Category Archives: Feeding

New (Second) Favorite DHA Supplement

BottleWithout diving into a debate about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding (other posts cover some of my thoughts on this topic: Judgements: Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding and Encouraging Breastfeeding: How Far is Too Far?), suffice it to say that I have always had to supplement.  I was very proud that with baby #2 I was able to provide about 75% of his sustenance through breast milk through 9 months; however that means that I was still relying on formula for the remaining 25% and 3 months of the first year.

As such, it has always been critical to me to find the highest quality and most natural formula and supplements that I could.  And I was thrilled when after months of trial and error with baby #1, I finally found Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic LactoRelief formula (try saying that 10 times quickly) paired with their DHA & ARA Fatty Acid supplement.  Finally something checked all the boxes: organic, natural (as possible), lactose free for sensitive tummies, and a DHA/ARA supplement that is egg derived via a water process – instead of being derived from algae and fungus and treated with hexane solvent, acid, and bleach (like the DHA/ARA found in all other commercially available infant formulas).

In fact, I was so pleased with the DHA/ARA supplement by Nature’s One that I continued to order it long after my eldest was off the bottle; I continue to give it to him to this day, mixed with his milk or yogurt.

So I was extremely disappointed to find the following message on Nature’s One’s website last night when trying to reorder:

Unfortunately, due to low demand and rising packaging/ingredient costs, Baby’s Only Essentials DHA & ARA Supplement will not be available for purchase going forward. Nature’s One made this difficult decision so that we can continue to focus our efforts on providing the best products possible while maintaining competitive prices.

That means that after our last two boxes, I am out – and will need a replacement as I definitely still want to supplement DHA for both children.  Fortunately, it appears that all Nature’s Only infant formulas remain in production; most notably, the Dairy formulation which includes their water-processed DHA/ARA.  Unfortunately, their LactoRelief formulation does not, at the moment, offer an option inclusive of DHA/ARA – so that leaves me trying to find an alternative.

After some research, I plan to switch to Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Liquid.  I had always been reluctant to use cod liver oil due to concerns with mercury, so had previously steered away.  But in researching Nordic Naturals, I found that they surpass international standards for levels of mercury (< 0.1 ppm).  They additionally surpass international standards for other worrisome heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium.  PCBs are concerning as well – and fortunately this product surpasses international standards (including standards under California’s Prop 65).  Most comforting is the fact that these statements are backed by third party – not Nordic Naturals – analysis.

But how are the fish sourced?  I was pleasantly surprised here as well.  Nordic Naturals maintains that their Arctic cod is wild-caught from Norwegian waters.  Furthermore, that their fishing practices align with the Norwegian fisheries management system to prevent overfishing; that they use responsible fishing gear to prevent the unintentional capture of other species; and that they use regulated line and net fishing methods to prevent damage to the seafloor and ecosystem.

I did have one final thought pop into my head that I wasn’t sure would be addressed on their site… And that was if there were ANY fish sourced from areas that may be impacted by the Fukushima nuclear power plant situation.  Lo and behold, Nordic Naturals does address this!  They indicate that since the initial incident in March 2011, they have been proactively testing their fish oil for any indication of radiation.  To date, they have never had a detectable result.


I placed my first order this morning.  To be fair, it is definitely not the least expensive option.  Today’s discounted price was $37.41 for a 16-oz bottle on Amazon.  BUT the responsibility of this company along with their commitment to carefully testing, researching, and analyzing their products gives me the peace of mind necessary to make the purchase worth it.

The final test will be the taste.  I plan to hide it in milk, yogurt, or other “mushy” foods… But my two little critics will be the ultimate judge.  Will keep this post updated.




Starting Solids

Going through this for the first time, I had no idea when or how to start solids with my son.  I had heard that formula was sufficient in terms of nutrition for the first year of life, but that solids should be introduced within that time period to begin familiarizing the child.  I was told to start at 4 months, then I was told to start at 6 months.  I was told to start with rice cereral, then I was told to start with veggies.  I was told to make my own baby food, then I was told to buy organic pre-made food.

So confusing!  (Like everything associated with new parenthood, I am learning).

So I spent some time reading about it and discussing it with seasoned mothers, and here is what I came up with for our situation.

