* Laurie Puhn is a lawyer, mediator, blogger and bestselling author of “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In“
I gave birth to Emma at 9 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2011. At 11:30 p.m. as I began settling in for the night, two kind nurses helped me to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet was too much for me. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I needed to return to the bed, fast.
As I lay back down one of the nurses asked me the question that I knew was coming, “Are you breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?” I confidently answered: “Both.”
The nurse appeared confused. I explained, “I will nurse during the day and send my baby to the nursery for formula feedings at night. Oh, and I’m also going to pump at home, so could you tell me who to talk to so I can rent one?”
The nurse was satisfied with my answer. After an hour of nursing, I sent my baby to the nursery and my husband and I went to sleep for a pleasant, calm, five hours. (We were able to get a private room with a pull-out bed for him, and my in-laws stayed at our house with our son.)
My plan to send my baby to the nursery had elicited a lot of controversial comments on my blog in a prior post. My decision to take formula to the hospital is another idea that led to a healthy online debate. Regardless of what other people think, my plan was working. The next morning I felt somewhat rested and I was so excited to have my baby return to my room. The breastfeeding marathon began. Emma latched on quickly. I rubbed her back as she rested on the boppy. This was working! I was thrilled!
By the afternoon Emma was getting antsy. My husband had left to take our two-and-a-half year old son to school. It happened to be the once-a-year “Daddy Day” at his nursery school, so he was gone for a while. My alone time with Emma was priceless. I knew things would become quite hectic once we got home.
By the late afternoon Emma was crying every time I stopped breastfeeding (and she had been on it nearly all day!). I could tell that she was still hungry. The colostrum wasn’t enough for her. My milk wouldn’t come in for days. Last time with my son Blake, this moment confused me. My baby’s crying upset me because I didn’t know what to do.
Two-and-half- years ago as a first-time mom, I pressed the button on my hospital bed and called in a nurse every half-hour to reassure me. The nurses told me to keep nursing. I would ask each one, “is my son getting something to eat from my boobs?” They squeezed my boobs and checked. Is this working? Should I burp him? Why is he crying? One of the nurses mentioned a bottle, but I had read up on this and learned that once a baby has formula or drinks anything from a bottle, he will not latch on again. So I refused the bottle as if it were the devil. Within a week, I couldn’t take the crying and turned to formula.
I felt horrible about my decision, even though the influx of formula instantly put my infant son in a much better mood. The culture of breastfeeding was, and is, so overwhelming that my brain was locked on all-or-nothing thinking, i.e. exclusive breastfeeding or formula. And so, I stopped nursing and pumped for a couple months until I was fed up with it.
Not this time. Oh no. I would not suffer insecurity this way the second time around. I knew better. I pressed the button once and called in the nurse. “Can you please bring me some formula for my baby? She’s very hungry and my milk hasn’t come in yet.” I got the formula and fed my baby. Emma stopped crying. Then she napped for three hours.
When she woke up, I nursed again. She latched on perfectly and fell asleep on me. Later that evening, Emma had another bottle of formula, and then nursed.
Everything was going well. I made sure my baby nursed for hours to help bring in my milk. In the meantime, she was well-fed from colostrum and formula. She and I were in good spirits. It was nearly time to send her to the nursery again for the night. And I did. I checked on her around 3 a.m. when I awoke, and she was sleeping soundly. At 6 a.m. I called her back to my room. I nursed with ease.
We went home that day. She would have about two ounces of formula every three to four hours, and nurse in between when she was awake. All of us were happy. When my milk came in on Day 4 (which I knew for sure because I was pumping), I nursed more and formula-fed less. A few days later, my milk supply had increased substantially. Now her bottles were nearly all breastmilk, even at night.
Now, six weeks later, I pump two to three times a day, and nurse on and off during the day in between bottles as well as during the night on occasion to help her fall back to sleep.
I would never think I would be one to say this, but, I love nursing!
What a surprise for me. As it turns out, Emma only gets about one bottle of formula a day now, if that. Her formula intake might increase as she grows in size, but right now, she doesn’t need it. By easing the pressure off of exclusive nursing, I am actually nearly doing it (when I include nursing and pumping).
Having the pumped milk is also so convenient for me because with my son’s school and playdate schedule I can’t sit on the couch and nurse on demand. With a bottle, I know I can feed Emma and then she will probably nap for a couple hours.
And I can nap! I hand over the bottle to my parents or in-laws when they visit and I head to bed. It’s wonderful.
The combo approach I’ve taken to breastfeeding allows me the time and convenience to do what works in any given moment. This freedom of choice, day to day, hour to hour, gives me the control that I need to be happy and to be there for my son and husband.
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