I always thought I’d nurse my children, I never had any other plan. My first two nursed great. I never loved the process, but I knew it was best so that’s what we did. My first set of twins were born, #3 and #4, and they were jaundiced. We’d take them to the hospital every morning and they’d get pricked and I’d get asked if they were getting enough to drink. I honestly didn’t know, I was nursing one or the other all day, but I really didn’t know how much they were getting. And that’s when I had to make my first big decision about how to best feed my babies. I shed many tears making the decision but in the end I knew a happy sane formula feeding mom was better for my babies than an overwhelmed stressed nursing mom.
When our second set of twins came along, I knew from experience that it would be better for our family to formula feed. I nursed them in the hospital to give them my colostrum, but when we went home the bottle was a life saver. Baby #7 came along and I wanted to see if I could successfully breastfeed again. He was home for two days when we learned he was losing too much weight and I’d need to supplement until I could get my milk production up. This go around nursing was very painful and I welcomed the very good excuse to start to bottle feed. My milk never came in with #8 so although I continued to nurse in the hospital, both #8 and #9 were bottled fed as soon as we came home. And that brings us to now, baby #10, Peter.
I felt a desire and need to try and nurse again. To give my baby all the good nutrients breastfeeding offers. In the hospital Peter would nurse for an hour, but I worried he wasn’t getting enough from me. The doctor said his weight loss was at a normal pace but to go in to the office after two days at home just to make sure everything was ok. In between that time we took him to the hospital every morning because he too was jaundiced and needed monitoring.
When I took Peter in for his check up, I found out my baby has lost a pound and an ounce, going from 9 lbs 9 oz to 8 lbs 8 oz, which was more than the normal 10%. I talked to the doctor about our options, the one most women did was to breastfeed and then give as much formula as they wanted. And we made an appointment for another weight check in 2 days to see how he was doing. I held in my emotions until I got in the car and called Jacob to tell him the news. He listened to me crying about how I was trying to give my baby everything I could to be as healthy as he can, but instead he was losing weight and struggling. Which was best for my baby!? I’d do whatever was best for him, but now I couldn’t tell what that is.
I went home and started nursing Peter but afterwards he refused the bottle. When I got a call that his bilirubin levels jumped and he’d need to spend 23 of 24 hours in a UV light bed to try and combat it, I knew what was best for my baby. My milk, though I seemed to be producing enough, was not rich enough to give my son the leg up he needed. I cried to the nurse when she asked if I was sure I wanted to drop nursing all together to formula feed. No I wasn’t sure, but all I knew was that what I was previously doing wasn’t enough.
Skip forward 2 days and we had his 2nd weight check, he gained 5 ounces! His bilirubin levels went down again and we could stop the jaundice treatments all together! As much as I cherished those few days of nursing a baby one last time, I know my baby is thriving much more with a bottle of formula.
This whole experience helped me realize once again, every mother’s journey with her child is their own and should not be judged by anyone else. A fed baby is the best baby. A happy mom is the best mom. And sometimes there’s strength in not doing what “most mother’s do” but following your heart to know what is best for your baby, for your family.