(This post is insanely long, and probably incredibly boring. Sorry about that. It also probably falls in the TMI category. Sorry about that too.)
At my first appointment with the regular OB/GYN (after I had been released from REACH), the OB coordinator (who is also the practice's lactation consultant) asked if I was planning to breastfeed. My answer was pretty quick--yes, that was what I planned to do. I knew it would benefit both the baby and myself, and that was that. Decision made, or so I thought.
After Aniston's birth, while we were still in the recovery room, the nurses encouraged me to try to feed Aniston. I tried, and she just wouldn't. She wouldn't latch on, she didn't show any interest in it at all, and quickly fell asleep. They assured me that it was okay. After all, we'd both been through a fairly traumatic experience, my blood pressure was insanely high, the epidural had affected me in ways I didn't know were possible (as in, my whole body was numb, not just the lower half), and Aniston's heart rate had been very low. It wasn't a great start to breastfeeding, but I had no doubt that it would improve.
I continued to struggle with breastfeeding while in the hospital. Of course, there was only colostrum, but Aniston wouldn't latch on long enough to get even that. I'm pretty sure I met with every lactation consultant they have on staff during our hospital stay. On Sunday, Aniston's bilirubin level was at 9.9. If it rose to 10, she would have to be treated for jaundice. Since eating and going to the bathroom more often would help with that, it was decided that we would supplement with formula. We used the cup and syringe feeding method to avoid using a bottle to avoid nipple confusion. It worked, and the bilirubin level decreased.
The hospital I delivered at is known for its strong support of breastfeeding. Before we were discharged on Monday, I had to meet with yet another lactation consultant to develop a "breastfeeding plan". The other ladies had been incredibly supportive and kind. This lady....not so much. She frowned about me supplementing with formula, and told me that if I was giving her formula anyway, I might as well be using a bottle. Boy, did I feel like a failure! Bradley still swears he doesn't believe the lady was being rude or judgmental, but I definitely felt judged. Still, though, she developed a plan for us which included pumping for 15-20 minutes after each feeding.
After we got home on Monday, my milk came in and I thought things would improve. During the pregnancy, that was my greatest fear--that I wouldn't have enough milk. In my mind, I truly believed that if I had enough milk, I would have no problem breastfeeding. The thought of her not being able to latch on never entered my mind. Aniston still wouldn't latch. We spent the majority of the week trying to figure out what to do. Aniston would scream during feedings, I would cry, and Bradley would be helplessly watching. (That's right. I wouldn't let him leave the room. If I had to deal with the screaming, he did too.) I began dreading feeding her. It was horrible, not at all the bonding experience I had anticipated. As soon as the feeding was over, I would be able to breathe for about fifteen minutes...then I would start watching the clock and dreading the next time. I couldn't even enjoy being with her because of worrying about breastfeeding.
So, a week later, I pretty much gave up on the idea. I had talked with the lactation consultant at the OB/GYN. I realized that I had done everything I could do. She just wouldn't latch, and I couldn't make her. I could continue trying, hoping that she would get the hang of it, or I could give up. Since I had been pumping anyway, I chose to begin giving her that milk in a bottle. Life around here improved quickly!! There was no more screaming from Aniston, no more crying from me. I could be happy and enjoy my baby.
Fast forward to week fifteen. I'm exhausted. I'm pumping every three to four hours and it's killing me. I've produced enough to feed her plus freeze a lot. I'm still producing plenty; that's not the problem. The problem is I'm tired. After much thought, I decided to begin the process of switching her to formula this week. It was a terribly hard decision for me to make, especially since my mind has to make the decision, not my body. (I've been hoping for weeks that my supply would dwindle and the decision would be made for me. No such luck.) Even though I've threatened to quit many times over the last fifteen weeks, I never have. This time, though, I'm serious. I'm finished.
I gave Aniston her first bottle of formula on Wednesday night. While I fed her, I cried. I have such jumbled emotions about it. On one hand, I feel hugely guilty about stopping. On the other, I'm thrilled at the idea of my life not revolving around pumping. I know that she will be just fine on formula. Plenty of babies are. (I recently read somewhere that nine out of every ten babies are fed formula at some point during their first year. That made me feel better.) Since Wednesday she's had several more ounces and seems to be doing great. We're going to feed her mostly formula this weekend just to make sure she tolerates it well before I really try to decrease my supply. Between what I've frozen over the last couple of months and what I'll continue to pump as I wean, Aniston will be able to have at least one bottle of breastmilk a day for a long time.
I hope I'm doing the right thing.