beauty

Breast is best. Except when it isn't.

My intention was always to breastfeed. After all, “Breast is Best”. Everyone knows this. Everyone except for my breasts, apparently.

When my baby was born, we had a very stressful time trying to teach him how to latch properly. Because my baby took a few days to latch consistently, it was an endless cycle of trying to breastfeed, give any (minimal) expressed milk, top up with formula, and try to pump more milk. I continued this process for the first couple of weeks of my baby’s life.

Anna and her baby. Image supplied.

Eventually, we stopped topping up, and I tried to solely breastfeed. I eventually also gave up on pumping as I was only ever getting, at most, 30ml combined from both breasts, and it was incredibly exhausting.

My supply never fully established. I massaged, took Motillium, took Fenugreek, drank heaps of water – did just about everything suggested to me to try to boost my supply. I read article after article, including those that insist that ‘low supply’ does not exist. So, then, my supply was just stubborn, I thought. This only made me feel more determined to keep trying, as surely it would get better. Surely.

I was always paranoid about my supply, to the point of compulsiveness. I tracked every nappy, every pump, and every feed, to try to ensure that my baby was getting enough. I sent endless emails to my lactation consultant. I weighed my baby every week, only to stress when he did not seem to gain as much as the other babies. He was on the 25th percentile for weight, but had been born on the 85th. The nurses told me not to worry, as he was still gaining every week.

Image via iStock.

But the weight wasn’t the only issue. Not only was my supply just barely adequate, my flow was slow. My baby would fall asleep on the breast fairly quickly, no matter how many times I switched breasts, roused him, or changed his nappy. This ended up turning into a vicious cycle as this process affected his sleep. He would have only short naps and wake up tired and hungry. He would then fall asleep on the breast as an extension of his nap, and not end up feeding as well, and so the cycle would continue.

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Eventually I knew this had to stop. For these and several other reasons, we made the difficult and stressful decision at 4 ½ months to make the transition to formula. I was nervous, as my baby hadn’t had formula since he was three weeks old and I was worried he would reject the bottle. I watched with anticipation the first time I gave him a full bottle of formula.

He gulped the bottle down, as though he had never been so thirsty in his life. I felt a wave of emotions. Relief – in that my baby was finally getting the nutrition he needed. Guilt – in that I had waited so long to make the change. Hope – in that this was going to help him get the sleep he needed. Sadness - in that our breastfeeding bonding time was at an end.

Anna and her baby. Image supplied.

We made the transition slowly, replacing breast feeds with formula feeds over about a week and a half. My breasts made the adjustment immediately – they barely filled, barely hardened, which only served to prove to myself that I had been right about my supply all along.

I was initially concerned about over-feeding, but my baby rarely drank the entire bottle. He started napping and sleeping like a champion and just seemed happier in general.

Let me be clear. If I had established a good, solid supply, I doubt I would have weaned my baby off breastmilk this early – I would have tried to continue as long as possible.

But breast is not always best in every situation. My baby may not have been starving, but he certainly wasn’t getting anywhere near full. In our situation, and for many other mothers with low supply, latching issues, pain, etc., the transition to formula was best for our baby. Formula exists for a reason. I do not feel ashamed that I did not continue to breastfeed, nor should any mother who makes the same decision. We should support one another and celebrate our babies’ health and happiness, regardless of what they eat!

Did you choose to breastfeed?

WATCH the clip below for some breastfeeding tips...

Video via Mama Natural
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