  • When to Start.  My son had some gastrointestinal issues early on, so I definitely wanted to wait as long as was reasonable to start him on solids.  I figured that waiting would help ensure that his digestive system was built up solidly.  Plus, I remember reading somewhere that formula-fed babies who start solids before 4 or 4.5 months have a greater risk of childhood obesity.  The medical community recommends starting your baby on solids between 4 and 6 months, or when “signs of readiness” are shown.  For us, 6 months seemed reasonable and when our son seemed ready – as he had begun watching us intently as we ate, and mimicking our chewing movements.
  • Store-Purchased vs. Home-Made.  To make or not make our own baby food?  I never imagined I would be the type of person to make ANY type of food, let alone baby food.  Yet, the more packaged baby foods I looked at, the fewer options I felt I had.  I wanted organic (which, by the way, all packaged baby foods are required to be), and I wanted a variety of single ingredient vegetable solids to start him off with.  I found many single ingredient fruit options, or dual vegetable options, but not the single vegetable solids I was looking for.  Also, I wanted the ingredients to be limited to simply water and the vegetable itself – no additions.  Finally, I needed to find food with BPA-free packaging.  As simple as these requirements seem, I couldn’t find much that met them!  Ultimately I found Sprout Baby Food, which met all my requirements.  The only problem was, my local Whole Foods markets only stock two types of single ingredient Stage 1 vegetables, sweet potatoes and squash.  So I stocked up on those as back-up as it dawned on me that if I wanted more control, I was going to have to make the food myself.
  • Making Baby Food.  Anyone who knows me knows that I CANNOT cook, so simplicity was the name of the game for me here.  I was looking for a baby food processor that was BPA-free and that would be E-A-S-Y.  Finally, I stumbled upon the Baby Brezza One Step Baby Food Maker.  I’ve listed out all the details of this great device under my #1 purchase for 3-6 month olds in another post, but suffice it to say that it is truly a 1-step process (as in load the veggies, press a button, and in 15-25 minutes you have a beautiful homemade puree).  I can’t recommend it enough.
  • What’s the deal with Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3?  This really stressed me out.  What do they mean?  What if I should, heaven forbid, accidentally feed my son a Stage 2 food before he’s completed Stage 1?  At what age should he be eating Stage 3 instead of Stage 2?  Fortunately for me, it sounds a lot more regimented than it truly is.  The bottom line is that Stage 1 and Stage 2 foods are typically single ingredient foods that are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.  Stage 3 foods begin introducing a combination of ingredients, and textures begin moving away from the Stage 1 and 2 purees.  There are no rules or exact order that you must follow, just general guidelines that you should consider.   That’s it.  WebMD offers a good general food chart that you may want to refer to.  As my son is still in Stage 1, the following is the order in which I have so far introduced new foods to him:

Avocado – loved it
Green Beans – loved it
Green Squash – loved it
Yellow Squash – was ambivalent
Peas – hated it
Carrots – loved it
Asparagus – hated it

  • Why not rice cereal first?  I know, I know, I heard from everyone that rice cereal was the “right” starting point.  But, I didn’t feel like there was much nutritional value, so I decided to go straight to veggies.  That said, I would like to introduce him to baby oatmeal.
  • What are the Color & Day Rules?  So the Color Rule, as I’ve heard it called, simply refers to keeping your baby on a certain color of vegetables or fruits before starting another one (e.g. you may begin with GREEN veggies, and then move to ORANGE ones after that).  I think it’s more to keep track of what your child has tried; I know that I haven’t really followed any color rules to date, although I have coincidentally started him with quite a few greens.  As far as the Day Rule goes, you should give your baby one type of food a day for 3-4 days to ensure there is no allergic reaction before moving on to the next.  This will allow you to monitor your child and also to identify the culprit should some sort of allergic reaction occur.
  • Making the Introduction.  Make sure you have everything ready: BPA-free food container, BPA-free baby spoon, waterproof bib, a sponge, and plenty of paper towels (and of course a high chair).  I like to begin feeding time with a bit of formula (or you can do breastmilk); I feed him enough so that he is somewhat satiated but still wanting more.  Then I give him the puree.  I let him tell me by his reaction whether or not he likes it, and he also lets me know when he’s had enough.  Then aftewards, I typically “top him off” with the rest of his bottle.  This routine works well for us, and now he starts getting excited as soon as he’s sitting in his high chair (also reviewed as part of a previous post – #3 on the list).

So far, so good.  I am excited to begin him on oatmeal, chicken and turkey (both are suitable for Stage 1), and legumes.  He is excited about all of it and his squeals prove it – as he splatters pureed green beans all over himself, his chair, and Mommy and Daddy.

