Breastmilk Isn’t Always Best

Breast milk may be best, but it may not be the best for you or your baby.

You know the old saying, “Breastmilk is best?” I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that nutritionally it really is the best–the immunities that breast milk provides is far superior to formula. Plus, it’s completely free. However, sometimes it’s not necessarily best for the baby or the mother or the family.

Yes, breast milk is the best nutrition for a baby. But, it may not be the best circumstantially.

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I was able to nurse Rhys for four months. Many say that is a huge success. Sometimes, to me, it still feels like a failure. I try not to let the mom guilt get to me. Yes, I wasn’t producing enough due to stress and other factors. Yes, Rhys wasn’t growing as much as he could. Yes, it was causing such horrendous anxiety between both Rhys and I. And yes, he immediately had a big growth spurt as soon as I switched him over to formula. But, the fact still remained that I wasn’t able to provide him with enough breast milk. The fact that my body failed to work properly the way I wanted it bugged me.

Plus, it was very painful. Even before I gave birth to Rhys, my OB had prescribed a specific behind-the-counter cream for me to use to help soothe the pain. The lactation specialists at the hospital all felt terrible seeing the bruising I had because of Rhys’s poor latching. All four months, I had to use a shield to help ease the pain, but it never went away fully.

This time round, I was excited to nurse again. I was sure it would be much better–I wasn’t teaching, I was on anxiety medication, I knew what I was doing. My goal was 4 months.

I lasted four days.

Evelyn was not tongue tied. The lactation specialists all commented how well she latched. Yet, I still bruised, I still broke, I still bled. The pain of the initial latch was excruciating. My whole body would tense up and tighten. I would need something in my mouth to chew on to distract me from the pain. It didn’t help that Evelyn had a very powerful suck and was nursing every 1.5-2.5 hours, never giving me any time to heal. I started to dread feedings, especially at night. I’d start crying and panting during the initial latch.

I wanted to wait it out. Everyone says to try 2 weeks and typically it gets better.

Typically.

I knew from experience that wasn’t 100% the case. But, I tried. My goal then wasn’t four months; it was two weeks. Surely, I could last that long.

Nope.

Dealing with a 2.5 year old trying to get used to a new family member, the pain, the demands of a newborn, and my postpartum hormones was just too much for me. I wanted to give up. I wanted to be done with the pain. I wanted to not dread feeding.

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But, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted that intimacy that comes from nursing. I wanted that joy of knowing I could do what other mothers could do. I wanted to have the privilege of being able to boast that I nursed my baby until her 1st birthday. And, I didn’t want to pay for all that formula–it’s expensive!

And, then came the mom guilt. Not only was I dealing with postpartum hormones, but I was also experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety (which I knew I was prone to). I wasn’t enjoying motherhood.

After having some heart-to-hearts with my mom (who had nursed us all for different lengths of time and fed us all formula and is super sensitive like me), discussing it with Justin, and getting advice from my pediatrician, I finally decided to stop nursing Evelyn.

I felt peace about that decision. It would alleviate a ton of pain and stress for me, which would help the overall atmosphere of my home and family. And, it would allow others to bond with Evelyn by feeding her.

Almost immediately, both my mom and Justin commented on how my entire countenance changed. I was more relieved, more calm, more relaxed. True, I had to endure the engorgement pain as I let my milk dry up. But, I was happier.

Formula helped Rhys catch up on the growth chart after four months of nursing. Formula is bringing peace to our home with Evelyn and relieving me of daily pain.

There are times I miss nursing, especially because formula is a bit rough on Evelyn’s digestive system, but I know this is the right decision for our family.

As my OB and mom have both told me: “Breast can be best. But happy baby and mother is best.”

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Tayler from The Morrell Tale.com

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • This was excellent! I am not a mom yet, but already, I am so sick of seeing people act like they are better just because they breast-fed the whole time. Whatever brings a family peace and function is what’s best.

    • That’s exactly what my mother told me. And that was the biggest affirmation that I made the right decision.

  • Some women make nursing seem SO easy. Even though I’m at 4.5 months of nursing Emmy, it definitely is the hardest, most frustrating and honestly annoying thing I’ve done in my life. Because of Emmy’s weight rut (which we’re thinking is because of low supply and low quality milk… hopefully adding dairy back into my diet will help), I’ve had to start bottle feeding more. I was lucky to build up a stock of milk while we were in the hospital and have continued to pump around the clock to increase my own supply and build up the freezer storage. Honestly, I’ve felt more bonded to Emmy when we’re bottle feeding than when we’re nursing. When she’s eating a bottle, she holds my finger and she looks at me. When she’s nursing, she doesn’t. I still nurse a few times a day because it’s easier when Bensen is awake to do that than it is to feed her a bottle and then try to pump while my wild man is causing chaos. I’m determined to keep breastfeeding as long as possible with Emmy, but I’m for sure throwing myself a little celebration after it’s over. Way to go for sticking it out those four days! If I’d been in your situation, I know I’d have felt the exact same way.

