Formula, Pumping, and Breastfeeding: Amanda Shares Her Story

Formula, Pumping, and Breastfeeding: Amanda Shares Her Story

What’s your opinion on the best way to feed a baby? I bet I can guess.

 

Breastfeeding almost always comes in at #1, pumping in at #2, and formula feeding, well, that isn’t even ranking nowadays.

 

For those of us who are moms, our opinions are often deeply intertwined with our personal experience.

 

What do you think a mother would say if she had personal experience feeding each of her babies differently? I think that if anyone is able to weigh in with an unbiased view, it is this mom.

 

But have you ever met a mom who has done this? Probably not.

 

This is your lucky day!!

 

Today we are going to unroll Part 2 of our Infant Feeding Series.

 

The purpose of this series to shed light and understanding on the cross section between infant and maternal health when it comes to infant feeding.

 

As great as breastfeeding is for babies, sometimes it just isn’t an option. And sometimes it is an option, but proves to be more unhealthy that the alternatives.

 

We want to break the stigma surrounding infant feeding options by sharing real life stories.

 

I’m super stoked to introduce you to a personal friend of mine, Amanda Cantwell!

 

Mother breastfeeds, pumps, and formula feeds

 

Amanda holds a degree in Speech Language Pathology. She is a mother to three beautiful children, Mason, Reagan, and Peyton. She lives in Bismarck, North Dakota with her husband, Eric, their children, and cat Snow.

 

Amanda enjoys being a stay-at-home wife and mother and advocates for Autism awareness in her community.

 

Amanda has an amazing story about infant feeding. While she hoped to breastfeed each of her children, extenuating circumstances forced her to do otherwise.

 

And you know what? The only thing that she regrets is being so hard on herself.

 

I’m going to shut up now so I don’t ruin her story for you. Here you go!

 

Amanda’s Story

 

Navigating Breastfeeding for the First Time with Baby #1

 

I have 3 children, and each of them were fed differently.

 

When I was pregnant with my first child, Mason, I took several classes on breastfeeding.

 

I had this idea in my mind that breastfeeding was best, and it was the ONLY way to feed him.

 

My classes taught me that breastfeeding would come naturally; that it was something you and your baby would instinctively know how to do. That was not the case for us.

 

When Mason was born and I finally got the chance to try to nurse him, it just didn’t happen. He couldn’t figure out how to latch, and the only advice I was given was “Just keep trying. He’ll figure it out.”

 

On the last day of my hospital stay, a lactation consultant came in and suggested that we try a shield to get him to latch better. I was given a shield, but no instructions on how to put it on, use it, or help Mason latch.  

 

So we went home, and I kept trying to nurse him. We didn’t succeed. I was devastated. I felt I had failed him.

 

I felt like I couldn’t do the most “natural” thing for a mother to do- feed and bond with their child. This was a large contributor to my struggle with postpartum depression.

 

Finding an Alternative Solution

 

After talking with my husband, Eric, I came to terms with not nursing Mason. I decided to express milk and bottle feed him.

 

It sounded easy enough, but it turned out to be more stressful and damaging to my mental health than trying to nurse.  

After 4 months of pumping, Mason’s pediatrician advised us to switch to a soy based formula because he wasn’t gaining weight.  

 

When we switched to formula, he started to gain weight, sleep better, and was all-around happier. You’d think I would be overjoyed, but honestly, I was crushed.  

Feeding bottle with baby milk formula on table

When he was drinking breast milk, he was colicky, didn’t sleep, and was hard to soothe. But when we switched to formula, he started to sleep better and his whole demeanor improved.

 

I felt like I had failed as a mom again. I couldn’t feed my baby like everyone else. I had failed to provide him with the ‘best’ nutrition. Looking back, I feel like this is a silly way to think. He was just a difficult baby.  

 

I wish I would have realized that breastfeeding isn’t always best. Sometimes it just isn’t best for certain children, and that is okay. I think I would have done better mentally and emotionally if I had known this.

 

My husband was very supportive of every decision I made. He helped me realize that it’s okay that my journey with Mason didn’t go the way I had planned. He survived, was happy, and was healthy.

 

Another Attempt at Breastfeeding with Baby #2

 

My journey with Reagan was extremely different from Mason. Reagan came into the world super calm and content. We definitely needed that after receiving Mason’s diagnosis of autism.  

 

My goal was to breastfeed Reagan, and I felt more comfortable asking for help this time around. After my last experience, I knew we would need a nipple shield, so I made sure to get one before she was born.

 

As soon as her cord was cut, I began trying to nurse her. I tried for hours.

 

When we asked for a lactation consultant to help us, we learned that Reagan had a lip and tongue tie. Double whammy.  

 

I was angry. I felt like everything was against my efforts to breastfeed my children.  

