Breast is Best

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If you’re a mom, you have more than likely heard the title statement.  And as a mom you’ve made a choice, to either breastfeed/ebf or formula feed. Now granted, I believe breastmilk is the best food for baby. It’s how God engineered feeding to be. He created boobs, not formula, BUT I don’t believe this makes formula a wrong choice.

I entered the mothering world thinking that there was a right choice and a wrong choice in feeding. But that’s just not how it is. Formula may not be quite as nutritionally complete as breastmilk, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for baby.

When pregnant with my first child I decided I was going to breastfeed. Not because the idea was particularly enticing or that I thought I had too if I wanted a healthy baby. The more compelling reason for me, was that I wanted to fit in. The majority of mothers in my church breastfed their babies, and I had seen just a few give condescending stares to those who did not.

Shortly after my son was born I took him to my breast. The pain that came with his latching on took my breath away. I winced while he fed. Every feeding of that first day was the same. By nightfall I was blistered and too tender to even wear my hospital gown over my chest. A lactation consultant checked his latch and said it was fine. She made sure I wasn’t dealing with inverted nipples. She told me nothing should be causing such blistering and such pain. So I kept going.

I kept going, through 4 bouts of mastitis. I kept going even when thrush came and the sucking was so excruciating I wept for the duration of each feeding. I kept going with blisters on my nipples that wouldn’t heal, even with the help of medicated gel pads.

I felt so confused. Women had told me that breastfeeding done right shouldn’t hurt. Now they were telling me that it hurts for a few weeks but then goes away. So I waited for the pain to end. It never did. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t this working? I felt ragged, physically and emotionally. Just the thought of putting my son to my breast made me cry. Six weeks of breastfeeding and it had only gotten worse. So I quit.

At first I was overwhelmed with guilt, wondering how my baby would turn out on formula. Wondering which of my acquaintances might lose interest in being my friend now that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing.
But the guilt began to subside as I realized I was now enjoying feeding my son. I was bonding with him during bottle feedings better than I ever had simply gritting and crying through the pain of breastfeeding. I realized I wasn’t so irritable anymore, I didn’t cry every single day anymore and I actually felt so much happier.

Seventeen months later our second child came into the world. We were happy to have him of course, but we had conceived him a little earlier than we had anticipated. I was nowhere near ready to give breastfeeding another try so I hand pumped for a week (not as painful) to give new baby some colostrum and then stopped when my milk came in. I might have tried just pumping him milk after that had we been able to afford something other than a cheap hand pump.

Now, even though my first experience with breastfeeding was so painful and I had realized that formula was not a “bad” thing, I still dreamt of being able to successfully breastfeed a child.

My daughter was born a little over 3 months ago. She arrived almost 4 years after my second and I had decided I wanted to do everything I could to make breastfeeding work. This time we were able to afford some additional supplies so I equipped myself.  I bought an electric pump, a boppy, lansinoh, gel pads, nipple shields, anything I thought might give me more of a chance.

The first day she fed, echoed the day of my first child’s birth. Once again the Lactation Consultant couldn’t understand the blistering and pain with such a perfect latch. I guess I just have ultra sensitive skin. She recommended I mostly pump with one or two nursing sessions a day and perhaps I could gradually work my way into full nursing.

It was still excruciating for 4 weeks as I pumped and breastfed. But I think that the pumping and gradually working my way into nursing, was key. By the end of week 4 she was on the breast alone and amazingly by the end of week 5 I was only grimacing slightly at each feeding. Now I wonder that it ever hurt me so bad. I absolutely love nursing! It’s easier than mixing and heating a bottle and it’s free! But I love it most because it’s a miracle. I marvel at this body God has created and that it alone can sustain this precious little life for so many months. If you have the chance to experience the wonder of it, I would encourage it! But don’t burden yourself with guilt if you can’t or if you choose not too. Our personal decisions are just that – personal. We have no idea what motivations are behind others decisions and we should not assume we do. There is no, “one size fits all” standard for motherhood. And we as mothers, most of all, should understand this and treat with kindness and understanding other mothers we meet along the way.


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