Category Archives: colic

Formula.

I know, super engaging title. Roll with me.

I mentioned in my last post how hard it was for me to cope with the ending of my nursing career with Caroline and, further, switching from pumped breast milk to formula. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while, because it’s something that I’ve been struggling with.

I never was one of those people in the “no formula! evil!” camp. I was a formula fed baby and so was my brother and for the most part both of us turned out just fine. Sure, obviously breast milk is #1 because, well, that’s what we’re designed for. Boobies are for milk no matter what the lingerie industry likes to have us believe. But as an alternative, it isn’t as if formula is poison. Similac has been a trusted resource for quite some time now. And I always knew that, but I had pretty much resolved myself to spending the time and energy required to breastfeed for a year–that was my optimistic goal, but I figured absolutely no less than 6 months. Well, I barely got 3 out of the deal, which upset me a lot. Part of it was pride, because I liked the fact that her nourishment came from me. Another part of it was that I liked it–I liked the quiet time, I liked the fact that it was something that only she and I could do. Obviously it started out rough, but I was proud of the fact that we had worked through the hardest moments and after 8 weeks or so we had finally turned a corner–so I thought–and it was all working out. It never really occurred to me that the reason for the colic/discomfort was potentially due to the mechanics of the breastfeeding and/or the fact that she probably just wasn’t getting as much milk as she needed and wanted. It was a nasty cycle that was feeding into itself (no pun intended) and it really didn’t become apparent until it was already in hindsight.

And of course, once we did start bottle feeding and the change was so dramatic, I had to come to terms with the fact that I probably couldn’t nurse anymore, or at least not exclusively. For a while I tried to hold on to our nighttime feeds, but when a week went by and she woke up every single hour at night we started to sense that she just wasn’t getting full. The first night I fed her a bottle, she slept for 4 hours. So there went my last hold out of night feeds. I was pretty well crushed about the whole thing. I felt like this one thing that I was designed to do wasn’t working and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

Then, when my supply started to dip and my anxiety peaked again, I found myself sitting at the kitchen counter with 2 ounces of pumped milk and a hungry baby who was ready to go to sleep. And I didn’t have enough milk for the night. In the cupboard was a box of trial-size formula tins that Similac had sent me in the mail before the baby was even born. We still had a couple little bottles of newborn nutrition ready-feed formula that the hospital had sent us home with when she was being supplemented at the very beginning, too. Cameron, of course, didn’t think twice. Add the formula to the milk, he said. What’s the big deal?

And what was the big deal? Well, I had to deal with the feeling that my body was failing me and Caroline. Wasn’t I supposed to continue making enough milk for her? Why was it failing at only 11 weeks? And then there was the fact that feeding her formula was never in my “plan.” Of course I knew that there was nothing wrong with formula. It’s just that it’s expensive, and I figured if I was going to be home with her, breast milk is free. But still, when I added the liquid formula to my pitiful 2 ounces of milk and fed it to her before she went to bed, I heard this voice in the back of my head and it said you are failing. I felt so miserable and like such a horrible mother–and why? I knew that formula is no big deal. And let’s face it, I didn’t have much other choice. My milk was failing, Caroline was hungry, and there was formula in the cupboard. Easy solution.

As the next week went on and I supplemented more and more and eventually finally decided to just start formula feeding her, I thought a lot about what it was that made me feel so bad about giving her formula when I knew there was nothing wrong with it. And I realized that it all went back to the medical professionals I had interacted with since the time I was pregnant. During our childbirth classes, the teacher gave us a gloss-over of the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula, and I didn’t even really think about it at the time because I was planning to breastfeed. But I realized after the fact that her little “Breast is Best” speech was actually a diatribe about the evil horrors of formula and the havoc that it will wreak on the baby’s incomplete tummy. Our first morning in the hospital when she had lost so much weight, I had two nurses arguing over me–literally–about what to do with her. The older nurse was saying, we’ll supplement her with formula, no problem. The younger nurse, a lactaction consultant, was saying no, let her pump colostrum and we’ll syringe feed it to her. And again, I didn’t even think about it at the time, but some part of me was like, why is this even a question? The baby is hungry and tiny and losing weight, just give her the formula. When we left the hospital the nurse had to go to the pediatric unit to find some formula to send home with us so we could supplement like the doctor wanted, because the labor and delivery unit can’t even keep formula in the unit or they will lose their “breast friendly” status. When I went to her doctor about her colic for the umpteenth time and mentioned that she had been refusing to nurse, the nurse told me “usually when that happens you have to force them to nurse because otherwise they will prefer a bottle.” (And that was when I was still giving her breastmilk in a bottle.) Force her to nurse? Really? Is the act of breastfeeding really more important than the overall health of the baby and the mother? Who cares HOW she is getting the breastmilk as long as she is getting it?