 

We had Reagan’s tongue clipped, not her lip. It helped a little bit, but she still struggled.

 

The Switch to Pumping

 

After two weeks of meager sleep and hardly getting anywhere with nursing, I made the decision to exclusively pump. My sleep deprivation made me desperate.

 

This worked for us. I had an oversupply and was producing around 46 oz a day. That’s insane!

 

Pumping literally took over my life though.

Mother pumping breastmilk

I wanted to have that bond with her that everyone talked about, but I am happy with my decision to pump and bottle feed her.

 

Mentally, I felt better about myself for choosing to pump versus formula feed.

 

I had more realistic views about feeding this time around, and told myself that it was okay if I had to use formula. The important thing was that she was happy and healthy.

 

Again, my husband was supportive of my decision. My parents and in-laws thought I should give her formula though.

 

I had family and friends that were uncomfortable feeding her my breast milk, and were uncomfortable when I needed to pump or store my milk in the fridge. But I didn’t let it get to me. Eventually, they got over it.

 

At this time I didn’t have many friends. We had just moved. I was a stay-at-home mom, and didn’t leave the house much unless we were going to Mason’s therapies.

 

A Third Attempt to Breastfeed with Baby #3

 

Again, my journey with Peyton was way different than the journey’s with Mason and Reagan.  

 

This pregnancy was a total surprise. Honestly, we were scared.

 

At the time, we were going through a lot of struggles with Mason, and we felt it was best to focus on our two children, as opposed to having another one and adding to the chaos.  

 

But alas, God had different plans for us.  

 

This time around, I was extremely determined to breastfeed. I kept telling myself not to give up on a bad day. I decided that if I was going to quit, I was going to quit on a good day because I would always regret quitting on a bad day.

 

Let me tell you- the beginning was HARD. We struggled with the breast shield and getting her to latch.

 

The first month was filled with struggles. There was a lot of crying, and a lot of my husband helping me calm down, take a break, and assure me that she’ll get it. Without his support I would have given up.  

 

I knew I didn’t want to pump this time around. I have a love/hate relationship with my pump. I try my hardest this time around to not pump if I don’t have to.  

 

Peyton would latch great during the day, but night time was totally different.  

 

She would scream and get angry so quickly. I had to walk around and bounce her to get her to latch for the first month. But after that, things have gotten a lot easier.  

 

Finally Breastfeeding!

 

Nursing Peyton has been an amazing journey. I love it. I am finally experiencing the bond everyone told me about.

Mother breastfeeding newborn baby

But it has come with hard times too. She currently is on a 2-3 hour nursing schedule (even through the night!) and refuses to take a bottle or a sippy cup.

 

Doing this for nearly 10 months has been hard!

 

Eric fully supports my decision to nurse Peyton. He has tried to help me by offering her a bottle, but it has been largely unsuccessful.

 

I really do enjoy the time we spend nursing, and how she just adores me. I didn’t really have that bond with my other two. They were very much daddy’s boy/girl, and still are.  

 

Feeding Babies Takes a Village

 

We have a great community where we live now. We moved 9 months ago, but have already developed deep friendships. Our friends are like family to us.

 

Many of our friends breastfeed, and they have all been supportive of my breastfeeding journey.

It has taken the support of our “village” to help me accomplish my goal.

 

If you are struggling, I feel it is helpful to find a group of other mothers who will be there for you day or night, and reach out to them.  

 

I have done this for a few of my friends, and it has helped them so much.  

 

Sometimes this meant encouraging to push forward in their journey, and sometimes it meant letting them know that it was okay to call it quits.

 

One of my friends was struggling to pump at work and keep up her supply, while going through postpartum depression. It was draining her mentally and emotionally.  

Related: What I Learned From Feeding on Demand

 

I told her that it’s okay to not breastfeed. It’s okay to formula feed for your mental health, your baby, and your family.  

 

After quitting, she thanked me. She said she had needed to know that she wasn’t failing; that she was doing what was best for her family. She is much happier now, and so is her baby.  

 

Advice for New Moms

 

The biggest piece of advice that I would like to pass on is this: make sure you have a support system.

 

It’s important to be surrounded by people that are on board with your goals and willing to help you achieve them. But it’s important that they are flexible and maintain a clear head.

 

Often times, when mothers are exhausted and stressed out, they can’t.

 

You need your support people to be strong for you and assure you that even if things aren’t going as planned, it’s okay, even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment.

 

There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby a different way. The important thing is that your baby is healthy and fed.

 

My Final Thoughts

 

It’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole of self-doubt, self-hatred, and feeling like you failed your child.  

 

I felt like I failed Mason for giving him formula. I felt like MY body could not feed him what he needed. But all those things were things beyond our control. I see that now, and I am okay with it.