3 Favorite Infant Supplements

Given all the time and energy I have spent on finding the appropriate nourishment for my infant son (see previous posts: Judgments-Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding and Infant Formula Roulette), you know I did my research when it comes to additional nutritional supplementation.  After a fair bit of trial and error, I’ve found the supplement cocktail that has been working best for our little one.

Vitamin D:  This fat-soluble vitamin can be ingested via food (think fatty dairy products or oily fish) or synthesized via sunlight exposure.  It aids with calcium absorption and regulates calcium and phosphate in the blood to encourage normal bone growth.  Vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets, a childhood bone deformity disease.  Breastmilk unfortunately does not contain a high amount of Vitamin D – as such, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended in 2008 that breastfeeding women supplement their infants with 400 IU of Vitamin D per day.  Formula-fed infants typically receive a higher amount of Vitamin D through their formula; however it may still not reach the recommended daily amount of 400 IU/day.  What I did was simply figure out how much my son was ingesting via his formula based on volume, and then supplemented the rest using Enfamil V-Di-Sol (I found it at most of my local drugstores).  One dropper of Enfamil’s product is about 400 IU of Vitamin D, so I would measure out a portion of that accordingly and add it to one of his bottles.  He tolerated it well, and I continued with it until he was ingesting enough formula (about 28-32 oz/day) to reach the recommended amount using that alone.  One note, however, is that there appears to be some dispute as to what amount of Vitamin D is the “right” amount for an infant.  Potential toxicity is a valid concern as the amount reaches 1,000 IU per day, so stay well below that amount and always consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your baby’s diet.

Vitamin C.  We all know about Vitamin C… In fact, I loaded up just this morning to hopefully nip the scratchy throat coming on in the bud.  Found in many common fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, etc), the vitamin helps with immunity.  The good news is that both breast milk and formula should easily provide the adequate amount needed for infants.  So why supplement?  In truth, you don’t need to.  I choose to supplement before and after vaccinations only, to help with my son’s immune response.  So, about 3-5 days before and 3-5 days after each set of vaccinations, I supplement him with 1/2 teaspoon (50 mg) or less of Country Life Maxi Baby C Liquid in one of his bottles.  Just enough to hopefully give him that boost to get him over the vaccine hump.  The recommended daily amount of Vitamin C is 40 mg/day for infants up to 6 months, and while an upper tolerable limit is not established for infants, it is established for children ages 1-3 years at 400 mg/day.  Of course, as his daily formula intake increases, his Vitamin C supplement before/after vaccinations decreases; although the vitamin is typically well tolerated up to daily limits.

Probiotics.  LOVE.  THIS.  STUFF.  I was so worried about my son’s immunity due to him not being breastfed that I looked into all kinds of supplements to potentially help in this area:  bovine colostrum, raw milk, probiotics, etc.  It was an easy decision to go with probiotics.  Proven and safe, even my conservative pediatrician agreed that they “can’t hurt, and might help.”  I will say, since using them, that our son has had no more colds, has a better appetite, and has the wonderful regular bowel movements that all new parents pray for.  So what are probiotics?  Basically, strains of good bacteria to help maintain beneficial gut flora; in other words, to help with the proliferation of good immune-strengthening bacteria in the gut.  I tried a few different formulations before finally finding one that stuck.  I knew there were several bifidobactera (B) and Lactobacillus (L) strains that I wanted included: B. infantis,  B. breve, B. longum, L. acidophilus,  and L. rhamnosus.  I also wanted Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) included, which is actually a prebiotic that supports the growth of bifidobacteria in the gut.  The hardest part was finding a product that included both the bacterial strains I wanted AND FOS, but I finally found it in Nature’s Way Primadophilus Children (and btw, I could only find it at Sprouts).  It comes in a powdered form that needs to remain refrigerated, and I add 1/2 teaspoon to one bottle daily.  As I said, it’s worked wonders for our son and I only wish we started him on it sooner.

So there you have it – the three supplements that have worked best for our baby.  I would love to hear about what is working well for others… Any other recommendations?

Infant Formula Roulette

Once it became clear that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding (see previous post), I set out to find the absolute best formula that I could for my son.  Not an easy feat, I soon learned.  Between researching the best ingredients, latest studies, and what simply suited my son, we went through quite a while of formula roulette – hoping that one would finally stick.

In the hospital, he was given Enfamil Premium Newborn.  This is a milk-based formula with extra Vitamin D.  Since I had nothing to compare it to, it seemed adequate.  After a few feedings, he began spitting up a little bit.  A nurse immediately “diagnosed” him as lactose intolerant or milk-sensitive and switched his formula.

