Breastfeeding was so important to me. It wasn't even a question, of course I was planning to breastfeed my baby. How could you not want to?! I took a class, read Pinterest posts with tips and stories, etc. etc.
It was hard at first, we both cried, but within a few days, we got it figured out. Then she started to grow and grow! She was eating so often and never seemed to be satisfied. Then we both got Thrush (a yeast infection that affects baby's mouth and mommy's breasts). She seemed to fuss every time she nursed and I think her mouth was sore. I started giving her a bottle with pumped breastmilk, and that seemed to be more comfortable for both of us while we dealt with the Thrush, but then she lost interest in breastfeeding. The milk didn't flow as quickly as it did from the bottle and she lost her patience fast. I tried and tried for a while, but then I started almost exclusively pumping. Then my supply started to seriously diminish. I'm not sure if it was from my Thrush, or the exclusive pumping, or what, but I could barely get 2 ounces per side during each pumping session. I had never really overproduced, so I didn't have any freezer storage to fall back on. I started supplementing with formula. I cried and cried when I made that first bottle for her, but she ate it with gusto and I could tell that although it was foreign to her little tummy and made her gassy at first, she was full and satisfied for the first time in a long time.
Now, a few months later, I'm still struggling with it all. My supply has steadily decreased, JoJo will only nurse when she's calm and not too hungry. If she's really got an appetite, she'll just cry when trying to nurse because she's not getting enough food fast enough. I have truly and honestly tried absolutely everything to increase my supply. I drink the recommended amount of water every day, I get enough sleep, I try and manage my stress and stay calm and happy, I've taken 3 capsules of Fenugreek 3 times a day for months, I've used essential oils, I've tried different breast pumps, I pump ever 2-3 hours including sometimes in the middle of the night, I drink lactation tea, I eat oatmeal every day, I've tried massage, I've tried more frequent nursing, I've tried more frequent pumping, I've tried praying, I've tried sobbing, I've tried begging, and nothing is working. As we sit, I only get 0.5-1 oz. per side, per session. Josie drinks about 5.5 oz. per feeding, every 3 hours. She gets whatever breastmilk I produce + formula, mixed together in a bottle. JoJo seems to be handling Similac total comfort formula pretty well, although we had to try several types to figure out which one seemed the best for her tummy. I am trying so hard not to be upset that she is pretty much a formula baby at this point, but I really am upset. THIS IS NOT WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! I know that I've done everything I can to provide her with breastmilk, and I'm proud of every half ounce I have been able to give her, and I will continue to do that for as long as I can, hoping and praying that she's receiving some of the important benefits.
Providing food for my baby takes twice as long as it does other mothers, whether they formula feed or breastfeed. I have to pump, then prepare a bottle, then wash everything, etc. It really is tough.I have learned a lot, and I have some ideas to try for our next baby that I hope will help me have a more successful breastfeeding experience next time, but I just don't know that there's any way of turning this ship around at this point.
Really, I just feel like I am a disappointment. Other mothers (and grandmothers and neighbors and friends and total strangers) seem to think that it's okay to ask if you're breastfeeding (which I kind of think is personal and not really their business to ask about...haha, obviously I feel like volunteering that information is different...if *I* bring it up, then we can discuss whether or not I'm breastfeeding...haha), and when you tell them that you're trying, but that you're giving formula, the disappointment and concern on their faces is really hurtful. I know the benefits of breastfeeding. I am not giving it some half-hearted effort. It's not that I don't want to breastfeed. I don't know what's wrong with me or why my body won't cooperate, but that's my situation.
I'm not worried about the aspect of bonding with my baby. When I feed her that bottle, I snuggle her close and look at her beautiful little face and talk to her just like I would when breastfeeding her. We are bonded, she loves me, she knows I love her. I am, however, worried about her immune system and future susceptibility to diseases and conditions that breastfeeding seems to decrease the risk of, and that's why I continue to pump and give her the feeble amount of milk I'm able to produce.
It's just hard. I'm not a patient, carefree, easygoing person. I am an uptight, anxiety-ridden, perfectionistic person. Failure (or perceived failure) is so hard for me to handle. Criticism is also hard for me to handle. Those character flaws make this situation so frustrating and hard for me to let go of. This has been weighing on my mind so heavily for the last few months and I just needed to put it out there into the world. Maybe I'm hoping for support and for people to say, "don't listen to anybody, you're doing what's best for you and your baby," or, "I feed my baby formula, too. I know how you're feeling," or something. Maybe I'm hoping someone will tell me I am a bad mom so that I can get mad and defend and rationalize my choices, I don't know. But there it is.