So it finally occurred to me: no wonder I felt bad about giving her formula. Every medical professional I had bumped into since getting pregnant had been pounding anti-formula vitriol into my brain. Aren’t we supposed to trust medical professionals? It came to me that I actually had no idea what to do with the formula and I had to look it all up on my own on Similac’s website. There were no resources given to me when I was pregnant about what to do in the event that breastfeeding didn’t work out, for whatever reason(s). I felt oddly comforted by Similac’s website. It sounded inviting, comfortable, and had lots of disclaimers like “We believe breastfeeding is best, but if you decide to supplement with formula, we have what you’ll need.” It didn’t sound judgy. I didn’t find myself at a website saying “You shouldn’t even be looking at this website. Shame on you. Get back to putting that baby to the breast.”

It’s been several weeks now since we made the switch to formula and while I have to admit my stress is way less, I do miss the nursing sometimes. But, I have to look at my sweet Bean and admit that she is so. much. better. She is growing and learning and is happy and I have to remind myself that nobody should give a shit about how I am feeding her and what I am feeding her except me and Cameron. Still, it hurts sometimes when I come across blogs written by mothers who are lamenting the fact that their baby self-weaned at 2 years and how much they miss it. I have to curb my cynicism and my desire to say “You got 2 years out of the deal. Quit yer bitchin’.” I didn’t choose to stop nursing and I didn’t want to, it was a response to necessity, but sometimes I feel like some women look at formula feeders and think we must be lazy or have taken the easy route out. It hasn’t been easy to take this road, at least for me.

So, in those moments when I get nostalgic for the nursing or feel angry with the culture of anti-formula/mommy shaming, I remind myself of my new year’s resolutions and remember to be present and positive, and I think of the positives to formula feeding. I still get my quiet time with her before bed. She still can reach out and hold my thumb while she drifts off to sleep. She SLEEPS! No more getting up every 2 hours at night–this week she slept 10 hours in a row. I can wear whatever kinds of clothes I want. (My favorite hoodie was missing me!) I can go wherever I want with her and not worry about having enough milk pumped for her or having to get home in time to make more. She can stay overnight with Meme and Papi and I don’t have to spend days pumping a freezer supply first. I can drink as much coffee and wine as I want and I can indulge in my clove cigarette vice every so often. You know, all those bad things you’re not supposed to do anyway. (Hey, I’m a writer. When I get stuck, I drink more coffee and have a cigarette. What can I say.)

Most of all…she is happy. She has been so happy since we stopped nursing and as much as it hurts me, I have to remember that her happiness and health is the most important thing. It would have been incredibly selfish of me to try to continue nursing when it obviously wasn’t the best for her, no matter what the anti-formula doctors and lactivists say. Life is a moving target and nothing is ever black and white.

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Blame the delivery, not the product

I’d like to take this moment to come out and admit that I am sort of really addicted to Rockabye Baby. I know for a fact that I enjoy the Coldplay album way more than I probably ought to.

Anyway, moving on. On Friday, I took the baby to her doctor to ask yet again about her excessive crying and colic. That, and the fact that for almost 2 days straight, she refused to nurse. Wouldn’t latch without fighting it. Her doctor comes in, says more than likely the Zantac isn’t doing anything so quit giving it to her. Her weight gain is good (9lbs 4 oz!!) so we shouldn’t be terribly worried about that, but something is causing the discomfort. Then he whips out the two words I had really been dreading hearing: elimination diet. Cut out all the dairy in your diet, he says. Like, sure, dairy isn’t a major food group or something. (And don’t think I didn’t deal with a wave of feeling terribly selfish in that moment, so don’t come at me with judgment for that one.) I know it can be done and I know a lot of moms do it and to them I say, you rock. It just sounded like an immense challenge for me as I’ve never so much as gone on a diet, so I have no idea how to go about removing an entire food group (including “hidden dairy”) from my diet. Anyway, I don’t really need to justify to anyone other than myself and my husband why I didn’t want to do this, but it basically boiled down to trading one kind of misery for another.

So, feeling pretty down that I still didn’t have any answers for my poor baby who had been crying for days, I took her home and fed her by bottle since she wouldn’t nurse. I cried the whole time. All I could think was, I’m going to have to give up nursing and switch to formula. (Not that there’s anything wrong with formula; I was a formula fed baby and I turned out fine. It’s just that it’s bloody expensive and I didn’t want to give up nursing.) She sucked down a whole 4 ounces like she hadn’t eaten in days. When she was finished, I burped her and set her down in her bouncy chair and begged her for ten minutes so I could find something to eat that didn’t have dairy in it. (Eggs and a tortilla was the only thing I could come up with.) When I set her down, though, something amazing happened: she didn’t cry. In fact, not only did she not cry, but she smiled at me and cooed like she was saying “hey mom! I’m HAPPY! I just ate and I don’t have a tummy ache!” So I thought…wow, that hasn’t happened in basically ever. I wasn’t willing to celebrate my luck yet and since I basically still felt like curling in a ball in a dark hole and not coming out for a while, I took her upstairs and laid her down for a nap and then buried myself in my bed too. She ended up sleeping for a whole 2 1/2 hours. 2 1/2 hours what! I quickly pumped another bottle and when she woke up (and smiled and cooed at me while I changed her) I fed her by bottle and she didn’t cry at all. She didn’t cry pretty much the whole day. She was happy to sit in her chair and lay on her mat and we even went out to a restaurant that night and even though it was loud she slept in the wrap the entire time AND didn’t cry when we put her in the car seat. I fed her by bottle that night too, and she only woke up once during the night. (She had been waking every hour.) The next morning, she woke up cheerful and happy and smiling and I was basically looking at Cameron like “did someone come and replace our baby during the night?”