Enter Enfamil Prosobee.  This is a soy-based formula (therefore milk and lactose-free) with included DHA/ARA.  This formula actually worked well for some time.  My son tolerated it and his bowel movements were regular.  He thrived.

But then I started doing some research on soy infant formula.  I had seen an article about potential concerns with soy in formula, so began to dig a bit deeper.  And what I saw scared me.

First of all, it’s recommended that preemies not be given soy formula.  Hmm…  That raised a bit of a red flag for me.  Then I started reading about phytoestrogens (chemicals structured similarly to estrogen) that are find in high levels in soy.  Apparently with the concentrated level of phytoestrogens included in formula, it may be the equivalent of an infant ingesting 3-5 birth control pills a day!  I read about increased risks of thyroid disorders, food allergies, early puberty, reproductive issues, and even cancer as potential effects of high levels of soy in the infant diet.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to select milk-based formula as the primary option for feeding.

I’m not here to confirm or deny  the validity of these claims, but even the fact that these concerns were raised was enough for me.  It was time to make another switch.

By this time I was becoming a bit more educated about what my child was eating, so had a few new requirements.  The formula had to be iron-fortified so as to prevent a deficiency.  It also had to include DHA/ARA to help with brain and eye development (most, if not all, do).  Furthermore, I was now determined to find a MILK-based formula that would work.  Even though the nurse had said that my son was lactose intolerant, I didn’t trust her 2-second diagnosis and figured we would try it again.

Now we tried him on the Target brand up & up DHA Milk Based Formula.

A quick aside on generic vs. brand name formulas – they are the same!  After reviewing the ingredient lists on each, researching, and confirming with my pediatrician, there is no difference between brand name and generic besides price.  In fact, many generic formulas are made by the very same manufacturer that makes the brand name formula.

Anyways back to Target’s up & up DHA Milk Based Formula.  For us, it wasn’t a fit.  Our baby soon became excessively fussy during feedings, had much higher incidences of spit-up and vomit, and began experiencing very runny diarrhea.

So now I switched him back to what he had started out with, Enfamil Premium Newborn.  Sure enough, he continued to experience all the symptoms that the Target brand milk-based formula caused.  Hmm…. Maybe the nurse was onto something about him being lactose intolerant or milk-sensitive after all?

Another note about switching – The switches have to be tried, at least in my experience, for at least two weeks in order to make a determination.  Otherwise the baby has not adjusted yet and it’s just too soon to tell.

Also a note about my pediatrician’s advice throughout this journey – basically, there was none other than to try this/try that as we were already doing (interestingly, though, he mentioned and provided samples of only Enfamil formulations – I imagine that’s where the kickbacks were coming from – but that’s another topic).

So now I started looking at milk-based alternatives (that’s really all that was left after soy was out the window).  It appeared that I could either go the partially or fully hydrolyzed routes.  Formulas that are hydrolyzed have proteins that are broken down into smaller pieces for easier digestion.  The parent can choose formulations that have either some or all of these proteins broken down.  The more proteins that are broken down, the more expensive the formula.  In the case of fully hydrolyzed formulas, such as Enfamil Nutramigen or Similac Alimentum, you’re going to be paying significantly more for smaller cans.  And, to top it off, the smell and taste definitely leave something to be desired – I personally hated it but I guess you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

So clearly, fully hydrolyzed was our last resort.  For now, we went with Enfamil Gentlease, which is partially hydrolyzed.  Not only is it partially hydrolyzed, it also contains only about 20% of the lactose inherent in regular milk-based formula.  I was really gunning for this one to work – It seemed like a nice compromise and I thought that the lower lactose content would help out as well.  My baby had other feelings, however, and it didn’t work out… spit-up, vomiting, and diarrhea continued – along with a new skin rash.

Now I was at a loss.  I still wasn’t ready to concede to fully hydrolyzed formulas, yet I now began to wonder if my son was indeed truly lactose intolerant or had a milk allergy.  So I took him in for a milk allergy test.

It was a pretty simple test – A small toothpick-looking thing pricks the baby’s hand.  Doesn’t even break the skin.  My son didn’t even notice, and the results were back within a few minutes.  He did not have a milk allergy.  The doctor thought he may just have a lactose sensitivity.

