There is no worse feeling than standing in the baby aisle of your local urban-gentrified Whole Foods, holding a canister of formula in your sweaty, shaking palms and feeling the eyes of all the earthy, wholesome, would-never-contaminate-their-child-with-processed-soy-proteins moms who just came out of mama-baby yoga down the street and are now not only freshly bonded with their children, but they also clearly love them more than you do because they aren’t standing here holding a canister of formula thinking very, very seriously about not just buying it, but also feeding it to their children.

But something had to give. And this, I knew, was it. I was pushed to my limit and I knew that a tiny bit–a tiny bit!!–of formula was going to be my savior. I mean, as far as formula goes, Earth’s Best was at least a feel-good choice, right? They use a soothing “chalkboard” font, people! And at least theirs isn’t packed with sugar like the major brands. How bad can they be? Although, AWESOME, I just was doing some last-minute poking about on the interwebs to make sure they weren’t actually TOO bad–do you love how I checked before posting about it but not before feeding it to the babe?–and stumbled across the DHA explosive diarrhea controversy. Sweet.

But I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes, standing in the Whole Foods aisle, pitifully reassuring myself that I could, in fact, take this canister of baby-poison to the register and check out without first putting a paper bag over my head. So right, caving in and cheating with just a wee bit of formula when your baby is 4.5 months old is not the worst a working mom on the brink of late-onset postpartum depression could do, right?

And it turns out, 3 months later and healthy, happy baby in hand, I don’t think it was. She drank it without batting an eyelash, and I saw no change whatsoever in general happiness or poop-consistency/force of emission (thank god!). And just that tiny amount of relieved stress/anxiety on Mom’s part (and pumping-relief for the over-taxed boobs!) really did make life around here a lot more simple, balanced and healthy for everyone–tot included.

I guess the moral of my story is just that, sometimes we can let ourselves get SO worked up/pressured about what the “good” moms do that even though we know something might be the best choice for our family, it’s hard to let go and make that choice.

And also, if you’re wondering how to get your bundle of love over that last hurdle of sleeping 11-12 hours/night instead of 8-9, try giving her a few extra ounces of formula after her last breastfeed of the evening. I’m not saying…I’m just saying…

Advertisements

About a year ago, I was one of THOSE moms-to-be. You know who I’m talking about. The one who received the Similac and Enfamil samples in the mail with complete disgust and revulsion (“OMG! These companies are so insidious and evil!!”). The one who thought that obviously, it would be NO PROBLEM to pump/store daily milk by the gallon-full for her daughter and make a whole bunch of extras for the freezer so that nothing, NOTHING “unnatural” would have to pass through the babe’s innocent lips before she was ready. The one who thought that once the girl was ready for solids, she would make it all from scratch using only the organic, seasonal, locally-grown veggies from her farm share (HA! And more on that delusion another time).

Fast-forward to June of this year when the little lady hit the four month mark and Mom (that’s me) was a) sick and tired of having to pump not once, but TWO times every day at work–such a brutal and inefficient grind!, b) in a battle of wills with the pediatrician over whether or not the kiddo was gaining enough weight, c) slowly losing her mind as she faced a ridiculously travel-packed and exhausting summer (in preparation for which she was utterly failing at freezing anywhere close to enough milk), and d) growing more vocally bitter by the day about her new role in life as a two-legged dairy cow who now couldn’t even READ A MAGAZINE while her daughter nursed because it was too “distracting” for her highness.

Enter sweet husband who said, “Maybe we could start giving her a little bit of formula.”

Excuse me for a second.

ARE YOU INSANE????? AND LOSE ALL THE PURITY I’VE BEEN WORKING SO HARD FOR ALL THESE MONTHS???? NFW!!!!

After calming down and talking it over, however, I came to see it in a different light. Switching to a system where she drank even just ONE bottle of formula per day at the sitter’s could be an answer to all of the above problems at once. I could drop down to one pumping session at work. I could stop falsely inflating my milk supply in an effort to get extra frozen milk which I’m pretty sure was causing my daughter to get too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk and thus likely inhibiting her growth (oops!). I could stop fretting over whether or not we’d be able to make it to our best friends’ wedding because I might not have enough milk saved up for a weekend away from the boobs. AND I could make the hubby take on a feeding responsibility here and there without having to turn around and waste the saved time with yet another irritating pumping session–omg, I could READ my MAGAZINE.

On second thought, sweet husband, WHY THE FRICK DIDN’T YOU SUGGEST THIS EARLIER????

So baby had been home with mom almost a week, and all was going well except one thing…the breastfeeding. Now, luckily, I was totally prepared for this to be crazy-difficult, due to all my friends having gone ahead and had babies before I did. Their stories left me with no illusions of putting baby to boob and immediately having a magical, painless latch. I was not prepared, however, for the fact that if there IS a problem with the latch or the suck or what-have-you, it can get VERY dire VERY fast, as baby needs to be fed every time you turn around. So if it’s painful or stressful or traumatizing or all-of-the-above, it’s all of those things on a near-constant basis. And let’s not forget that you’re still completely physically and emotionally drained and exhausted from the birth anyway. Sweet.

