I suspect this title will get a lot of attention, and I am glad. Let me share why...

I am an acupuncturist, nutritionist, holistic health practitioner, working on a website to join natural minded fertility, pregnancy, birthing, and baby practitioners. I know quite a bit about the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding as well as the downsides of formula. I have two sons, one is two, the other 9 1/2 months old. I am also the daughter of a lactation consultant...

I attended the showing of BOBB last night in Laguna Niguel, hosted by Milkalicious (they were fabulous, by the way, thank you), and before the film they showed a short video in support of breastfeeding, which is much needed. I support the push for breastfeeding and more education about why it is necessary to do all you can to breastfeed your baby for as long as possible. But, one thing I was disappointed about, was how bad it made me feel, as a mom who has had to resort to formula on occasion due to complications. Here's my story:

At 17 days old, my son had to be admitted to the NICU for elevated bilirubin levels. It was the highest level that anyone at our pediatric office and at the local hospital had ever seen in a newborn. I was forced to take my son off the breast for 48 hours and rely on formula while they tested him, and as much as I wanted to continue to breastfeed, they just would not let me. The bili went down after weeks of bili lights, herbs, homeopathy, and any other therapy I could find, but he still had to have formula for a couple days, and as much as that hurt me, I know I have done my best since he has gotten mostly breastmilk since then.

Another issue we have been dealing with is chronic thrush. Since he was about 3 months old, we have been fighting it any way I can think of. I have tried EVERYTHING! Probiotics, grapefruit seed extract, diet, homeopathy, chinese herbs... you name it, I've probably done it. I also did two 2 week rounds of diflucan.. it just came back. For those of you who have dealt with thrush, maybe you know how painful it can be. My nipples have been cracked, cut, bleeding, extremely painful when the baby latches on, and off, and on again (he gets distracted sometimes when feeding...). Pumping is just as painful. It has gotten to the point where many times I dread feeding him. That is NOT what I want my baby to sense from me! I fear him latching on and off, sometimes scream in pain, and I know that he is affected by this. I have been, and still am, close to giving up breastfeeding.

I'm not asking for sympathy, nor am I asking for support, though it is always appreciated. I am surrounded by support, but it does not help my situation. I cannot afford to buy breastmilk; therefore, I have, at times when my nipples are completely thrashed, used formula as a substitute. As much as I hate the thought, I still am considering switching completely to formula.

With that said, I feel that when promoting breastfeeding, just as when promoting natural birth, we need to understand that there are some mothers out there who have tried their best, but just might need to rely on formula or a C section for their baby's health. When sitting in the audience last night, I felt COMPLETELY horrible for having given my baby formula. I remember one mom in the video that Milkalicious showed said that it was sooo dangerous for a mother to be breastfeeding and supplementing with formula at the same time.

What are those dangers??? Is it the contaminants possibly found in formula? PLEASE be aware that breastmilk can contain contaminants as well!!! What we have in our bodies will be present in our breastmilk, and because we live in a contaminated environment, it is unavoidable! Most women do not do a deep detox before falling pregnant, and many women do not eat completely organic food, use all natural, organic products, skin care, make up, etc.. so rest assured we will find parabens, MSG, and other chemicals in our breastmilk!

In no way am I trying to compare formula to breastmilk. All I am trying to say is that, in my opinion, it gets the job done when all else fails. A mother should not be condemned for having to resort to formula. If she is educated on the facts about the benefits of breastmilk and what her baby is missing out on when he or she is not breastfed, as I am, then she will feel bad enough giving her baby formula.

I am in complete support for other mothers out there who have truly given their best to breastfeeding, but for one reason or another, made the decision to quit. I would never wish the difficulties and pain that I have been through with breastfeeding on another woman. I think that we need to support breastfeeding education, as well as natural therapies that can assist in problems that may arise in breastfeeding, but I also think we need to find a way to get better formula available to our mothers and babies, and support research for that cause as well.

Please, in the future, try to be a bit more sensitive to other mothers out there, who love their babies just as much as you love yours and have tried their best to support them and their health in every way they can. It is my opinion that making the statement that a mother is endangering her baby's health when she feeds him formula is a little too harsh. It might be better just to say that we all know breastmilk is best, but sometimes, formula can be ok too.

