I Am Back From My Breastfeeding Battle And Here’s What I Have Learned

Hopefully, my experiences will help another family avoid the psychological trauma that I endured while breastfeeding my daughter. This is what I learned:

  • Sacrificing your mental health or your baby’s health (or both!) to exclusively breastfeed is not worth it. 
  • Some breastfeeding advocates don’t see (or don’t want to see) the risks of exclusive breastfeeding which include a baby who isn’t gaining weight sufficiently, an emotionally suffering mum, or a strained mother–baby relationship.  
  • Seek help from lactation professionals who are open-minded enough to suggest combo-feeding as an option and are willing to support your choice because sometimes exclusive breastfeeding is not an option.

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Liquid Courage Sometimes Comes In The Form Of Baby Formula

Written by: Sarah L. R.

“I think it would be very courageous for you to do this.” 

My psychiatrist leaned forward in his chair, clasped his hands together, and smiled at me. 

Grabbing a tissue from the box on the table, I sniffed, “Then why do I feel like the biggest coward for making this decision?!” 

“Sarah, what’s braver than making sure you’re the best mother you can be?”

It took several more conversations and even more tissues, but eventually, I made the decision to forgo breastfeeding entirely, and feed my daughter formula milk from birth. In doing so, I hoped to avoid postpartum depression and anxiety that haunted my earlier experiences as a new mother. 

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Fed Is Best- And I’m Fed Up!

“Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding?”  I cringed as I overheard a complete stranger asking my husband this question while we were shopping for baby clothes. “Formula,” my husband replied. “I can’t believe she asked you that!” I exclaimed as she walked away. “How is that any of her business?” He shrugged and replied, “maybe she’s pregnant and is trying to figure out if she should breastfeed.” “It’s still none of her business,” I said. “If she had asked me, I would have said we’re breastfeeding.” 

Yes, that’s right, I would have lied to a random woman because I was afraid she would judge me. Despite my anger at this stranger, however, I wasn’t necessarily worried about what she thought of me; it was about what I thought of me. I felt guilty about formula feeding. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to breastfeed. It just happened that my nursing journey didn’t exactly work out the way I’d planned, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel bad or like I somehow failed my son for my inability to breastfeed. 

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Mothers Describe Their Triple Feeding Experiences And The Impact It Had On Their Mental And Physical Health

Written by The Fed Is Best Foundation Lactation Consultant Team

Part 1: What is “triple feeding?” 

Triple feeding originated in the NICU and was used for premature infants. It is now being used for full-term babies, especially in home environments. Triple feeding is a breastfeeding plan in which, for every feeding, a mother feeds her baby at the breast, followed by immediate pumping, and then giving any expressed milk (and/or formula supplement) to the infant by a bottle, cup, syringe, or through a tube at the breast. Triple feeding requires a considerable amount of effort and time, and there is little time between feedings for the mother to take care of her own basic needs, such as sleep, eating, and hygiene.

Many mothers who have followed this regimen say that they were given little guidance on how long to triple feed and when to stop.  As a result, these mothers have endured the equivalent of caring for triplets (feeding a baby at the breast, “feeding” the pump, then feeding a bottle). In addition, there are pump parts to wash up to eight times a day, and sometimes other children to care for.

“I didn’t eat or drink for days because of the time constraints of triple feeding. By the time my baby was admitted to the hospital on day 5 of life, I lost consciousness and then broke down in the corner of his room from profound exhaustion. I’m a doctor and had done surgical and anesthesia residency. I’m used to sleep deprivation. Those five days were hell on earth. Not only did it not work, I unknowingly starved my baby under the care of lactation professionals.  They knew I had a breast reduction, but I was told to triple feed without a back up plan. That week of my life lives over and over in my head all the time.” —Dr. N. King 

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I Want To Tell Mothers That Bottle Feeding Is Also Beautiful

 

Kristen Elise Umunna
Kristen joined the Fed Is Best Foundation’s Mental Health Advocacy Team to be a voice for mothers, especially mothers of color who are struggling to breastfeed and are experiencing shame for feeding their babies formula.
‘ I want to be a voice that tells every mother that bottle feeding is also beautiful and formula is the best nutrition for the babies who are being nourished by it.’

