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!