I Shared My Story a Year Ago And I Was Told To Go Kill Myself – How I Am Healing

By Mandy Dukovan, MS, MFT, Marriage and Family Therapist, Fed is Best Foundation Senior Advisor

It’s incredibly hard to put into words all the things that The Fed Is Best Foundation has done for me the past year.  I happened to stumble upon the Foundation when I noticed a friend of mine “liked” one of their blog posts. I was a first-time mom who was struggling with many different feelings, and wasn’t sure who or where to turn to. My son was 2 months at the time, and was just beginning to thrive after I had begun to supplement him with formula. While I was so happy to see my baby finally gaining weight and thriving, I had haunting memories and raw emotions that I was struggling to sort out. I had immense guilt that I didn’t see the signs that my baby was hungry, which tortured me non-stop. I was embarrassed that I could look at his 1-month picture and now see that he was obviously malnourished, but how on earth did I miss this at the time?

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1 Month Old

I was angry that I didn’t follow my own instincts that something was wrong with him and was angry that I believed all the terrible things I was told from lactivists that would happen to him,  if I gave him a drop of formula. I worried that we would not have the kind of bond that babies who were exclusively breastfed (EBF) experienced with their mothers. I now know that our bond is so much stronger because we bottle-fed him and no longer experienced the immense stress that came each time I tried to breastfeed my baby. I got to a point where I dreaded even trying to breastfeed him, but I was told that was the best thing I could do for my baby, so I kept going, at the expense of my baby’s health and my well-being. I honestly believed I was the only mother who had experienced what we went through because I only heard the stories about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was and every mother could breastfeed if only she tried hard enough.

Since I am a therapist, I knew I needed to share my story. I found courage in my strong desire for other babies and mothers not to struggle. I also found courage in the fact that I needed a reason for all of the suffering—I needed to know that Brock’s struggle was not in vain. I kept telling myself, “If I reach even one mother and prevent even one baby from suffering like Brock, then I have to do this.”  

Then I shared my story… Continue reading

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I Closed My Eyes As I Bit Down On My Gum And Waited For The Latch

My daughter, “little L,” was born a healthy 8.8 pounds, exactly on her due date in late September, several years ago. Like most new moms, I had spent all 9 months months studying up for my new job as a parent. And all the literature out there agreed that “Breast is Best!”.   I read and believed the unfounded claims that children who were exclusively BF had higher IQs, and were healthier than formula fed babies. I read that I should NEVER, under any circumstances, feed my child formula. I decided to leave work and stay home for a solid 6  months to exclusively breastfeed. After all, the books and doctors made it sound so magical, easy, and most of all, crucial. I had no idea what I was in for.

My problems were not related to supply. My milk came in roughly 8 hours after she was born, and by the time I left the hospital, I had enough milk to feed a village. (Her growth stayed in the 90th percentile for that entire year.) My problems were depression, loneliness, and sleepless nights,  all stemming from the unbearable pain I had with breastfeeding. 

When I left the hospital, I had several blood blisters already on both nipples, and at home, my nipples became black and  blue and cracked. They were open sores that bled constantly. I went without a shirt for a month, basically becoming a shut-in because wearing a shirt was excruciating. I couldn’t even shower because of the pain. 

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I Found Breastfeeding Success In The Fed Is Best Support Group

I have been praised in pro-breastfeeding groups for my tenacity.  For overcoming overwhelming odds.  For persisting when others would have “given up.” Along the way there were people who told me that I should just feed formula, that I should just stop breastfeeding because of the horrible experiences I was having, but I honestly thought those people were just misinformed.  I never thought that formula was bad, horrible, or poison, but I honestly thought that I should keep going.  It wasn’t until I broke down crying in front of my midwife with my second child, my second bout of severe PPD, and my second struggle to breastfeed (26 months into my parenting journey) that a medical professional or breastfeeding support person told me that my mental health was more important for my child than my milk. And I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.

My first pregnancy was textbook.  Very uneventful. I took the classes, read the books, had supplies, had supportive friends, ordered my pump.  I had heard it was very important that I not have any formula in the house because it might be “tempting” and that babies shouldn’t get bottles until 6 weeks, so I had no bottles and no formula.

