Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Breast is best, but what is next?

posted by Leila Z. on ,

No comments

As I prepared to give birth to my son a few months ago, I took for granted that I would breastfeed him. "At least six months," I confidently told my husband, "and up to a year if possible" -- reciting the recommendations of the American Association of Pediatrics. It never occurred to me that this might not happen; I had read all about the evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding, and wanted badly to give my son that gift.

Once I gave birth, however, various factors conspired against this noble ideal for me. I delivered my son via Ceasarean. He had a small tongue tie that went unnoticed for the first week of his life. Possibly because of the tongue tie, he was also an aggressively "chompy" eater, resulting in excruciating pain to me every time he would eat. Nonetheless, I persisted, and faithfully nursed him every 2-3 hours. He cried all the time, and I became worried when he stopped peeing; at the doctor's I was informed that he had become dehydrated in a few short days since birth because my milk supply was low, and we needed to give him formula supplements. The next few weeks were filled with an intricate dance of breastfeeding, pumping, and formula supplements. I scoured the internet for information on boosting milk supply (lactation cookie, anyone?) and followed the accepted regimen for weaning a breastfed baby from supplemental formula.

But despite my best efforts and all the power of my will, still he cried and was hungry all. The. Time. Finally, we sadly made the decision that breastfeeding was not feasible for our situation. He is now a primarily formula fed baby with some breastmilk supplementation (probably 65/35%, respectively, with effort), and is thriving far more under this regimen than ever before.

Without a doubt, I can say that feeding was the central drama of the first five weeks of my parenting experience. When I found out my son was dehydrated, I felt despondent that my body was not providing for him. I knew (and know) that exclusively breastfeeding is the best nutrition for an infant. But I felt unprepared by the medical community for what to do when exclusively breastfeeding was no longer a possibility. While I appreciate the respect shown by our medical professionals toward my wish to exclusively breastfeed, I now wish that someone would have oriented me sooner to other feeding options, and emphasized *that those were OK*. I wish that those other options did not carry such a stigma (honestly, you'd think I were feeding my baby poison instead of life-giving nutrients when I put a bottle in his mouth).

As my wise and empathetic OB told me at my post-partum appointment, "FED is best". Parents will have all sorts of reasons that breastfeeding may not work for them, medical or otherwise. Stigmatizing non-breastfeeding options or restricting the conversation to breastfeeding only does a disservice to parents, all of whom strive for the same thing: choosing safe feeding options for their babies.  

Leave a Reply