The Decision I Never Thought I’d Have to Make

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been the past week, well, let’s just say I’ve been facing what has felt like a major breastfeeding crisis. Because it seems there is so little out there on this topic, I wanted to share my experiences with you…

If you saw Harper’s four-month update, perhaps you noticed she weighed 11 pounds. To give some context to this number, 2 ½ weeks before her four-month checkup she weighed 11 pounds 8 ounces. Not great, as she went from the 35th percentile to the 10th but I was convinced her lack of weight gain was due to reflux as Harper spits up an inordinate amount for hours after her feed. Her doctor put her on Zantac and said we’d monitor things leading up to her four-month checkup.

At her four-month checkup she had not gained, not maintained, but lost weight. She was now below the 1st percentile. Her doctor said that even for babies with severe reflux, this wasn’t normal and asked how my milk supply was. I honestly didn’t know since I hadn’t pumped since she was six weeks old. I was starting to get worried because the amount of time she was spending nursing was decreasing at an alarming rate. From 20 minutes, to 15, 12, and sometimes only 6 minutes total. Then she’d buck off and scream and thrash, going completely nuts.

The doctor said I needed to supplement and start giving her cereal, which I never wanted to do. As an exclusively-BF’ing mom this was absolutely devastating to hear. I felt like my world had shattered and felt like a complete failure as a parent.  Here I was, this “Breast IS Best” kind of momma, the one that wanted to exclusively BF until she was at least one and to be told this was, at least for now, not a possibility truly broke my heart.  While giving her the first bottle of formula, I sobbed and sobbed. I kept thinking, “Why was this happening? Why wasn’t she thriving on my breast milk alone? She was doing so fine up until the two-month mark. What changed? Why wouldn’t she breastfeed for longer periods like she used to? She is such a happy baby and sleeps like a champ. Wouldn’t she be fussy all the time if she was hungry?”

I met with doctors, lactation consultants, and even had blood work done to see if there was some underlying deficiency in me. I would not give up breastfeeding without a fight. To boost my milk supply, I was nursing and pumping around the clock, even getting up twice in the night to pump. I supplemented with a combo of formula and breast milk after each feed, giving Harper cereal twice a day, taking nine fenugreek pills a day, and eating gobs and gobs of oatmeal. I was running myself into the ground and all of this ended in a fainting spell a few nights ago. It was that next day that I knew I couldn’t continue on in this way.

After much thought, reality checks, and positive encouragement from friends, family, and, most importantly, my husband, we decided I would keep on nursing and follow each session with a supplement of formula or pumped breast milk.  I knew that I couldn’t be a great momma to Harper if I was constantly stressed, and sick with worry. Breastfeeding didn’t have to be an all or nothing decision.

The silver lining in all of this is that when we went back to the doctor for a weight check, Harper had gained ½ a pound in just five days with the supplementing. I couldn’t have been happier.

Here is what I’ve learned. As moms, we are WAY too hard on ourselves. Just because some moms have an easy time with breastfeeding doesn’t mean you will too. It’s kind of like having a birth plan. You can plan until you’re blue in the face but it doesn’t mean that all will go according to plan. The most important goal is that your baby thrives. And however you have to get your baby to thrive is what you have to do.

When I had to start supplementing I felt as though I was betraying Harper and was doing her an injustice. I came across a website called MOBI (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues), which talks about how women have to redefine what a “successful nursing relationship” is. Giving up nursing all together can feel like grieving the loss of a loved one. To me, those couldn’t have been truer words as that is exactly how I felt when I gave Harper that first bottle. Now that I can look at the big picture, I realize that I’m doing exactly what needs to be done. My baby is thriving and I am far less stressed. I feel that a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. For anyone going through anything similar, know that you’re not alone in your struggles. You need a support system that can help you make informed decisions and that will constantly remind you of what is most important here. If I can be a help for you through this, please message me!

Xoxo Lindsey

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June 27, 2013 - 8:21 pm

e Andrews - I went through the same thing with Caroline although on top of it all she was never a good nurser. I had to fight to get her to nurse and many a night I cried while trying to nurse because it was such a horrible experience and I finally had to start supplementing at like 2 months old. I felt like such a failure! But when my stress levels went way down and Caroline was a happier baby I stopped berating myself so much. I hate that this is such a problem these days and I wish more mamas would be supportive of each other! I love that you’ve started this blog and I think it’s fabulous! You’re such a good mama!

June 29, 2013 - 12:36 am

Helen - You are a great mother and your little girl couldn’t look any sweeter or happier. This story resonated with me so completely that I had to comment. I went through a similar thing with my son last year. We were told he had reflux as well (although for him it turned out to be food intolerances) and it got so bad that right before he turned four months old he started refusing to nurse at all. Your story brought me right back to those first days of devastation, fatigue, and frantic pumping. It all just becomes routine eventually, but it’s hard! Thank you for sharing and I hope this helps some other mothers out there.

July 17, 2013 - 2:54 pm

Holly - No one can prepare you for the feelings about nursing and providing enough milk and doing the right thing you have as a mom. I remember the first night when I was running low on milk and my MIL suggested I get some formula. I think I gave her a death glare. I was terrified of running out and not being a good enough mom to give her what she needed. I am getting sad thinking about how much I pump now. She is slowly weening herself from nursing. In fact she hasn’t nursed at all this week and it makes me really sad. She may be done. I pump and pump and continue to do so just in case she may want to nurse and also to have the BM… I will pump until she is one and then stop. Just want to prepare you for how you might feel when they day comes and Harper doesn’t want to nurse… I had to remember nursing is not for me, it is for her and you will get through it.

September 16, 2014 - 3:22 pm

It Wasn’t the Cat That Had My Baby’s Tongue… » The Sassy Momma - […] you can recall from a previous post, I wrote about how we had to supplement feed when Harper was 4 months old. At the time, it was […]