My baby arrived at 36 weeks, 6 pounds 5 oz and quite healthy for a preemie. I was encouraged to supplement with formula from birth because we were afraid he wouldn’t be able to latch and suckle properly.  I used a nipple shield because of my flat nipples.  I wasn’t even 2 hours postpartum the first time I was hooked up to a pump to get a drop or two of colostrum which got smeared on baby’s lips.  We spent the first week in and out of the NICU and on and off phototherapy for jaundice.  By 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with severe GERD, and we cut dairy and soy.

I triple fed for 3 months, every feed taking 1.5 hours if my husband could help, 2 hours if I was home alone.  I woke my baby to feed every 3 hours for the first 5 weeks.  I took all the galactogogues.  I took prescription drugs that I really shouldn’t have taken because I have a cardiac condition and aren’t even approved by the FDA. Continue reading

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The Benefits That Come From Breastfeeding Doesn’t Automatically Make It Best

My breastfeeding relationship seemed like it was going to be perfect from the start—I had no problem producing colostrum, my milk came in while in the hospital, my daughter latched on easily, and she had a very strong suck. The pediatrician even told me not to tell people how easy it was for us because “other moms would be jealous”. My daughter was back up to birth weight by the end of her first week.

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My newborn daughter.

Although my daughter had wet diapers and was nursing well, she would spit up, quite often and something was stopping her from continuing to gain weight. When I took her to the pediatrician’s office multiple times, none of the doctors were concerned by the amount she spit up. They all said that I couldn’t know how much it truly was. Let me tell you something, though, watching my daughter choke and vomit all of her breast milk, I knew that she was spitting up too much. She was born above the 95th percentile but rapidly dropped her weight. Continue reading

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When A Mother Says She Isn’t Making Enough Colostrum, Believe Her The First Time

My son, Jackson, was born healthy and weighed 6lbs 15oz.  As a first-time-mom, I trusted my hospital would help me to exclusively breastfeed my baby.  The nurses and lactation consultants helped me with proper latch and positioning and told me he was doing great.  He wanted to nurse every hour, and I was exhausted. 

AmyPCS2 I began to think something was wrong because he cried and cried and continued to cry even after every breastfeeding session.  I kept asking the nurses if I was making enough colostrum and they said I was, but they never, ever checked to see if I was even producing colostrum.

I had brought my pump to the hospital so I could learn how to use it since I was going back to work. I asked if I could pump my breasts to check and they said no, that my baby would become nipple-confused. I then asked for formula because I just knew he was hungry. They very strongly discouraged me from using formula every time I asked. Continue reading

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What Happens When Mothers Are Told Being Fed Is The Bare Minimum?

The Fed Is Best Foundation has a private Facebook support group for mothers who need a safe place to talk about their infant feeding challenges without judgement. Mothers told us how they felt when they fed their babies formula.

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Bulletin Board At A WIC Office

Shannon: I was told my daughter needed formula when she was hospitalized for three days.  I cried for those three days because I felt so guilty. I kept telling her “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for doing this to you, baby girl. Mommy is so, so sorry.” The doctors had to bring me food because I refused to leave my daughter alone. Granted, she was only four months old, but at that time, I just couldn’t leave her. I felt like she had to know I was there for her, that I felt terrible for unknowingly starving her.  My husband at the time came to visit and he held me for hours as I cried saying “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. I wasn’t enough. I’m not enough for her. They told me I would be enough and I’m not.”   To this day, when I have one of my bad days, it all repeats in my head– the psychological damage is still there.

Amanda: The first time I fed my son a bottle of formula, I felt like an absolute waste of space as a mother. I genuinely felt like the worst, piece-of-garbage, failure-of-a-parent there was. I felt like I had failed him in every single way. Not only had I starved him and been unaware of it—I felt like I should have just known—but I had to use formula from a can to nourish him because my body stubbornly refused to make enough milk. I felt like anybody could just pick up a bottle and completely replace me in his life. It was a terrible feeling.

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I Contacted Every Patient Safety Organization After My IBCLC Withheld Clinical Information From Me Causing My Newborn To Starve.

