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When I sit down to think about my feeding journey, especially the most recent one, I realize that the feeding journey & experience with my first truly informed that with my second.
I was born and raised in a traditional Indian family and married into one (yay!!!). My mom has always been a staunch supporter of following my instinct and “doing what’s best for me”, but I do have a very caring, accomplished and opinionated set of grandparents who firmly believe a child has to be fed breast milk. They believe that baby formula shouldn’t be an option unless it was absolutely necessary.
To them, breast milk = magic and is the solution to all of the health issues that may arise down the line. They also give a stellar pitch regarding colostrum— the true liquid gold. I get it, but do I really need to hear all that while I’m ready to have a baby!
Like most first-time moms, I expected breastfeeding would be natural and easy. I never expected it would be so hard. You think it’s so natural that you just have a baby and that the feedings will follow like magic! That’s not true at all. I just felt so unprepared— trust me, I did take time to attend a few courses that our health care provider offered— but honestly, reality is so far from expectations.
My first baby was in the NICU for two days after birth to make sure his lungs were all clear. I had to pump and provide colostrum to the wonderful NICU nurse in order to feed him. I was barely making a vial worth of milk. I powered through the first few days in the hospital and landed home. I was so happy to hold my baby but the anxiety and fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge overshadowed the moments of joy.
My milk supply did not kick-in immediately as expected. My little one did not latch no matter what I did (yes yes, I visited with the lactation consultant, tried the nipple shield, and yes, different brands as well). I was advised to keep him on the breast to help trigger milk supply, no matter what. I was torn between satisfying my baby with formula vs listening to medical advice on persisting through breast feeding. Somehow, magically, my milk supply blossomed and I exclusively pumped for 10 LONG months. No wonder I don’t appreciate year 1 with my first child. All I could think about was spending night and day pumping, and being so exhausted. I never really cherished feeding and moments of joy that those early months with a baby can bring.
Then there are those Pediatric wellness checks! You are already losing your mind without proper sleep or a life and then you’re told that your child is not gaining enough weight! I was asked to supplement with formula to make sure I could bring my babies growth percentiles back on track. I started to supplement and within no time I fully transitioned to formula— what a game changer! When I finally made the switch to formula after those grueling 10 months, I just felt like I got my life back and was able to really appreciate my little human. I knew what I was going to do when I had a second and I did just that…COMBO FEED!
My second latched beautifully, it was the best thing ever, but she was a snacker. I knew I could not have it all and it was OK. I exclusively breastfed her for as long as I could. I dealt with mastitis and was quite surprised that I did not know anything about mastitis! Slowly but surely I transitioned to combo feeding and then to exclusively formula feeding, without driving myself crazy. I had my village to help support my feeding journey when I wanted to spend time with my toddler and also enabled me to get a few hours of sleep at a stretch. That first year with my first and second are worlds apart and I value the choices I made the second time around. I felt I did a great job caring for both my LO and my toddler.
Feeding is a journey. We each have to choose what works best for us and our family.