In light of World Breast Feeding Week, I’ve been thinking about my own feelings toward breast feeding. We have all heard about the “Breast is Best” campaign, which gives us ten million reasons why breast feeding is important. I have also heard people refer to formula as “poison.”
My husband and I adopted our son and only learned about him 10 hours before he made his way into the world. After years of trying to become a mother, I was vastly unprepared for motherhood. But, I knew that breast was best and I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt in the hospital when the first substance going into his little body was formula and not colostrum, also known as liquid gold, the nectar of the gods, or whatever.
Having not been able to get pregnant and care for my child in utero, I felt like this was another way in which I was failing him. I did not have a desire to nurse at all, but I felt like the health benefits were very important and I hated to think I couldn’t give my child the “best.”
I talked to a few friends, who had also adopted their children, and they told me about a few options I looked into.
- Adoptive Mom Breast Feeding – With the proper guidance, supplements and hormones, some women can make breast milk even if they have not given birth. This process is called “induced lactation” and, according to the Mayo Clinic, the hormone therapy can last six months or more, then you’ll stop hormones to begin pumping (which should occur two months before the baby is born). Due to timing, that option wouldn’t work for me. However, you can talk to your doctor and to the La Leche League for help if this is something you’d like to try!
- Buy Breast Milk – There are all kinds of generous women out there who will sell their overflowing abundance of breast milk. These women can be found on websites like onlythebreast.com where you search ads like you would on Craigslist and have breast milk shipped to your home. I am sure there are some lovely women doing this, but I could only envision the sketchy people out there doing this to make money. (Please pardon me for this, we just adopted a baby, and experienced some things while searching for him that I hope most people never have to experience.) So, we opted not to do this.
- Donor Breast Milk – Mention your concerns about feeding to your friends and family. Don’t be a freakshow, but spread the word. People have no idea how to help an adoptive mom, because most people cannot relate, but they WANT to help. You may have a friend or family member who has a few ounces of breast milk stashed in her freezer. I was lucky in that my sister gave me about 20 bags of frozen breast milk. I was able to use that when we were about to travel, or before vaccinations, or any other time I thought my son needed a little extra help in the immunity department. I am beyond grateful for her help and support, and for not making it awkward. We have since nicknamed her the Dairy Queen.
- Pick a Really Great Formula – Not all formulas work for all babies. The first month or two months, you may not notice any issues because they eat so often. But, once a baby starts eating a greater quantity at a lesser frequency, you may notice tummy problems that could be related to their formula. Talk to your doctor about this. They have samples of lots of formulas you can try and this can save you hundreds of dollars. Keep track of what you’ve tried and what the result was (spitup, gas, diarrhea, etc.) so that you can report back to your doctor. Sometimes babies outgrow issues and sometimes they have an actual medical problem (reflux, lactose intolerance, or something worse!). But, be patient. This isn’t fun for your little one either.
- Bottle Feed Following Breast Feeding Behaviors – The most important part about breast feeding, in my non-breast feeding opinion, is the attachment between parent and child. Try to model the behaviors forced by breast feeding and don’t take shortcuts just because you can.
- Hold the baby along your side when bottle feeding
- Maintain eye contact, talk softly and lovingly
- Switch from one side to another
- Sit still and in a private area
- Do not prop the bottle on anything
While struggling with the guilt and insecurities of buying and feeding formula, I talked to several doctors about my concerns. My son’s pediatrician finally told me that I needed to quit worrying about it. She was right. I did not have a choice in this matter, and there are probably millions of formula-fed kids out there who are perfectly fine. I decided to let go of the pregnancy and breast feeding guilt and just enjoy my kid. Soon enough, I will make all of the healthy and organic food he can eat.
Since then, I learned that my son has lactose intolerance and acid reflux. I don’t know if breast milk would have helped or hurt this situation, but the silver lining is that I didn’t have to change my diet to figure out his issues! And, I could still enjoy a glass of wine while pondering the problem…
My son is almost six months old and has more than tripled his birth weight, a feat generally obtained around the one-year mark. So, I’d say he’s getting plenty of nutrition.
Everyone’s needs and experiences are different. But, I am happy to share with you what worked for us and hope that you will find the kind of support that I found to make the right decision.