Posted by: Genny Colby | June 27, 2012

Choices…

If you know me, or have read some of my previous parenting posts, you know I am pro-breast feeding.  I support nursing mother’s rights to nurse where ever and when ever they need to do.  I breast-fed my daughter exclusively for 6 months and then through her 15th month of life, when she self weaned.

I thought when we got pregnant with baby #2 the answer would be clear…we would breast feed.  But he is so different from my daughter.  In the first moments post birth he was placed on me for skin to skin and to allow for him to nurse for the first time.  In those two hours he sort of nudged around the breast but never got a true latch or started to eat.  And for the next 36 hours, no matter how many times I tried, how many different positions we tried, how many different suggestions I got from the nurses and lactation consultants, he would not latch, would not eat.  And he was losing weight and developing jaundice.  We needed to get food into him, we needed him to flush his system, and we needed to halt the weight lose and rising bilirubin numbers.  So, out came the pump so we could feed him what I could pump via syringe, then we supplemented by finger feeding formula.

But he kept losing weight, his numbers kept rising, and the pediatrician wanted him to get more calories than the lactation staff recommended.  Until my milk came in, we had to supplement with formula.  And finger feeding/syringe feeding really sucked, so we introduced the bottle.  And by our first post hospital visit, he had gained some weight!  And was almost back to  his birth weight by our second check in 3 days later.  Whew, one hurdle accomplished!

But we still had to worry about the bilirubin levels.  They kept rising…not into the “danger” zone, but higher than anyone really liked and the fact that they kept rising was worrisome.  So we were sent home with a bililight bed.  Basically like a tanning bed, but with happy sunshine lights.  We had to keep him on this as much as possible, except for diaper changes and feeding. It was so hard not to be able to just sit and snuggle our little guy, but to have him on this light bed.  Luckily it was fairly compact and fit either in his pack-n-play or crib so we could keep him near us at least.  And one recommendation was to cut out breast milk and give him formula for 24 hours.   This all seemed to help, as his numbers went down and stayed in the “low risk” category.

Now that we had managed that hurdle, we had to decide…go back to working on breast-feeding/latching, or continue with bottle feeding.  My milk had come in…I was able to pump quite a bit…but I HATE PUMPING.  Really, with a passion.  Once or twice a day, fine but 8?  I felt like all I did was pump.  And it took me away from my family-my husband, my precious daughter, and my amazing new baby boy.  I wanted to enjoy my time with them…not stuck to a machine.  And he takes a bottle so well…does not matter if it is breast milk or formula.

This has been a tough decision.  I loved breast-feeding my daughter, I cherished those moments.  But I could also just spend what ever time she wanted with her at the breast.  I could nap with her, I could just sit back and enjoy those quiet moments, no matter how long.  I don’t have quite the same luxury this time around.  I have another child that needs my time and attention as well.  I have to find a balance between the two kids, so that they both get what they need.

My daughter would ONLY take the breast, never a bottle.  This left dear hubby sitting on the side lines alone.  And he felt left out and probably a little jealous at the bond I was developing with our daughter.  We laugh now, but I can only imagine how hard it was for him when she would just start screaming when she saw him with the bottle and was only consoled when she was put to breast.

Now we have the chance for daddy to be more involved, to be a part of the feedings from the get go.  And our daughter too!  She was so excited to give her baby brother his bottle.  Yes, we could do both. I could breast feed and pump, so that daddy and little girl could give baby boy an occasional bottle, yet still have all the benefits of breastfeeding.  I know that is what many would advocate.  But I am going to admit…there are other benefits for us as a family to bottle feed.  And some personal ones for me as well.  It does give us much more freedom to come and go, do all the things we have always done and not be tied to a feeding schedule or a need to pump.  We can feed him anytime, anywhere.   While I support every women’s right to nurse in public (covered or not) it is not something I am very comfortable doing.  We used to time our outings around feedings with my daughter.  Not that I would not feed in public, but it was never my first choice.  And this time around, I would have to do more feedings in public, just because we are much more active now than we were when my daughter was an infant.  She has gymnastics, swimming, play dates, etc.  I won’t deny her everything just because she has a new baby brother and mommy is not comfortable feeding in public.

