Friday, January 6, 2017

The Breastfeeding Battle

Breastfeeding is going to be the death of me.

There is such a push for mothers to breastfeed these days. Go to any reputable site, and it will tell you that mother's milk is best. These sites use biased language when discussing formula feeding, making mothers feel as though they are selfish for choosing anything other than breast milk.

I know all of the benefits of breastfeeding. In fact, I breastfed my son Liam until he was 17 months old. But there were extenuating circumstances that led to this. Liam had gastroesophageal reflux and feeding issues that resulted in slow weight gain. Now 2 years old, Liam has been in the <10th percentile for weight since he was an infant. I was terrified to stop breastfeeding him because I did not want him to lose weight. Thankfully, he was able to maintain his weight through the weaning process. But as a first time mom, I was scared to make the change.

Now with my 2 month old daughter Maya, I find myself questioning my decision to breastfeed. She was also diagnosed with reflux and started on medication. Having been through this with my son, my husband and I recognized the symptoms right away. Projectile vomiting, discomfort when lying flat, fussy feeding sessions...we couldn't believe we would have 2 children with reflux. At least this time, we knew what we were dealing with.

Maya had issues with breastfeeding from the beginning. Her latch was poor, making breastfeeding incredibly painful. And as my milk came in, we discovered that I have an oversupply and a forceful letdown. Every feeding session is a battle because Maya ends up choking on my milk. And once Maya is done feeding, we have to keep her upright for at least 30 minutes to prevent projectile vomiting. But it doesn't seem to matter how long we keep her upright. The minute Maya is lying flat, she is screaming in pain and spitting up all of the milk that is supposed to be nourishing her.

Is it possible that Maya has a milk protein allergy (as one lactation consultant suggested) that is causing all of these issues? If that's the case, could I really cut all dairy out of my diet and still keep my sanity? That would mean not only avoiding the obvious sources of milk, but also reading every food label for hidden milk in processed foods. And with 2 children, do I really have time for this?

Would Maya do better on formula? Or is that just taking the easy way out? I'm not sure that I could live with the guilt of not breastfeeding my daughter as long as I breastfed my son. But it literally pains me to see Maya struggle with every feeding. What if there is a better way, and I am just too scared to try?

I wish there was more of a push for mothers to simply make the best decisions they can make for their children. Breast milk or formula, as long as the child is happy and fed, what difference does it really make? Yes, I recognize that mother's milk is best, but there are also other circumstances to consider when making the decision of how to feed your child. Maybe we should spend more time encouraging mothers to do what is best for their family rather than passing judgment without knowing all of the facts.

I'm not sure whether I will continue breastfeeding or switch to formula. I'm hoping to make that decision when I have more than 4 hours of sleep. But no matter what I decide, it will be with the best intentions for my daughter and the rest of the family.

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