When I realized that there was a problem with the process (despite my BEST efforts to match the latch in the books and videos, my kid was clicking when she sucked and leaving me with an unevenly smashed, “lipstick” nipple), I immediately called the lactation lady at the birth center where I gave birth. She recommended that I come to her breastfeeding support group, where she could check my latch and get me on track. GREAT, I thought. This is gonna be resolved in no time!

At this point, I was envisioning a calm, almost meditative-type atmosphere, much like my birth-experience, where a kind, angelic woman floats from mom to mom, gently guiding and coaxing each newborn to an effortlessly perfect, painless latch.

What I got was the floor of a dingy, fluorescent-lit conference room surrounded by no fewer than 14 other moms, most of whom brought their 3 month olds and began happily nursing away as soon as they arrived. Um, wait a minute, what are a bunch of women who already know the ropes doing at a breastfeeding support group? But I tried to keep an open mind, thinking that the more proficient moms in attendance, the more time could be spent getting the help I needed!

When the leader finally arrived and plopped herself down at the front of the room, she began going around the room clockwise, encouraging each individual mother to take the floor to “talk” about “what’s going on.” And apparently what was “going on” with all these moms is that they had been stuck at home with infants, bored out of their minds for the past two weeks, and were desperate for other adults to listen to them talk. Non-stop. About anything. Without any discernable regard for the other people in the room. Many of the topics were tangentially related to breastfeeding, but NOT ONE of the other women brought up anything having to do with the mechanics of a proper latch.

So there I was, exhausted, hunched on the floor, my 6-day post-partum butt killing me, and my poor tiny child sucking on my finger for dear life because she was starving and I was determined to wait to feed her until the consultant could come and watch my latch. Meanwhile, I’m not kidding you, the leader never left her comfy spot at the head of the room and each woman’s “sharing” time was a full ten minutes of shooting the breeze about anything that popped into her head. (“What kind of toys are developmentally appropriate for this age?” At that point, I really, REALLY just wanted to scream “WHATEVER THE HELL ENTERTAINS THE KID AND WON’T CHOKE HIM, YOU MORON!”) And even though when my turn came I said I needed help with my latch and very considerately took up only 30 seconds of the group’s time, all she could offer me was a patronizing demonstration of a proper latch using her hands, telling me to make sure the baby was getting the entire areola in her mouth. OH REALLY?! I HAD NO IDEA.

I grew more and more upset as I realized that despite her promise on the phone, she had completely forsaken me (or just plain forgotten about me amidst the exciting debate about the merits of various diaper cream brands) and the only way I would get any individual help would be to interrupt someone’s story of personal growth as a consequence of her child’s morning gassiness and demand she come over and watch my latch, which I just couldn’t do because then I would have 14 women all turning their attention to me, the inept mother who hadn’t learned how to breastfeed yet, while she was doing this.

But it gets better! The whole thing was so distressing and disappointing, AND I was still so hormonal that of course I had to go and make it all worse by starting to cry silently as I thought about what a waste of time it had been and how I wanted nothing more than to get up and leave but I was all the way across the room from the door which had about 12 strollers and two mommy/baby pairs blocking it completely. So I just had to endure the last 20 minutes or so by not looking around at anyone and not-so-subtly wiping away tears and snot from my face with my daughter’s blanket.

I’m sure every mom in that joint thought I was a crazy postpartum depression case and would be heading straight home to drown my baby in the bathtub. Which makes it even better that not one person stopped her yammering about the benefits of Baby Einstein videos (HA! I guess you didn’t read about how those things actually make your child stupider. HA HA!) to like, check on me or something. God. One woman ACTUALLY asked the leader if her baby’s polyester pj’s were less breathable than his cotton pj’s, because it seemed like they were. Even amidst my uncontrollable blubbering, I had to physically restrain a smirk.

The Lesson: Immediately upon arriving home with your first little bundle of joy, schedule a personal home visit with a lactation consultant (your insurance will most likely reimburse you). If it turns out you have no troubles, you can always call and cancel, but you definitely don’t want to have to wait even a day for personal, one-on-one, RELEVANT help with the process in case there is a glitch, which there so often is.

Epilogue: It turns out my latch was fine. My baby and I were suffering from a toxic combination of a small mouth and an abnormally fast milk let-down which caused her to pull her tongue back to try to stop the deluge, which in turn caused the painful nipple smashing. I think the official diagnosis was a “disorganized suck.” Luckily, and with the help of a GREAT lactation consultant, we have been working our way diligently towards organization ever since.