Adding formula kept me from quitting breastfeeding

Adding formula kept me from quitting breastfeeding

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Before I was ever pregnant, I knew I would want to breastfeed if I became a mother. I've known many women who breastfed and many who used formula exclusively.

I truly had no grounds to judge anyone. I simply knew I didn't want to pay for something my body could make for free and that, like many other parenting unknowns, I would have to go with the flow. But if the flow started to dry up, I wouldn't be going down without a fight.

My first son was born a week early, weighing in at nearly 11 lbs. Yes, you read that right. My son was legitimately early and still weighed 10 lbs 15oz at birth. We had an uphill battle as the first few days of nursing didn't go well and he lost a significant amount of weight. I had several lactation consultants help me, a doula on speed dial, and the entire internet at my fingertips. Depending on the amount of sleep I'd had the night before, my thoughts ranged from, "people do this all the time," to "I can do this," to "why can't I do this?"

For the first five months of my son's life, I lived in a vicious cycle of nursing, pumping, and nursing again to keep his hungry belly satisfied. My son was also a marathon nurser, which meant he could go up to 45 minutes on one side alone and did so with regularity. To say I was exhausted is an understatement.

I am not trying to be a martyr here. I don't expect any medals or applause. I want to share because I think there's a side of breastfeeding that is either brushed over as "not that hard," or exaggerated to the point where some moms get too scared to even give it a try. Sometimes we just need to take the cause down a notch and be real with each other.

I did reach my breaking point. My choices were to give up on breastfeeding altogether or find an alternative. My husband and I decided to add a formula bottle in the evenings so our son could have his best chance at a good night's sleep on a full stomach. Since this was at the end of the day, my husband was the one to give the bottle. We didn't want our son to refuse nursing with me so we thought having someone else bottle feed him would be the best way to avoid confusion.

What we didn't know was how this one little evening bottle would change our lives. Just in adding that formula meal, our baby felt more full and started sleeping better. My husband loved the time they spent bonding and I had an hour to myself each night that I desperately needed.

We used combo feeding from then on, and I was still breastfeeding daily until my son was about 15 months old. Seeing as how I wanted to give up when he was 5 months old, I'm thankful this little compromise allowed us to keep going until he was ready to wean naturally.

I do believe breast milk is the best nutritional food for babies. What I don't believe is that as moms we have to make an all or nothing decision. If you desire to breastfeed and you can do so, that's amazing. But if you struggle like I did, please give yourself grace and allow some wiggle room. Find a system that works for your whole family. When you give a little, it's amazing what you get in return.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

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