Monday, April 16, 2012

feeding a baby: the cuteness and the struggles

Audrey isn't quite 5 months old yet, but we've already been doing a number of experiments with "real" food.  Our pediatrician said it was no big deal to begin introducing some foods, since she is already showing the signs of being ready.  She can sit up pretty well with minimal support and she's REALLY interested in everything we eat.  She's even getting a tooth, which seems crazy to me.  We've been giving her little tastes of fruit and vegetable purees.  She is a big fan of zucchini and pears, hates applesauce, and may or may not be into peaches (adding cinnamon seemed to pique her interest).

Putting her in her high chair and trying to spoon feed her has now become my favorite hobby... It's just so much fun to see how she's going to react to food!  And so messy too, but that's okay.  If she's about to have a bath, we really let her go wild.

We're not trying to rush into solid foods, but I won't pretend that I'm not looking forward to the day when she doesn't subsist wholly on bottles!  ...even though it is pretty sweet to snuggle up to her while she's drinking her bottle.  I don't want to delve too deeply into the topic here, but I'm sure most people have noticed (or not?) that Audrey is a bottle baby.  Any mom who goes the formula route probably feels a certain amount of guilt when all the experts go on and on about how breast is best.  I fully intended to breast feed Audrey before she was born, and I did for the first 3 weeks.  I feel like she got a good start.  And I'm sure I could have continued, but it was taking a big toll on me, physically and mentally. 

I just wasn't prepared for what a huge commitment it would be, to be the baby's sole source of nutrition.  Newborns eat about 12 times a day, and at first it took about 45 minutes each time I breastfed her.  I was going crazy.  There was a huge sleep deprivation issue... I couldn't handle being the one who had to wake up every time Audrey needed to eat in the night.  I couldn't take care of myself and hadn't prepared a safety net of supportive people.  I wasn't eating enough or drinking enough water, and started having these AWFUL headaches -- I even tried taking the Percocet they gave me at the hospital, but the headaches persisted.  I couldn't sleep when I had the headaches, I couldn't sleep when the baby was awake, I couldn't sleep when the baby was asleep (what if she woke up and needed me?!), I couldn't sleep at all.  I had nightmares about starving babies... I may have hallucinated a little.  I started resenting Audrey every time I had to feed her (which was often).  She has a small jaw and I think that made latching difficult -- nursing was always incredibly messy and we always both smelled like sour milk.  Life was looking dark.  I couldn't imagine our future, and I wasn't excited at all about my new life and role as a mother and milk machine... I wanted my body back.

I'm sure it would have gotten easier if I'd stuck with it.  But like I said, I was starting to resent my child.  And that is something that NO new mother should feel.  I knew something needed to change, as soon as possible.  We weren't going to survive.  So... I started trying new things.  I was so very frustrated with the nursing process that I just stopped one day.  I decided I would NEVER breastfeed again.  At first I was going to just pump my milk and bottle feed Audrey (so Robert could at least help with that).  After a whole day of constantly trying to keep up with the demanding baby, having to clean both the breast pump and the bottles... I knew it just wasn't going to work for me, at least not in that state of mind.  Looking back, I wish I had supplemented with formula and at least kept pumping a little so I could keep up SOME supply of breastmilk to give Audrey... but I was so out of it mentally that I just wanted to make a concrete choice and stick with it.  So we switched her completely to formula.

There was an IMMEDIATE improvement in my life.  The baby no longer depended on my body.  I could sleep again.  And things were just all around easier.  Of course... we found out a couple of weeks later that she was intolerant of cow's milk formula.  So there was a bit of a fiasco while we struggled to find something that would nourish our baby and not make her sick.  That took a whole month, probably.  It felt like 5 years.  (Every day with a newborn felt like a century to me, sort of.)  But she is a full on soy baby now!  A soy baby who likes to try new foods.  We've come so far in just a few months.  And everyone is so much HAPPIER now!!!  Life is awesome.

Oh my.  I said I wasn't going to delve into the issue, but I think that got pretty personal.  I have a lot of admiration for ladies who breastfeed and keep it up for a year or more!  But I think formula is a perfectly fine choice to make for your child.  Sometimes, it's just necessary.


  1. We beat ourselves up so much as mothers but the most important thing you can do for your child is ultimately to have a healthy and happy mama... so you definately were right to do what felt good for your family and your body!

    She looks like she's enjoying experimenting with solids. I was so excited at first too but then when they really need to eat and you're out carting around extra food and bibs and looking for a highchair... I realized that everything that makes life easier also makes it more complicated :)

  2. Rebecca, I have so much to say about this. But first I wish I could just give you a big hug and tell you that it's alright. I know that you know that, but sometimes it's nice to have it reinforced. I am a strong believer that you have to do whatever works best for your family. If you are growing resentful and angry, then it's probably not the right fit for your family and there's no shame in acknowledging that. If you feel better and are better able to parent than of course it's a good thing, you know? We went through a similar experience with our little one, so I feel you on the guilt and the worry but trust me, once solids fully enter the picture the breast or bottle debate will seem like a million years away.

    Audrey looks like she is having so much fun with food! That's awesome and totally adorable! Ha!

    1. Thanks, Tara! It already feels so long ago, and I do think I made the right decision for the time. But yes, I'm sure you know the weird feelings that go along with it! I know I don't have to justify my choices about my body and my baby, but it feels like such an intense topic. Sometimes it just feels like breastfeeding advocates are so staunch about it, like there is NO OTHER WAY to go, and you're terrible for not doing it. But once you've been in a bad situation with breastfeeding I think you can really understand the choice.

  3. I know that this post is from a couple months ago, but I just wanted to tell you how much I relate to your story. I, too, had problems with exhaustion and not eating enough. I experienced a lot of pain while nursing, and when my girl was 8 days old I switched to using a hand pump. I would pump every two hours...for 30 mins each side, meaning I would get a 1 hour break before starting again. I felt so strongly about breastfeeding (because my husband's from a family of advocates- who never judged me but I still felt pressured by their successes-, and I suffered post-postpartum depression which made 'failing' seem horrific), that I continued pumping for the following three months. Those months were absolutely the worst of my life. My daughter transitioned back to nursing the 'normal way', and continues to this day, but I only just recently (as in last week) started feeling like myself, like a whole person....and my girl is *15* months old. That's a long time!
    I'm a 'formula baby' and I have a stronger immune system than my husband (who was BFed until 1), I've never had ear infections.....or any of the other health problems supposedly associated with formula.

    Formula doesn't equal a bad mom, and breastfeeding doesn't equal a GOOD mom (don't get me started on that one)!


    1. Thanks for coming by and commenting! It really helps to hear from other moms who have had similar experiences. Things have gotten SO much better. When you're in the midst of tough times with a baby (sleep deprivation + a little depression), the guilt and the feeling of failure can just be so overwhelming. I'm glad to hear that you're feeling like yourself again. I am most of the time now. :)


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