Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Do Not Breastfeed


I do not breastfeed.

There, I said it. It's my dirty little mom secret. So crucify me.

Until today, I have felt embarrassed and guilty for deciding to formula feed my firstborn. Even before I got pregnant (or married for that matter), I've already been bombarded with the "Breast Is Best" messaging from hospitals and formula brands---it is mandatory for formula brands to reinforce the fact that breastmilk is still best for babies up to 2 years in all their advertising materials. So, with that knowledge in mind, I have always planned to breastfeed my future child because my goal is to be best mom that I can ever possibly be.

So, when I was filling out my hospital forms, without batting an eyelash, I ticked the box that says "exclusively breastfeeding". No questions asked. Only the best for my baby.

His cheeks tell me that fed is best!

That was until reality came knocking at my door. I know that most moms feel the need to explain to everyone why they decided to not breastfeed their babies to defend their decision. I sure do feel the need to do it out of guilt, but, that shouldn't be the case. I should just end this post with "I do not breastfeed my baby, bye!" and allow people to respect my choice (or not). However, I felt that I just had to tell my story to prove the point that you should not judge a woman's decision on how she feeds her baby until you've walked a mile in her shoes.

When Mikey was born, he was extremely fussy. I breastfed from day 1 but it seemed like he was never satisfied. The nurses and lactation consultant checked to see if he was latching on to me and if I am holding him correctly. They all agreed that baby and I were doing great (plus, he was producing a good amount of wet diapers). So, we concluded that feeding must not be the problem. He is probably just a colicky baby.

The following day, the hospital discharged me, though unfortunately, they decided to hold on to Mikey for a night because he was slightly jaundiced and needed phototherapy. Being the clueless first-time parents, my husband and I were gutted, already thinking the worst, not knowing how common the situation is. Dr. Google did not help either. Not going home with our newborn after a total of 8 hours of labor and birth and without sleep was extremely tough and stressful.

We didn't have the immediate support that we needed - my family is in the Philippines and couldn't be there during such troubling time and, my husband's family is mostly men (his mom has passed) so they were unaware of what to do either. So there we were, two clueless, sleepless, stressed-out new parents left alone to figure out this whole parenting thing.

Love at first sight.

The following day, the hospital discharged Mikey after just one night of phototherapy and we were able to bring him home. Before we left, my husband and I met with a doctor and a lactation consultant to pick up a few useful breastfeeding information because I was still determined to continue breastfeeding.

We were both stressed out, running with little sleep and highly anxious of how caring for a fussy newborn baby would be like. I guess I wasn't able to pull myself together at the hospital. My face must have been a flashing neon poster of a worried first-time mom because while waiting for my husband to get the car, a random woman to come up to me and say,

"Don't worry, nobody knows what they're doing. We're just doing the best we can!"


I actually needed to hear that. The beginning of my motherhood journey wasn't exactly as I imagined it to be because all I heard throughout my 9 months of pregnancy was how "amazing it will be" or how "it's the best thing in the world". They forgot to mention how beautifully nerve-wrecking, emotionally and physically draining it would be.

When we got home, I immediately tried breastfeeding. Having undergone phototherapy, Mikey was sleepy and lethargic. He had no interest in eating and wanted to sleep all morning long. I still kept trying though and felt like a champ whenever he would latch. I breastfed as instructed by the doctors, 15 minutes each boob every 2 hours. Day time was manageable. The horror unfolds in the evenings. He would sleep for just 1-1.5 hours and wake up crying for food. I would try to feed him all the time but despite how long I tried to feed him, he would end up wailing and in tears and would only stop when he is tired. For a while, my husband and I thought we were just blessed with a colicky baby which was extremely normal and we will just have to figure it out.

On the 5th day, we were scheduled for his pediatric appointment. He did not gain back the weight that he lost after being born. It was devastating. During the appointment, the doctor asked me how my breastfeeding experience has been, to which I candidly and honestly answered, "hellish." And that response prompted him to further check Mikey's mouth to which he was diagnosed with both a lip-tie and a tongue-tie and those were preventing him from fully extracting milk from me, no matter how hard he tried.

It all finally made sense. The never-ending crying. He was never a colicky baby. He was crying because he was hungry!

That broke my heart to pieces.

Doctor suggested that we make an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in removing them with non-invasive surgery that should take around 30 seconds. Although we were told that it's not pressing because most babies eventually work their way around their lip and tongue ties, though, there's the chance that he could develop a speech problem in the future, should it not be addressed.

Remember the goal of becoming the best mom I can be? Well, my husband and I were not taking chances and found ourselves at Dr. Siegel's office 2 hours after. Dr. Siegel is an amazing doctor who explained the surgery to us in detail and gave us enough time to think whether we should push through with it or not. The surgery was super simple and it took 30 seconds... And $800 (he was not within our insurance's network). My husband and I rushed to make this decision because we just wanted our child to feel and feed better.

All these happened in Mikey's first week in the world. I was stressed out, sleep deprived, semi-depressed (postpartum depression is real) and, I had a newborn baby to take care of. I still gave breastfeeding a try. By then, I have developed a fear of not seeing the actual amount that he is getting from me through breastfeeding and because of that, I have opted to pump. Unfortunately, the stress might have played a big factor in my milk production and I was unable to produce as much as I would like - I envied those moms who post photos of their milk production across social media. And, seeing how they are able to produce so much made me even more depressed and unfulfilled as a mother.

My lack of sleep, depression and negativity was affecting how I was as a mother and wife---it made me cranky and miserable. Then, I was reminded of my goal: To be the best mom I can be. My current condition was preventing me from achieving my goal. That was when I decided to supplement my child.

He immediately took a bottle and drank his formula to his heart's content. Because he was full, he slept better. After two months, he was sleeping through the night, giving my husband and I a full 8-hours worth of rest - this is extremely rare and we are lucky he is the way he is. And, because I was well rested, I am able to fulfill my duties as a mom even better. I was extremely happy. I am finally experiencing the amazing side of being a mother.

When I went back to work, I've decided to fully formula-feed Mikey and it has been wonderful. He is a happy, healthy baby who is hitting all his milestones. I am a happy, healthy mom who is doing everything I can to be the best I can be.

Society is still telling me that I am not trying hard enough, that I am neglecting my child's health by depriving him of nutrients that can only be found in breastmilk. I'm being judged for laziness and opting for the easier choice.

Do you know why airlines tell you to put your oxygen mask on before you help a child put his in case of  an emergency? It's because you can better help another human when you are functioning properly. Same with motherhood.

My needs are different from other women. I needed to feel secure about the amount my child is drinking. I needed to have enough rest to tend to my child. And, when my own needs are met, I can finally be the best mom that I can possibly be.

It is not being selfish. It is being practical and, I am happy that I didn't allow society to bully me into making a decision that was not my own. I do not breastfeed my baby and I am not ashamed of it.

My happy, healthy Mikey!

© A Diary of A Working Mom in New York. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.