Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Like Every Mom: A Bottle-Feeding Mom's Story

Today, we have a Guest Post from our friend Jessica. Unable to breastfeed due to the need to take some heavy-duty medications, she wants to share ways that breastfeeding moms can support mothers like her.

Like every mom, I have a mantra. It keeps me going when the toddler has thrown off his diaper in favor of peeing on the floor, the only food in the fridge is a stick of butter and some olives, and I’ve forgotten to move clothes to the dryer for the third time.

“I’m doing the best I can with what I have.”

Child, if you don’t want your diaper then sit on the toilet. While I order a pizza and wash the damn clothes again. Screw it, let’s just buy new clothes.

This mantra first came to me long ago, when I was freshly pregnant, excited and terrified. I sat in my doctors office as she listed off all the tests, appointments, and risks associated with this new adventure. In passing, before I left, she said “and you won’t be able to breastfeed.”

What? Well, I’ll do the best I can with what I have. That’s all I could say. Because what I have is Crohn's Disease, and by a stroke of faith and luck I found myself in my GI’s office that day discussing the pregnancy that should have been impossible. But I had asked God for this baby, and that changed everything for me.

Months before my pregnancy and after trying every medication on the market (and all of them failing to control my Crohn's), I was put on bi-weekly injections of Humira and daily high doses of Prednisone. For the first time in a long time I was able to eat, I was able to live a normal life, I gained back the 20 pounds I lost to illness, and I was thriving again. I was getting healthy enough for the bowel resection I would need to remove the damaged part of my colon. And then…. BABY! What an awesome surprise! I thought I was getting healthy enough for surgery, but I was actually getting healthy enough to be a mom.

I would be able to wean off the prednisone for my pregnancy, but would have to resume it again after delivery. I would take Humira throughout pregnancy and after delivery. While these two medications worked beautifully to control my illness, they are not nursing-mamma-friendly. From the FDA:

“It is not known whether adalimumab (HUMIRA) is excreted in human milk or absorbed systemically after ingestion. Because many drugs and immunoglobulins are excreted in human milk, 
and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from HUMIRA, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.” 

“Systemically administered corticosteroids (PREDNISONE) appear in human milk and could suppress growth, interfere with endogenous corticosteroid production, or cause other untoward effects. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from corticosteroids, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.”

In a nutshell, the FDA says if you really need these medications to live, then you really can’t breastfeed. And breastfeeding was something I’d never given any thought to until I was told I couldn’t. Isn’t it amazing how badly we want something we can’t have? I was going to find a way. There had to be a way.

Funny thing, there was actually no way. There are some things you can’t just will to happen. Defeated, I sulked with a cake. Because pregnancy rationale always wins and cake is delicious. And I knew I would do the best I could with what I had.

I’ve been lucky. In our breastfeeding-friendly community, I was often the only mom scooping formula and shaking bottles. Aside from a few snide remarks from passerby…. “breast is best!” (Correct reply is “and formula is the best alternative!”), I’ve found support from the village of breastfeeding moms. I know this is not the norm. Formula shaming is real, and it hurts. Don’t we all just love our babies? We love them so much our hearts ache. Don’t look at the bottle, look at the mom. Look at the baby. It’s that same love you share. I promise. 

Here’s what I’d like to ask from you beautiful breastfeeding moms. Let me join your village. I have a cute baby and cake and I’m told I’m a blast at parties. Here’s how you can include me:

1) My boobs hurt like hell. Please, for the love of God, help me. 

Somewhere in all the formula research I did, I convinced myself that since I would not be able to nurse, my milk would simply not come in. Hey, guess what? I make TONS of milk. I was wildly unprepared. I found myself staring at the wall of nursing pads at target, boobs on fire and leaking through my shirt. Tell me to get a cabbage, what nursing pads to use. Tell me not to bind the fiery monsters too tight, and to take Benadryl. And most importantly, that this too shall pass.

2) Invite me to mom groups.

You probably saw me maneuvering around breastfeeding circle at the natural baby store. I’m just here for a teething necklace and damn, I should have probably looked into what classes they do here first. Now it’s all awkward when someone asks me to join and I sheepishly shake a bottle of formula in reply. Please save me from my awkwardness. Could you invite me to cloth diapering and baby wearing group? And let’s have lunch after class. It’ll be fun, I promise. 

3) Those bottles are not going to wash themselves

When you come visit me, freshly home with my new babe, the sink will be brimming with half empty bottles. I’m so tired, I’m so sore, and I feel like I’ve been washing bottles for days. The laundry can wait, we don’t need another casserole. Please, wash a few bottles while you’re here. I might cry with joy, seriously. 

4) Feed my baby

The one thing I have loved about formula feeding from day one is that everyone I love can feed my baby. It’s amazing to watch, so awkward at first. Get the boppy, am I holding him right? This angle isn’t right, adjust. And again. How do I hold the bottle? Am I doing this right?
But baby knows. Baby leads, and curls in for a warm meal and a nap. And whoever is holding that bottle relaxes into that sweet amazing place, mesmerized by my little one. You will love that moment and I want to share it with you. 

5) Offer me some milk 

WHAT. Oh, that’s so awkward! Yeah, I know, but that’s ok. Just do it. I can’t ask you for your liquid gold that you’ve pumped for days to acquire (Or weeks? I have no idea.). But you can just throw it out there. “If you ever need some milk, I’ve got a freezer full!” I may never take you up on it, but I will know how much you care about me and my baby. I need that. 

In return, I promise to always support you. Hey, you know that moment when you just want to cry to someone about your latch issues and not hear “oh, I’ve been there” in reply? I’m your girl. I have not been there. Tell me all about it, I’ll just listen. I promise.

When you’re struggling, I will be your biggest cheerleader! I’m so proud to say my friend breastfed for a week, a month, a year, still going. Keep going. I know you can do it, and I know you need to hear it and I will tell you this every day.

When you wean that babe and shed a few tears, I’ll be right there to pick you up and take you out to celebrate. This is a milestone! Let’s go get you a sexy new bra and drink cocktails. Bring your tiny purse that could not possibly fit a pump, it goes great with that new non-nursing shirt!

We can be friends, see? We can do so much for each other. It takes a village because everyone in the village is different. If we were all the same we’d be quite boring, actually. Let’s not be boring, let’s be awesome together. I’ll bake you lactation cookies while you clip formula coupons for me. That’s how awesome moms party.

Jessica is a full time working mom to one fabulous little boy and his epic head of hair. When she’s not in the office, you can find her cooking up Pinterest fails, cursing at her sewing machine, or coloring on the walls with her son.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! As a mom who couldn't nurse with my first and can with my second I totally understand the mommy group stuff. Thanks for the reminder thay how you feed your child does not define you. :)