#2: On the 3rd day, we were basically told that the baby is dehydrated, with crystallized urine. Hence, I should consider supplementing formula to get her fluid up. Despite being apprehensive about it as I wanted t just exclusive breastfeed, we agreed as we did not know any better. This supplementing with formula thing was drummed to us for several days thereafter for the same reason.
#3: That if you had a C-sect, there will be a delay in the milk production as compared to normal vagina delivery. Hence, the baby will have to work harder at suckling or use a pump to stimulate.
#4: Nobody at the hospital said anything about not to breastfeed for 2 hours continuously at a stretch. I did it only because Spud refused to let go and they had told me they baby will stop when they are done, so I ploughed through.
#5: No one warned me about having extremely sore nipples and that the pain can just be too intense to bear. I had to stop breastfeeding after just a few days of trying as my nipples blistered and bled, as the skins around it came off. I was told that these things are “normal”. I was only given a Lanolin cream to soothe the pain away. The nurses dismissed me and no one bothered to examine my condition properly and provide me with the support I needed.
#6: When we asked the nurse if I could use pumps to stimulate milk production since I could not breastfeed, I was basically told not to do it as it was not necessary.
#7: After I got home, it was not explained explicitly to me that one should never miss the breastfeeding sessions at night as it is the crucial time where milk production is at its peak. Not knowing any better, I skipped the night feeds, substituting with bottle feeds so Silver Bullet could help just because I was really tired as I did not get any sleep in the day with Spuds hourly feeding sessions.
# 8: Pediatrician and Nurses told me the baby should be fed in a 2-3 hour intervals. Hourly feeding is not normal at all, limiting to about 30cc per feed.
Throughout the entire time, I was convinced that I did not have enough milk. Spud can easily polish off 50 cc in one seating in her first 2 weeks, and then some. Besides, the nurses also seemed to think so, encouraging us to supplement with formula as my milk had not come in yet. Their reasoning is that I could easily switch back to breastfeeding when I start producing enough milk in about 2 weeks.
After that, whatever amount of breast milk I pumped out never seemed enough for Spud who demanded an hourly feed and so, supplementing with formula became a natural progression.
The entire ordeal was not easy. The attempts of just feeding Spud the right amount at the right time was frustrating. Top that up with a rough 2 weeks of recovery, sore nipples, hourly feeding and pumping, sterilizing the pumps and bottles before and after use, crying baby round the clock, lack of sleep …it all became utter madness.
Nevertheless, I have had no intention whatsoever to stop breastfeeding just because it was frustratingly difficult. I finally managed to get some help recently, and the only thing I did different after almost 3 weeks of madness was to do away with the bottles at night and start breastfeeding her.
Since then, I am glad to say that things have gotten better. I figured that her day seems to be regulated by proper feeding (duh!) and when we got that right, everything else seemed to be falling into its place. The supplement of formula and believing that I was not producing enough milk without understanding the underlying issues were probably the primary reasons why we screwed up in the first place!
My take is: Never believe you would have to supplement with formula if you don’t want to, especially in the early stages of breastfeeding! Oh, and the hourly feeds are certainly normal for a breastfed baby.