An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment


World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment - Natural Parents Network
I made some assumptions when I was pregnant with my fourth son. I assumed that his birth would go just like his brothers’ before him. It didn’t. I also assumed that breastfeeding would be a non-issue. With 60 months of milk production behind me, I was confident that I would have no issues this fourth time around. I even laughed during my pre-admission appointment about the hospital’s requirement for every new mom to meet with a lactation consultant. Seriously? Didn’t it say on my chart this baby was my fourth? Most of the breastfeeding moms I know may have had an issue or two with their first child, but have had smooth nursing experiences with subsequent children. I also know moms who, because of various issues, valiantly struggle through one, maybe two, babies before they come to a peace with bottles and formula. It just seems that by baby #4, all moms know what works for them.

Until it doesn’t.

At 3 weeks, Isaac was nearly hospitalized for low weight. He had, I thought, been breastfeeding just fine. But I was wrong. My dear friend, head of a local university’s infant feeding clinic, took all sorts of weights and measures and put us on a breastfeeding, pumping, and supplementing schedule that was hard core, exhausting, and effective. We thought that as soon as I got my supply up and Isaac got a bit bigger and stronger, he would take it from there. But no. Ultimately, Isaac didn’t have the muscle tone needed to effectively breastfeed. After a month of pumping and many tears, I came to the decision to stop supplementing him with pumped milk and let my supply dry up. Mothering is a juggling act, and pumping, I decided, was not helping me mother all of my children.

So I mourned. I mourned the loss of the superior nutrition provided by breast milk, I mourned the 500 calories a day I would not automatically be burning, but most importantly, I mourned that way of attaching to my baby.

Attachment parenting has been central to how Mike and I have parented since the day our oldest son was born. We are not perfect, but it has been our guiding wisdom. Our oldest boys are happy, secure, and socially adept. So we’re confident that the approach we take works. For babies that has meant following their cues, not allowing them to cry-it-out, and until Isaac, breastfeeding. With a central tool out of commission, I worried about loving my baby and creating a secure attachment.

Attachment with any baby can be difficult. Mothers don’t always feel an immediate rush of euphoric joy and peace and love with the births of their children. As my friend Dionna has so bravely put it, sometimes it takes awhile for true love to sink in. A difficult birth, difficulties with feeding, and the struggle to keep my head above water while learning how to parent four kids at once meant that for the first weeks of Isaac’s life, loving him was a choice more than it was a feeling. And I worried that bottle feeding him would keep it that way.

Early on Mike and I developed rules about formula feeding Isaac. One was that we were still going to listen to his hunger cues and not put him on a feeding schedule. The second was that he would always be held by either me or Mike when he needed to eat. With the exception of a few babysitters, and an occasional feeding by a big brother while I’ve been trying to keep dinner from burning, we’ve kept to those rules. And you know what happens when you follow your baby’s cues and hold and snuggle him for every feeding? That sense of trust you build together and the human touch you both relish bonds you. And you begin to delight in that love.

The attachment is there. And it is fierce. It just came about a little unplanned. If I know anything now, it’s that I can’t make assumptions based on his being a fourth boy. He is, after all, my very first Isaac.

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About the Author:

Kyle and her husband Mike raise four boys and a lot of chaos in the suburbs of Kansas City. She occasionally blogs about life at Jedi Momster.

Photo Credit: Author

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)

  • An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
  • It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
  • Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
  • Mikko’s weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
  • My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Celebrating Each Mother’s Journey — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband’s deployment to Iraq, and Baby J’s nursing strike.
  • So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
  • Milk Siblings: One Mama’s Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
  • Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
  • When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She’s still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she’d always hoped.
  • Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams‘s first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son’s survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk – then she started giving it away.
  • The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
  • Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
  • Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson’s Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam’s milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom’s life too!
  • Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
  • Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen’s collaboration of a few dear mama’s reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
  • Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
  • A Pumping Mom’s Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.

7 Responses to An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment

  1. Kellie

    Kyle, I had such a similar experience with adding Walter to our family. The trauma of struggling to nurse made it difficult to bond right away. It took us some time, but now we are just as close as the other two kids. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  2. Sarah

    This is such a sweet story, Kyle. I also had a similar experience this time around with Rose. After having zero problems nursing my other three kids, I expected no problems this time either. It wasn’t that easy because she had lost too much weight at her 24 hour check-up and by day two my nipples were cracked and bleeding and nursing felt like torture and I was constantly stressed about whether or not she was getting enough. We seem to have it figured out by now, but it was a good reminder that every baby is different.

    Isaac is a lucky boy! (As are all your boys!)

  3. Amanda Rose Adams  

    This was a lovely post! My daughter had similar issues (threats of hospitalization) with latching, and both of my kids were bottle fed breast milk. I applaud you for being so in tune with each of your boys. That takes confidence and courage. Well done! Love from your fellow b/f carnie!

  4. Kelly  

    I’m always happy to see stories like this – not that you were not able to feed your baby the way you initially wanted to – but that in being surprised by the situation, you still made it all about the attachment. It’s so hard sometimes to find that balance between supporting and promoting bf’ing in the AP world but still getting the info. out there that we can have very similar experiences with bottle feeding! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Amy  

    Thank you for this, Kyle. I really appreciate reading your story. :)

  6. Kyle

    Thank you for those kind comments. I wrote this because I think it’s important to show other moms that it’s o.k. when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Babies need first and foremost the attachment of a loving family.

  7. Sammie

    I absolutely LOVE reading this! I tried so hard with my son to breastfeed. I pumped, I drank Mother’s Milk, I researched, I put myself on a schedule, I bought shields, I held him and just sobbed while he screamed his little head off…nothing worked so eventually I gave up. I had a very traumatic and quick birth. I had him via “emergency c-section” (and I quote that as I was number 4 for the night, so I am uncertain of the validity of it) at 37.5 weeks. I missed the entire first day of my son’s life..the entire. first. day. It’s amazing all the bonding that you miss in that first day. And then he wouldn’t breastfeed and I had been so against bottles, I didn’t even have a single one in my house. Geez, go figure. But now, at almost 12 weeks, we are so bonded! We co-sleep (in fact, my son hardly sleeps alone), I or his Daddy (with the exception of a grandmother or aunt) always hold him while he eats. In fact, the only time the little man is hardly ever put down is to play a little. He even bathes with us! Lol So yes, I understand the line “It was just a little delayed, but it’s there and it’s fierce” because that is so my life! Thank you for sharing this!

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