When breast wasn’t our best
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I decided that I would do my best to breastfeed her for a year. I know it’s not always up to the mamas on if we can make it that far. My older sister had had her daughter a year prior and she ended up with quite a few food allergies that ultimately led to her quitting breastfeeding for the better of her daughter.
Knowing this, I knew that it was sometimes out of everyone’s control. But like most people, I naively thought, “that won’t happen to me.”
Addison got the hang of it immediately. I was able to get her on my boob within the first hour of her little life to start trying. She latched on the very first try. When that happened, I thought it was an omen for our breastfeeding journey together.
If you’ve breastfed, then I probably don’t have to tell you those first couple of weeks are PAINFUL. The contractions that come with breastfeeding alone were enough to make me rethink everything. And then the soreness and the cracked and bleeding nipples. Have you ever had your nipple scab and then break open 18 times a day? And your child ingests some of that blood from said cracked nipples, but also has terrible reflux and spits up often? And subsequently spits up blood? Well, I have. And let me tell you, the after-hour emergency nurse that I immediately called because I thought my daughter was dying, made me feel like an actual idiot. (Hormonal, fourth trimester, sleep deprived mama was not thinking about cracked nipples being the cause of the bloody spit up.)
Breastfeeding is GRUESOME y’all. But I couldn’t help replaying “breast is best,” in my head anytime I thought about quitting, and so I committed to keeping it up.
At about a month old, we began to wonder if Addison had her own set of food allergies. She seemed to be fussy all the time, had the runniest poops, spit up constantly, and would never do more than snack, but still, somehow, always seemed hungry.
Around two months old, we found blood in her diaper. After a few tests we found out that she, much like her cousin, had food allergies. After figuring that out, we had to figure out what foods we were dealing with and what we should be avoiding. Ultimately, we figured it was soy, dairy, egg and red meat. So, I cut those out of my diet immediately.
But guys. Did you hear me? I had to cut out ALL soy, dairy, egg and red meat. I don’t know if any of you or littles have allergies, but this covers just about everything outside of fresh fruits and vegetables and plain protein.
Now to add an extra little layer of fun to everything… I have severe IBS. It has taken me years to figure out what my triggers are, and how much of said triggers I can have before they send me to bond with my squatty potty for hours on end. The combination of what Addison could no longer have, and what I couldn’t have because of my own dietary issues, left me with very few options. And none of it was “stick to your bones” options.
I know giving up these things to make sure my child wasn’t bleeding from the inside out was the only option. But I also know how miserable I was because I was hungry. All. Of. The. Time. People would comment on how good I looked, because I had managed to lose most of the baby weight by this point and I began to resent hearing it. It wasn’t up to me to have lost the weight. I wasn’t doing anything to get rid of it- I just couldn’t eat anything substantial and so the weight fell off.
At our four-month appointment, our pediatrician noticed that Addison was falling off her growth curve. She was concerned that the combination of our two diets wasn’t providing Addison with enough fat to sustain her growth. She recommended introducing formula as a supplement, to get her back up to where she needed to be.
It hurt me so deeply to hear her say this. I think in my heart I knew that we were heading in this direction, but I just really hoped that I was wrong. Because hearing it, made me feel like a failure. I knew in my head that it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t get my heart to catch up. I just couldn’t help but think, that the one thing I was meant to do and provide for my daughter, wasn’t even something I could get right. And the reason she was falling behind was because of something I did.
Introducing formula to Addison was the actual worst. She had taken a bottle prior to this, but as soon as we put formula in those bad boys… just a glimpse of a bottle sent her screaming like we had actually, physically hurt her.
I remember it being so bad and feeling so desperate, that my husband and I decided on a date on the calendar to try to make it to. If Addison hadn’t taken to a formula by then, we were going to have to cold turkey cut the boob out altogether.
I felt more and more deflated each time she refused. I wanted SO badly to still breastfeed her because I felt like it was still the best option for her. Seeing her struggling physically but refuse to drink what was going to help her was the worst feeling.
And then, by some miracle, we gave her a bottle of formula AND SHE TOOK IT! I remember putting two ounces in there and she drank the whole dang thing without even batting an eye. (Should have known my champagne-taste daughter would only drink the ready-made stuff… eye roll.)
I finally felt like, “okay, we can do this!” Having my diet be so effed was okay because now, she was getting exactly what she needed.
Fast forward ever so slightly… We went on a family vacation to Colorado and while we were there, Addison weaned herself from breastfeeding.
She was exceptionally fussy one night before bed and acting hungry, so I breastfed her. Less than an hour later, we gave her a bedtime bottle to help prolong her night sleep a bit. She had breastfed from me for quite a while, so I thought she wouldn’t drink much of the bottle at all, but filled it up with 5oz. I figured, at least it’s there, if she doesn’t drink it, she doesn’t drink it.
Well, she drank it. Every last bit of it.
From then on, she wasn’t nearly as interested in the boob as she was in the formula.
I am still surprised at how hard this hit me, to this day. I felt like I had failed her. I knew in my heart of hearts that my milk wasn’t giving her what she needed. Quite frankly, my diet wasn’t fueling me, so there’s no way it was fueling her. But because it seemed Addison had made the decision for herself, I followed her lead (begrudgingly), and we quit breastfeeding cold turkey (which, um… OUCH).
I remember calling Brittany while we were away, crying, asking her if she thought I was making the right move. It wasn’t in my plan to give up breastfeeding this early on. And then add on the fact that as a parent, you only want what’s best for your child, but you constantly question if the decisions you’re making are in fact what’s best for your child.
Part of me wondered if I was just being selfish by trying to get a little control of my own life back. Because there’s no reason I couldn’t still maintain the crazy diet and breastfeed her a little bit, right? But you know what? Sometimes, you have to consider your own happiness, too. You know the saying, “happy wife, happy life”? Well, happy mommy, happy literally everyone else.
We switched Addison over to a full-formula diet and I went back to being able to eat and drink what I wanted (within my own dietary restrictions). It took a while, but I finally got to a spot where I was at peace with my decision. And, seven months later, I am happy to report, we are all much happier because of it.
Breastfeeding is beneficial, absolutely- there’s a ton of research to support that. But sometimes, breast is not always best. And hear me when I say, it is actually okay to make that decision for you and your little. Because, four the love, FED is best.