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