    • That was one of the reasons I stopped nursing Rhys after four months….he was in a weight rut and his fontanel, while it wasn’t indented, was softer than it should’ve been. I did everything I could to increase my supply, but he didn’t like the work and effort nursing took. When I finally chose to switch him to 100% bottlefeeding with formula, he had a BIG growth spurt immediately.

      Sometimes I still feel like a wimp compared to other women who had pain but stuck it through. But, especially with PPD, I decided to give myself grace….although bottle feeding has given Evelyn a different set of issues…it’s so hard for her to digest and we’ve had to use probiotic formula, with essential oils, and prune juice to help her digest enough to have bowel movements…she gets constipated soooooo easily.

      • I don’t think you should feel like a wimp at all! Motherhood is different for everyone and you have to do it your way. Trying to live up to other people’s expectations or examples (not really the word I wanted I don’t think…) can drive you crazy. You have to do what allows you to be the best mother and wife and keeps your family healthy as well!

        I understand the digestive stuff. I never thought I’d celebrate a poopy diaper in my life….

  • Amanda H

    I remember feeling so awful that my first refused to eat from me. I produced fine, but he wanted nothing to do with me. So…I pumped for 9 months and he ate from a bottle. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Trying to get him to eat from me just made me stressed out and him too. Now with my second, everything seems fine in that area, but I don’t like breastfeeding. If formula wasn’t so expensive then I would do it in a heartbeat. Don’t get too down that you weren’t able to. People are just too picky about the issue. In my opinion as long as a baby is fed then anyway works. Hope it is getting better!

    • My first was that way after four months. And the price of formula KILLS me, especially cuz my little girl can’t handle the Costco brand! I’m not worried about what other people think. I just personally wish breastfeeding was easier for me.

  • Margaret Smith

    I remember struggling to nurse my first child. I was so thankful that my doctor was understanding and encouraged me to do what was best for both of us, even if it wasn’t the breast.

    • I was so afraid when I called my Pediatrician because it was only 4 days after her birth…I was sure she’d say to try to wait out the two weeks….but she immediately told me how to transition her to formula and how to diminish my supply! I was so relieved and grateful!

  • Leah

    I definitely believe there is no right or wrong to breastfeeding. I am not a mother, but I know that when I am one, I will definitely do what’s best to keep both the baby and myself happy!

    • Exactly! That is what should be the norm!

  • Desiree @ Macke Monologues

    I’m all for “fed baby” is best! Marcus never, ever nursed, but Julia did well past her 1st birthday. I’m 100% in the camp that you need to do what’s best for everyone! Evelyn is just perfect no matter how she receives her nutrition!

    • I didn’t know that about Marcus! I’m glad you got to experience both camps!

  • You’ve read my blog posts about breastfeeding (or not, ha) so you probably know all my thoughts already. To sum it up: I hate breastfeeding. 🙂

    • I didn’t have an aversion to it…I just was in pain. I would love to nurse. I loved all aspects of nursing (except the pain)

  • Yes! I hate the phrase breast is best (and I dislike fed is best even more it’s just the bare minimum but I won’t get into that lol) just like you say healthy baby happy mama is best!! Good for you! You’re your baby’s baby expert and you know best what they need ❤

    • If the mom isn’t happy, then that’ll affect how she mothers…so, ultimately, I need to do what is best for me to be able to do what is best for my daughter.

  • Thanks for sharing your story and struggle with this. I think its important for everyone to do what feels right for them as a parent. You should always go with your gut/heart on things like this.

    • Thank you, Gyspy. I totally agree.

  • I think you made the perfect decision for you, your precious girl, and your family! <3<3<3 Breast is great but what's BEST varies per mom/baby! <3

    • Thanks! That’s exactly right!

  • Thank you for this!!! There is so much pressure on women to breastfeed and then if you don’t want to or physically unable to, people are so quick to judge! I love what you said in the end that “Breast can be best. But happy baby and mother is best.” I had to switch at four months to formula because my milk was just not keeping my baby full, made her stomach hurt and was gassy, and kept her up all day and all night. I didn’t realize how hungry she really was until we switched to formula. Making the switch made her a super happy baby and I almost wish I would have done so sooner because she wouldn’t have been in so much pain with her tummy. Thank you again for sharing your story.

    • That’s kind of what happened with my first….I switched at 4 months because I couldn’t make enough for him. And he had an IMMEDIATE growth spurt not during the typical times after we ade the switch.

  • Stay at Home Science

    It’s great to hear someone say this! I had similar issues with both of my children, and it took me a while to get over the guilt.

    • I’m glad others have had the same situation.