The Decision to Feed My Baby: A mom’s acceptance with not being able to breastfeed.

blog bottle

We are joyfully expecting our third sweet babe in November. We eagerly await the time we get to meet, cuddle, nurture, and love our little one. My heart has always yearned for a third child and has been excited about all the details of welcoming another child into our family…

That is except for feeding our new baby. My heart was heavy at the thought of having a baby and again dealing with the heartbreak of not being able to breastfeed our child. This would be the third time my heart was broken to pieces by not being enough for our baby to grow. I have had such heavy thoughts about failing again that I even thought about stopping our family at two children. However, rational thought took over. I realized that another baby would be such a blessing and it would be a tragedy to not try for more children because of my own insecurities with nursing.

For those of you who do not know my story, my body is physically incapable of producing enough milk to help my babies grow. With our first child, I exclusively nursed her six weeks, during which time she hardly grew at all, struggled with jaundice, and was angry all hours of the day. I sought out help from the Le Leche League, our lactation counselor, our doctor, power pumping, skin to skin, the golden hour at birth, co-sleeping, fenugreek, mother’s tea, and even lactation cookies. I tried so hard and used every resource I could. She just would not grow…. At six weeks old we fed our daughter her first formula bottle and she grew. She grew in weight and she grew in happiness. My heart was broken by not being enough for her, as I had fully intended to nurse her whole first year, but I quickly learned that breastfeeding just is not that simple. It is not as simple as making the choice to nurse.

When we went on to have our son, I was even more determined to make it work. This time we used support from the Le Leche League, our lactation counselor (whom which we saw 5 times in our first two weeks), our doctor, power pumping, skin to skin, the golden hour at birth, co-sleeping, fenugreek, mother’s tea, lactation cookies, clipped his tied tongue, and this time I on demand feed our boy at every feeding sign….. and yet, our sweet boy did not grow. He was so angry all the time, constantly wanting to nurse, and starving. I did not let it go as long this time. Our little boy got his first formula bottle at two weeks old. He also grew in weight and grew in happiness.

I knew the signs. I knew the reality. Our doctor knew the reality. Our lactation counselor knew the reality. My body could not make enough good milk to help our babies grow.  We will never truly know the reason my body cannot make enough milk, but have some strong ideas.

1-hypoplastic breasts. This means that my breasts are made without enough glandular tissue to produce milk. Based on the shape of my breasts, there is a strong suspicion that I have hypoplastic breasts. However, my breasts could also have a more narrow and specific shape because of idea number 2.

2- gastric bypass. I had gastric bypass at 23 years old. This was a huge and life changing decision for me. I am still very grateful for the opportunities that it has created. However, I do have very saggy, flat, mother of 17 kids, breasts from it. That is what happens when you lose 140 lbs.  Gastric bypass may have lead to me being unable to create great milk because my body processes nutrients differently now. I have to take a lot of vitamins every day to make sure I am getting the key nutrients I need to stay healthy. My body does not take as many nutrients from food as non-gastric bypass bodies. With my body getting far less nutrients for itself, it is very likely that I do not have enough nutrients to create nutrient rich milk.

3- genetics.

Whatever the reason may be, the reality is that my babies need to be formula fed in order to grow.

Flashback to March of this year when we found out that we were pregnant with our third baby… Such an incredible blessing! My mind immediately imagined baby’s sweet face, kissing baby’s scrunched newborn cheeks, introducing our other two children to their new siblings, which family names we would choose to name baby, and feeding baby. Ugh. Feeding baby.

What would this look like in the hospital? I have always nursed baby in the hospital. I have also always had  jaundiced, crabby, and small babies. Would I want to nurse baby during the golden hour for the bond and start the stimulation to bring in my milk? (Ironically it took over a month for me to completely dry up with both my babies. I would leak and ruin my shirts, yet it was not enough nutrient rich milk to help them grow. Breaking my heart with every single, ironic drop.) Did I even want to go down the path of nursing and creating milk, just to have to stop and switch to formula, or would I just start with formula and focus on the bonding?

* I know milk will still come in, but I do not need to encourage it even more so.