We discussed it and decided we’d try something for a few days: pumping and bottle feeding. And for almost 3 days now we’ve only had a smidgen of fussy crying in comparison to what we had been getting. She has slept through the night in 4-5 hour chunks and she smiles at everything. Earlier this morning I made breakfast and she laid on her playmat for a half an hour entertaining herself, babbling and cooing and grabbing at her toys. So I’m thinking it’s been a combination of things up to this point. She obviously gets gassy when she nurses because she fights the breast so much. She latches, unlatches, latches, unlatches, cries, latches and unlatches some more, so obviously she’s putting air into her tummy and she’s not getting full. On the bottle, she drinks down 4-5 ounces in one go, sits upright, doesn’t fight, and barely has to burp when she’s done. And the change in her is unreal. I have a changed baby and I didn’t even attempt to cut dairy out of my diet.

Obviously I know that this change may not work in the long run, and I might end up having to go to the elimination diet eventually, but it’s working right now and I am not going to press my luck by changing that. I was sad at first that nursing may not work out, especially since pumping is so much work, but really, it’s a much better compromise than chucking the whole thing and going to formula. She’s still getting my breastmilk and all the advantages. It’s not the product that was bad, it was just the delivery method. I still get to feed her in the quiet of the night and let her rest her head on my chest and rock her back to sleep. And most importantly, she is happy. Which means that I am happy too. I keep looking at her thinking a fairy came in the middle of the night and swapped out my fussy baby for a happy one and I better lock our windows extra tight because I do not want to send this one back. Because seriously…isn’t it about time I get to spend my day with this happy girl?

 

It was just the train.

I really thought we had turned a corner in this whole colic/reflux/whatever ride. I really thought we hard started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now I’m thinking it wasn’t the end of the tunnel. It was just the train.

I know I said I was working on being more positive, and I’m trying to find positives in the fact that yes–it could be so much worse. My baby could be in the NICU. She could have suffered brain damage from the cord being around her neck 4 times at birth. She could have any number of much worse things happening and I do think about that and reflect on that. Sometimes that’s about the only positive I can come up with because man…some days are just. fucking. hard.

Our latest struggle is the fact that, by and large, unless she’s sleeping or tucked into the K’Tan (and sleeping, presumably), Caroline is crying. All the time. I get 20-30 minutes a day when she is awake and not crying–you probably think I’m exaggerating, and I wish I was. It’s not every day, but most days. She cries and sometimes screams and fights the breast and the bottle and being on her back and being on her tummy and pretty much every single damn thing I try to get her to be calm results in more frustration. Mostly I just wish I could figure out what it is–is she hungry? Overtired? Heartburn? Growth spurt? Everyone says at this age there are only a few needs that a baby needs to communicate via crying–but once those things are fulfilled and she’s still crying, what do I do? I feel like I have her on so many different kinds of supplements and meds for the colic and the reflux and not a goddamn one of them seems to be making a difference. I know babies cry. I know babies get fussy. But Caroline really seems to do nothing but cry.

The worst part is when I see other babies near her age who are able to spend good chunks of their days awake, alert, and quiet, happy to sit in their bouncy chairs or swings or on mommy’s lap and look at or play with their toys, smile and laugh…and I start wondering what I’m not doing right. Why can’t my baby be like that? I know it’s probably selfish to think that but really, deep down, I just want her to be comfortable and happy. And I want to be happy too! I want to spend time with her that is not otherwise spent in tears, I want to make faces at her and make her smile and sing to her and not just so that I can get her to sleep. I don’t want a baby who sleeps ALL the time, but usually that’s about the only time I can get that doesn’t involve one of us crying.  I’m terrified to bring her anywhere, terrified to invite anyone over, because I’m certain that she’s just going to cry the whole while and maybe I will, too, because what’s the point of going out and being with people when I can’t even concentrate on anything except my crying baby? Am I crazy to want to enjoy this time in my daughter’s life? Am I crazy to want to enjoy anything? I know raising children is supposed to be hard but isn’t it also supposed to be rewarding and joyful and wonderful? What else is the point in wanting to have children?

I know I’ve said it before but I’m not posting this looking for advice. I have more of that than I know what to do with and more than likely I’ve already tried it. I’m just using this as an outlet to vent because as much as I’d like to be, it is hard to be positive when the center of your universe constantly seems to be imploding.

In the meantime I’m just waiting for the train to arrive so that I can actually get on it…not just stand in front of it.