Phew…  so maybe it’s just a brand thing?  I had heard stories of other babies who simply preferred one brand to another.  So now I decided to try him on Similac Sensitive.  Turns out this brand’s formulation is unique in that it contains NO lactose.  Sure enough, we had a winner.  Finally!  My baby’s fussiness dissipated, spit-ups and vomits slowed down, the rash disappeared, and bowel movements again became regular.  I concluded that my son was temporarily sensitive to lactose, as suggested by the doctor, and all was right with the world.

Until I read the Cornucopia report on DHA/ARA in infant formula.  A friend had sent me information on this before I had even given birth but, with everything else going on, I promptly filed and forgot about it.  Now that I had learned so much about infant formula, I remembered it and searched back through my email until I could find and read it.

And what I read worried me.  (Ugh – is nothing easy when it comes to formula??)  Turns out that the DHA/ARA included in most commercially available infant formulas today is derived from strains of algae.  Worse, the oil is then removed using a hexane extraction process.  Hexane, as I soon found out, is a toxin made from crude oil.  The effects of hexane poisoning can result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, breathing difficulty, and more seriously, peripheral nervous system failure and muscular atrophy.  Although it is asserted that the hexane is completely eliminated through the extraction process, it was too big of a risk to take for me.

As much as I hated to change my son’s formula again, I had to find something that did not include this hexane-processed DHA/ARA.  The friend who had initially sent me the Cornucopia report was happily using Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula. 

I wasn’t quite ready to put my baby back onto a 100% milk-based formula quite yet being as the lactose-free formulation was working so well for him, so I looked into the company, hoping they had some alternatives.  Fortunately, they offer Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Lactose-Free Formula.

The more I read, the more I liked.  This formula is USDA certified organic and does not include hexane-processed DHA/ARA nor corn syrup, and uses 100% BPA-free packaging.  Instead of corn syrup, organic brown rice syrup is used.  And since I did want the benefits of DHA/ARA (without the hexane), I was pleased to find that they do offer a DHA/ARA supplement that is derived from egg yolk.

So as much as I hated to once again switch my son’s formula, I felt it was the right thing to do.  And fortunately for everyone, it worked out great.  And I felt GOOD about giving him an organic formula.  He has now been on it for months with no issues.  Growing and thriving.

But as I mentioned before, NOTHING is simple when it comes to infant formula.  Just when I felt relieved that we had found something that worked for our son, and that I felt good feeding him, the other shoe dropped.

Now it was all over the media that infant formulas using brown rice syrup as an ingredient (Baby’s Only Organic is the only brand I know of) contained high levels of arsenic.  Arsenic!?  In baby formula??  Panic.

Turns out that a study performed by Dartmouth researchers identified elevated arsenic levels in foods using brown rice syrup as a sweetener – everything from energy bars to cereal bars to infant formula.  Now, it’s important to realize that arsenic is everywhere throughout our environment, the food that we eat, and the water that we drink.  But the FDA has only set a maximum threshold for drinking water, at 10 ppb (parts ber billion) and, more recently, fruit juices (remember the apple juice scandal a few years back?)  The Dartmouth study apparently was pursued to help convince the FDA to better regulate levels of arsenic in all foods and drinks we ingest.

Scary stuff.  So I began lurking on the Nature’s One website and Facebook pages to review the conversations and company responses.  Of course the camps were divided: those who supported the company and were continuing to use the product until further testing was done, those who were outraged and immediately taking their children in for arsenic testing, and those who were temporarily switching to an alternative brand until further test results were in.

Long story short – I ultimately remained with Nature’s One.  My son was doing well with it.  Parents who had their children tested for arsenic exposure were consistently posting results of non-detection.  The brown rice used in the sweetener was grown on organic farms in California which, logically speaking, would naturally have less arsenic than non-organic farms or farms located in other areas of the country where higher levels of arsenic have been identified.  And, most importantly, I remained based on subsequent independent testing that placed the levels of arsenic within the company’s formulas well below world standards (as the U.S. has no such standards at the moment).  If you’re so inclined, the details can be read here.

Also, when weighing all the other options out there, I still feel that a USDA certified organic product free of hexane-derived DHA and other artificial preservatives and chemicals is a better option for my son than the alternatives.   So here we are, continuing with the formula, and my son continues to thrive.

But unfortunately, there is no right answer.  There is simply no “best” formula.  It really boils down to what each parent is comfortable with.  NOTHING REPLACES BREAST MILK.  But, when you have to find an alternative, all you can do is pick what is best for your child… and, as I learned, just because one formula is good for some children doesn’t mean it will work for your own.  And just because one formula has ingredients you’re pleased with doesn’t mean that it also won’t have ingredients you’re not.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have done all this research BEFORE I had my baby.  But I naively thought I would just run down to the local store, stock up on several cans of whatever formula was the most popular, and be done with it.  Now I know.

