DISCLAIMER: I’m not asking for advice, I just wanted to share my experience with you via this blog. Every family makes their own choices, and we are doing what works for us.
Curly and I are at the beginning of the end of our breastfeeding relationship. I’ll be honest with you, he’s never been easy to breastfeed. He’s not easy to bottlefeed either, but at least when he turns his head away from the bottle to look around he isn’t trying to take a sensitive part of my anatomy with him. Over the past few weeks as I pumped at work and he got bottles of breastmilk from Strawberry during the day, it has become more and more challenging. But I was grateful that at least I seemed to be keeping up with his needs. A typical pattern for us was nursing first thing in the morning, right after I got home from work, and then at bedtime. He was taking about 3 bottles a day, usually between 4 and 5 ounces each. And then, I got a plugged duct that turned into mastitis.
Mastitis is NO FUN. In addition to the hard, hot lump in my breast, I had angry red lines on the skin and a fever which gave me alternating sweats and chills. I kept nursing and pumping throughout. On Thursday, I got an antibiotic for the infection and a probiotic to try and ward off any digestive problems or thrush. My pumping output dropped, but we still had enough to cover his bottle feeds on Friday. 24 hours later, I felt much better and we headed out of town for the weekend with only a small 4 ounce bottle of expressed breast milk to cover any emergencies. Our 2 morning nursing sessions were fine, as was our session in the airport/plane. After that it went downhill fast. Curly kept getting angrier and angrier at the breast. Popping off, screaming, flailing. We gave him the 4 ounces from the bottle. I tried to hand express more when he was finished and for the first time since his birth, I got nothing. He was clearly still hungry so we broke out the emergency packet of formula powder and mixed him 2 ounces. He finally calmed down and went to sleep.
I was stunned, upset, and dismayed. My baby was hungry, and either I couldn’t feed him or he was rejecting me. And we only had enough powder to mix another 2 ounces. All the lovely frozen breastmilk at home was inaccessible. My pump was inaccessible. I reluctantly trudged out to a drug store and bought more formula powder, nursery water, and additional drop-ins. It has been the same since then. First thing in the morning he is ok at the breast. Every other time is screaming and flailing. He is consistently taking 6 ounces from a bottle, either of breastmilk or formula. I am pumping whenever he refuses to nurse and when I am away from him. My output cannot keep up with his demands. I’m no longer leaking, I no longer feel full before a pumping session or a nursing session. And on top of that, Curly is miserable when I try to breastfeed him, I am miserable pumping, and he happily sucks down the formula.
Formula is not poison. I wanted to make it to 6 months of exclusive breast milk, but unless something changes drastically, it seems as though I’ll be lucky if he’s getting any breast milk at all by 6 months. The current plan is nursing first thing in the morning, pumping at work, and offering the breast at bedtime but having a bottle ready, if needed. He is getting as much pumped milk as I can make plus enough from the freezer to make up for all but 1 feeding a day. Perhaps once I finish the antibiotic my supply with increase again. Perhaps not. I’m not going to force the issue when he is perfectly happy to get a bottle.
It is true that I had a bit of a breakdown about all of this, but after the catharsis of a 3am sob fest on Strawberry’s shoulder I’m working through it. It’s all tied up in body issues among other things. But breastfeeding has been the number 1 source of anxiety in these first few months of parenthood, and I’m honestly looking forward to letting that go. I did my best. I have not failed. My breasts have fulfilled their destiny. Curly is the only baby I will ever nurse. And I am proud to have done it and will continue until I can’t.