I’m going on 5 months now, nursing Harlow. I made it about 2 1/2-3 months with Luca and had to stop for personal health reasons and a procedure I had to undergo at the time. Needless to say, Luca was primarily formula fed. So I’ve had the privilege of experiencing both sides of the spectrum. I know how political it can get with the whole breast vs. bottle debate, and to that I just want to say, isn’t fed really the best? There are so many places in our world where babies are starving, crying out of pure hunger, and the fact that formula is even an option for our babies is truly a blessing for those of us who don’t have the option to breast feed. Luca was always in the 99th percentile for both height and weight during his first year (on formula), and I can’t think of a time he got sick that first year. So he’s testament that, in no way, does formula hold your baby back or harm their development. On the flip side, Harlow has never had anything but breast milk, and he had pneumonia at six weeks old (which was SO scary, by the way). I don’t really think either of those circumstances were related to being formula-fed or breastfed, it just goes to show you that we’re all doing the best we can, and regardless of your choice, trust me, you’re baby will be just fine–Because, in the end, love overrides any boob or bottle, and we all have that to give.
I am not a scientist, or a doctor, and yes, I know there have been countless studies that show how wonderful breastfeeding is for both you and your baby, if I didn’t believe them, I wouldn’t be breastfeeding Harlow. But, at the same time when I formula fed Luca, there was always this taboo feeling of judgment hovering around me whether it be from his pediatrician or outsiders. I’d just love to see more studies on the good sides of formula, and perhaps even a study on the bond it creates between father and baby. It’s such an intimate and personal decision, how we feed our children, and I just thought I would put that out there. Whatever your choice, be deliberate in it, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about what it is you are doing. Like I said, we are all just doing the very best we can for our babies, and isn’t that enough? Rest easy, because it is.
So I’m just sharing my nursing journey in this post, but if you have any questions at all about my formula feeding experience, I would love to answer–you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below. I read every email and comment and reply to all of them. (If I get enough questions/comments, I’ll dedicate a blog post to it)
So where to begin? I knew I was going to try and nurse Harlow this time around. My health issues from the past were no longer prevalent and I really wanted to try and give nursing a go. I also had the mindset though, if it didn’t work out, or I couldn’t handle the immense pressure of it, I would not beat myself up about throwing in the towel. I would be okay with whatever the outcome, and that took a lot of stress off of my shoulders. Not to mention, Miles was so supportive of whatever I wanted to do, it made me feel a thousand times better. So I started to nurse Harlow in the hospital. He was born at 9lb 2 oz, so the doctors were monitoring how he was digesting glucose. I guess this is a concern with bigger babies? I don’t know the whole explanation, but I do know they were taking his sugars every few hours. That first night, he was having a difficult time breathing, and the nurse thought it would be best if he went into the NICU to be monitored closely. I was so scared. Your only hope is that your baby will come out healthy, and when you think all is well, and then you’re suddenly watching your little one be hooked up to every monitor known to mankind, it can be extremely heart wrenching and scary. Their bodies are so little and fragile and you want them to be comfortable and in your arms.
So they took Harlow to monitor him in the NICU for a few hours to see if his breathing was due to transition (learning to breath in the outside world) or if it was something else. They weren’t sure if they would need to keep him longer. So in the mean time, I would walk over every time they needed me to feed him, and at one point the nurse wanted me to pump some colostrum so they could notate how much he was taking in and give him a bottle if need be. I produced 3 oz of just colostrum in 15 minutes, which I thought wasn’t much, but turns out, is quite a lot. So I knew my milk supply was off to a good start. They released Harlow after about 3 or 4 hours, and said they would continue to monitor his breathing and sugars, but it seemed all was well and the problem would resolve itself over time. So back into my room he came, and I nursed and nursed, and nursed. He seemed hungry all the time, and at 9 lbs he was! They came in to take his sugars and they didn’t read right, so they decided that if they didn’t improve over the next few hours, they would have to supplement my breastmilk with formula. I asked to see a lactation specialist, and what a godsend she was. If you are planning to nurse, you must request to see a lactation consultant. It improved my experience tenfold. I was nursing all wrong, hence him wanting to constantly eat, hence his sugars being tweaked, and also my poor nipples being tattered and me dreading every feeding due to the pain. All of this was solved after a proper latch was taught to both me and Harlow with the consultant. She gave me a ton of great tips, and that was the start of our solid nursing journey.