So what are you formula-feeding moms feeding your babies?  I know there are many more brands out there that I never even tried.  Anyone else have to go through the roulette that I did?

Judgments: Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

I want to make a plea to all mothers…  Can we please all just support each other?  We’re all going through similar experiences, emotions, and hormonal changes, and at a time when we are most vulnerable, we should be supporting each other vs. attacking each other when it comes to controversial topics.

I’m sure the above gives a hint as to where I’m going with this, but I feel it’s important to share my story.  To share the “other side” per se.  Maybe it will help shed some light to those who are so dogmatic about one right way of doing things.

Before I begin, let me state very clearly and succinctly: BREAST IS BEST.  Period.  There is absolutely no debate about it.  Breastfeeding your infant during their most formative weeks and months is arguably the single most important thing you can do to give your baby the best start in life.

But hear me when I say it is not always possible.  For me it was not, partially due to some actions on my part and partially due to circumstances beyond my control.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be possible if I have another child.  That also doesn’t mean I am a bad mother.  Let me repeat: It does not mean I am a bad mother.  It took me a long time to be able to say and believe that, so I think it’s important to repeat it.

I admit I was pretty ignorant when it came to the “breastfeeding vs. formula feeding” controversy while I was pregnant.  I understood at a high level that breastfeeding was better and encouraged, but didn’t really think that formula was all that bad.  I definitely didn’t put a lot of time into researching it.  I figured, heck, much of our generation was raised on formula, and we all turned out okay.  As long as you pick the right formula, your baby should be fine.

I wasn’t excited about the prospect of breastfeeding.  I hadn’t yet bonded with my baby – to me, “my baby” was still some abstract idea, a foreign invasion of my body but not much else.  I was scared that breastfeeding would hurt.  I had heard stories of mastitis and bleeding nipples.  I didn’t want to leak when I went back to work.  I didn’t want the daunting responsibility of having to be the sole provider of nutrition and sustenance for an infant.  I worried about my diet and how it would impact breast milk.

So I figured that formula feeding was a good enough back-up plan.  In fact, I was pretty sure it would be THE plan – although I left the door open to breastfeeding should I change my mind upon delivery (which I doubted).  Friends were shocked and tried to encourage me to reconsider my approach.  Doctors pressured.  The more pressure I received, the more I pushed back and the more adamant I became that it was my choice and I would formula feed if I wanted to! 

About 2 weeks before giving birth, I suddenly had a change of heart.  I literally woke up one morning in a panic – what was I thinking?  I have to breastfeed!  It’s the best for my baby!  I began to read up on it.  I talked to family.  I was torn.  It felt like so much to learn, so much to prepare for, so late in the game.  Within a few days, the impulse had died down.  My sister, who had experienced difficulties breastfeeding herself, advised me that if my heart was not fully in it, I wouldn’t be able to do it.  We agreed that I was just hormonal and to “stick to the plan” (meaning, decide at birth what I wanted to do).  Thus no preparations were made.

Delivery day arrives.  My baby is born after a very long and difficult delivery, and I miss out on the hospital’s Golden Hour bonding opportunity as they are fast and furiously working on my baby to ensure he is okay.  I am happy but utterly exhausted.  I just want to sleep.  Not yet bonded.

The nurse asks if I want to latch him onto my breast.  I do not.  I am beyond worn out.  I am sore.  I feel as if I can’t manage something else new at this moment.  I ask for a bottle instead.  This is now my biggest regret about that experience.  His first feeding is newborn formula.

My healing process is slow.  I stay in the hospital an extra day and night beyond what I had planned to.  During that time I am pretty much bedridden, and hubby takes over most of the feeding/diapering responsibilities.  Which means that the feedings continue via formula.  I am not yet fully bonding with my baby.  Nobody at the hospital asks me again if I want to breastfeed.  I probably would have pushed back if they had anyway.

Finally getting discharged.  I am told that my breasts should engorge within the next 2-5 days and that if I don’t want to breastfeed, to avoid contact with them and basically wait out the engorgement.

5 days come and go.  10 days come and go.  No engorgement.  Finally just after 2 weeks postpartum, mild engorgement begins.  I have nothing to compare it to, but they’re not nearly as painful or engorged as I’m told they should be.  All during this time, we are continuing to formula feed.  I am adjusting to having a new baby at home.  He is cute and small and I love him…  But I’ve not yet bonded.

