There is a lot of support out there for breastfeeding moms. There is a lot of support out there for formula moms. What about the moms who fall in the grey areas? In the crunchy world it’s black and white: breastmilk or formula. I’m here to talk about us “grey” moms.
As many people know, I’ve been an exclusive pumper since day one. Before I had Lola I thought to myself that I might prefer to pump. Wouldn’t it just be easier to allow people to help me bottle feed her? If I could travel back in time I would slap myself along side the head. Pumping sucks. (Pun intended) You know what sucks even more than pumping? Exclusively pumping. Lola had latch issues early on. I saw several lactation consultants and we just couldn’t get it. I will be honest here, I could have tried harder. I could have sat with her on my bed, listened to her scream and scream for hours on end until she got hungry enough for survival mode to kick in and latch. I chose to continue to pump.
The first couple months weren’t too bad. My supply was decent. I usually had 5-10 bags of milk ready to go in the fridge. I had an extremely modest freezer stash. I decided to go back to work part time when Lola was 6 weeks old. She went to daycare one day a week and it took all of my stash to get her through the day while I was at work. My office is on the other side of town. Although 15 miles away, it takes about 35-45 minutes to get there. It isn’t an option for me to pump at work and drop off more milk. Around 8 weeks old Lola started daycare 2 days a week. This is when it got tough. I did not make enough milk to get her through two days in a row. I wasn’t able to work full days. She would have to go into daycare late so I could sneak in two pumps in the morning.
My work was suffering. My marriage was suffering. My mental health was suffering. My relationship with my toddler was suffering. My friendships were suffering. Everything was suffering. All in the name of giving my child only breastmilk.
I received many comments that I “wasn’t trying hard enough” and if I could only pump every two hours around the clock it would work. If I just kept seeing lactation consultants I could get her to latch and my problems would be solved. What was meant as support actually did the opposite. I felt like a failure. A loser. A horrible mom. I became defensive to my friends and family. It was awful. I could not do what is supposed to be the most natural thing for a mother to do for her child.
I had decreased my pump sessions to 5-6 pumps per day around the 6 week mark, right before Lola started daycare. I could seriously not handle any more than that. Every time I hooked up to that freaking pump I would want to slam my head against a wall. I decided that for my mental health, 5-6 times a day was all I could commit to and I had to hope that would be enough.
Naturally, it wasn’t. I suppose it could have been okay had I been a stay at home mom. But working and pumping 5-6 times a day wasn’t going to cut it. I was picking up my mom from the airport one afternoon, with tears streaming down my face as Lola was screaming in the back. I had just fed her a half ounce and I had no more milk. I wouldn’t have more milk to pump for at least 2 more hours. Was it really worth it? Was exclusively feeding her breast milk worth her being hungry more often than not? No. Not to me. I made a decision right then and there that I was no longer going to allow myself, my marriage, my work, my toddler and my precious, sweet newborn to suffer in the name of exclusively breast feeding.
It extremely frustrating to get help on how to supplement. Like I mentioned earlier, in the crunchy world (which is my world) you are either a breastfeeder or a *gasp* formula feeder. When I tried to ask which formula choice would be best no one knew. I tried Google and found ONE article that compared organic formulas. There were NO articles about an organic, vegan, non-gmo option. I found one formula that may have fit all those categories but I am very leery about soy. I am also strongly against dairy. Well shit.
Right before Lola’s 3 month birthday I traveled to MommyCon. My friend and fellow blog sister, Cristin, just had a newborn and offered to give me milk when we met up. It’s kind of funny, I’ve known Cristin for 7-8 years and if you would have told me I would be feeding my child her breast milk I would have laughed in your face. What an amazing gift. She has no idea what that meant to me. Her milk gave us one more week.
After MommyCon I joined the Facebook page for milk donation programs. For some reason it gave me extreme anxiety to even be thinking about this. Cristin’s milk was one thing. I know she is a health nut vegan. How would I trust donor milk from a random mom? I ended up messaging one girl who was local and she had already given her milk away but promised to keep me on the list. Secretly, I was relieved. It was easier for me to trust an organic formula than a stranger.
At exactly 3 months and 1 day old Lola had her first bottle of organic, low lactose formula. Finally, I could breathe. I would not be solely responsible anymore. Most aspects of my life would no longer have to come second to feeding my child. As much as I love my daughter I could not let breast feeding be the single most important thing in my life. A heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulder. Although I felt guilt, shame and sadness about needing to supplement I knew I was doing the right thing.
Supplementing was not something I entered into lightly. I gave my child THREE FULL MONTHS of my milk. THREE WHOLE MONTHS! I gave it what I could. I know I could have tried harder, but I tried the hardest I was able to mentally handle. I am proud of myself.
I continue to pump 5-6 times a day and supplement with donor milk and formula. We even tried latching the other day with a shield and it worked for about 30 seconds!
I am a breast feeding advocate. I think breast milk is a superior form of nutrition for your child and every.single.drop. counts. However, I think it is important to realize that if it isn’t working out, you have other options.