 

With Reagan, I was okay with pumping because it was easier than trying to nurse. It was extensive, draining work though. But I felt like it was worth it, and still do.  

 

I love nursing Peyton. But it comes at a high cost. She refuses a bottle and won’t let anyone else feed her.

 

We have a great bond, but I cannot leave her for more than 2-3 hours at a time. There are a lot of things I would like to do, but can’t.

 

Now all that being said, I have made 3 different decision on feeding my 3 very different children.  And honestly, I don’t prefer one over the other.

 

For now, this is our life and I love it. I am trying to take in and enjoy every moment that I can.

 

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t beat myself up for not being able to breastfeed my first two children. I feel the choices that I made were best for our family.

 

Breastfeeding is NOT for everyone. As I said, I have fed all 3 of my children differently, and in each situation, I feel that I made the choice that was best for all of us.

 

I wish society wouldn’t put such a pressure to breastfeed on new moms or moms in general. Because in our case it wasn’t best for Mason, or Reagan.

 

Fed is best. And I personally feel the mental health of mom is best. What works for YOUR family, is what is best, and that may or may not include the breast.

 

 Mother breastfeeds, pumps, and formula feeds

Feeding On Demand: What I Learned Might Surprise You

Feeding On Demand: What I Learned Might Surprise You

“Breast is Best” could very well be the mantra for millennial moms, and for many, this means feeding on demand. For our generation, breastfeeding is the default for new mothers. To choose another option (unless absolutely necessary) will quickly get you shunned from the hottest playgroups.

 

We all want to be able to breastfeed. We want to love everything about it. But for some of us it will be impossible, and for others it will be miserable.

 

When mothers strive to breastfeed, but struggle or are unable, the outcome is often devastating.

 

That is because the way that we feed our babies is about much more than nutrition. It impacts our confidence and the way we view ourselves as a mother.

 

In an ideal world, breastfeeding would come easily for all of us and our babies. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we?

Infant Feeding Series

Over the next couple of months, we will be exploring the cross section between infant feeding and maternal health from a variety of perspectives.

 

You will have the opportunity to hear straight from the mouth of real mothers about how their experiences impacted them physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

These mothers are warriors. They have fought to do the best for their children. Each of them was dealt a different hand in life, and each had to weight their options accordingly.

 

We will cover the challenges of feeding NICU babies to inducing lactation for adopted babies, and everything in between. Tongue ties, multiples, postpartum depression, low milk supply, medical conditions, pure exhaustion- you name it, we will address it.

 

And to make sure that this isn’t just an emotionally based series, we will have pediatricians, lactation consultants, and therapists weigh in on the subject as well.

 

The fact is, the journey of feeding our babies will look different for each of us. Try as we might, there are many factors outside of our control.

 

But we have one thing in common: we want to do what is best for our children.

 

My sincerest desire is that you will walk away from this series empowered to do what is best for your baby and you.

 

If you are looking for inspiration from someone who has fought your battle before you, I hope you get the encouragement and the resources you need to keep going.

 

If you are on the brink of throwing in the towel, and you need to hear that you aren’t a bad mom for giving your baby formula, I hope that you come away with the confidence to do it.

 

Whatever it is that you need, I hope that you find it.

 

In the spirit of vulnerability, I thought it would be best to begin by sharing my own journey of breastfeeding through postpartum depression.

 

My Breastfeeding Journey

 

For me, breastfeeding on demand and postpartum depression are deeply intertwined. I experienced postpartum depression for a number or reasons, but breastfeeding on demand was fuel to the fire.

 

My oldest daughter, Emmie, could easily be classified as a “high needs” baby. Colic, reflux, sleep adverse, temperamental, all of it.

 

On average, she took an hour and a half to nurse. The time between feeding sessions would range from 10 min to an hour. This left me little if any time to eat, sleep, or take care of myself.

 

To add insult to injury, she managed to make breastfeeding the most UN-intimate thing I could imagine.

 

She would suck voraciously while pulling back her head and pushing me away. If she wasn’t pushing me away, she was clawing at my chest, leaving red scratches up to my neck.

 

For six months, she woke me up about once an hour to eat. If I tried to withhold the breast from her, she would scream.

 

Her screaming (which she did a lot of) gave me a rush of adrenaline that would leave me staring at the ceiling for 45 minutes after she fell asleep.

via GIPHY

 

And naps? Oh, those didn’t happen. I lived on increments of 15-60 minutes of sleep.

 

Words could never shine a light on my misery. Months of piecing together a whopping total of 4 hours of (very interrupted) sleep per day was killing me.

 

My mental and emotional health was shot.

 

The Effects of feeding on Demand

 

Breastfeeding on demand made me resent my daughter and my husband. I resented my daughter for resigning me to a chair all day. I blamed her for my isolation and inability to leave the house. Wouldn’t you?