Hubby is going back to work soon.  I now force myself out of bed and start hobbling around the house to help take care of the chores and, most importantly, the baby in preparation for his return to work.  I begin spending more time with the baby than I had in the days prior. 

Then slowly, something starts to happen…  I feel something starting to stir.  I start to really watch him while he eats, when I change him, while he sleeps.  We make some meaningful eye contact.  I begin focusing less on my healing and more on him.  I start to fall in love with him.  He is no longer just a responsibility, a chore, something I have to do.  He is now MY SON.  My beautiful, perfect, angelic child.  A gift.  A miracle.  My heart opens up and with it comes the anxiety.  The panic.  The worry.  And the absolute NEED to do everything in my power to love, protect, and provide the very best for him.

At about that time, I receive an email from one of my best friends.  He makes a passing comment about how another mutual friend (who works for an infant formula company) saw a photo of me formula-feeding my baby and said that I really needed to “stop feeding him that crap.”   He went on to mention a few of the statistics our friend had shared in regards to formula feeding. 

I lost it.  While reading the email, I began crying uncontrollably (and those who know me know I am not a cryer).  I couldn’t stop. 

Suddenly it all hit me.  The profound love for my child, the anxiety, the guilt, the worry, and the fact that I had made the absolute worst decision I could have in giving him the best start in life.  What was wrong with me?  How could I have done this?  The words stop feeding him that crap are permanently seared into my mind.

I begin frantically researching.  Researching researching.  Can I still breastfeed?  Is it too late?  Of course, most of the articles and forums I read berate women who didn’t attempt to breastfeed from Day 1.  I am called selfish, unfit to be a mother, and borderline abusive.  I hear that I am ignorant and uneducated.  I read a piece that asserts that mothers who do not breastfeed should not be allowed to procreate.  I am told that my child will now not only suffer from a lifetime of disease and lowered immunity, but that he will also end up stupid and obese.  All because I made that one fateful decision.

The guilt and regret are overpowering.  I can’t stop crying.  Hormones, Google overload, and other mothers’ judgments only make it worse.  I feel absolutely horrible for what I’ve done.  The articles and books are not helping.  Hubby becomes worried.  He doesn’t understand.  It’s not as if you’re feeding him poison, he says.  But I am desperate to salvage the situation.  I will fix this.

I begin putting my baby to the breast.  Predictably, he won’t take it.  Why would he?  He’s become accustomed to the easy flow of the formula bottles.  Why work harder than he has to?  I keep trying.  Trying.  He simply won’t latch.  Once he bites.  Hard.  But never latches.

I buy a hand pump.  I pump pump pump for 40 minutes and get a few drops of milk.  I am ecstatic.

I call 3 different Lactation Consultants.  One I don’t like off the bat (she spends a lot of time reprimanding me for what a horrible decision I had made – as if I didn’t already realize that).  The other two are great.  I spend a lot of time talking with both of them.  I share my proud moment of the hand pump.  They both feel I can successfully re-lactate, but that it is going to take work.  I need to be committed.  I am.  I will do anything.

First thing I am instructed to do is to rent a hospital-grade breast pump.  I do that immediately.  The nurse shows me how to use it and also confirms during our test that I do “have milk” and should be able to re-lactate.  She furthermore confirms that the small amount of milk produced during that session is in fact colustrum – even better!  I am told to pump at least 25 minutes every 2 hours day and night for at least two weeks to start seeing results.  I’m shown how to give myself compresses and massages that should also help stimulate milk production.

I’m told to begin a cocktail of Fenugreek (10 capsules a day), Milk Thistle (6 capsules a day), 5 glasses of milk a day, and a lot of oatmeal and water.  I send hubby to the health store to pick everything up.  I’m told to visualize my baby to allow for the “let down” of milk, and to relax as much as possible.

Finally, I’m referred over and over again to La Leche League.  I desperately read up on their forums, websites, and once again conclude what a horrible mother I am for not breastfeeding from Day 1.  But I can relactate, they tell me.  Even adoptive mothers can lactate.  Just don’t give up.

The pump HURTS!!  Wow, turn power down.  Relax.  Focus on your baby.  Take the supplements.  Never mind the chapped and bleeding nipples.  Clean it up and keep trying.

