I was reading over at Strollerderby about their heated discussion about breast vs. bottle and the seeming lack of support that women get in the US after having a baby. It got me thinking about those first few days after Maximilien was born and wondering how different things would have been for me if I had given birth to him in the US.
I remember about the 4th night at around 4am I had been up with Max trying to feed him and calm him down and utterly failing at both. It seemed like he had been crying for hours. My milk had not come in and I was sore, sleep deprived and emotional. The night baby nurse came to check on us and found me slumped over crying and holding Max against my broken body. I had no idea what to do. And all she did was sit with me while I cried and put her hand on my back and said nothing. We sat like that for at least 15 minutes until I finally was able to say something. I expressed my frustration that I was unable to nurse Max and satisfy him and that I felt like a failure. She pulled a bottle of formula out of her pocket and said to me simply, "you will not be a bad mother if you feed your baby formula." I fed Max 20cl of formula. And he went right to sleep. She put him in his bassinet and offered to take him to the nursery so I could sleep. I told her I would sleep better if he was with me. She said then in that case that she'd be back in an hour to check on us. I was fast asleep and never heard her come in to check on us but when I awoke that morning because my milk had come in there was a little noted that said "Courage" on it and a little bottle of forumla right next to it. I got up to take a hot shower to relieve some of the pressure from engorgement and when I came out of the shower the night baby nurse was there. She had gotten off her shift and on her way home stopped in to see if we were doing alright. I told her that my milk had come in and I felt better after getting a few hours of sleep. We sat on the bed and she watched as Max latched on. She showed me a few tricks to try to get him to open his mouth and we sat there while Max nursed his little heart out. Before she left she told me I must always follow my instincts.
I don't know if things would have been different if I had to of gone through that scary night alone. I feel lucky that she was there because I honestly think I may have given up. What she said stuck with me because less than three weeks later I had mastitis and fell terribly sick. My right breast was engorged and I had to take antibiotics to rid my body of the infection. Max hadn't had a good feeding in two days and he was crying non-stop. I remember sending Julien out to the store to get formula and you know what? I felt fine about it. I supplemented Max with formula while I was taking my antibiotics and then switch back to the breast exclusively. And all was well again.
Getting back to the Strollerderby debate on breastfeeding, I feel like there are too many people try to enforce the benefits of breast feeding by simply saying "Breast is best!" and stopping there. I believe that the stigma that breast feeding has could be avoided if women were educated on the choices they could make and if they got the proper support that they need.
About a month ago I started to doubt my milk production because Max hadn't gained enough weight and his doctor asked me if I was making enough milk. In the moment it freaked me out. After getting home and thinking about it, I felt like it was unfair for the doctor to ask me a question like that. I emailed my local La Leche League office and asked my questions about the possibility of milk production dropping off. The response I got was a little bossy so to speak. I had written that we had given Max the bottle a few times (with breast milk) and the person wrote back saying that I should avoid all together the bottle because that could sabotage my milk production and that "Breast was best!". That was all the argument she gave me. I felt disappointed because she could have been more diplomatic in her response. She never talked to me once about doing supplemental pumping to increase my milk supply. I tried for a few days to follow her advice and not give the bottle but it didn't work. Instead I followed my own instincts and found my own system to feed Max with a bottle of breast milk at night and I pump after he goes to bed and try to pump once more during the day during one of his nap times.
I speak only from my own point of view and I honestly believed the first few days of Max's life I was going to fail as a mother because I wasn't going to be able to breast feed. Sure, there were external factors playing into things like I just had major surgery, I was suffering from post partum depression and the anxiety of becoming a mother. Breast feeding did not come easily to me. I had cracked nipples that bled, blisters and delayed milk production. All these things can play tricks on your mind but I had great support from the midwives, my doctor, my husband and friends. And for me that made all the difference.
Boy, this turned out to be a long entry... Max is napping and I should be pumping. I better get to it. :)