In the first few days of Archer’s life I had a gut feeling that Archer was not getting enough to eat. I knew having a newborn was going to be demanding, but they shouldn’t cry 20 out of 24 hours of the day. Cary, Archer and I were complete messes. Archer cried constantly from hunger and Cary and I would switch off holding a screaming baby every hour around the clock until we didn’t know what was day and night. I was pretty sure Archer was hungry but every doctor, lactation consultant and website tells you that everyone can nurse if they try hard enough. They tell you that introducing formula will doom breastfeeding, so I went against my gut feeling and kept trying to nurse without supplementing. Unfortunately, we were coming into the weekend and had to wait until Monday to get Archer weighed. When we N got him weighed, we found out he had lost too much weight even though I had been nursing him about 12 times a day for an hour at a time. The pediatrician told us that Archer’s weight gain needed to be prioritized and we started feeding him formula.
The perpetuation of the idea that everyone can nurse left me feeling like I didn’t try hard enough, like a failure, like my body was defective and diminished my confidence as a new mother. I knew that breastfeeding is one of the best ways to bond with your baby and is better for the baby’s health. Another difficult part of bottle feeding was feeling judged by other moms in progressive, natural, radical communities. It was very difficult to deal with psychologically. There were a couple of weeks where I was worried about becoming depressed.
The most supportive resources I found were blog entries by other moms who had had nearly identical experiences as me. Cheryl Bradshaw, a lactation consultant I met through the Midwife Center of Pittsburgh was also wonderful. She was the first person who told me that the way my breasts were shaped could be related to a supply problem. I also met a friend through the Midwife Center who pumped some milk for Archer during the first three months of his life. For a while I was extremely sensitive to people who are judgmental about formula feeding, but at this point I feel proud and confident about bottle feeding Archer.
I also sought out the research about the superiority of breastfeeding over formula feeding. It clearly shows breastfeeding to be better for babies than formula, but not to the extent that I was imagining. There are so many factors that impact your child’s growth and development, and breastfeeding is just one factor. There are also so many ways to bond with your baby apart from breastfeeding. Bottle feeding forced me to learn other ways of soothing and relating to Archer and I feel great about our bond.
I wish more people knew about hypoplastic breasts so they would be less judgmental of the moms who have to bottle feed and I hope that other moms with this condition find the support they need to stay confident in themselves.