 

I hated that I had to ask my husband for help when I wanted to do basic things such as eating or taking a shower. If he was busy or working, I couldn’t. I often went hungry or thirsty.

 

When we went back home for the holidays (we live overseas), I missed out on a lot of time with family because I had to nurse our daughter, or go to sleep when she did.

 

Every moment of sleep was precious when I was getting up every hour of the night. It was extremely isolating.

 

I was lonely, resentful, and depressed.

 

At that point in time, what I desperately needed was the ability to meet own basic needs. But breastfeeding on demand made it impossible. I was driven to the point of near insanity.

 

For a solid month, if not longer, it took every ounce of my self control not to drop my daughter off at a fire station and hop on an airplane, while filing for divorce from somewhere abroad.

 

I knew that if they were both gone, I could convince myself, if only for a little while, that it had all been a bad dream.

 

I don’t love breastfeeding, but I do it anyway

 

Over time, things got easier, but we found ourselves with a new set of baggage to work through.

 

I sought counseling, which brought me to the realization that what we were doing was causing far more harm than good, and Chris and I have poured countless hours into restoring the damage that breastfeeding on demand did to our marriage.

 

I still nurse my daughter. She is two now. And three months ago, her sister was born and joined the party.

 

I wish I could say that I continued to nurse Emmie because we turned some magical corner and I began to enjoy it. Nope.

 

I stopped resenting her, but “enjoy” is not the first word that I would use to describe our nursing relationship. “Tolerate” is more fitting.

 

I don’t hate it anymore, but I don’t love it either.

 

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many moments when I have enjoyed our time together while she is nursing. There just haven’t been enough to offset the damage.

 

And we have fun doing other things too. I don’t need breastfeeding to bond with her.

 

The reason that I have nursed her for this long is because she is a damned good fighter. I know that weaning her will be a battle, and I’m not ready to deal with that level of conflict yet.

 

What I’m Doing Differently with Baby #2

 

When it comes to my youngest daughter, Petra, I am less concerned about whether my she drinks breastmilk or formula. I am far more concerned about my mental and emotional health.

 

What I learned through my experience with Emmie is that while there is a substitute for breastmilk, there is no substitute for love.

 

If I give Petra breast milk at the cost of my well being, I will be short-changing her. If I am not mentally and emotionally healthy, I can not be a good mother.

 

So we supplement with formula. And you know what? I love it.

 

Our bond is amazing, and our whole family is thriving.

 

It is also a big relief to be able to have others play the role of caregiver for her. Shouldering that responsibility alone has never been something that I thrived on.

 

I can sleep, eat my food when it’s hot, shower when I need, and am able to have a social life. None of these things were possible when I was solely responsible for feeding/burping/calming a screaming baby around the clock.

 

Whether I’m feeding Petra breastmilk or formula, by bottle or the breast, our bonding experience is the same. I can’t say that I feel more connected to her either way.

 

I have considered pumping to increase my milk supply and decrease her formula consumption. My mother in law just sent an electric pump, so I will start soon. If I am able to comfortably fit it into my schedule, I will stick to it.

 

But if keeps me stuck in a chair for hours a day, unable to be productive or care for myself, I will stop without hesitation.

 

I have learned to put my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing first. Because when my wellbeing is jeopardized, so is the bond with my children.

 

My Advice for Other Moms

 

My instinct is to scream “Never feed on demand!!!” at every woman sporting a baby bump.

via GIPHY

But I realize that not every baby will be like Emmie. And not every mother will be like me.

 

If by some stroke of sh-tty luck, you are in a similar position to where I was, my advice is this: be flexible, and be gentle with yourself.

 

If you are losing your sanity over breastfeeding, count the cost, and factor yourself into the equation.

 

Consider putting your baby on a schedule, pumping, or supplementing with formula. Do whatever it takes to be a happy mom. Your baby needs you to be a happy more than they need to suck a boob.

 

If sleep is an issue because of unnecessary night nursing, I highly recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the book that we followed to get Emmie sleeping through the night at 6 months.

 

This book literally changed our lives. In three days, Emmie stopped night feedings and began sleeping through the night. And when she did, our whole family finally became happy- including her!

 

Weissbluth breaks the book down by age, so it’s never too late to help your baby get the sleep they need.

And if all else fails, watch some Ali Wong.

 

Update: I just found out that Emmie has a freaking lip tie! And possibly a tongue tie too.

 

After further research, I discovered that lip and tongue ties are directly related to painful nursing, long feeding sessions, colic, and reflux.

 

Petra also has two lip ties (and possibly a tongue tie as well), but her fussiness and reflux haven’t come close to the misery of our experience with Emmie.

 

We will be getting Petra’s ties clipped soon, and I plan to write more about it later. Stay tuned!

Breastfeeding on demand