Breast vs. Bottle
August is National Breastfeeding Month and here at Hiccups and Heels we commend and recognize all the strong Mamas who have chosen this path! According to the CDC breastfeeding has health benefits for both babies and mothers. There are several benefits to breastfeeding including nutrition, growth and development, and the prevention of long and short term illnesses. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends exclusively breastfeeding for about six months and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing solids until children are twelve months or older. Easier said than done.
Katie and Amanda had every intention of breastfeeding, but life had other plans. We simply want to share our experiences and support families that choose breast, bottle or both!
Prior to having kids I was the best cheerleader to my friends who choose to breast or bottle feed. On multiple occasions I even encouraged my friends to supplement or switch to formula when they struggled. I saw no difference with the advances in formula. Both my brother, husband and I were formula fed and we are all healthy and moderately intelligent! In no way did I feel like my friend who breastfeed loved their children more or had a greater bond than my formula fed friends kids. Even though I always felt strongly that FED IS BEST I made a conscious decision to (attempt) breastfeeding. I (semi) joked that there was three reasons I wanted to breastfeed; weight loss, cost effective and babies health (in that order). Katie and I even attended a breastfeeding class to expand our knowledge and better prepare. Although the instructor strongly encouraged exclusively breastfeeding I had no expectations and promised myself that if it didn't work out we'd switch to formula. The plan was always to supplement with formula. Simple as that! No pressure! No stress! Right?!
Fast Forward to the birth of my son. I was extremely fortunate that my milk supply came in instantly. With the size of my boobs throughout my pregnancy I wasn't surprised! Within the first twenty four hours we already had a hiccup. I was in excruciating pain even with a nipple guard when feeding. Sonny didn't seem to be latching correctly despite the help of multiple nurses and lactation consultants. Unfortunately, I had a very negative hospital experience when it came to breastfeeding and in less than one day I was already supplementing and pumping. For over a day they watched me struggle to feed my son even though I had a good supply. No one wanted to diagnose or say the dreaded words "tongue tie". There is a lot of controversy surrounding tongue ties and lactation consultants wait for a pediatrician to also not diagnose your baby and send you to a ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) to officially diagnose and treat. But, I'll get to those details later. In the meantime my nipples were on fire and I began my journey on exclusively pumping.
Our ENT appointment, thanks to COVID, was more than a week after Sonny's birth. I made the best of the situation and found satisfaction in the beginning by stockpiling breast milk. I highly recommend the Spectra S1 Electric Breast Pump since it was highly effective, rechargable, portable and cordfree! My insurance covered a portion of the cost which was very helpful. That pump paired with the Kiinde System helped me immensely. If you are breastfeeding and planning to pump definitely check it out! Fortunately, Sonny took to every bottle easily despite his tongue tie situation and we never had to experiment with formulas. We used Avent and Kiinde bottles in the beginning, but eventually switched to Smilo exclusively. We used Enfamil Nueropro Gentlease as soon as we arrived home. I feel like all formulas are pretty comparable, but decided to use a gentlease formula out of precaution to help with digestion. It was also the closest formula to breastmilk when it came to "brain building nutrition" ingredients including MFGM and DHA. Although time consuming, pumping was easy for me. I wasn't in pain, my production was consistent and plentiful. My son has a very healthy appetite and his milk consumption was no exception. He was downing two ounces of formula from day two. Although I overproduced due to exclusive pumping I could never keep up him. Supplementing was a necessity in our home.
Eventually we had our appointment with the ENT and Sonny was officially diagnosed with a tongue tie. We made the difficult decision to have the procedure done immediately. I was extremely distraught and probably more upset than my newborn. We hadn't tried breastfeeding since the hospital and once his tongue was clipped it should improve his latch, but at this point I never went back to the breast. The controversy around tongue ties is some speech pathologists correlate them with speech impairments in the future. Most ENT doctors encourage parents to get tongue ties corrected for breastfeeding purposes NOT for speech. It is genetic condition that both my husband and father-in-law have with no speech problems. A newborn procedure was much easier to correct than if we waited until he was older. We didn't want to take any chances. Especially when the doctor told us she just had to do a procedure on a thirteen year old boy who had it done because couldn't french kiss! So you may wonder why I continued to pump and never went to the boob even though his tongue heeled perfectly fine. There were several reasons. He was a great sleeper from the start and was already on an amazing schedule. My fear was I wouldn't be able to monitor and control his consumption like I could with bottles. I also had no physical desire to breastfeed. Some women love that bonding experience, but I didn't feel like we were missing out. We still had skin to skin contact time and I did a majority of his feedings.
My breastfeeding breaking point was when my entire freezer was stockpiled with bags of breastmilk. I refused to buy an additional freezer for storage, after all we live in a condo in the city, where would it go?! Feedings became particularly challenging since I had to coordinate my pumping schedule. At night they often overlapped and my mom stayed over often to help so I could pump. I found the only thing I didn't enjoy about motherhood was breastfeeding! Pumping became time consuming, washing and cleaning my breast pump parts was a major pain, and most importantly I was missing valuable time with my baby. I love the newborn stage and unfortunately breastfeeding was ruining it for me. I knew many friends who got mastitis and my fear of getting it was increasing as the days went on. My boobs were constantly engorged and I pumped minimum seven times a day. Mastitis symptoms include flu (or COVID) like illness and fever. Every doctor appointment we had required temperature and wellness checks. If I contracted mastitis my fear was it would be mistaken for COVID and testing wasn't readily available at the time. I couldn't risk missing our appointments.
