Sunday, June 6, 2010

Formula Won

I have been looking forward to and dreading this post, but in keeping with the spirit of this blog, the no-holds-barred look at motherhood in its real reality, I have to admit that I have let go some of my motherly idealism in favor of reality, and the results have been nothing short of stunning! :)

Breastfeeding is one of the most emotional, contentious issues that a mom can run into, and the conflicting opinions and statements can come equally from inside of herself as well as from others around her. I was not able to breastfeed C exclusively because he stayed in the NICU for two weeks when he was first born, and I was not allowed to really establish a good nursing relationship, as they say. He did nurse some, for ten whole months, which I take as a positive thing and a big accomplishment. I decided, though, that I really wanted to nurse N exclusively, and that I wanted to go as far as possible to make it work.

And it did work -- she was very good at nursing from the very beginning, had a great latch, etc., all those things. She was growing and gaining weight, perhaps a little more slowly than I would have liked, but still within the "normal" range (oh growth charts, with your sneering, pointing fingers!). The problem was not with her, but with me! I found I had this pesky need to bathe, to clean the house, to change my clothes, to set her down on occasion...

I reached a moment of decision last Tuesday, or more accurately, early Wednesday morning. N settled in that evening for a feed that lasted from 6pm until midnight, and then continued on from there. She was eating even as I wrote the last post. I was sitting on the couch, nursing her, trying for over an hour to finish posting participation for the classes I am teaching and to set her down for long enough to grab a snack and a glass of water, but to no avail. As the clock switched over to midnight and I stopped working, I found myself holding her and crying, crying, crying, like a messy wreck. I thought to myself, something has to change.

The next day I started reading articles on introducing one formula feed to a daily routine of nursing. As usual there was the range of responses, from "why would you want to breastfeed at all, you crazy masochist!" to "it's just fine to supplement once a day, quit worrying" to "you will probably ruin your life and your baby's chances of future health and happiness if you give in and fail her by selfishly feeding her formula." So I prayed, thought, talked it over with whoever would listen (thanks for listening, everyone!) and decided that I would feed her formula once a day, at about 9pm, which is smack in the middle of the super-feeding phase of the day. I would nurse her right before, feed her formula, and then nurse her right after -- and maybe the formula would fortify her to face the rest of the evening without screaming and feeding incessantly.

And it worked! Despite dire online warnings that my supply would diminish if I fed her formula, it has actually increased, along with my sanity, emotional reserve, and general enjoyment of motherhood. It's like night and day. She doesn't sleep for a magically long stretch at night, but she does sleep for a solid 4 hours at the beginning of the night, which is definitely a blessing, and her temperament in the evenings has gone from agitated screamy starvation to calmly interactive, happy, satiated babyness.

If compromising my ideals results in such a vast improvement, then maybe judicious compromise should be the new ideal.

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