Below are a few tops and dresses that are nursing-friendly. Once you get the flow of things, you start picking out clothes based on their “nursing-ease” without really even knowing it (at least that’s how it is for me).
1. Checked Shirt with Twist Front | 2. Lalelei Tunic | 3. Soft Twill Oversized Shirt | 4. Off-The-Shoulder Swing Dress | 5. Vila Printed Smock Dress | 6. Ruffle Detail Collar Shirt | 7. ‘Gotta Have It’ Tee | 8. Augusta Off-The-Shoulder Top
It has been an equally beautiful yet different experience this time around. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m truly grateful to be able to have had this opportunity. The first few weeks were definitely tough. Having every feeding on your shoulders only, isn’t easy, let me tell you. I feel like those weeks with Lu were such a blur, I don’t really remember them. This time around, I found better sleeping arrangements to make life easier and overall just had gained motherly confidence from already doing it all once before. I didn’t worry so much in the middle of the night, I would just feed and then fall immediately back to sleep. I now know how precious your sleep is for your sanity in those first few weeks. I didn’t have postpartum depression/anxiety this time around, but I did have baby blues in the beginning. I felt like I was coming down from a hormonal high, oh wait, I was. I surrounded myself with as much positivity as I could muster and I tried mighty hard to accept as much help as I could. Nursing definitely helped with my anxiety as well. I really try to embrace the time I spend nursing as a pause. I feel like no matter how chaotic of a day or moment I’m in, when Harlow has to nurse, I’m immediately forced to sit down and just be. It’s like a reset button. It’s a high, I can’t entirely describe. I’m really not sure if there will be any more children for us in the future, so I’m savoring every moment.
I’ve also learned so much about nursing these past few months. I had no idea there was such thing as a nursing “style,” but apparently it’s a thing? My style is whenever, wherever, however. I used to be all self conscious about wearing a cover and nursing in public or, randomly, even more so in front of family, but now I seriously give zero shames. I just do my thing, and Harlow gets fed.
If I do have time to cover up, I use this cover or this cover. Both are so soft, and are very multi-functioning (blanket, carseat cover, burp cloth, scarf, shopping cart cover, etc.) I’ve also learned to drink a ton of water, because nursing will dehydrate you, and not drinking water will dehydrate your milk supply. I mentioned in my august favorites post, but this is the water bottle I’ve been sporting around. I’ve learned that a good comfy nursing bra is everything, this is my favorite. When I’m home, I pretty much nurse strictly on my bed. I like laying down sideways and pulling Harlow’s little body close to mine–if the bachelor/bachelorette/bachelor in paradise is on, I nurse in the rocking chair (pretty much my only exception to the bed). If we are out and about and the hunger strikes at the store, I will use the dressing room. If we are on the go, and I don’t have time to sit, I will nurse in my wrap. I will nurse in the car a lot of the time, but Harlow usually decides he wants to eat just as my entree is set in front of me, which means I’ll nurse and attempt to eat myself.
I know everyone’s comfort level with nursing is so different, but it’s too stressful to spend time thinking about other people’s opinions on the matter, so just do what feels right to you. I’m not super conservative, so nursing is pretty natural for me to do anywhere. I do try and feel out the situation–I’m not totally going to disregard the people around me–but I can tell you, the sooner you can find comfort in your own nursing practice, it will come so much easier to you. Also, I don’t nurse on one side and then the other. I just alternate sides per feeding, unless he’s exceptionally hungry, and then I’ll feed him on both. But keeping track of what side I last fed on made me really anxious, so I did away with the app I was using and stuck with good old mother nature. My lactation consultant said, what do you suppose they do in countries where there is no technology? They feel out the situation, whichever side feels more full is the side they nurse on. This made way more sense to me, and has worked out for Harlow and me just fine. As far as lactating goes, I’m fortunate that my supply is very regulated. I don’t leak or have to wear any nursing pads, although in the beginning when I was super engorged, I used these ones and really liked them. This has been such a rewarding time for me, and although I hate to be selfish, I really, really love it (& I know he does too). I definitely think nursing has played a huge part in helping with my anxiety + it amazes me that I’ve stuck it out this long. It really can be difficult sometimes, in terms of giving yourself, but if you can do it, it is worth every single moment. Sorry this post has been so lengthy, I guess I just had a lot to say! Add anything you’d like in the comment box, and I sure hope you’ve enjoyed my ramble!