In the beginning I mentioned how I had no breastfeeding expectations and was happy to use formula if needed, but in reality I had an EXTREME amount of guilt for not continuing even though I had the supply that some people would kill for. I pressured myself to continue even though I encouraged others to put themselves and their mental health first. I knew breastfeeding wasn't for me long term, yet I couldn't shake the mom guilt. It was so bizarre because I never thought that would happen to me! At the end of the day I still feel slight guilt even though it was the best decision for me at the time. I had a desire to have my body back after being pregnant and giving birth. Selfishly I wanted freedom! I had sacrificed long enough and wanted the freedom to eat and drink whatever I wanted without second guessing it. In total I pumped for 23 days and Sonny had a 63 day supply of breast milk (supplemented with formula). A pediatrician advised that even one bag of breast milk a day was beneficial and to stretch it out as long as possible.
Hands down the hardest thing about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery was weaning! Since I pumped I had an over supply. It took more than a week for me to wean. I had to carefully drop one feed at a time so I didn't get a clogged duct or mastitis. The pain was excruciating. It was worse than childbirth and lasted much longer. There were days my chest hurt so bad that I couldn't hold Sonny. The only relief I got was from hot showers and heating pads. I tried all the tips and tricks including binding my breasts and using cabbage to stop my milk production. As I was putting cold cabbage on my boobs I began to laugh at how insane it was in 2020 that there was no easy solution or magic pill when you wanted to stop breastfeeding. How is it possible that men with a flaccid penis can pop a pill and BAM have an erection, but women breastfeeding are resorting to legit produce for relief from breast milk production pain!? I wish women had more open and honest dialogues about this. Few people warned me and those who did said they wish they had someone who was honest and supportive too! No matter how much guilt I felt I was beyond relieved when I finished that last pump.
Everyone's breastfeeding journey is unique. I had to make the best decisions for myself and remember that just because I didn't continue I wasn't a failure. In the end I wish breastfeeding worked for me, but formula was an excellent alternative option. Regardless of my decisions I have a happy, healthy and intelligent child. I don't think his milk consumption affected those outcomes. I am also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who encouraged me to make my own decisions and never put pressure on me either way. When he saw how unhappy I was he simply said, "there is an easy solution to this, formula, just stop". IF we ever had more children I would most likely go straight to formula feeding. The pain of weaning is still a vivid memory. Actually crying over spilled milk seems ridiculous to me now. Parents need to remember that they don't owe baby number two (three, four or five) the same as baby number one and visa versa. My advice is to do whatever makes you happy because a happy mom means a happy baby. Ultimately, you will know what is best for yourself, your baby and your family!
During my pregnancy I thought about breastfeeding and wanted to try it out. I was never one to have a huge desire to do it though. I had friends that previously had attempted, I saw the hard work and extra added stress which is not something I was looking for. As Amanda mentioned we attended a breastfeeding class and I quickly learned that some people DO NOT approve of formula. During the presentation I raised my hand to inquire about formula and asked the basic question of what if you don't produce enough which was answered by "keep trying." I again asked...ok but what if breastfeeding doesn't work out, do you recommend any formulas or tips for feeds which was met with "it will work out." I felt guilted and like a terrible mom if I didn't "give it a try."
As I mentioned in our Post Postpartum post, I was feeling a lot of emotions after coming home from the hospital. The anxiety of breastfeeding was overwhelming. Unlike Amanda, my milk did not come in until 10 DAYS after my delivery. I was told by the lactation consultant that all the baby needed was the colostrum or "liquid gold" which was minimal drops in itself. This was TERRIBLE advise. Remi was constantly wanting to feed since I was not producing enough, and began to soothe on me. She seemed constantly hungry so I gave her formula. She chugged it down in two seconds. I felt immediate guilt that she was not getting enough to eat. I switched to formula immediately and never looked back. The Baby Breeza dispenser made feedings extremely easy. I had a bottle ready by the push of a button. As a new mom the decision to formula feed was the best choice for me. It took a weight off my shoulders and I was able to know how much she was getting fed and helping to better fill her tummy.
I will agree with Amanda, one thing nobody tells you is what happens when you have to reduce your milk supply. Like I mentioned my milk came in 10 days after delivery so at that point I had already made the decision and switched to formula. My boobs swelled up to a D and felt as hard as a brick which is called engorgement. If you have ever seen the movie Neighbors when Rose Byrne has Seth Rogen "milk her" for relief, a hilarious scene but nonetheless a picture of how uncomfortable the pain can be. After several days your body will stop producing milk but until then I recommend wearing tight sports bras and warm showers. These too things helped ease the pain immensely.
We understand how challenging, selfless, demanding, and incredibly amazing breastfeeding can be. The stress of breastfeeding can be overwhelming at times so kudos to the mamas who stick it out! Breastfeeding is a sacrifice. When breastfeeding exclusively moms take on the majority of feedings. Although this can be difficult there is value in the bond and skin to skin contact between mama and baby. Moms who chose this path sacrifice their bodies, time and occasionally their mental health because they value the benefits over themselves. Just another thing that makes moms so astonishing. We hope breastfeeding families continue to share their experiences and celebrate their journey. Our bodies can do unbelievable things!
Also, kudos to the moms who choose to formula feed. It is not the easy way out, it is not selfish and there are several reasons families choose this route. In no way are we trying to sway your decision or discourage breastfeeding. Trust your instincts and know BOTH formula and breast milk are healthy, nutritious options. One option does NOT make you a better or worse parent. We stand by the saying "fed is best". Like everything it seems that breastfeeding and formula popularity and trends amongst parents is always evolving. We all want what is best for our children. We support and encourage everyone to respect everyone's individual choices!
XO - Katie & Amanda