Kanye West & Lil Pump ft. Adele Givens - "I Love It" (Official Music Video)
I Pump So Other Moms Will Think I Breastfeed
It's two a.m., my daughter finally fell asleep, and I'm tethered to a breast pump, willing the bottle to fill to the four-ounce mark, even though it's nowhereclose. Why am I so desperate? Because Lucy and I have a coffee date with a new acquaintance and her baby tomorrow morning, and Ido notwant my potential new friend to know that Lucy is pretty much exclusively formula fed. Yes, Lucy will drink the bottle of breast milk, but if I'm being 100 percent honest, I'm pumping much more for my benefit than hers.
Prior to getting pregnant, I always assumed that, if I had a child, I would breastfeed. In my pre-parent mind, I thought parents who used formula just weren't trying hard enough. My commitment to breastfeeding didn't waver as I found myself unexpectedly pregnant and preparing to raise my daughter by myself. During my third trimester, I ordered nursing bras and tank tops, milk storage bags, and breast pads to prevent leakage. I went through the arduous insurance paperwork necessary to obtain a breast pump and took a breastfeeding class at the hospital. During my subway commute, I read books likeThe Womanly Art of BreastfeedingandBreastfeeding Made Simple.When my water broke at thirty-nine weeks, I shoved my Boppy nursing pillow in my bag before heading to the hospital.
And that's where my plans ended. My delivery wasn't straightforward: Despite being induced with Pitocin after my water broke, I never dilated beyond one centimeter, prompting my doctor to strongly recommend a C-Section. As soon as my daughter, Lucy, was delivered, a worrying spike in her temperature required an immediate admission to the NICU. I gave birth on a Wednesday night; I didn't even touch Lucy until late afternoon on Thursday.
I knew all those factors could influence my milk supply. I tried to nurse Lucy in the NICU, but the nurses were understandably too busy to give me any coaching beyond a few quick pointers. Forty-eight hours after birth and fever free, Lucy was discharged from the NICU and into my room, red-faced, screaming, and hungry.
For hours, I tried to nurse. Finally, exhausted and crying, I called the nurse.
"Can Ipleasefeed her formula?" I asked, realizing as the words left my mouth how ridiculous it was to ask permission. After all, she was my daughter.
The nurse glared at me. "Breast milk is best. If you give her a bottle now, it'll only be harder to try to breastfeed her."
I nodded and tried again to make Lucy latch on. She didn't, and, in desperation, I dug around the drawers underneath the bassinet and found several 2-ounce bottles of formula. I snapped a nipple on the bottle and began feeding her. She stopped crying, and I was relieved—until the door opened and the same nurse entered to check my vitals. In a panic, I shoved the small bottle under the hospital pillow and hoped she wouldn't notice that Lucy was drooling formula.
"How's the breastfeeding going?" She asked, eyeing me warily.
"Great!" I said, hoping she wouldn't notice the formula leaking out of both sides of Lucy's mouth.
I felt like formula was a dirty secret: Something to be snuck, not discussed.
After I got discharged from the hospital, I nursed around the clock. I watched four seasons ofGame of Thronesand three ofScandal.My nipples bled. I nursed in restaurants, at mom groups, on park benches. At one mom group, the leader called me out as an example of how to properly nurse a baby without a pillow. I thought I wasgoodat breastfeeding.
I felt like formula was a dirty secret: Something to be snuck, not discussed.
The problem was, Lucy wasn't. After four weeks, Lucy had only gained eight ounces above her birth weight.
That day, on my doctor's advice, I called a lactation consultant. The lactation consultant weighed Lucy, had me nurse her for fifteen minutes, then weighed her on a hospital-grade scale. Disconcertingly, she hadlosttwo-tenths of an ounce during her feeding.
