With my first born, breastfeeding came naturally to me.
I am the sort of person to usually go with the flow. (Ha!) I took in stride the growing pains of feeding a newborn. Formula feeding wasn’t even on my radar.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the all night feeds my son trained me into giving him. He would stay awake most nights and sleep almost all day. Not knowing any better, I would stay up most nights—one hand rocking his chair trying to get him to sleep longer. That meant sleeping late into the morning. That led to a whole lot of housework left undone because I was too tired to do it. Thank God for my understanding husband!
We co-slept because it was just easier to feed him while I slept.
I certainly did not have the energy, nor the desire, to walk to his room 4-5 times a night and feed him. He didn’t sleep soundly for 2.5 years, and that meant none of us slept well for that span of time.
We tried everything to get him to stop, but the only thing that worked was going cold turkey one night, which involved 2 hours of crying from him. That’s one of the hardest things I had to do as a newbie mom.
The next time I got pregnant, I resolved to formula feed once the baby got round. I had heard wondrous stories of kids sleeping through the night because their tummy was fuller. “Just one formula bottle at night, and that makes all the difference,” I read/heard.
I did things differently with my second child.
My daughter always slept in her own crib. No matter what the time of night was, I would go to her, feed her, and go back to my room. I went by the book on putting kids to sleep. She slept much better but woke up every 2 hours like clockwork. That was still 2 total hours compared to my son who would get up when comfort was needed.
When we started solids, we let her have every single thing compared to how overly cautious I was with my son. If it was on our plates and she reached for it, we just let her nibble on it. She was so good at trying new things, and she ate everything!
When my daughter was some six months old, I shifted to “one formula bottle at night”—one 4 ounce bottle of formula warmed slightly (as breast milk is warm). She took to it like ice cream. And lo and behold, she slept so much better! She would just need a feed five-six hours after that. By morning, I was much better rested to go and feed her myself!
When she hit 7+ months, we started planning a trip to India. I stopped giving her the bottle the day of travel because it was just easier to breastfeed. We weren’t sure what the water would be like where we would be traveling to, and not every place in India has clean water available or a way to heat it.
It was a tiring 4-week trip, thanks to 2 weeks of jet lag, notwithstanding the waking up to breastfeed. I couldn’t wait to come back home to go back to formula. I was just so exhausted! We came home, and a week later, I started giving her formula again.
What I did not expect to happen was for her to start preferring formula to breast milk. She would cry and cry at every feeding time until we gave her formula. And then she would just happily go off to sleep.
At 8.5 months, one day she just wouldn’t feed no matter what I tried!
I didn’t want to give her formula all the time, so I got a breast pump. She still wouldn’t have it. I scoured the internet for ways to get baby to drink. I had to reconnect with her to be able to feed her at all! Those were the worst three days of my early parenting with her. I did NOT enjoy pumping at all!
By 10 something months (a lot of trials later), she had weaned herself off the breast totally, and we were just doing formula. I had struggled to feed her, but she would have none of it! We decided to give up!
The pediatrician and my husband said it didn’t really matter as long as she was well fed and growing healthy. She was eating everything we put in front of her. She was doing everything a baby should be doing. She was sleeping pretty much through the night and was a happy baby.
Not the case for this mom. I missed the convenience breastfeeding. I missed connecting with her on that personal level. I missed doing something only I could have done for her. I wondered if she would love me less than my son because I didn’t co-sleep and feed her for 2.5 years. I wondered if something would be less for her at a cellular or nutritious level. I somehow felt less of a mother not breastfeeding my child.
These are all thoughts I kept to myself.
They seemed to be silly thoughts of a rambling mom—someone who was just wary of the consequences of her decisions.
People often say in jest that the first kid is experimental while you do much better with the second. I kind of resent it whenever I hear it because we love both kids equally, unconditionally, and to the best of our knowledge. As humans though, we change our choices with our experiences.
If you ask me, I don’t think I would do anything differently now. At the time, I was just so tired from 3.5 years of no sleep that I would have tried anything. But yes, if I had “known,” I would have probably started formula at 1.5 years to have some more of that precious bonding time with my daughter.
I have nothing to preach for breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Every single mother has her own journey in the path of parenting. Every parent has failures that mean nothing to the world, but mean the world to them.