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Jen,
Thank you SOOOOO much for having the courage to post your message!
I had an emergency c-section after 50 hours of labor at home. I was planning a beautiful water birth - had envisioned it for years but after trying everything to get the baby out, I was transported to the hospital. My son had the cord wrapped twice around his neck, was sunny side up and I had a raging asymptomatic uterine infection. It was the best thing for me to get a c-section and I was thankful for one of the things that I completely judged before it happened.
After his birth, I was on an unbelievable amount of antibiotics and had horrible edema. I breastfed as much as possible the first few days but when my son didn't gain any weight and began becoming jaundiced, my husband and I made the very, very hard decision to supplement with formula so we could leave the hospital with our baby.
Well, my milk never really came in. I saw 5 lactation consultants. Tried every herb, pumped as much as possible, put him to the breast as much as he possibly would, did skin-on-skin, got cranial sacral therapy for him (his jaw and nose got a little smooshed trying to get out) etc, etc. After about 2 weeks, I developed thrush even though I had been taking a heavy dose of probiotics to combat the effects of the antibiotics. I cried tears and tears and tears and tears having to face another letdown in my expectations of how I thought it was going to be. After a while, because he stopped latching on in frustration of not getting enough milk, I began exclusively pumping getting about 4-5 oz a day - enough for 1-2 meals at that point. I was incredibly depressed and unable to fully bond with my son.
Then one day at about 2 1/2 months, I decided to stop pumping and switch fully over to formula, feeding him an organic one I feel half way decent about. I felt so sad, like a failure and yet at the same time, relieved. Relieved that I could mother my son instead of mothering a dang pump. And we are so much more bonded. We are having fun together now. And I'm thankful for the formula because without it, he would not be thriving as much as he is.
That being said, I'm still grieving. I'm still nervous to go out in public and pull out a bottle and formula. Most of my friends and aquaintences are very into natural everything so I tend to feel alone. But this is my path and it's my son's path and I'm learning a lot about how to let go of judgements and attachments and be thankful with what is.
The biggest gift from my experience is that I do not judge other's experiences and decisions anymore. I know everyone has a reason for what they choose to do or not do - I only walk in my own shoes and know that every decision I made, including feeding my son formula, was made from love and what I believed, through being as educated as I could, was the best for him.
So, again, thank you Jen - for expressing something I have wanted to for a while now. And for helping me continue the path towards healing.
With love and gratitude,
Carrie
Amen. Sometimes there is too much pressure to breastfeed. I too hated feeling bad for supplementing with formula with my 19mo old daughter, but no matter what I did, there just wasn't enough breastmilk for her. Let's all relax with the militant breastfeeding, and be a little more sensitive. Thanks for positing this.
I think if I were ever in such a complicated situation I would seek the support of another nursing mother to continue to provide human milk for my baby. When we raise our children with community then it is possible to have this sort of support. I have, in the past few years, learned to be more sensitive to women's challenges with breastfeeding and that greater sensitivity has led me to research and find out more information about milksharing. You would be surprised at what a woman is willing to assist you with.
Hi Amber-joy,

I visited milkshare.org, and didn't find anything related to free breastmilk, or breastmilk donations. Is there somewhere specific that I should be looking? I am interested in the information, even if I can't use the milk, as my son is allergic to dairy and soy, even as passed through the breastmilk.

Thanks,
Jen

Amber-joy Tacey said:
May I humbly offer a suggestion? There is a website dedicated to situations where moms who can't feed their babies their own breast milk can get donor milk for free or for the cost of shipping it's Milkshare.org
I also have combated systemic yeast bacteria...very painful and difficult to say the least. Have you tried the candida diet? It did wonders from me but it was very hard work.
I have been thinking a lot about this debate, and others like it. I feel that it is similar to the debates between stay and home moms and working moms that has been going on for the last few generations. As women, we need to support each other's choices, as long as they are just that, educated choices. Whether it is a home birth or hospital, medicated or unmedicated, breast fed or bottle, SAHM or working, circumcise or not, home schooled or public, as long as we are getting the information out there, we must respect each other and our choices. The purpose of forums like these, as I see it, is to make us mindful about our choices, not give us an opportunity to judge.
That is beautifully said Dixon Doula. Thank you.
I completely agree! In fact, I am putting together a website right now to educate women and other practitioners about the natural choices out there for fertility, pregnancy, birthing, and baby, and want to make sure that I don't put judgment on any one choice or decision. I love how you worded it... I couldn't have done better!

Thanks!!!

