Part I: Breast Isn’t Always Best
I had always planned on breastfeeding my children, even before they were ever in the cards. “Breast is Best”, after all.
It isn’t. Love is best.
When Pearl Girl was born, she was jaundiced. Not enough for the incubator, but just enough for her to be too tired to eat properly. She would nurse a little, then fall asleep immediately. I tried every trick in the book to try to stimulate her into staying awake through a feeding; nothing worked. We got caught in a vicious cycle of her being too tired to eat enough, preventing her from eliminating the jaundice, which made her too tired to eat enough, and so on and so forth. My sweet, six-pound baby dwindled down to five pounds in her first week. We checked into the hospital, and she spent twelve hours in the incubator.
I cried. Oh, Goddess, how I cried. I sobbed all through those twelve hours. Through every second of pumping my milk. Through every feeding with a tube taped to my breast. I had failed. I couldn’t even perform the most basic task of keeping my sweet baby girl fed. And we were both suffering for it. At the end of a two-hour-long feeding session that was mostly failing, I had enough. I fed my daughter my expressed milk through a bottle, and she gulped it down like it was nothing.
Pearl Girl was exclusively bottle fed my pumped milk for about two weeks, and she started (finally) putting on the pounds. Then my supply dropped. I was stressed and panicky all the time, worried sick she would start losing weight again. While I continued putting her to breast, she only wanted the bottle, and I couldn’t keep up with her hunger. So out came the formula.
Here’s where I get to the point: Having read all those posts, and articles, and adhered to the thinking that formula was poison (<– READ THIS!), I felt myself spiraling downward every time I would give her a bottle that wasn’t my own milk. I felt horrible. You know what saved me? My magnificent Man: “Your job as a Mother is to make sure she’s fed, clean, and loved. No matter how you do it, if you can do that, you’re an incredible Mom”. And that is what’s truly important. Yes, in an ideal world, exclusive breastfeeding is best. But it’s better to give a bottle with love, than a breast in anger or sorrow. Pearl Girl and I stuck through it, and are now successfully breastfeeding, but should a similar situation arise, I won’t hesitate to keep her fed, even if that means formula.
Because, no matter how I do it, the point is that she’s happy, well-fed, clean, and loved.
*Originally posted August 22nd, 2014 on my Pagan blog; Serpent, Wolf and Raven*