Tragic Sandwich

Food. Family. Fun.

It’s Not Rat Poison*

I had such big plans.

I was going to nurse. There would be no sugar water or formula in the hospital. I would breastfeed throughout my maternity leave and pump after I went back to work.

That’s not how things actually worked out.

Baguette got sugar water in the hospital to supplement the meager colostrum that I produced. There, and after we were home, I nursed her every two hours during the day, and every three at night. And every time, after about five minutes, she would fall asleep, and I couldn’t wake her back up to continue. So I nursed her every time she woke up, but never for very long.

An acquaintance came over with dinner and told me that the weight charts were based on formula-fed babies, and that “Mommy produces all the colostrum and milk that baby needs.” I know she meant to be supportive. But she just racheted up my stress level to the point where I couldn’t produce any milk at all, and drove to the store for formula, sobbing because I couldn’t feed my baby.

Once I calmed down and got a little rest, I was able to start again. But it still wasn’t easy, and she was still hungry all the time.

On the way to her five-day well-baby appointment, we decided to rent a pump. At the appointment, the pediatrician told us that Baguette had lost 13% of her weight since birth. We picked up the pump on the way home. While Mr. Sandwich filled out the paperwork, I went to the lactation room in the back of the store to nurse, and picked up a few tips from the lactation counselor who happened to be there.

From then on, this is what my schedule looked like:

  • Baguette wakes up.
  • Change Baguette’s diaper.
  • Nurse Baguette for as long as she’d stay awake.
  • Change Baguette’s diaper again.
  • Pump for 40 minutes.
  • Have 10 minutes to do something (eat? use the bathroom? change my clothes? only one, though).
  • Baguette wakes up.

Every two hours.

At night, it was every three hours. I would nurse Baguette at 11 and then sleep until 2. Mr. Sandwich would sleep from 2 until 5, when she needed to nurse again. One week, my dad and stepmom were in town, and that meant that I got to go back to bed at 5 after I’d nursed Baguette one more time. On a good morning, she wouldn’t need to be fed again until 8 a.m.

Many times, I was only able to get a fraction of an ounce into her. And so we began to supplement with that formula I’d bought. I continued to nurse and pump, but by the time she was two months old, I was pumping all day to get one ounce.

Just looking at the pump made me feel guilty. Every time I saw it, I would think, “I should be pumping.” Except that then I looked at Baguette, who was just starting to take an interest in the world around her, and I thought, “I should be playing with her. And I can’t do that if I’m pumping.”

So at two months, I put the pump away, and she became an all-formula baby.

Here’s the thing: I’ve never judged another mom for whatever choice she made regarding formula or breast milk. I’ve always felt that they were doing what was best for them, their child, and their family. But I did judge myself. And that makes no sense. Because throughout my pregnancy, I had my big plans to nurse. But I also said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, and my ultimate goal is Fed Baby.”

Mr. Sandwich could not have been more supportive. He did everything else that needed to be done so that I could focus on nursing. He reminded me that he and his sisters–all athletes, all healthy, and all intelligent–were entirely formula-fed. He assured me that what our daughter needed most of all was not breast milk, but Sane Mommy.

And he pointed out: “It’s formula. It’s not rat poison.”

My daughter is fed and healthy. This is the solution that worked best for us. Breast may be best, but formula is fine.

*And here you thought this was going to be another post about the mouse!

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14 thoughts on “It’s Not Rat Poison*

  1. Appreciate this post. I was much gentler on personal judgement the second time around. I lived your nursing schedule (with the addition of a toddler and infection) and I am here to attest that sometimes formula maintains sanity. No more guilt trips! Happy mom. Happy baby. Happy household.

    • Agreed. And, honestly, it was harder even than this suggests. After I had stopped, I got an email that said, “Your 10 Most Common Breastfeeding Problems–Solved!”

      I’d had nine of them.

  2. You go, girl. I nurse. I’ve never had a problem nursing. But you know what? It could have been different. And I don’t think that women who choose to formula feed are evil, or negligent, or (usually) ignorant jackasses. I think that we have to make the choices that are right for our family. And Mr Sandwich is right — it’s not rat poison. Or any other kind of poison. It’s a product specially FORMULAted to be good for babies. I mean come on, people. Cut some slack.

  3. JewelLaverne on said:

    I had so much milk with my first child that I had to express some into the sink between feedings because I was in pain (like milking a cow). With the second, I was like you. nada. I would express practically all day long between feedings and get about 2 oz. Total. I used to get 4 oz from each breast after each feeding with my daughter. I stopped even bothering with it at night, since I
    wasnt getting anything. anyway. ( You were more dedicated than I.) So, my son got a meager amount of human milk with his formula for about a month, and then I gave it up. Luckily, like you, I had friends, husband, and family who were supportive and kept telling me that there is no magic in breastmilk, and formula-fed babies turn out fine. My doctor also said that studies of formula vs. breastfed babies tend to come from 3rd world countries where the water is bad and the people water down the formula to make it last
    longer. Formula is really just as good when used correctly. But, I admit I’ve felt rather guilty about the formula, anyway. It just feels less nurturing and motherly. I believe the meager milk production is age related. And pumps don’t stimulate production the way a nursing baby does. I had a great pump that I bought while pregnant because I knew I would need it to pump off the extra. Yeah, right. Anyway, I enjoyed nursing my daughter, but it was a nightmnare with my son. Parenting is not for the faint at heart.

  4. It’s so interesting the pressure to breast feed. Of course it’s the best option, but not if mum has to express instead of rest, and stress instead of enjoy this beautiful time. A fed baby is certainly the best, and a happy, relaxed mama is less likely to kill anybody 😉

  5. I remember how hard it was to breastfeed, so no judgement here! Just glad I survived those first few months! It was a rough time. And I love what your husband said – too funny! 🙂

  6. Pingback: It’s My SITS Day! « Tragic Sandwich

  7. Yep, I was there with both children so I can relate. With my first born I was devastated that I couldn’t nurse. I had several lactation nurses squeezing and prodding my breasts until I didn’t feel human any more. I tried pumping – and cried my way through each session. No matter what I did, I hardly got anything to come out. Nothing seemed to work. The ‘Nipple Nazi’s’ as my husband liked to call them, kept prodding me to keep going, to keep trying. I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t. It was too stressful, too heartbreaking to see my daughter hungry, and I felt like a failure. I gave up and put her on formula. I never looked back. We both thrived after that point.

    When my son was born I wasn’t going to go through that stress again. I knew right away that there was no milk in there. My breasts were not sore, hell, they weren’t even full. They were empty even after having baby suckling! So, I tried the whole ‘procedure’ again, but this time stress free. I knew that if it wasn’t going to work then I could always go and buy the formula. I knew that formula worked for my daughter, for she was a happy, healthy toddler. I didn’t feel quite as guilty the second time around giving my baby formula.

    I wish formula wasn’t such a dirty word. I wish I didn’t feel the need (still) to defend my decision for giving my children formula. Everyone has a story as to whether or not they breastfed their babies. I just wish that people were more accepting of those stories. Thank you for sharing yours, and for making me feel better about mine!

    • I know that every pregnancy is different, and every nursing experience is different–one of my friends had a very similar experience to mine with her first child, and found nursing very easy with her second. I do not know why some people think that there is No Variation Ever when in fact there’s just as much variation in nursing ease as there is in every other aspect of life.

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