My story:

February 12, 2014. I was just 1 day postpartum after delivering my firstborn and I remember bawling my eyes out. The nurses at the time were assuring me that I was doing everything “wrong” in regards to feeding my daughter. They woke me out of my sleep at least 7 times in one night to feed my baby and they assured me she was getting enough to eat. One nurse told me to stop crying about breastfeeding pain as it is going to hurt! “If you want to build your supply, you have to keep going!” Never has I felt like more of a failure.

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I Attempted Suicide From The Pressure Of Breast Is Best

When I first wrote this blog post, I was blown away by how many mothers related to my breastfeeding story. So many women reached out to let me know I wasn’t alone, and shared nearly identical stories. Which made me both relieved, and also very sad that this mental health side of breastfeeding isn’t talked about enough. I don’t understand why so many people act like it doesn’t happen and don’t talk about it. We can SAVE lives if we DO talk about it!

I was just as equally shocked to see how many mothers thought that I should have kept breastfeeding anyway, even if it meant resenting my son, and being nothing more than a food source and a shell of a person. My story has been picked apart by many lactivists, from accusing me of being selfish, to thinking I just didn’t have enough support or encouragement. I had more than enough support for breastfeeding, but very little support for switching to formula when I knew it was best for my own mental health, and for my son. I can’t fathom telling a mom she’d better breastfeed or might as well be dead. I’m not against breastfeeding. I successfully breastfed my second baby for almost a year! But I don’t believe in breastfeeding at all costs, especially at the expense of the mother’s health, and that includes her mental health. A mother’s mental and emotional health are just as important as her baby’s health. Not every mom gets that oxytocin-induced happy breastfeeding experience. Sometimes it’s the opposite, and those moms need support and recognition too.

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How Do I tell the Hospital I Don’t Want A Lactation Consultant Visit When I Deliver My Next Baby?

Dear Fed Is Best Foundation,

Thank you for everything that you do! Your organization has made me feel so much better about my situation and personal needs. I did have a question for you though, although I should probably explain my situation first. My daughter is now 14 months old. When I was pregnant with her, I had preeclampsia from about 28 weeks onward. I had to take maternity leave eleven weeks sooner than planned because my job as a full-time middle school substitute teacher was too stressful on my blood pressure. I went to the hospital at 37 weeks with a blood pressure of 177/100, and they decided to induce me. After 45+ hrs of labor, followed by an emergency c-section, Clara was born three weeks early.

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Maternal Mental Health Feels Like it Comes Second to Breastfeeding When It Should Be First

This story is for you mommas whose mental health feels like it comes second to breastfeeding, when it should be first.

I have a long history of mental illnesses in my family. I inherited most of them. While they do not define me, they are a part of me. I have Bipolar 1 Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and a Panic Disorder.

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The Breastfeeding Support I Received Almost Killed Me And My Daughter; I’m Still Suffering From Breastfeeding Trauma

This is hard for me to write. My breastfeeding experience is a trauma that I don’t like to relive but is undoubtedly the biggest cause of my postnatal depression and anxiety (PNDA). But perhaps I can save someone else unnecessary pain and heartache. I know some will disagree, but hopefully, my story can be a tiny cog in the wheel of feeding guideline reform.

Going into pregnancy, I knew Fed is Best. I decided I would attempt breastfeeding but if it didn’t work out, there’s always formula. Simple. Now, I’m a scientifically minded person. I respect those in the field and the scientific consensus. As I progressed through my antenatal appointments, it became clear. The general consensus is, the breast is best, at all costs, with an inference that ‘formula is dangerous’. By the time my daughter was born, I had made up my mind. If other people formula fed, I wouldn’t judge, but I was going to breastfeed no matter what. I’d get all the help I needed.

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You From The Bottom Of My Heart

 

I just want to say thank you so much for your foundation’s web page and support group. I can’t say thank you enough! This is exactly the support system I have needed in my life since my daughter was admitted into the hospital at 3 weeks old due to failure to thrive.

This was worst experience of my life as a new mama and when the doctor told me my daughter could have died I was broken.

Because of the intense pressure, I felt the need to exclusively breastfeed my daughter. Yet for the 3 weeks that I tried I had no idea that I was starving my daughter ? My midwife was absolutely useless and she is a the biggest reason why this happened to us as she told me to keep breastfeeding and everything was fine. Long story short, I just didn’t have enough milk, and I didn’t find out until after my daughter was admitted to the hospital. This was the worst feeling in the world.  Formula is the only reason my daughter is alive today.  Formula saved my daughter’s life!

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