What's funny is that I never really intended to breastfeed.
When I was pregnant, I had heard about all of the benefits of breastfeeding from many well-meaning friends and family. I had done the research and knew that it would be great for both Grace and I if I nursed her.
But honestly? There was a part of me that just couldn't get over the ick factor. The whole idea of using my body to feed my baby just seemed strange, and I knew that it would be too weird for me to get over. So my plan was to "try" and breastfeed while in the hospital to appease the nurses (I had been warned that they'd be pretty pushy about it) and then transition to formula and bottles once we got home.
I never imagined that I'd become so attached to it.
From the first time I held Grace skin to skin, that oxytocin started flowing, and the nursing experience bonded me to her in a completely unexpected way. It didn't feel strange at all. In fact, it felt so, so natural and right. As the days went on, I became convinced that I really wanted to give nursing a legitimate try. No one was more shocked than I was, but I'm nothing if not flexible.
(Lest you all think I'm breaking my rule against showing you inappropriate pictures, we were definitely not nursing here. I'm just showing a lot of cleavage - ha. :))
I'd be lying if I told you that it wasn't incredibly painful. My nipples were cracked and bleeding (even though I slathered on the lanolin like nobody's business), and the first minute or so of each nursing session kept my toes curled and usually drew a cry of pain. But it was definitely bearable, and I knew that it would get easier. So I met with three different lactation consultants at the hospital and one at Grace's pediatrician's office in attempt to learn how to feed her effectively. We mastered the latch and the hold, and Grace was eating like a champ.
Well, that is, she was trying to eat like a champ.
My milk didn't come in for six long days. Before that, there was very little, if any, colostrum getting to her. (I tried hand-expressing multiple times and got a whole lot of nothing.) She dropped from 9 pounds to 7 pounds and 10 ounces in a matter of days, and I was panicked. I knew that a certain amount of weight loss was normal, but she had lost over 15% of her birth weight, and her pediatrician was concerned enough to recommend that we offer her a 1-ounce bottle after each feeding.
So we did so without hesitation. As much as I had fallen in love with nursing and knew that offering a bottle so soon might compromise my ability to breastfeed, the mama bear in me took over, and I happily watched as she got full and happy after each bottle. We had bought both Dr. Brown's and Tommee Tippee bottles, and she ate well from both, but the Dr. Brown's are supposed to help prevent fussiness and colic, so we mostly used them.
After two days of supplementing (and still before my milk had come in), she stopped latching. Girlfriend was smart enough to realize that bottles were way easier than nursing, and she had no interest in nursing. I cried uncontrollably (yay, hormones!) at the thought that I had failed her. It's silly, I know, but I was juar so disappointed. (Which was pretty ironic considered how uninterested in nursing I had been before Grace was born.)
Micah's parents were over for dinner after almost a full day of Grace refusing to latch. I was frustrated beyond belief and was THISCLOSE to giving up. It was time for her to eat again, and I told Micah that I would try nursing one more time before we'd just switch over to bottles. Lo and behold, the girl latched like a champ, and it appeared that my milk had finally come in! From that point on, I stuck to Tommee Tippee bottles (which are supposed to be best for breastfed babies), and she went back and forth perfectly.
She begain gaining weight again, but my doctor recommended that we continued to supplement until she got back to her birth weight. I agreed (again... the instinct to help her thrive overcame my concern that the bottles might compromise nursing) and did so until she got back up to 9 pounds.
After that, I was thrilled to put the bottles away and nurse exclusively. We bought a nursing cover and another nursing bra and looked forward to providing breastmilk at least until I went back to work at 12 weeks.
But my body had other plans.
From the moment I stopped giving her bottles, she went from being a happy and content baby to a fussy demon child. I wasn't sure if she was just extra hungry because my body wasn't used to producing all of the milk she was demanding or if there was something I was eating that was upsetting her stomach. Either way, we were both miserable. I was feeding on demand around the clock and even throwing in extra pumping sessions to try and teach my body to make more milk but was consistently only getting 2 ounces per session. And she was still crying all the time.
After three days of constant fussing (and constant pumping!), I decided to try an experiment. I picked up a can of Similac Sensitive formula (we had been using Enfamil's Gentlease for the supplements) and a bottle of gas drops and to feed her only formula for 24 hours (while continuing to pump to keep up my supply) to see if there was any change in her demeanor. My experiment was flawed in that we were changing multiple variables (the substance of her food, the amount of food, and the addition of the gas drops), but I was desperate.
The change was immediate. Her crying essentially disappeared, and she slept better and longer than she ever had. I cried tears of relief because she was back to being our sweet, happy baby. But I was incredibly disappointed at the realization that nursing probably wasn't going to work for us.
Because as much as I had grown to enjoy nursing, I knew that the effort it would take to teach my body to create enough milk to satisfy my hungry girl would drive both of us crazy. And since I had planned on switching to formula at three months anyway, it didn't seem worth it to put us both through days and days of misery to satisfy my desire to breastfeed, particularly given how much Miss Priss loves her bottles.
So after almost a month, we're throwing in the towel and switching to formula. I'm totally at peace with our decision, as I know that formula has worked wonderfully for many bottle-fed babies that I know. And, truth be told, I'm excited for the newfound flexibility - finally other people can help me feed her! (My dad, in particular, loves feeding bottles to babies, and it was awesome to watch him give Grace a bottle on Sunday.) I will definitely miss nursing (which still feels strange to admit - I swear... that oxytocin is some powerful stuff!) but I'm glad to have gotten to nurse her for as long as I did, and I'll cherish those sweet moments forever.