This post is written for PAILs monthly theme post, Feeding Your Child.
I spend a lot of time thinking about feeding my babies. Infant feeding is complicated, and yet, it’s not. We make it complicated because there’s so much emotion behind it, and so much judgment if we go looking for it. It’s been said so many, many times, but every baby is different, and every family’s situation is different. I know I did the best, and am doing the best that I can with the circumstances that I have to live with.
With Grayson, nothing would have allowed us a successful breastfeeding relationship. No amount of “just try harder”, supplements, pumping, or practice would have worked. Formula saved him, and continues to keep him alive.
For most, eating is a social practice. There’s emotion tied to food, and sharing meals is a way to bond with family and friends. For Grayson, this isn’t the case. There is no purpose for his food other than supplying the nutrients his body needs to keep working. He’s tethered to a pump 24 hours a day, his formula pumped into his intestines so when he vomits every day he doesn’t lose any calories or nutrients. Feeding Grayson used to be so emotional and painful, but now, it’s just a routine with about as much emotion as changing his diaper.
Feeding Charlotte has, obviously, been a completely different journey. From the moment I learned of her existence, I hoped her early feeding days would be different. I wanted so badly for breastfeeding to work, but I promised myself that my emotional well being and her health would not be put second to making it happen. Thankfully, it did work. I exclusively breastfed her for over 4 months, which I am proud of. It wasn’t easy, but we did it.
Then her weight percentile began to drop- from 19th, to 13th, to 5th, and then 3rd. She wasn’t getting enough to eat. I didn’t respond well to the pump, and hated pumping anyway (remember, emotional well being), so supplementing with formula was the most practical solution for us.
At first, giving Charlotte formula in addition to nursing her was really disappointing. I felt like (compared to feeding Grayson) breastfeeding was going so well, and suddenly, it just wasn’t. But I had to remind myself that feeding this baby isn’t about me, it’s about giving her what she needs to thrive.
Now, I truly feel like we have the best of both worlds. I still breastfeed Charlotte 5-6 times a day, as well as give her as much formula as she wants. I love nursing and yes it has been one (but certainly not the only) way I have bonded with my little girl. But I love bottles too. It’s reassuring knowing exactly how many ounces she drinks when she takes one. I love that I can lay her on the floor in the morning with a bottle while I tend to Grayson’s needs and she can feed herself. This is the first time I’ve had a baby be able to do anything for him/herself! And to be honest, I do prefer to bottle feed in public rather than breastfeed. Her weight percentile is back up to the 17th, and she has the cutest little chunky thighs. Formula is our friend.
I have no idea how long I will nurse Charlotte; that is going to be up to her. I’m done making goals and plans for her based on what I want rather than what she needs. So for now, at least today, we continue.
Breast, bottle, tube, or combination- what matters is the baby is fed. Period.