Dixon Doula said:
I have been thinking a lot about this debate, and others like it. I feel that it is similar to the debates between stay and home moms and working moms that has been going on for the last few generations. As women, we need to support each other's choices, as long as they are just that, educated choices. Whether it is a home birth or hospital, medicated or unmedicated, breast fed or bottle, SAHM or working, circumcise or not, home schooled or public, as long as we are getting the information out there, we must respect each other and our choices. The purpose of forums like these, as I see it, is to make us mindful about our choices, not give us an opportunity to judge.
Jen,
Thank you for starting this discussion! Formula is not evil. I just wanted to say that I totally empathise with you - my nipples were cracked and sore for only a week when my son was first born and I almost quit breastfeeding all together. The pain was so intense when he latched and nursed and I didn't know how I was going to make it though. And that was only a week! I can only imagine going as long as you have with all your pain. I know I won't have lasted as long as you. And really, might it be better to formula feed and have a happy, healthy mom to take care of baby? Breast IS best, but there really are situations when other options need to be explored. Best of luck to you, your baby is so blessed to have such a loving mother like you!
Jen, thank you for sharing your story and I agree wholeheartedly that women should not be judged or made to feel horrible for using formula. My story was similar to yours in that my baby had jaundice so I supplemented with formula, and I had such excruciating pain with breastfeeding in the first few months (mastitis, cracked and bleeding nipples, chronic milk ducts, and for some reason every time my milk let down it felt like I was being stabbed) that I too dreaded each feed. Every day I swore I would stop breastfeeding at the end of the week, by the time the week ended I somehow kept going. At six months it finally got easier (no more plugged ducts!) but I couldn't handle pumping anymore so I used formula when I went out on a date with my husband or had other plans that meant I needed to be away for a few hours. Having suffered post-partum depression I knew I needed some time for me and it was a tough balancing act. I would have freaked on anyone who judged me for using formula!

In the meantime, I've started to question why my baby got jaundice in the first place. Although jaundice is common, I have learned that in countries practicing better breastfeeding support, that the rates of jaundice are lower, and that babies' birth weights don't drop! I also wonder why my son was not given screened, pasteurized donor milk, and why the hospital I birthed at did not carry a supply of frozen donor milk. I think the answer lies in "the booby traps." I truly believe that moms are not meeting THEIR OWN, personal breastfeeding goals because of insidious and persistent institutional barriers. Women are blaming themselves and feeling guilty when in fact it is not their fault; they have been actively prevented from succeeding at breastfeeding by hospitals that don't follow protocol proven to result in breastfeeding success, doctors who are not trained in lactation management or won't refer moms to lactation consultants, employers who don't provide pumping breaks or rooms, and a culture that is obsessed with breasts but squeamish about using them to feed a hungry baby.

Since I believe so strongly, like you, that women should be given the best information possible (without the undermining influence of either formula marketing OR the pressure of well-meaning friends and professionals to breastfeed), I would like to invite you to join us at www.bestforbabes.org and share your story and become part of the solution so mothers do not have to suffer as you and I did. With your help we can put pressure on the barriers that are keeping moms from getting the best information and from carrying out their decision. I invite you to review our articles and help us ensure that there is always a non-judgemental, compassionate and informative tone.

Best,
Bettina Forbes,
President & Co-Founder
The Best for Babes Foundation
Hi Bettina,

Thank you for your response. I agree with you 100%, and I look forward to checking out your website. If you find more research on 'breastmilk' jaundice and why some babies get it, please let me know. I am still not satisfied with the answers that I got from my doctors and my own research (all the doctors we workded with were uncertain themselves!).

Just to update the post and everyone who has been following it, I am now only breastfeeding two times per day. Adam is on formula (Neocate for his allergies) the rest of the time. I managed to keep him on breastmilk only for about another month after the original post (till he was about 10 months old). Our thrush has gotten better, and he is a happy, thriving one year old!

Have a great weekend,
Jen
i personally wanted to breastfeed my daughter until she turned 1 but when she was 3 months old my husband and i decided the next best thing for her was to switch to formula because she couldnt get enough of my breast milk to keep her full she would eat e very 10 minutes and would eat for hours at a time if i had let her at the age of 3 months she only weighed 8 lbs every one thought she was a newborn, when she was born she only weighed 6lbs 9 oz so in 3 months time she didnt even gain a full 2lbs, every time she would nurse she would end up throwing it up, the dr's said she wasnt allergic to milk but that she was eating to much so they told me to feed her less often for only 10 minutes i tried that but nothing worked we knew that she just wasnt getting the nutrients that she needed and sure enough when we put her on formula she would stay asleep for about 3hours at a time and we could actually drive without her screaming she actually was able to sleep without someone holding her when i was nursing she would wake up when i put her down or in her crib, and at 4 months she was up to 10 or 11 lbs i do feel like i let my daughter down not being able to nurse her like i wanted, but she doesn't seem to be affected by the formula at all now she is 19 months old only drinking about 2 sippy cups (has been on a sippy cup snce the age of 10 months) of milk a day, in the process of potty training,has slept all night long since the age of 6 months, and weighs 24 lbs
Thank you so much for this article, Jen! I just posted a discussion asking about breastmilk vs formula and just found yours! You're story is an extremely important one to share and I am happy you did :) I am curious which formulas everyone is using?

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