Every two hours.  Has it already been two hours??  Do it again.  Produce only 5 ml.  That’s okay, keep at it.  Day, night, night day.  Every two hours.  Water, oatmeal, milk, supplements, lanolin, pump, soothe chapped/bleeding nipples, clean pump parts, repeat.  This becomes my new obsession.

A week later and still only 5-10 ml.  No matter.  Those precious drops are added like miracle medicine to my baby’s bottles.  Keep at it, it will increase.

Two weeks in.  I’m getting tired.  Not sleeping since up through the night pumping.  Nipples ain’t pretty.  And STILL only producing about 5-10 ml a session.  Dreading pumping time.  I remain obsessed with pumping out every single drop possible.  Not seeing an increase.

I take a day off.  I rationalize that I am out and busy and didn’t get a chance to pump…  but if I’m being honest with myself, I just want a day off!  I want my nipples to heal.  I don’t want to dread pumping time.  I don’t want the pressure.  I want to take a nap!

Next day I pump and get 30 ml.  30 ml!!  Three times as much as I have gotten before!  Maybe the tide has turned.  But, after the next 4 subsequent pumps yield even less than 10 ml, I realize it was just build-up for having skipped a day.

Time passes.  I’m starting to become depressed.  I am obsessed with increasing my milk supply.  I can do this.  I WILL do this.  I cannot ruin my son’s future.  I am miserable and I wince any time anything grazes my breasts.  My nipples aren’t improving.  I become furious when my husband fails to shake every last drop of “liquid gold” into the formula bottle.  I am sleep-deprived, and not due to a crying baby!

After about another week or so of this, hubby pulls me aside.  You’re doing a great thing, he says, and I see how hard you’ve been trying.  But – don’t you think you’ve tried enough?  He struggles for the right words.  I feel like… you’re starting to lose focus of your son.  Says it gently.

I start to protest.  Argue. 

But then stop.  He’s right.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve focused on my son while feeding him (vs. thinking about The Pump and My Supply).  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve focused on anything other than increasing my supply.  I am frustrated.  Snapping at everyone.  Depressed.  Defeated.

And hubby has inadvertently given me the best gift he can.  The permission to stop.  I realized afterwards that was all I needed.  I knew a couple of weeks in that it wasn’t working.  My milk production wasn’t increasing.  I wasn’t succeeding.  But I couldn’t stop.  Wouldn’t stop.  Had to make up for my inital mistake.

So I needed that permission to stop.  Someone to acknowledge that I had given it everything.  That I wasn’t a failure as a mother.  And that it was going to be okay.  And he reminded me, again, that I was doing the best I could.  I wasn’t feeding him poison.  I loved him.  I cared for him.  And was learning as I go.

I returned the pump.  I put away the supplements.  And I decided to take the permission to move on and not look back.  I decided to use this as a learning experience for the next time.  Relief.  Peace.

I began to look forward to feedings again.  That quiet time with baby and I.  I began to physically heal.  I slept.  Through the night.  And was happier.  A better mother, a better wife.

And I vowed to no longer look up another forum, thread, or article regarding the Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding war.  I supposed I had lost the battle.  La Leche League would not have been pleased.  But the gray cloud hovering above me was lifting.  I was starting to feel like myself again.  I was engaged with my son.

All we can do is our best.  And we make mistakes.  I know that this was one of my biggest mistakes.  But I have accepted it, learned from it, and moved on.  What I wish is that during my most vulnerable time, I had been supported by other mothers, even those with different experiences.  Instead, I felt degraded.  I WAS degraded.  But what I needed at that time, instead of lectures and reprimands, was simply support.

Sometimes when we’re passionate about something, we forget to respect others’ perspectives and experiences.  It’s understandable – we simply KNOW we are right and cannot comprehend why someone else would not see it the way we do.  Yet in our constant lecturing and soap-boxing, we push those people away.  The ones we are so fervently attempting to sway, to see it our way, are turned off and retreat.  Who wants to be reprimanded?  Scolded?  Scoffed at because they cannot or will not follow the same practices that we do?

I’m all for education, but it needs to remain objective and fact-based, not personal and attacking.  I can only imagine how an adoptive mother who formula feeds her child must feel – and she has no choice!  Present the facts and let the mother decide. 

And other mothers, especially, be kind to your peers.  Remember that we will all make mistakes along the way.  Let’s band together and show compassion, not pass judgment.  Let’s maintain the assumption that mothers want to parent the best way that they possibly can, although particular views may differ.  Let’s hold each other up instead of trying to tear each other down.

We’re all in this together.