Just Talkin’ Tuesday 05.04.10: Did your Postpartum influence your decision about Breast or Bottle?

A lot of bloggers have been talking about mom guilt lately. I even threw my hat in the ring.

Anyone who has talked with me for any amount of time knows full well I am fully supportive of moms no matter what decisions they have made in their own lives. As mothers, it is part of our job to make the best decisions we are capable of making for our family. And we should absolutely not be judged for these decisions. It’s a shame that we have to put a disclaimer before discussing any aspect of motherhood for fear of offending a mother who may have made a different choice.

Growing up, I remember my mom nursing my brothers. Breastfeeding is how I was raised. I knew no different. For me, breastfeeding was akin to breathing. It was just something you did when you had a baby. When I got pregnant, I would breastfeed my daughter too. Failure never occurred to me as a possibility. The first full day after birth, she wouldn’t latch. We went home without having gotten it right. I gave formula the first night. I was failing. Scared, failing, what the hell? My mom had made everything look so easy. It was supposed to be easy! Why was I having such a hard time??? The next morning we got up and I was determined to get her to latch. She did and off we went into the breastfeeding sunset. 16 whole months of nursing with self-weaning two weeks before discovery of our second pregnancy. I had done it right! It had been one of the few things I had felt I had managed to get right about Motherhood.

Fast forward to 36 and a half weeks pregnant later. After a long labor, our second daughter was born. She too, would not latch. I thought her mouth didn’t look right but I was tired. Blamed it on the exhaustion. This time around I asked for an IBCLC. She immediately swept baby’s mouth with a gloved finger and diagnosed a cleft palate. My world turned upside down. I met a hospital grade pump that night. Barely got anything. Wondered why I was bothering to pump. But I kept with it, pumping at home, at the hospital, stashing breastmilk in the freezer, the fridge, feeding it to my daughter through her Kangaroo pump. Managed to keep it up for seven whole months before it came down to my daughter receiving breastmilk or my family and my mental health. I bought formula and cried the whole way home from the store. But that decision saved me, saved my relationship with my family. I was grateful formula existed.

A little over a year later would find me surprised and pregnant once again. I was scared. But I now knew formula was ok. I still tried to breastfeed. Our son latched on like a champ right after delivery. Nursed wonderfully, even through three bouts of thrush. But at 6 months, he was diagnosed as failure to thrive. He was born at 8lbs 15oz and had barely gained 3 lbs in the first six months of life. Our well-meaning pediatrician suggested I pump. I wanted to laugh. I was SO not going back down that road! After a day of contemplation, off I went to buy formula. He switched rather easily and was completely on formula by the end of the week, gaining weight, happy, not fussy, and we were all much healthier mentally as well.

There are women out there who will tell you that breastfeeding protects against depression because of the production of Oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone. Then there are those who will tell you formula feeding will help you get more rest. So will pumping and having enough in the fridge/freezer for a bottle in the middle of the night. But then you risk not nursing at that time and killing your supply. But I say if you can do it and not risk your supply – go for it.

Bottom line here?

YOU have to do what is best for you. And if that means a balance of breastmilk and formula or only one or the other then SO be it. If someone giving baby a bottle of formula at night helps you sleep and recover, then go for it. If breastfeeding makes you smile and helps you feel like more of a mother, then so be it. No apologies, no looking back. Be bold, make the decision, and go with it. It is possible to continue to nurse with anti-depressants. If you choose to do so, make sure your prescribing doctor knows you are nursing and let your pediatrician know as well so both doctors can minimize any potential side effects. Ask questions. Get answers. Make an educated decision.

Now that I’ve stepped off my soap box, it’s your turn. Did your Postpartum Mood Disorder change your plans for feeding your infant? Did you give formula instead of nurse? Choose to nurse instead of formula to help ward off Postpartum Depression? Why? Would you do things any differently knowing what you know now? Why? Why not?Do you regret your decision?

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.11.09: Breastfeeding & PPD

Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

When I gave birth to my second daughter I saw my dreams of a normal postpartum smashed upon the rocks just 30 minutes after delivery. A delivery after 42 hours of labor, 36 weeks of pregnancy spent un-medicated but largely depressed and unaware of any potential issue facing us. We fully expected (as any parent) a healthy child, normal delivery. A large part of my smashed dreams tied into the hard reality that I would absolutely not be able to nurse her because she was born with a cleft palate so wide and large that it would be physically impossible for us to do so.

Later that day I was faced with a crucial decision. What kind of formula would I prefer for my daughter? I cried. She wasn’t SUPPOSED to get formula! That evening found me hooked up to a hospital grade pump praying for anything to happen. I barely squeezed out a drop. But I persisted and pumped for her faithfully until she was seven months old. I even researched everything I could in order to try to get her to nurse – books, cleft organizations, the La Leche League, the local Lactation consultants and even going to a training to become a trained Certified Lactation Counselor (which I completed one month AFTER we stopped nursing!) I left no stone unturned! Charlotte and I used SNS, nursing shields, and sheer determination. She eventually nursed for almost five minutes! Those five minutes were so amazing words cannot even begin to describe. In fact, it was tears falling from my face which interrupted the glorious event.(You can read more about our journey here: Breastfeeding Charlotte)

But at seven months, I faced a decision. My desire to continue to give breastmilk to my daughter or my mental health which had deteriorated so much it was adversely affecting my relationship with my husband and other daughter. With a heavy heart, I drove to Wal-mart to purchase formula. I cried the whole way home. Eventually I made peace with the decision. “Hanging up the Horns” or HUTH as it’s called in the world of exclusive pumpers, was a difficult decision. But one I was glad to make as it allowed me to bond with my entire family. I had come to resent Charlotte for all the extra work she required. But now, all I had to do was pour, heat, and I was done. I made strides towards better mental health and so did the rest of the family.

For me, the decision centered around the stress providing breastmilk created. I was also on medication which can be another tremendous issue for new moms. Many mothers don’t want anything crossing over to their infant through their breastmilk. Dr. Thomas Hale, author of Medications & Mother’s Milk, is a wonderful authority on the topic as are the researchers at Motherisk in Canada. When nursing while on any medication, it is important for the infant’s pediatrician to be aware of the medication and dosage amount so baby can be monitored for any adverse reaction. The decision to take medication is a personal one and should be made carefully with the help of professionals. Ask questions. Make sure the prescribing physician KNOWS you are nursing. And do not let them force you into quitting nursing if it is the one thing in which you find comfort. If you are currently struggling with this decision, please read this wonderful essay by Karen Kleiman: Is Breast Really Best?

So let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday already!

Did your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder affect your nursing decision? Did you decide to formula feed to help improve your mental health? Do you regret your decision? Made peace with it? Did stopping help? Did your desire to nurse increase your desire to seek natural treatment? Speak up! Share!

(Absolutely no bashing for deciding to formula feed will be tolerated here. We respect the decision of all mothers to choose the course of treatment/feeding they feel is right for their families. Any posts discrediting or attacking a mother for her decision to formula feed will not be approved.)