When I struggled to breastfeed my son, I believed I was failing, not just at breastfeeding, but at motherhood. What was supposed to be the “best” way to feed my new baby was painful, anxiety-inducing, and landed my son back in the hospital for dehydration, eleven percent weight loss, and inability to take a bottle.

My hospital’s solution included many appointments with their lactation consultants, fenugreek from their new mother boutique, and a nurse-bottle-pump (triple-feeding) routine that drove me to the brink of despair and did nothing to increase my milk supply.

At no point in my son’s first two months did any of the lactation consultants, nurses, doctors, or any other medical staff offer a concrete explanation for my low milk  supply or my son’s vice-clamp latch. Because no one seemed to know why we couldn’t get the hang of it, I felt I was not trying hard enough.

Sometime after my son’s first birthday (my original “breastfeeding goal”), I came across several online articles that explained insufficient glandular tissue, also called breast hypoplasia. I knew my breasts were an odd shape, but I was taught by the hospital lactation “experts” that breast shape and size didn’t determine breastfeeding ability. Looking at pictures of similar widely-spaced, tube-shaped breasts that produced little or no milk left me feeling a strange cocktail of emotions—validation, disbelief, anger.

I wondered why staff at my hospital, a long-time Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accredited facility, hadn’t told me that I was at risk of insufficient milk production. 

Yellow with Grayscale Photos Photographer General Media Kit (20)

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Remembering Landon On World Pregnancy And Infant Loss Day: Just One Bottle

By Jillian Johnson

Dear Sweet Angel Landon,

I am so sorry you were failed by the unethical, exclusive breastfeeding protocol of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Every health care professional that took care of you in the hospital was taught the same universal BFHI  breastfeeding education curriculum.  I now know the curriculum is outdated, unethical and is harming babies all over the world.  I promise you Landon, my sweet angel, I will never stop telling your story so that no other baby will suffer and die needlessly because of a dangerous public health policy.   I won’t shrink back , and will continue educating new mothers for all of the other babies who have also suffered because their families were silenced.

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My Baby Scream-Cried The Entire Second Night In The Hospital

My name is Amber and I am the mother of a charming, beautiful, and vivacious baby boy. I want to share with you a story: the story of my son’s birth and his first few months earthside. It is a multidimensional story full of love and heartbreak, but I think it’s important that other new mothers hear it. My hope is that if their experiences of early motherhood are not what they always dreamed of, they will know they are not alone.

I found out I was pregnant with my son in September of 2016. I was working in an emergency room as a nurse at that time and heading into my second-to-last semester of school to become a nurse practitioner. My husband and I had only been trying to conceive for a month. Because I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and irregular periods, I figured getting pregnant would take longer, but there I was on September 1 with a positive test. We were ecstatic. Being a planner, I spent the majority of the next nine months thinking about and planning everything about my son’s birth. I consider myself a well-educated woman and medical professional, so it was no surprise that the heart of my plans included breastfeeding my son. I spent months researching the best pumps for when I had to go back to work, deciding on a storage-and-feeding set, and learning about ways to strengthen the breastfeeding bond. Formula never crossed my mind. After all, I was always told breast was best. Sure, I had some friends who gave some formula here or there, but I just knew I would be one of the ones who would exclusively breastfeed and pump for my son. Continue reading

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I Found A Way To Not Only Give My Son Breast Milk, But Also Bond With Him While Feeding Him.

Before my first son was actually born, I had all these goals and plans and expectations. Things rarely happen just as we want them to or plan for them, especially when children are involved.

I intended to breastfeed. Or rather, I intended to breastfeed via direct nursing. That was my plan all along. I never even researched other feeding methods. Everyone said it was going to be beautiful and natural. It was neither for us. 

From the beginning, it did not come naturally for us. And it HURT. I thought for sure once we got home we would settle into that elusive beautiful nursing relationship that everyone talks about. I was wrong. It felt like his gums were sharp and grinding against my nipple with every pull. We saw his doctor, and another doctor at the practice, and a few lactation consultants. Everyone said his latch appeared fine. Every time I fed him, I inwardly cringed. We used a nipple shield. We used different positions. We latched and unlatched. It never came naturally or stopped hurting. Continue reading

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