And we do all the other things…lots of skin to skin, lots of being held and carried (I am even planning to use a  sling more so I can do more baby wearing this time around).   We read stories every day, even at one week of age.  We don’t watch a lot of tv (with the kids).  We eat well, we play outside as much as possible, we spend time together as a family, we talk and sing songs with our kids.

I know there are those out there that will chastise me for this choice.  Who will tell me that I am giving up too quickly, that I should take the time to work with my son on his latch, so that we can breast feed.  But honestly, there are so many reasons why we are making this choice.  And it is a choice…a choice WE get to make.   A choice that was incredibly difficult for me.  I am going to have mommy guilt one way or the other.  Guilt for missing out on things, not being able to be there for my daughter, leaving my husband out of these initial bonding days with our son if we breast feed.  And guilt for not giving him that time I gave my daughter, for not trying to find a way to make it work, to find balance while breast-feeding.  But in the end, this choice feels right for me, for my son (I really don’t want to stress him out just to take the breast), the right choice for my daughter, and for my hubby.  If I am going to have mommy guilt either way, I better make the choice that seems to work best for my family, not what I may feel pressured to make.

Do I have doubts about our choice?  Of course, but I know that he will feel loved and cherished no matter what.  And I has sat there this morning enjoying the quiet time, snuggled in while he had his bottle, I knew that we would be okay.  That he won’t miss out on the important “bonding” issues.  That while breast milk does have some additional health benefits, it is not like we live in a 3rd world country where access to clean water, the ability to sanitize/clean his bottles, or even to formula is limited.   It is not like there are not many kids in this world who are formula fed for a million different reasons who are not healthy, strong, smart, or successful.  And by 2 years of age, it is pretty darn difficult to tell who was breast-fed vs bottle fed (unless they are still nursing).

After all, being a parent is all about the choices we make for our kids.  Some are easy, so are not.  Some are clear-cut, some are more gray.  But all we can do is make the best choices possible in the moment for our kids, our families, and ourselves.

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Responses

  1. It seems we have so many choices as mothers these days. No matter which we choose, there are others out there that will think we chose wrong. If you feel in your heart that you are doing what is best for your child and your family, then you are making the right choice. If you are still nursing or pumping at all and have any questions, I am an accredited La Leache League Leader (eventhough I haven’t been involved since moving to CO). Feel free to call and ask me anything. Also, know that I support you, no matter which way you choose to feed your hungry baby.

  2. Baby number 2 seems to throw a wrench into everything we know, they flip schedules on end, force us to change the way we do things, and find a balance that seems impossible to find. At the end of the day no matter what opinions you hear and who doesn’t agree, the only people that have to be okay with your decision are you and your family. I exclusively pumped with both boys for 9 months and with Joshua it was fine, I didn’t feel like I lost out on time with him or anything. Now with Elijah I feel like I could have spent that time bonding and paying more attention to the little things with them. I felt guilty when I stopped pumping both times, but I needed to quit for me.

    You have to do what is right for you! And you have thought through the decision and all your options and made the one that works for you! Not breastfeeding doesn’t make you any less of a mom, it just means that circumstances have changed. Making sure that our children are happy and healthy should be number one, and you are definitely looking out for both of your children! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about a decision that is right for you. You have enough stress with the guilt you are already putting on yourself, that doesn’t need to be there.

  3. It has been a really hard choice, but one I do feel is right for our family. I really appreciate all the support! It had occurred to me as I was struggling with this decision, if we had adopted a child (which had been an option on the table) the choice would have been much easier. We would almost certainly have to bottle feed. And that child would not be any less loved or cared for or had his/her best interests at heart. So why would I be okay in this situation, but not with my current one? And it does take one less stress out of our lives, which I am grateful for at this point,


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