It has taken me until now, week 24 of pregnancy, to have a solid answer to this.

I have decided to feed my baby.

That seems like an obvious answer, doesn’t it? Yet, it is a very loaded answer. I am going to feed my baby. My breasts do not feed my babies. To offer my baby my breast is just the same as offering them a pacifier. There is no nutrients in it, just comfort. I am going to feed my baby nutrients. This means that I am going to give my newborn baby formula in the hospital. I will undoubtedly do this while holding my baby skin to skin. I will be on-demand feeding my baby a bottle. I will do everything I would have done as a nursing mom, except this time I will be actually feeding my baby.

Will this path always break my heart? Yes.

Is this still a very sensitive subject for me? Yes.

Are my two formula fed children incredibly wonderful? Yes.

Will this baby be just as wonderful having never breastfed? Yes.

Is it time for me to accept reality and do what is best for both my babies and myself? Yes.

Am I grateful that this is the only struggle I have regarding bringing my babies into the world? Yes. 1 million times, yes. Every single day.

Our journey in parenting is going to have many heartbreaking moments, many far more difficult than the ones we have faced so far. I am just so grateful that this heartbreaking moment could be solved by simply choosing to feed our baby formula.

If only all parenting problems could be solved with a simple bottle.

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Finding peace in her eyes

“She feels everything stronger.”

These are the words my wonderful friend used to help me describe our sweet girl and those words are a perfect description.

As our little girl was closing in on turning three, leaving her toddler stage behind her, it was becoming more and more apparent that Lady A’s personality would be just liker her mama’s: emotional and anxious.

Even as I write those words emotional and anxious my heart gets heavy because I have always seen these words in such a negative way. These words have always described me. Sure, sometimes before “anxiety” became a more common term, I would be described as a little girl who worried all the time, but it was anxiety. I have struggled with the negativity of those words and have viewed myself in such a negative light because of those words. My inner voice tells me that I am weak. It tells me to cower, to not feel brave, to not feel proud, to not feel good about myself because I am flawed. There is something wrong with me because I cry and I worry.

Even as I started to see these traits developing in our daughter I felt heavy for her because I did not want her to be like me. I felt that being like me would be bad for her. I could not find the strengths of my own personality, which was now becoming her’s.  I feared it was a flaw. 

That was when I knew it was time to find the positives about being emotional and anxious, as both Lady A and I would need to make these words our inner voices. God had created us this way and with perfect intention. I needed to open my eyes and my heart to what His purpose was in making us feel the strong way we feel.

Once I opened my heart to seeing the positives, I was blown away by what beauty there is in feeling the way my sweet girl and I feel. So far, I have noticed these things in her eyes and therefore in myself:

  • We think. A lot. Therefore we are very thoughtful. We try very hard to see everything from all possible perspectives, but are also aware that no matter how hard we try, we are going to forget someone’s point of view and hurt them. This knowledge also saddens us, as we would never intentionally hurt someone.
  • We would never want to let those we care about down, therefore, we make really good friends. It saddens us to see those we care about sad, and it breaks our hearts to know that we might have hurt them. We feel for our friends when they are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, etc. and would try our hardest to make sure our friends feel loved and cared for.
  • We worry we will disappoint someone, therefore, we try really hard to be our best. This makes us very goal driven people who will constantly try to take ourselves to the next level. We want to do our best at all times. As Lady A says with a cheer, “I do it!”
  • We really, really struggle to hide our emotions, therefore, you will always know exactly how we stand on issues. We will be truthful and tell it like it is, because we really do not have any other choice, as our faces tell on us. This makes us very trustworthy and transparent people.
  • We worry about things going badly, so we do not take the good moments for granted. We are so appreciative of all the good in life because we know how quickly it could change. It is actually quite overwhelming with how bad things could be that we have to be very intentional to stay focused on all the good.
  • We feel. We will be those people who are crying “happy tears” at your happy moments and we will be those people who will stand beside you on your worst moment. We will try to put ourselves in your position and bring ourselves to gut wrenching tears because we cannot imagine that pain. We are the definition of empathetic.