"She's actually expending more calories than she's gaining," explained the lactation consultant matter-of-factly, who then went through a plan of attack for me: Lucy likely had a tongue tie, making it hard for her to suck. Because Lucy hadn't been receiving nearly as much breast milk as she should have been during the previous four weeks, my supply was likely to be extremely low. I needed to take Lucy to an ENT to evaluate her tongue-tie and potentially fix it via a laser procedure. I was to take five different kinds of herbs, pump milk 8 to 10 times a day, and consider craniosacral therapy for Lucy to help her re-learn how to suck. And, until my supply was where it should be, I was to formula feed her—thennurse her.
From her first full formula feeding, it was like I had a whole new baby. That week, Lucy smiled for the first time. We both slept. I found we were actually able to use the playmat given to us by a friend; before, we were too busy nursing.
From her first full formula feeding, it was like I had a whole new baby.
And, as my second appointment with the lactation consultant drew near, some things became clear: I knew that I couldn't pump ten times a day and be the best mom I could be. Although I got Lucy's tongue-tie fixed (researching it led me to learn it could potentially cause speech problems in the future) I knew I didn't have the funds or the time for the craniosacral therapy recommended. I didn't want to take a prescription medication not available in the United States to increase my supply. Bottom line: I didn't want to breastfeed—at least not for Lucy's main source of nutrition—anymore.
But I wanted people tothinkI did.
As a single mom, I already felt I faced additional scrutiny. So I began saving my pumped bottles for times we'd be with friends…or even family. I hid formula cases in the back of my closet, behind a pile of winter boots, and would take out the trash before a friend came over, so they wouldn't see the empty formula containers. It felt like my shameful secret.
Of course I wasn't alone. I knew that. According to a recent survey inPediatrics,while 85 percent of new moms intend to breastfeed for at least three months, less than a third actually make it to that point. But it didn't feel that way to me. Using formula in any way—whether as a supplement or as the entire source of your infant's nutrition—is surrounded by words likecrutch, give up,andquit.From there, it's a quick leap to the wordfailure.Exhausted and hormonal, I felt guilty for the fact that the majority of Lucy's nutrition was coming from formula. I knew that research has found that, while breastfeeding has some clear benefits over formula, its superiority may not be as measurable as previously reported.
I knew that I liked the rhythm Lucy and I found ourselves in, where I was nursing in the morning, and night, and when she needed comfort, and then pumping when I found I had a free moment or felt particularly engorged. I liked not worrying about how many ounces I was producing or how many minutes I had spent nursing, and focusing on bonding with my daughter.
But Ididworry about what other people would think of my system.
Until one day, when we went for a catch up lunch with a few moms I had met in a prenatal yoga class. All of them were exclusively nursing, and I wanted to make it seem like I was too. But Lucy was exceptionally hungry that day, and guzzled down the three-ounce breastmilk bottle I'd brought with me—the only amount I'd managed to pump that morning. She was screaming, and I realized that I wasdonepretending. But it wasn't easy. Taking out the bottle of formula in front of my exclusively breastfeeding friends was far more nerve-wracking than the first time I tried nursing in public. And they didn't say…anything.
She was screaming, and I realized that I was done pretending.
To be honest, despite that initial success of formula feeding in public—as well as "Bottle Feeding is Beautiful, Too" campaigns that have been popping up on social media as a companion to breastfeeding photos.
I'mstillgoing to bring pumped bottles with me whenever I meet new moms, and let them assume Lucy is 100 percent breastfed. After all, Lucy's getting fed, I feel comfortable, and I don't want to get into some type of mommy war on less than five hours of sleep a night. But, from my emergency formula feed at lunch a few weeks ago, I know if I do bring it out, it serves as a valuable litmus test or as to whether or not we'll make it past the first coffee date to becoming mom friends. And if a mom turns up her nose at the fact I'm formula feeding? She's missing out, because I have a ton of breastfeeding supplies I'll happily give away.
Video: My baby won't nurse, and I can't pump enough milk to meet his needs. What can I do?
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