(1) 1.45 lb container of Similac Advance Infant Formula.
(1) 2-ct package of Phillips Avent Soothie Pacifiers.
(1) Baby Brezza Formula Pro.
As I stood in the checkout line at Babies “R” Us and surveyed the contents of my cart I felt like a Breastfeeding Class drop-out.
I had every intention of breastfeeding my son until he was at least six months old, with the long-term goal of making it one year. But here I was, with him just shy of turning six weeks old, buying everything that is taboo in the breastfeeding world.
My husband and I attended a breastfeeding class while I was pregnant, read books and articles about breastfeeding, and were told by physicians and nurses about the positive impact breastfeeding has on a child’s development. It was clear to us that breastfeeding has its benefits and I wanted to do what was best for our son, so I decided I was going to do everything I could to breastfeed.
I experienced the early breastfeeding woes of cracked and bleeding nipples but worked with lactation consultants and stuck with it because, as I am sure every expectant and new mom has heard, “breast is best.”
When my son was 10 days old I came down with a 102 degree fever, full-body aches, and extreme fatigue (more than your run-of-the-mill, new-parent, sleep deprivation fatigue) so I called my OB/GYN who said to go to the Emergency Room if the fever did not break. Thankfully, it broke and I made an appointment with a lactation consultant the following day.
When I met with the lactation consultant she said that it seemed like I had “borderline mastitis and was on the verge of having a full-blown case, but to stick with it.” So I did, because I was committed to breastfeeding. And, you know, “breast is best.”
Three days later my OB/GYN diagnosed me with mastitis. I started a course of antibiotics and I implemented all of the tricks to ward off future cases of mastitis. Warm compresses, massage, hot showers, Epsom salt soaks, pumping until empty, changing nursing holds—I tried everything the doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants recommended and even some things my husband and I found in books and on the web.
While I was on antibiotics both my son and I experienced the not-so-fun side effects that come with taking them. But we stuck with it. Because, once again, “breast is best.”
Except when it is not.
Another case of mastitis, three trips to a breast surgeon to treat two abscesses through needle aspiration (yes, it is as unpleasant as it sounds), three more antibiotic prescriptions, and several tear-filled nights later, we officially became a formula-feeding family.
Throughout my whole breastfeeding saga I expressed my concerns about continuing to breastfeed to my doctors and nurses and told them I was considering switching to formula. I was looking for support but I was met with raised eyebrows and advice on what I could do to continue to breastfeed. I wanted one medical professional, just ONE, to tell me that everything would be fine if we switched to formula.
I did not want to be a bad mom. I wanted to do what the doctors said. But I was exhausted. I was still trying to recover from a tough labor and delivery and this ordeal was taking its toll on my family as a whole.
And then I finally realized that being a good mom does not mean doing everything that other people tell you to do. Being a good mom means making difficult decisions in the best interest of your family.
So I ignored the ways I could continue to breastfeed—which offered no guarantee that I would not get mastitis again—and I jumped ship.
We have been exclusively formula feeding for two weeks and my son, husband, and I are the happiest and healthiest we have been since we came home from the hospital two months ago.
For some families breast might be best. But for the mothers like me who try breastfeeding and don’t have it pan out, or for mothers who adopt and formula feed from the beginning, or for mothers who physically can’t produce enough milk, or those who just know from the start that formula feeding is what is needed for their family: breast is not best.
Healthy is best. However that is achieved.