I am sure I will find more positives of our emotional and anxious personalities as I keep an open heart to them and watch our sweet girl flourish. I also know that I need to keep telling her these positives, and more, about who she is, as it will become her inner voice.

I have learned so much about her and about myself through her eyes. We are going to have to teach her and myself the tools to deal with the struggles that come with being emotional and anxious. She is still very young, but we already know we have to be very careful and intentional with how we approach our girly.

So far, we have been most successful in bringing out the very best in her and myself by focusing on the following:

  • Be patient. You have to be very patient. I have never been a patient person and I am blown away by the patience that God has given me when He gave us Lady A. In moments that I think I would have gotten very angry and loud, I get calm and quiet. My heart knows that is what she needs in that moment. I know I have to give her space, even if it means sitting with her in silence, until we can talk about the problem and fix it.  Things take us longer because we have to talk everything through, but my heart has been patient with this, as it is what our girly and I need.
  • Be mindful with our words. Both Lady A and I take everything anyone says to heart. We have to be very careful about how and what we say to her. We need to encourage her and lift her up, rather than talk her down.
  • Clapping. We do a ridiculous amount of clapping in our home. However, we know that right now, we our our children’s biggest cheerleaders, and frankly, they are ours too! We celebrate all the small accomplishments because we know they lead to the big ones. We encourage and say “You did it!” giving them the strength to believe in themselves to do it again.
  • We pick our battles. Every day we are given multiple opportunities to fight, yet we choose to pick our battles on the ones that stick to our family values and character. So, today she wants to wear a mismatched, mess of an outfit? Well, as long as it is clean and she is covered, we are okay with that. But, today she wants to use her crabby voice and be mean to her brother, that is a battle we pick because our family is not okay with showing mean character.
  • We talk a lot. We talk about what we did that was a great choice. We talk about how we feel. We talk about how others might feel from a choice we make. We talk about how we could make a better choice next time. We talk about how to let someone know how you feel. We talk about who we can safely talk to. We talk a lot.
  • We take breaks. Sometimes we just need a moment to pull ourselves together and calm down, so we all take breaks. Taking a break is something we can do ourselves in our home. Lady A often will take a break till she is calmed down and then we can talk about it or we just move on. Mommy takes breaks too. This is different than a Time Out in our home. A Time Out is something that mommy or daddy (or another adult) puts you in and you have to wait/think there until the adult who put you there comes and talks to you about why you are in Time Out and how you can fix it.
  • We give a lot of advance notice on what we are going to do and talk about any potential stressful situations before they occur. We prepare her for what we are going to do and help her feel safe and that she can do it.
  • We (adults) share our mistakes with our children and use our mistakes as teaching points for better choices in the future. Mistakes are not condemned or punished, but rather an opportunity for growth.
  • We cuddle a lot. We hold hands a lot. We love a lot.

As I started to watch myself through her eyes, I also realized that God in his perfection, had placed the perfect people in our lives to help us to recognize the gift of our emotions and anxiousness. God gave Lady A and I the most patient man in her daddy, my husband. I never truly appreciated his patience and his approach with me, until I really started to watch his interactions with our sweet girl. When she is really struggling, he is patient with her. He knows that yelling at her and talking down to her will just make the situation worse. Instead, he is calm, patient, loving, while also being strong and firm. I noticed that this is exactly how he approaches me when we are having a disagreement. He is the exact man for our family.

God also gave me our sweet girl. She has taught me to love and to accept myself, just as I love and accept her. I have struggled with this for so long and it took for a sweet, little girl to show me to love myself. She has shown me it is wonderful to feel things stronger because I feel love for her stronger. I am learning through her how to embrace being me, so that each day I can teach her to do the same. I have such a bond with this little lady because I see and feel me. She is the person in my life who feels like me. We will hold each others’ hands and hearts. Right now it is time for me to be the mama and help her through each hard stage, but she does not realize how much she is helping me.

I am so grateful to have found peace in her eyes and peace in knowing it is beautiful to feel everything stronger.

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Hold my hand, sweet girl. I will love you through it all.

You will never be this loved again